1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Shears

SHEARS, an implement for cutting or clipping. The O. Eng. sceran, to clip, cut, represents one branch of a very large number of words in Indo-European languages which are to be referred to the root skar-, to cut, and of which may be mentioned Gr. κείρειν, Lat. curtus, Eng. “short,” “share,” “sherd,” “score.” For cutting cloth “shears” take the form of a large, heavy pair of scissors with two crossed flat blades pivoted together, each with a looped handle for the insertion of the fingers; for clipping or “shearing” sheep the usual form is a single piece of steel bent round, the ends being shaped into the cutting blades, and the bend or “bow” forming a spring which opens the blades when the pressure used in cutting is released. Another form of the same word, “sheers," is used of an apparatus for hoisting heavy weights, generally known as “sheer-legs.” These consist of two or more uprights meeting at the top, where the hoisting tackle is placed, and set wide apart at the bottom. The masting of ships was formerly carried out from another vessel, a dismasted hulk, hence called a “sheer-hulk,” on which the “sheer-legs” were placed (see Crane). From this word must be distinguished “sheer,” straight, precipitous, also absolute, downright; this is to be connected with Dan. skjaer, clear, bright, Ger. schier, free, clear; the root is also seen in O. Eng. scinan, to shine. The nautical phrase “to sheer off,” to deviate from a course, is due to a similar Dutch use of scheren, to cut, shear, to cut off a course abruptly.