Why Is An Iron Lever Called a “Crowbar”?

iStock / iStock

The ornithological term for that all-purpose prying tool/hitman weapon dates back to at least around 1386, when an alliterative poem mentioned workmen “putting prises to” the corners of a container with “crows of iron.” It is believed that the sharp angled end of the tool resembled a bird’s beak, and of all the birds that flocked around those areas populated by humans, the crow was observed as the most adept at using its beak as a tool.

Even though William Shakespeare mentions the gadget in Act V of Romeo and Juliet (“Go hence; get me an iron crow and bring it straight unto my cell.”), today in the UK, folks usually leave the bird out of it and refer to it as a “prybar.”