Many tools sit in the background of title card.

Explaining Tool Slang and Nicknames

Throughout many industries, there is slang or specific words that have become familiar names for products. Some are regional, such as a soft drink being called a pop, soda, or “Coke.” Some are brand names that have become synonymous with a specific product, such as many people call gelatin, “Jello,” or tissues, “Kleenex.”

The tool industry is no stranger to this concept, causing much debate in shops and garages. From reciprocating saws to miter saws, there are slang and nicknames for almost every tool in your box. We reached out via Instagram for lingo/slang you’ve heard over the years. We’ve used that list to help beginning craftsmen learn the industry jargon, so they can do their best work.


A worker uses a SKILSAW to cut a two-by-four on the jobsite.

Saws face the largest name variance in the industry. First, there is the chop saw versus miter saw debate. The saws are similar to each other, but one is more versatile than the other. A chop saw is larger and more powerful, but can only make 90-degree cuts. On the other hand, a miter saw swivels left and right to make angled, beveled, and compound cuts. 

Second, there’s one of the most common tools in every garage, the circular saw. It faces both slang and the brand name conundrum, sometimes called a sidewinder. Although, the circular saw gets labeled with one of the more common brands, SKILSAW

Lastly, reciprocating saws are in the same boat as circular saws. Often called a recipro or being identified as a Sawzall, even though that’s a specific brand name from Milwaukee. Ultimately, each of these names is common, and everyone will understand what you’re referencing.


A crescent wrench sits on a table with a monkey wrench and tongue-and-groove pliers.

Another large group of tools that tend to be known by a variety of names is wrenches. Beginning with crescent wrenches, it gets a little confusing. A crescent wrench is sometimes called an adjustable wrench or an adjustable spanner wrench in some parts of the world. Don’t get an adjustable spanner confused with an adjustable spanner hook wrench, which is also called an adjustable pin spanner wrench.

In the plumbing world, you may run into a monkey wrench versus pipe wrench debate. They each look almost the same and serve similar purposes, but they each have their own specialties. A pipe wrench is commonly used in the plumbing industry and features slightly curved serrated jaws to hold round objects better. A monkey wrench also has serrated jaws, but features straight jaws and is usually used to loosen and tighten hex bolts.

Other Tools

A DEWALT oscillating multi-tool is used to cut some trim around a window.

A handful of other outliers exist in the industry, for example, the oscillating multi-tool or simply multi-tool. Other names for the multi-tool are a vibrating saw, or simply vibrator, and buzz saw because of the sound the tool makes while in use.

Then there is a HILTI drill or pretty much any HILTI tool, but the most common tool is a hammer drill. On the jobsite what often happens is there is only one drill, so it’s commonly known as the “The HILTI.”

Finally, there are Kleins or linesman pliers, which is usually heard in the electrical industry. Because Klein Tools is one of the largest manufacturers of pliers in the market, it becomes a case of a brand name being associated with a tool.

Follow Acme Tools on Instagram for many tool tips and tricks and new product highlights.


  • Lou

    June 24, 2023 at 5:59 am

    There is some confusion regarding the way you describe a crescent wrench. Crescent Tool was a tool manufacturer that made the most recognizable Adjustable Wrench. All other Adjustable Wrenches by other manufacturers are simply Adjustable Wrenches. To call an Adjustable Wrench made by J H Williams , a Crescent Wrench, is not correct.

  • Tim Orr

    July 19, 2023 at 9:02 pm

    Questions about slang: I seem to remember a Crescent-like adjustable wrench referred to as a “West Virginia socket set” and a “Channel-Lok” adjustable wrench referred to as a “West Virginia pipe wrench.” Aside from the insulting references, does any one else remember these slurs?


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