AskDefine | Define wire

The Collaborative Dictionary

Wire \Wire\ (w[imac]r), n. [OE. wir, AS. wir; akin to Icel. v[imac]rr, Dan. vire, LG. wir, wire; cf. OHG. wiara fine gold; perhaps akin to E. withy. [root]141.] [1913 Webster]
A thread or slender rod of metal; a metallic substance formed to an even thread by being passed between grooved rollers, or drawn through holes in a plate of steel. [1913 Webster] Note: Wire is made of any desired form, as round, square, triangular, etc., by giving this shape to the hole in the drawplate, or between the rollers. [1913 Webster]
A telegraph wire or cable; hence, an electric telegraph; as, to send a message by wire. [Colloq.] [1913 Webster]
Chiefly in pl. The system of wires used to operate the puppets in a puppet show; hence (Chiefly Political Slang), the network of hidden influences controlling the action of a person or organization; as, to pull the wires for office; -- in this sense, synonymous with strings. [Webster 1913 Suppl. +PJC]
One who picks women's pockets. [Thieves' Slang] [Webster 1913 Suppl.]
A knitting needle. [Scot.] [Webster 1913 Suppl.]
A wire stretching across over a race track at the judges' stand, to mark the line at which the races end. [Racing Cant] [Webster 1913 Suppl.] Wire bed, Wire mattress, an elastic bed bottom or mattress made of wires interwoven or looped together in various ways. Wire bridge, a bridge suspended from wires, or cables made of wire. Wire cartridge, a shot cartridge having the shot inclosed in a wire cage. Wire cloth, a coarse cloth made of woven metallic wire, -- used for strainers, and for various other purposes. Wire edge, the thin, wirelike thread of metal sometimes formed on the edge of a tool by the stone in sharpening it. Wire fence, a fence consisting of posts with strained horizontal wires, wire netting, or other wirework, between. Wire gauge or Wire gage. (a) A gauge for measuring the diameter of wire, thickness of sheet metal, etc., often consisting of a metal plate with a series of notches of various widths in its edge. (b) A standard series of sizes arbitrarily indicated, as by numbers, to which the diameter of wire or the thickness of sheet metal in usually made, and which is used in describing the size or thickness. There are many different standards for wire gauges, as in different countries, or for different kinds of metal, the Birmingham wire gauges and the American wire gauge being often used and designated by the abbreviations B. W. G. and A. W. G. respectively. Wire gauze, a texture of finely interwoven wire, resembling gauze. Wire grass (Bot.), either of the two common grasses Eleusine Indica, valuable for hay and pasture, and Poa compressa, or blue grass. See Blue grass. Wire grub (Zool.), a wireworm. Wire iron, wire rods of iron. Wire lathing, wire cloth or wire netting applied in the place of wooden lathing for holding plastering. Wire mattress. See Wire bed, above. Wire micrometer, a micrometer having spider lines, or fine wires, across the field of the instrument. Wire nail, a nail formed of a piece of wire which is headed and pointed. Wire netting, a texture of woven wire coarser than ordinary wire gauze. Wire rod, a metal rod from which wire is formed by drawing. Wire rope, a rope formed wholly, or in great part, of wires. down to the wire, up to the last moment, as in a race or competition; as, the two front runners were neck-and-neck down to the wire. From wire[6]. under the wire, just in time; shortly before the deadline; as, to file an application just under the wire. [1913 Webster] [1913 Webster]
Wire \Wire\, v. i.
To pass like a wire; to flow in a wirelike form, or in a tenuous stream. [R.] --P. Fletcher. [1913 Webster]
To send a telegraphic message. [Colloq.] [1913 Webster]
Wire \Wire\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Wired; p. pr. & vb. n. Wiring.]
To bind with wire; to attach with wires; to apply wire to; as, to wire corks in bottling liquors. [1913 Webster]
To put upon a wire; as, to wire beads. [1913 Webster]
To snare by means of a wire or wires. [1913 Webster]
To send (a message) by telegraph. [Colloq.] [1913 Webster]
(Croquet) To place (a ball) so that the wire of a wicket prevents a successful shot. [Webster 1913 Suppl.]
to equip with a system of wiring, especially for supply of electrical power or communication; as, to wire an office for networking the computers; to wire a building with 220-Volt current. [PJC]
to equip with an electronic system for eavesdropping; to bug; as, to wire the office of a mob boss; to wire an informant so as to record his conversations. [PJC]

Word Net



1 ligament made of metal and used to fasten things or make cages or fences etc
2 a metal conductor that carries electricity over a distance [syn: conducting wire]
3 the finishing line on a racetrack
4 a message transmitted by telegraph [syn: telegram]


1 provide with electrical circuits; "wire the addition to the house"
2 send cables, wires, or telegrams [syn: cable, telegraph]
3 fasten with wire; "The columns were wired to the beams for support" [ant: unwire]
4 string on a wire; "wire beads"
5 equip for use with electricity; "electrify an appliance" [syn: electrify]

Moby Thesaurus

BX cable, Teletype, armored cable, band, bandage, battery cable, bell wire, belt, bend, bind, bind up, brace, braid, brail, bundle, cable, cablegram, cannon, chain, cinch, coaxial cable, cord, cutpurse, day letter, dip, diver, do up, electric cable, electric cord, fast telegram, flash, gird, girdle, girt, girth, highline, hookup wire, lace, lash, lead, leash, ligament, ligation, ligature, line, night letter, power line, radio, radiogram, rope, send a wire, sign off, sign on, splice, spun yarn, strap, string, swaddle, swathe, telegram, telegraph, telegraph line, telephone line, telex, tendon, thong, three-wire cable, tie, tie up, transmission line, triaxial cable, truss, twine, twist, underground cable, wire line, wrap, wrap up, yarn



wīr < Proto-Germanic *wiraz < Proto-Indo-European *wei- ('to turn,' 'to twist,' 'to plait'). Cognate with Swedish vira ('to twist'), Latin vieo, viere ('to weave together'), Welsh gwyr ('bent'), and Greek ίρις ('rainbow').



  1. Metal formed into a thin, even thread, now usually by being drawn through a hole in a steel die.
  2. A piece of such material; a thread or slender rod of metal, a cable
  3. A metal conductor that carries electricity.
  4. A fence made of usually barbed wire.
  5. A finish line of a racetrack.
  6. A telecommunication wire or cable; hence, an electric telegraph; a telegram
  7. A hidden listening device on the person of an undercover operative for the purposes of obtaining incriminating spoken evidence.
  8. A deadline or critical endpoint.
    This election is going to go right to the wire



thin thread of metal
metal conductor that carries electricity
  • Korean: 전선 (電線, jeonseon)
  • Russian: провод
  • Slovene: žica
  • Swedish: ledning
fence made of usually barbed wire
sports: finish line of a racetrack
informal: telegraph
informal: message transmitted by telegraph
slang: hidden listening device on the person


  1. to fasten with wire, especially with reference to wine bottles, corks, or fencing
    We need to wire that hole in the fence.
  2. to string on a wire
    wire beads
  3. to equip for use with electricity
  4. to add something into an electrical system by means of wiring; to incorporate or include something
    I'll just wire your camera to the computer screen.
  5. To send a message or a money value to another person through a telecommunications system, formerly predominately by telegraph.
    Urgent: please wire me another 100 pounds sterling.
  6. to make someone tense or psyched-up
    I'm never going to sleep – I'm completely wired from all that coffee.
  7. To install eavesdropping equipment.
    We wired the suspects house.


  • (to equip for use with electricity): electrify
  • (informal: to send a message or a money value to another person through a telecommunications system): cable, telegraph


  • (to fasten with wire): unwire


  • (to fasten with wire): rewire
  • (to equip for use with electricity): rewire


to fasten with wire
to add something into an electrical system by means of wiring
  • Dutch: aansluiten
to equip for use with electricity
informal: to send a message or a money value to another person through a telecommunications system
to make someone tense or psyched-up
slang: to install eavesdropping equipment

Derived terms


A wire is a single, usually cylindrical, elongated string of drawn metal. Wires are used to bear mechanical loads and to carry electricity and telecommunications signals. Standard sizes are determined by various wire gauges. The term wire is also used more loosely to refer to a bundle of such strands, as in 'multistranded wire', which is more correctly termed a cable.


In antiquity, jewellery often contains, in the form of chains and applied decoration, large amounts of wire that is accurately made and which must have been produced by some efficient, if not technically advanced, means. In some cases, strips cut from metal sheet were made by pulling them through perforations in stone beads. This causes the strips to fold round on themselves to form thin tubes. This strip drawing technique was in use in Egypt by the 2nd Dynasty. From the middle of the 2nd millennium BC most of the gold wires in jewellery are characterized by seam lines that follow a spiral path along the wire. Such twisted strips can be converted into solid round wires by rolling them between flat surfaces or the strip wire drawing method. Strip and block twist wire manufacturing methods were still in use in Europe in the 7th century AD, but by this time there seems to be some evidence of wires produced by true drawing.
Square and hexagonal wires were possibly made using a swaging technique. In this method a metal rod was struck between grooved metal blocks, or between a grooved punch and a grooved metal anvil. Swaging is of great antiquity, possibly dating to the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC in Egypt and in the Bronze and Iron Ages in Europe for torches and fibulae.
Twisted square section wires are a very common filigree decoration in early Etruscan jewellery.
In about the middle of the 2nd millennium BC a new category of decorative wires was introduced which imitated a line of granules. Perhaps the earliest such wire is the notched wire which first occurs from the late 3rd, early 2nd millennium BC in Anatolia and occasionally later.
Wire was drawn in England from the medieval period. The wire was used to make wool cards and pins, manufactured goods whose import was prohibited by Edward IV in 1463. The first wire mill in Great Britain was established at Tintern in about 1568 by the founders of the Company of Mineral and Battery Works, who had a monopoly on this. Apart from their second wire mill at nearby Whitebrook, there were no other wire mills before the second half of the 17th century. Despite the existence of mills, the drawing of wire down to fine sizes continued to be done manually.
Wire is usually drawn of cylindrical form; but it may be made of any desired section by varying the outline of the holes in the draw-plate through which it is passed in the process of manufacture. The draw-plate or die is a piece of hard cast-iron or hard steel, or for fine work it may be a diamond or a ruby. The object of utilizing precious stones is to enable the dies to be used for a considerable period without losing their size, and so producing wire of incorrect diameter. Diamond dies must be rebored when they have lost their original diameter of hole, but the metal dies are brought down to size again by hammering up the hole and then drifting it out to correct diameter with a punch.


Wire has many uses. It forms the raw material of many important manufacturers, such as the wire-net industry, wire-cloth making and wire-rope spinning, in which it occupies a place analogous to a textile fiber. Wire-cloth of all degrees of strength and fineness of mesh is used for sifting and screening machinery, for draining paper pulp, for window screens, and for many other purposes. Vast quantities of aluminum, copper, nickel and steel wire are employed for telephone and data wires and cables, and as conductors in electric power transmission, and heating. It is in no less demand for fencing, and much is consumed in the construction of suspension bridges, and cages, etc. In the manufacture of stringed musical instruments and scientific instruments wire is again largely used. Among its other sources of consumption it is sufficient to mention pin and hair-pin making, the needle and fish-hook industries, nail, peg and rivet making, and carding machinery; indeed there are few industries into which it does not enter.
Not all metals and metallic alloys possess the physical properties necessary to make useful wire. The metals must in the first place be ductile and strong in tension, the quality on which the utility of wire principally depends. The metals suitable for wire, possessing almost equal ductility, are platinum, silver, iron, copper, aluminum and gold; and it is only from these and certain of their alloys with other metals, principally brass and bronze, that wire is prepared. By careful treatment extremely thin wire can be produced. Special purpose wire is however made from other metals (e.g. tungsten wire for light bulb and vacuum tube filaments, because of its high melting temperature).


For the heavier cables, used for electric light and power, and submarine cables, the machines are somewhat different in construction. The wire is still carried through a hollow shaft, but the bobbins or spools of covering material are set with their spindles at right angles to the axis of the wire, and they lie in a circular cage which rotates on rollers below. The various strands coming from the spools at various parts of the circumference of the cage all lead to a disk at the end of the hollow shaft. This disk has perforations through which each of the strands pass, thence being immediately wrapped on the cable, which slides through a bearing at this point. Toothed gears having certain definite ratios are used to cause the winding drum for the cable and the cage for the spools to rotate at suitable relative speeds which do not vary. The cages are multiplied for stranding with a large number of tapes or strands, so that a machine may have six bobbins on one cage and twelve on the other.
Insulating and jacketing of wires and cables is done by passing them through an extruder. Since the mid-1960s, the insulation has been plastic or polymers exhibiting properties similar to rubber.

Types of wire


Solid wire or solid-core wire consists of one piece of metal wire. Solid single strand wire is cheaper to manufacture than stranded wire and is used where there is no need for flexibility in the wire. Solid wire also provides strength and protection against the environment.


Stranded wire is composed of a bundle of small-gauge wires to make a larger conductor, which may optionally be insulated. Stranded wire is more flexible than a solid strand of the same total gauge. Stranded conductors are commonly used for electrical applications carrying small signals, such as computer mouse cables, and for power cables between a movable appliance and its power source; for example, sweepers, table lamps, powered hand tools, welding electrode cables, mining machines and trailing machine cables.
At high frequencies, current travels near the surface of the wire because of the skin effect, resulting in increased power loss in the wire. Stranded wire might seem to reduce this effect, since the total surface area of the strands is greater than the surface area of the equivalent solid wire, but in fact a simple stranded wire will have worse skin effect than a solid wire, because of its increased average resistivity due to inclusion of air gaps within the wire.
However, for many high-frequency applications, proximity effect is more severe than skin effect, and in some limited cases, simple stranded wire can reduce proximity effect. For better performance at high frequencies, litz wire, which has the individual strands insulated and twisted in special patterns, can be used.


External links

wire in Breton: Orjal
wire in Catalan: Filferro
wire in Czech: Drát
wire in German: Draht
wire in Spanish: Alambre
wire in Esperanto: Drato
wire in Korean: 전선 (전기)
wire in Italian: Filo
wire in Lithuanian: Viela
wire in Dutch: IJzerdraad
wire in Japanese: ワイヤ
wire in Polish: Drut
wire in Portuguese: Fio
wire in Russian: Проволока
wire in Simple English: Wire
wire in Slovak: Drôt
wire in Finnish: Sähköjohdin
wire in Swedish: Vajer
wire in Tamil: மின்கம்பி
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