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Middle English gere, from Old Norse gervi, gǫrvi; akin to Old English gearwe equipment, clothing, gearu ready


b : movable property : goods
  • 2: equipment, paraphernalia <fishing gear>
  • 3a : the rigging of a ship or boat
b : the harness especially of horses
  • 4a (1) : a mechanism that performs a specific function in a complete machine <steering gear> (2) : a toothed wheel (3) : working relation, position, order, or adjustment <got her career in gear> (4) : a level or pace of functioning <kicked their performance into high gear>
b : one of two or more adjustments of a transmission (as of a bicycle or motor vehicle) that determine mechanical advantage, relative speed, and direction of travel


A gear is a rotating machine part having cut teeth, or cogs, which mesh with another toothed part in order to transmit torque. Two or more gears working in tandem are called a transmission and can produce a mechanical advantage through a gear ratio and thus may be considered a simple machine. Geared devices can change the speed, torque, and direction of a power source. The most common situation is for a gear to mesh with another gear; however, a gear can also mesh with a non-rotating toothed part, called a rack, thereby producing translation instead of rotation.

The gears in a transmission are analogous to the wheels in a pulley. An advantage of gears is that the teeth of a gear prevent slipping.

When two gears of unequal number of teeth are combined, a mechanical advantage is produced, with both the rotational speeds and the torques of the two gears differing in a simple relationship.

In transmissions which offer multiple gear ratios, such as bicycles and cars, the term gear, as in first gear, refers to a gear ratio rather than an actual physical gear. The term is used to describe similar devices even when the gear ratio is continuous rather than discrete, or when the device does not actually contain any gears, as in a continuously variable transmission.

The earliest known reference to gears was circa A.D. 50 by Hero of Alexandria, but they can be traced back to the Greek mechanics of the Alexandrian school in the 3rd century B.C. and were greatly developed by the Greek polymath Archimedes (287–212 B.C.).[3] The Antikythera mechanism is an example of a very early and intricate geared device, designed to calculate astronomical positions. Its time of construction is now estimated between 150 and 100 BC.[1]