The American Heritage Dictionary defines "fastener" as follows:

1. A device, such as a clip, pin, or clasp, that attaches something firmly to something else.

2. A device, such as a seat belt, that secures a person or object.

I am not sure whether a screw is included in a fastener. Is there another word that covers a screw?


Yes, screws are included in the definition of fasteners:

enter image description here

Source: Slideplayers.com (Slide 2)


A screw definitely falls under the "fastener" umbrella. From Wikipedia:

Fastenal first sold mostly fasteners such as screws, threaded rods, and nuts, which are used in construction and manufacturing.

Note: Fastenal is a North American distributing company that happens to have the verb fasten as part of its company name.

  • How many stores stock nails, screws and bolts in the 'fastener' isle? Many call them 'hardware', even though that could also apply to tools. – amI Oct 13 '18 at 3:10
  • I don't think one brand-name company (Fastenal) that makes a claim re usage is better than all the dictionaries. No dictionary backs this up. – Lambie Oct 13 '18 at 21:01
  • @aml - Fastener would be a hypernym for screw, while hardware would be a hypernym for fastener. (Hardware could include tools as well as fasteners.) The website for Lowe's puts screws as a subcategory of fasteners, and fasteners as a subcategory of hardware. – J.R. Oct 15 '18 at 14:36
  • RE: "No dictionary backs this up..." The first seven words of the Wikipedia entry for screw reads: "A screw is a type of fastener." OneLook's Reverse Dictionary Lookup for fastener will return the word screw, with this definition listed: "a fastener with a tapered threaded shank and a slotted head" – J.R. Oct 16 '18 at 17:56

I agree that a screw is a kind of fastener. However, when I think of a fastener, I don't think of a screw. Here's what the OALD has on the matter:

fastener noun
(also fastening)
a device, such as a button or a zip / zipper, used to close a piece of clothing; a device used to close a window, suitcase, etc. tightly
• buttons, zippers and other fasteners
enter image description here

These were all more likely to be a fastener in my mind than a screw. To me, these are everyday items. However, it seems like the item that comes to mind will depend on the industry in which the fastener is used. For example, the kind of fastener you think of might differ if you're working on arts and craft, or shopping at IKEA or Screwfix.

My point is this: you can call a screw a fastener, but it might be good to clarify. If the context clearly indicates that you are talking about screws, or if screws were mentioned previously, then I don't think there should be a problem using "fasteners". If this is not the case, then you might want to say something like

Use fasteners, like screws, to secure the....

  • I upvoted this because it's the usage I'm most familiar with, so without context this is what "fastener" means to me. But a quick web search confirms if you were in say IKEA or Screwfix, it means something quite different (and a screw would then be a kind of fastener, and a zip, not). – Croad Langshan Oct 12 '18 at 23:25
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    Thanks. I slightly disagree though. A zip/zipper would be a fastener, though probably not the one you think of :) Anyway, I tried to include your point in my answer. – Em. Oct 12 '18 at 23:34
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    I think that point about it being context-dependent is key. One of my (grown) children happens to be a costume designer, and the other an aircraft mechanic. I'm sure they would both conjure up very different mental images if we asked them to both give us an example of the first "fastener" that came to mind. I'd wager one would think of a snap (popper) while the other would think of a hex bolt. Fastener is a very generic term that can mean different things to different people, depending on their line of work. – J.R. Oct 15 '18 at 14:38

The OP provides a good definition from a reliable dictionary.

Generally, a screw is not viewed as a fastener though you can fasten something to something with a screw.

American Heritage Dictionary as cited by the OP.

1. A device, such as a clip, pin, or clasp, that attaches something firmly to something else.

  1. A device, such as a seat belt, that secures a person or object.

The reason the dictionary does not include screw is that a screw is not a fastener. However, the verb can be used with the noun screw: He fastened the board to the table with a screw, not nails.

Paper clips, clasp, pins, clips, buttons, zippers, and buckles are fasteners, to name a few. Nails and screws are not fasteners, but they can fasten (verb) things to things.

To fasten: to make something fast (older English) or attach or secure (modern English) something to something.

In every day language, a screw is not a fastener.

Cambridge Dictionary:

The word is define in American and British English as:

screw noun (METAL OBJECT) ​ [ C ] a thin, pointed piece of metal with a raised edge twisting round along its length and a flat top with a cut in it, used to join things together, especially pieces of wood.

Merriam Webster:

: a simple machine of the inclined plane type consisting of a spirally grooved solid cylinder and a correspondingly grooved hollow cylinder into which it fits b : a nail-shaped or rod-shaped piece with a spiral groove and a slotted or recessed head designed to be inserted into material by rotating (as with a screwdriver) and used for fastening pieces of solid material together

Oxford Dictionary:

A short, slender, sharp-pointed metal pin with a raised helical thread running round it and a slotted head, used to join things together by being rotated so that it pierces wood or other material and is held tightly in place.

None of these formal,reputable and online dictionaries define as screw as a fastener.

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    I'm a little surprised that you don't see how a screw or a bolt "attaches something firmly to something else". That's pretty much its sole purpose in life. The reason the dictionary does not include a screw is because it would be pointless to make an exhaustive list – that's why dictionaries use phrases such as "such as". As for your last point ("None of these formal, reputable dictionaries define as screw as a fastener"), that's a surprising assertion, given that M-W says that a screw is "used for fastening pieces of solid material together. – J.R. Oct 15 '18 at 14:23
  • That is exactly right: a screw or bolt "attaches something firmly to something else". In short, the verb is right: to fasten, to describe what they do. That does not make them fasteners per se. And, M-W says that exactly: used for fastening pieces of solid material together." But not: used as a fastener. That is precisely my point. The semantic trait of fastener is not the same as the semantic trait of fasten, the verb. – Lambie Oct 15 '18 at 14:34
  • I'm not going to argue about whether or not a fastener fastens. – J.R. Oct 15 '18 at 14:40
  • Full disclosure: I called my local hardware store. The guy said that technically in his catalogues, screws, nails and bolts are listed under fasteners, yes. But that generally speaking, they are not referred to as that by him or customers. It is a more technical classification, not an everyday conversational one. That explains the dictionary entries. – Lambie Oct 15 '18 at 15:58
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    I would agree that fastener is not an "everyday, conversational" term. I've yet to hear a carpenter or plumber tell his assistant or apprentice: "Make sure you bring some fasteners along." Rather, we are more likely to hear: "Don't forget to bring the screws and nails." So I guess it boils down to whether the OP was intending to drop this word into casual conversation, or catalog some wares on a website. – J.R. Oct 15 '18 at 16:14

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