Looking at the definitions for the words "lever", "prise (prize)", and "pry" in the dictionary, and only considering the meanings involving a physical action, it looks to me that all three words have the same meaning. Some of the definitions even use each other in their definitions!

Is there a difference between them? That is to say, I understand that the meanings must be similar, but is there a difference in how to use these words, or where you would expect to find them used?

More specifically, are they freely interchangeable? For example, can I say:

I want to lever {something} open.
I want to prise {something} open.
I want to pry {something} open.

..and have all the three above sentences mean exactly the same thing?

  • 2
    Yes, similar, Doesn't the dictionary help. Perhaps you could copy and paste the definitions you read in the dictionary to this question
    – James K
    Nov 29, 2021 at 5:50
  • 1
    Pry in this sense is an American synonym for prise. Nov 29, 2021 at 9:20
  • @KateBunting agreed, but in the UK there is a common tool known as a "pry bar", which is never called a "prise bar" in my experience. It's use is obvious from its name. Nov 29, 2021 at 13:12
  • 1
    A few people voted to close this question as being answerable with a dictionary. I don't think it is, so I edited and reworded the question in a way that I think makes Vova's confusion clear. He knows the definitions in the dictionary: the definitions are the same. So are the words actually the same in usage? This is not a trivial question! Dec 14, 2021 at 6:31
  • I'm leaving this question open for Richard Winters's reasons above
    – gotube
    Dec 19, 2021 at 6:42

1 Answer 1


Are the options in "to lever/prise/pry smth open" the same? Thank you!

  1. to pry something open

Good. This seems like the clear and recommended way to say it, when opening a jar or box with a screwdriver, for example.

  1. To prise something open

From my perspective in US English, this is quite unusual. But since it's in the dictionary, it might be common in certain regions or dialects.

  1. to lever something open

In the most common vernacular, "lever" is a noun. So, using it as a verb is a bit more colorful usage of the English language.

I imagine "lever" would apply in building construction situations, or any large scale uses of a "lever".

"pry" has a specific meaning "to force open", and thus matches your example better. "Lever" is not specific to opening.

Someone wouldn't say they "levered open the box" when they could say "pried it open" instead.

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