1560s, from Latin forceps "pair of tongs, pincers," apparently literally "something with which to grasp hot things," a compound of formus "hot" (from PIE root *gwher- "to heat, warm") + root of capere "to hold, take," from PIE root *kap- "to grasp." Originally a smith's implement. The classical plural is forcipes. Related: Forcipal.
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