AskDefine | Define thumbtack

Dictionary Definition

thumbtack n : a tack for attaching papers to a bulletin board or drawing board [syn: drawing pin, pushpin] v : fasten with thumbtacks; "The teacher thumbtacked the notice on the bulletin board"

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A small nail-like tack with a slightly rounded head that can be pressed into place with light pressure from the thumb; used for hanging light articles on a wall or noticeboard



nail-like tack


  1. To fix or attach something with a thumbtack.

Extensive Definition

A thumbtack (known as a pushpin or a drawing-pin in the UK, India, Australia and New Zealand) is a short nail or pin with a large, slightly rounded head made of metal which is used to fasten documents to a background for public display and which can easily be inserted or removed by hand.

Types of thumbtack

thumb|right|150px|Thumbtacks with coloured topsThe map pin was invented by Edwin Moore around 1900, the year in which he founded the Moore Push-Pin Company
As far as is currently known, the thumbtack was invented by the clockmaker Johann Kirsten in the year 1903 in the town of Lychen in Uckermark, Germany []. He sold the rights to the invention to Otto Lindstedt, a businessman, who received a patent for the thumbtack on 8th January 1904. Lindstedt became a wealthy man while Kirsten, the clockmaker, remained in poverty.
Other sources ascribe the invention of the thumbtack to Austrian factory owner Heinrich Sachs in 1888


A thumbtack can be inserted by hand because of the large area of its head relative to the area of its point. When a relatively low pressure is applied across the large head of a thumbtack, a high pressure will be applied by the tip of the thumbtack. The low pressure on the head means the thumbtack will not pierce a person's finger. The high pressure at the tip allows it to pierce the surface to which the document is being fastened.
The thumb tack has a flat head in order to place the thumb, where as the drawing pin has a longer head which is gripped between two fingers to place.


  • A thumbtack can be made to spin on its tip like a spinning top by holding the pin (with head facing up) between thumb and forefinger and rapidly spinning and releasing it in one fluid motion.
  • Push pins can be loaded directly into the breech of a Tippmann 98 Custom paintball gun and fired as projectiles. A flying pushpin rapidly loses stability after a few feet due to poor aerodynamics.
thumbtack in Bulgarian: Кабар
thumbtack in Czech: Připínáček
thumbtack in German: Reißzwecke
thumbtack in Modern Greek (1453-): Πινέζα
thumbtack in Spanish: Chincheta
thumbtack in Esperanto: Desegnonajlo
thumbtack in Basque: Txintxeta
thumbtack in French: Punaise (outil)
thumbtack in Italian: Puntina
thumbtack in Hebrew: נעץ
thumbtack in Dutch: Punaise
thumbtack in Dutch Low Saxon: Taos
thumbtack in Japanese: 画鋲
thumbtack in Polish: Pinezka
thumbtack in Russian: Канцелярская кнопка
thumbtack in Slovenian: Risalni žebljiček
thumbtack in Swedish: Häftstift
thumbtack in Chinese: 圖釘
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