Definition of gear in US English:



  • 1often gearsOne of a set of toothed wheels that work together to alter the relation between the speed of a driving mechanism (such as the engine of a vehicle or the crank of a bicycle) and the speed of the driven parts (the wheels).

    • ‘We checked the massive engine room and filmed the now rusty gears on the open gearbox.’
    • ‘I love a mystery, but not if you hear the gears and wheels clinking and clanking in the background.’
    • ‘The machine consisted of replaceable shafts, gears, wheels, handles, electric motors, and disks and required much manual work to set it up.’
    • ‘With a loud creak and groan, the wall behind the cross was pulled upwards by a series of mechanical gears to reveal a heavy metal door.’
    • ‘It is quite a funky bike, coming complete with suspension on the front wheel, rotary shift gears, the oddest bell known to mankind, and rapid release wheels.’
    • ‘Wheels turned and gears ground while he thought that one over.’
    • ‘Try a hybrid that takes the wheels and gears of a road bike and places them on a mountain bike frame.’
    • ‘The machine occupied a whole room, filling it with a tangle of piano wires and pulleys to move its various wheels and gears.’
    • ‘Again, mechanical gears allow you to see the various orbits.’
    • ‘Oddly her head starts making mechanical noises like gears grinding together.’
    • ‘Fitted with whirring wheels, gears and other devices, the old mechanical toys have acquired retro-cool status among many affluent young collectors.’
    • ‘The team relied purely on programming and built a simple robot that used wheels rather than gears for its movement.’
    • ‘One major problem with using a conventional set of gears is that gears have a ratio relationship between their input and output.’
    • ‘This process is, of course, generally used on the larger castings and was originally introduced for the production of gears, worm wheels and cored bars.’
    • ‘It was like an essential oil, which lubricated the myriad moving parts, the gears and wheels of the mine's complex infrastructure.’
    • ‘The door slid back with a loud whine and creak of the mechanical and electric gears.’
    • ‘A mechanical controller has gears and mechanical timers.’
    • ‘The aim of nanotechnology is to manipulate molecules atom by atom, treating them like mechanical devices with gears, wheels, levers, hooks, pivots, locks and keys.’
    • ‘The spacing of the gears allows engine speeds to be reduced and the torque curve to be better exploited.’
    • ‘The engines are cross-coupled so that each propeller is run by two diesel engines through clutch and cone belt transmission gears.’
    gearwheel, toothed wheel, cog, cogwheel
    gear ratio, speed
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A particular function or state of adjustment of engaged gears.
      ‘he was tooling along in fifth gear’
      • ‘Overdrive gears improve the fuel economy of your car during highway driving.’
      • ‘Louise shifts up and down through the gears without altering her speed.’
      • ‘The manual box is pretty nifty, but heavy to select reverse, and the overdrive sixth and high fifth gears mean it depends on left wrist exercise.’
      • ‘One of the two clutches engages the odd-numbered and the other the even-numbered gears.’
      • ‘The system allows the driver to manually shift gears or drive in an automatic mode.’
      • ‘I retired because I had no hydraulic pressure, so I could not change down through the gears, which is why I went wide and had to use the run-off area.’
      • ‘The former Tour of Spain points winner was disappointed with the result, saying that problems changing gears curtailed his speed.’
      • ‘Use that torque to good effect and it will amble along in the higher gears, barely sipping diesel.’
      • ‘The engine will quite happily sit at the legal limit in fifth gear at under 2000 revs.’
      • ‘It slides smoothly and effortlessly into lower gears but fifth gear is a bit notchy and I have a bit of a tussle to engage it.’
      • ‘Plant your foot, even in manual mode, at 130 mph, and it will change down two gears to fourth and scream off towards the 155 mph limiter.’
      • ‘The available sport setting automatically selects gears according to a sporty shift characteristic curve.’
      • ‘In the auto-shift mode the system chooses the most logical gear for engine speed and fuel economy at any time.’
      • ‘This system allows you to change gears like a manual car when you want to have some fun, but behaves like a regular automatic when you're in the mood to just take it easy.’
      • ‘Unusually for a sportscar of this type, it comes with six gears, making the occasional motorway cruise all the more bearable.’
      • ‘There is the option to change gears manually, but when the auto box is this good, there really is no need to go manual.’
      • ‘The shifts are not only quick, but require very little throttle liftoff to change gears.’
      • ‘That is this car's major selling point, but turn the traction control off and hit the loud pedal hard enough to kick down the gears, and the sheer violence of the forward motion would humble a fighter jet.’
      • ‘The only problem was with following the optimum gearchange indicator when changing gears - I wanted to hold onto the revs for that little bit longer especially on some of the steeper slopes.’
      • ‘Your ears start to hurt from the pressure in fifth and sixth gears; now I know why people wear helmets with these machines.’
    2. 1.2 Used in reference to the level of effort or intensity expended in an activity or undertaking.
      ‘from this weekend, the campaign is expected to step up a gear’
      ‘now the champions moved up a gear’
      ‘the play moves down a gear whenever he walks off stage’
      • ‘When the United States entered World War II, the country had to move quickly into high gear.’
      • ‘The food, the environs, the ambience are all in top gear for a grand welcome to "Mahabali Chakravarthy."’
      • ‘Poor passing and delivery had been letting Laois down but they suddenly found a higher gear and Chris Conway and Paul Lawlor finished a couple of great moves.’
      • ‘As I shifted into gear in preparation for the 1965 Mr. America, I saw less of the Dream Team and more of the inside of a tuna can.’
      • ‘Esposito came back as expected, but it was at this point that Hall stepped up a gear.’
      • ‘Local girls u13 basketball team were noticably in top gear at the Co. Kildare community games final played at Kilcullen on Wednesday, May 24.’
      • ‘For example, as I write this, the Democratic primaries currently are in high gear, and every candidate has at least one official Weblog.’
      • ‘Perhaps the biggest source of comfort was the fact City at least got a result even though they never quite found top gear.’
      • ‘We need to step a up gear soon in order to get the job done.’
      • ‘The Motown slowdown is in high gear this week.’
      • ‘As the competition speeds up into high gear, Diamandis said there are several additional sponsorships still available for the Ansari X Prize competition.’
      • ‘So it appears the program has either fizzled, not yet kicked into high gear, or been relatively dropped.’
      • ‘After James Young narrowed the gap with a fine point Castletown suddenly stepped up a gear and within minutes were six points clear.’
      • ‘Now I'd like to take you briefly through a timeline of election day, as the different players and pieces step up a gear.’
      • ‘With the scores at 10 -, and Town dominant, Odsal stepped up a gear to try and breach the Town defence.’
      • ‘As for dedicated ICQ users, they'll be delighted their favourite program has revved up a gear.’
  • 2usually with modifier Equipment that is used for a particular purpose.

    • ‘The support vehicle also carries two operators with their personal and mission gear.’
    • ‘I went to the fire house and I said, why do you have all this gear and boots and jackets and stuff?’
    • ‘They had the right guns and gear, boots, hat, and clothes.’
    • ‘We fly around taking gear and people from one place to the next, sometimes all night long, just stopping to refuel.’
    • ‘There is protective gear and people are safe that way.’
    • ‘As for gear, many people are using the small mini-disc recorders in the field these days.’
    • ‘To that point, it is a good idea to have personal protective gear, say, in your car, in case of an emergency.’
    • ‘The lesson taught by the headmaster was that a rescue knife to cut harnessing and webbing should be essential gear for Navy rescue personnel.’
    • ‘A few weeks after they'd gone missing, some of their personal dive gear washed up on a beach 75 miles from the dive site.’
    • ‘Prizes also include sunglasses, clothes and electronic gear.’
    • ‘To make shopping easy, the company arranges its catalog according to clothing, accessories, gear, and gifts.’
    • ‘First stop was to pick up the bags with the fresh clothes and camping gear from the truck, then set up the tent.’
    • ‘Any juvenile attending training must have the proper handball gear (goggles and gloves) to prevent injury.’
    • ‘Her mother then ventured inside to get her some clothes and some sanitary gear.’
    • ‘For maximum ride safety, your personal clothing and gear should also feature reflective elements.’
    • ‘They caught five poachers, equipped with modern rappelling gear, in possession of six bags of bird nests.’
    • ‘Many of these workers are working in hazardous environmental conditions without face masks, without proper gear.’
    • ‘Inside was a bunch of dirt bike clothes and gear.’
    • ‘On his back were a parachute and 100-pound rucksack crammed with clothes, food, medical gear and other stuff.’
    • ‘Although safety may be a consideration, not enough people use safety gear, and even when they do, they are not invincible.’
    equipment, apparatus, paraphernalia, articles, appliances, impedimenta
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1informal Clothing, especially of a specified kind.
      ‘designer gear’
      • ‘They were Mexicans, elegant in their designer safari gear.’
      • ‘It was a large archway beneath the railway lines, filled with smoke, camouflage netting and PR people in army gear.’
      • ‘I know somebody who used to work with them and witnessed refusal of clothing because it was not designer gear.’
      • ‘Worst of all was a basketful of designer gear, delicate fabrics and complicated creases.’
      • ‘As it was, he was also wearing his travelling gear, painfully bright clothing that stood out a mile against his dark skin.’
      • ‘Expect to find savings of up to 70 per cent on clothes, with best buys in the outer wear, party gear and children's clothes sections.’
      • ‘When out shopping, find a shop selling quality gear for half the price of what it would cost to dress in designer gear.’
      • ‘To avoid bramble scratches and tick attacks, wear long gear and good shoes.’
      • ‘So the crumpled, unshaven look is strictly last season and those who are with it are found in designer gear and sports shoes.’
      • ‘The audience had the usual haircuts, shaven or spiky, and the same tastes in branded designer gear.’
      • ‘At first, the onstage listeners (dressed in basic ballet gear, plus hats, glasses and handbags) are caught up in their own individual responses.’
      • ‘The fashion parade will feature a beautiful collection of clothes, from flowing evening gowns to funky techno gear showcased by local models.’
      • ‘A new survey claims Scots don't care for designer gear.’
      • ‘He expanded his clothing line from basketball gear to lifestyle wear.’
      • ‘These limp fashion disasters are surely worn by the same people who in six months time will be strutting down the beaches of Ibiza parading the latest designer gear.’
      • ‘And from this minor blip things rapidly escalate; by the middle of week two, he's openly cheating and dressed top-to-toe in designer gear.’
      • ‘Have you considered putting them in cool leather biker gear or spandex outfits?’
      • ‘Do everyday clothes as dance gear impact its otherness as an experience?’
      • ‘Even though it was just after Christmas, not one child out of the 30 or so there was wearing any designer gear.’
      • ‘He has a Santa Claus-like beard and often wears vintage leather motorcycle gear.’
      clothes, clothing, garments, articles of clothing, articles of dress, attire, garb
      View synonyms
    2. 2.2informal A person's personal possessions and clothes.
      • ‘It was a four-day trip, each man carrying his own rations, sleeping bag, clothing and personal gear.’
      • ‘They forced us to remove all our gear (food, clothes, sleeping bags etc) and confiscated anything that wasn't moved off the grounds.’
      • ‘For one thing, a small mule train will follow behind your group, carrying food, tents, and 15 pounds of your personal gear.’
      • ‘It excels in affordable, bright, trendy, big personality clothes and club gear.’
      • ‘Out came more personal gear, in went more ammo and water.’
      • ‘If a crewmember bailed you out by loaning you personal gear be extra, extra generous!’
      • ‘They walked with their webbing packed full of ammunition and in their haversacks they carried five days' bully beef and biscuits and a minimum of personal gear.’
      • ‘With all our food, water, fuel and personal gear safely stowed atop our jeeps, we were off.’
      • ‘The next day the girl returns and starts bringing in her clothes and other personal gear!’
      • ‘The hard briefcase will help protect your personal gear, but it's normally heavier and cumbersome.’
      • ‘We had five trips, moving our personal gear, then the group stores and finally the deflated rafts.’
      belongings, possessions, effects, personal effects, property, baggage, chattels, movables, paraphernalia, appurtenances, impedimenta, miscellaneous articles, odds and ends, bits and pieces, bits and bobs, trappings, accessories
      View synonyms
    3. 2.3Nautical A ship's rigging.


[with object]
  • 1Design or adjust the gears in a machine to give a specified speed or power output.

    ‘it's geared too high for serious off-road use’
    • ‘Despite being geared to reach its top speed in the fifth of its seven gears, you can never quite escape the V10's voice.’
    • ‘This library implementation is geared for speed rather than memory efficiency and is single-threaded which makes it unsuitable for many uses.’
    • ‘The camshaft is geared to turn at one-half the rate of the crankshaft.’
    • ‘The transmission is geared for power, economy and smooth transition, and is designed to withstand tough working conditions.’
    • ‘Ride quality is reasonable; suspension is geared to off-roading rather than sheer comfort.’
    1. 1.1 Adjust or adapt something to suit a special purpose or need.
      • ‘For example, guides at the site are primarily there to receive tourists, and they have a standard tour geared toward that audience.’
      • ‘This has resulted in the production of many more stamps geared to outside collectors, particularly young adults in developed countries.’
      • ‘If you have children on the cruise, there are usually play areas and programs geared to different age groups.’
      • ‘Also, his personality isn't exactly geared to getting uncertain people to get serious about supporting him.’
      • ‘This shop is only 10 or 15 feet wide and packed to the gills with old & new clothes, mostly geared to the retired crowd.’
      • ‘So long as it isn't coordinated with the campaign, such an expenditure would be independent and not geared to elect or defeat anyone.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, it is gearing for New Year's Eve with not one but four separate events.’
      • ‘We also have an amazing ad agency, filled with industry awards, dishing out amazing ads geared toward supporting women.’
      • ‘Perhaps you would like to visit an information center full of reference material geared specifically toward small businesses?’
      • ‘Our wages are under 50% of turnover and that is what we are gearing to in the future.’
      • ‘This session will explore a variety of body-mind activities geared toward generating an inner state of peace.’
      • ‘And the school's curriculum has been specifically geared to highlight green issues.’
      • ‘The format of the report needs to be geared to meet the expectations of the audience.’
      • ‘The money from the agencies will support activities geared at topics such as the health of the Great Lakes, thermoelectric materials and cardiovascular biology, among other things.’
      • ‘It's an interactive on-line program geared towards working adults.’
      • ‘Honestly, this was an administrative post geared toward our writers, but that isn't fair to our readers and I have been upbraided accordingly.’
      • ‘Meanwhile, their sexy ads dominate the pages of trendy, urban magazines geared to the slightly liberal twenty-something set.’
      • ‘Just as he is bold in diagnosing the cause of the problem - a private economy geared to producing wealth, not jobs - he is equally daring in his remedies.’
      • ‘As evidenced by this, and most protest rallies, evolution isn't always geared towards beauty.’
      • ‘He started his first business at 12, a Web marketing and advertising firm geared toward teens.’


  • in (or into) gear

    • 1With a gear engaged.

      ‘the captain revved the engines and put them in gear’
      • ‘In a few short moments, he put the car in gear and drove off.’
      • ‘The engine restarts automatically when the car is put back in gear.’
      • ‘Chris quickly threw the Jeep in gear and drove off.’
      • ‘Sighing, he put the automobile in gear and drove off down the street.’
      • ‘With second-hand vehicles, you get a car that isn't perfect, because it has been run, parked in supermarkets, started in gear and the seat belt has been jammed in the door several times.’
      • ‘It drives like a bus with, if anything, a slightly larger turning circle, and the gearshift is so floppy that it all but collapses the distinction between being in gear and being in neutral.’
      • ‘He glanced into the rear-view mirror, put it in gear, and pulled out of his parking space.’
      • ‘Ensure that the vehicle is in gear with hand brake engaged when parked.’
      • ‘But automakers should learn to illuminate them only when in gear, not while idling in park.’
      • ‘Just put the key in, turn it on, put it in gear and you're off.’
      1. 1.1Proceeding with energy, determination, or speed.
        ‘I couldn't get myself into gear early enough on Saturday morning’
        • ‘I turned 29 and decided that my life was coming to an end quickly and that I'd better get my act in gear before I turned 30.’
        • ‘It must have been preying on my mind, because later in the evening I piped up, mouth engaged before brain was fully in gear.’
        • ‘Having traded his Ivy League education for a routine of slobbing out and ‘trying to be a rock star… but a rock star from 1972 ’, Paul resolved to get his life back in gear.’
        • ‘New Year's resolutions are due to be formulated and if you are reading the paper on Friday, as most of us do, you have only 2 days to get your act in gear to set some goals for next year.’
        • ‘As an attacking force we were never in gear, and that is not just down to the forwards.’
        • ‘He has no idea what he believes in and usually opens his mouth before his brain is in gear.’
        • ‘He was trying to get the two of us to get our act in gear and head outside.’
        • ‘Instead we proceed through further memories as he starts to get his day in gear, driving across London to meet his colleague for squash.’
        • ‘For the last four years, the people of north Mayo have been pumping their bicycle tyres and getting in gear for the annual charity-driven sponsored cycle.’
        • ‘But I as your President promise to put all my efforts in gear to quickly resolve the issue, and have put the National Guard on alert.’
  • change (or switch or shift) gears

    • Adopt a different approach to a situation or task.

      ‘we have to be prepared to shift gears when things create problems for the government’

Phrasal Verbs

  • gear down

    • Change to a lower (or higher) gear.

      • ‘For example, he would maintain 6.5 mph at 50 rpm in one gear and then, as he geared down, he found he maintained 8 mph at 70 rpm without a perceived increase in effort.’
      • ‘He believed he geared down three gears, which would have put him at about 60-65 k/hr.’
      • ‘You enjoy the soundtrack a lot more in the convertible version, and I could often be found in tunnels, gearing down, top down, and enjoying the soundtrack of this engine.’
      • ‘Around the province, some coastal communities will be gearing up for certain fisheries, while others will be gearing down from other activities.’
      • ‘Take it slow, increase your distance from other traffic, signal your intentions early and gear down rather than brake whenever you can.’
      • ‘Once on an icy section, do not accelerate, brake, gear down, or make a sudden change in steering direction.’
      • ‘Plus, there are tons of controversies on the ‘best’ way to handle some situations (gear up or gear down, shut off fuel or use what power is left, etc.).’
      • ‘But unfortunately, when they geared up, I think they forgot to gear down.’
      • ‘As hitters gear up, he gears down, recording outs with changeups traveling as slowly as 68 mph.’
      • ‘They were trying to gear down from Central Park and get ready to go to the JJB Stadium.’
  • gear for

    • Make ready or prepared.

      ‘a nation geared for war’
      • ‘It amazes me how much supplies in Montreal are geared for the apartment inhabitant.’
      • ‘At the moment White Lion Park is geared for little children but we are concerned they may want to use the concrete ramps on the skateboard park.’
      • ‘On his team's readiness for next weekend's opening tie, he said it was geared for action and that the five preparatory games the team played prior to the match had boosted the mental preparedness of the players.’
      • ‘‘That's why we are geared for the challenge,’ he said.’
      • ‘Of course, putting it all into perspective, last year I was heavier, smoked cigarettes, drank too much et al, but this year, having 12 months smoke free and training my eyes out, I was geared for a good showing.’
      • ‘They are geared for tomorrow's crucial third round, first leg encounter.’
      • ‘‘This result will not deter our plans for the final and we are geared for it,’ he said.’
      • ‘He said everything was set for this gala and that Zambia was geared for the event.’
  • gear up

    • Equip or prepare oneself.

      ‘the region started to gear up for the tourist season’
      • ‘He added that the trust was now gearing up for an even tougher target.’
      • ‘But both the backers and the foes are now gearing up for a battle over an even stricter proposed amendment.’
      • ‘They believe this is in part a warm-up for the next Supreme Court fight, and a warm-up for these interest groups to get their troops geared up for the 2006 mid - term elections.’
      • ‘Beer lovers are getting ready to celebrate with a drink as they gear up for a three-day beer festival.’
      • ‘‘Manchester, an exciting, go-ahead city, is well geared up for it,’ said the Prime Minister.’
      • ‘However an official said: ‘The airport is well geared up for the situation.’’
      • ‘Trainees were able to learn about the processes in the fabrication plant and the names of all the parts and equipment beforehand to ensure they were fully prepared and geared up for the detailed training course.’
      • ‘We're geared up for minimum damage this time.’
      • ‘Newspapers better be prepared to gear up for 2005 innovations.’
      • ‘It's going to take awhile after the storm passes for these refineries to gear back up again.’
      get ready, prepare, make preparations, arrange things, make provision, get everything set, take the necessary steps, do the necessary, lay the groundwork, do the spadework, gird up one's loins, kit oneself out, rig oneself out, arm oneself
      prepare, make preparations, make provisions, get everything ready, make ready, take the necessary steps, do the necessary
      View synonyms


Middle English: of Scandinavian origin; compare with Old Norse gervi. Early senses expressed the general meaning ‘equipment or apparatus’, later ‘mechanism’: hence gear (sense 1 of the noun) (early 19th century).