AskDefine | Define pitchfork

Dictionary Definition

pitchfork n : a long-handled hand tool with sharp widely spaced prongs for lifting and pitching hay v : lift with a pitchfork; "pitchfork hay" [syn: fork]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Farm tool comprising a fork attached to a long handle used for pitching hay or bales of hay high up onto a haystack.


farm tool with tines

Derived terms

Extensive Definition

A pitchfork is an agricultural tool with a long handle and long, thin, widely separated pointed tines (also called prongs) used to lift and pitch (throw) loose material, such as hay, leaves, grapes, dung or other agricultural materials. Pitchforks typically have from two to six tines with different lengths and spacing depending on purpose. They are usually made of steel with a wooden handle, but may also be made from wood, wrought iron, bamboo, alloy etc. In some parts of England a pitchfork is known as a "prong". The pitchfork is similar to the shorter and sturdier garden fork.
The pitchfork has frequently been used as a weapon by those who couldn't afford or didn't have access to more expensive weapons such as swords, or, later, guns. As a result, pitchforks are stereotypically carried by angry mobs or gangs of enraged peasants.
In Europe, the pitchfork was first used in the early Middle Ages, at about the same time as the harrow. The pitchfork was originally made entirely of wood; today, the tines are usually made of hard metal.

Symbolism, literary and artistic references

Artistic usage

Arguably the most notable American artistic display of the pitchfork is in American Gothic, the painting by Grant Wood. In this painting it symbolizes hand labor. Less famous are paintings by various artists which depict a wide variety of pitchforks and other tools in use and at rest.

Political usage

Because of its association with peasantry, the pitchfork is often a populist symbol and part of the nickname of populist leaders, thus:
The Gangster Disciples, a street gang in the midwestern United States, use a three-pointed pitchfork as one of their symbols.

Religious symbolism

The pitchfork is often used in satire of Christian demonology in popular media, especially in early humorous cartoons where a popular joke was a caricature of an angel and a devil sitting on the shoulders of the protagonist. More seriously, it bears a resemblance to the trident of the Greek god Poseidon and the Hindu god Shiva.
pitchfork in Aragonese: Forca
pitchfork in Catalan: Forca
pitchfork in Czech: Vidle
pitchfork in German: Mistgabel
pitchfork in Estonian: Hang
pitchfork in French: Fourche
pitchfork in Italian: Forca (agricoltura)
pitchfork in Hebrew: קילשון
pitchfork in Dutch: Mestvork
pitchfork in Dutch Low Saxon: Grepe
pitchfork in Japanese: ピッチフォーク
pitchfork in Norwegian: Greip
pitchfork in Pampanga: Suligi
pitchfork in Polish: Widły (narzędzie)
pitchfork in Portuguese: Forcado (ferramenta)
pitchfork in Russian: Вилы
pitchfork in Finnish: Talikko
pitchfork in Swedish: Grep
pitchfork in Ukrainian: Ґаблі
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