Pronounced "pants neigh," this is the term for the form of glasses or spectacles that have no earpiece, but are rather held firmly to the nose by a spring in the nosepieces. They sometimes have a ribbon or string lanyard threaded through the frame or a hole drilled in the edge of one lens, to prevent it from falling to the ground should it slip from the wearer's nose.

Pince-nez glasses are rarity in the world of today, though they were quite popular, along with monocles, in the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries.

n. spectacles designed to "pinch the nose" (as the term literally means in French), as opposed to eyeglasses held on by sidepieces going over the ears, or opera glasses, which use a handle. The plural is spelt the same, but pronounced with an 's' on the end.*

The pince-nez was made possible by the invention of the steel spring in the mid-19th century. They were unstable and eventually incorporated a cord or ribbon attached on one side to prevent them falling off and shattering, rather like a monocle. Later versions allowed the folding of one lens over the other, for compactness' sake.

The glasses played a central role in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez" published in the 1905 collection "The Return of Sherlock Holmes."

* The words 'corps,' 'rendezvous, 'faux-pas' and 'chassis' do the same.
see for more word oddities

Pince`-nez" (?), n. [F. pincer to pinch + nez nose.]

Eyeglasses kept on the nose by a spring.


© Webster 1913.

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