A lever is a simple machine consisting of a bar supported at some stationary point along its length and used to overcome resistance at a second point by application of force at a third point. The stationary point of a lever is known as its fulcrum. The term lever is also applied to a projecting piece that is moved to operate or adjust inner machinery, such as a lever moved to the right or left to switch electric current on or off or to adjust the size of the opening of a shutter in a camera.
The lever is used for prying, as in the case of the crowbar, or for lifting. For example, the fulcrum is the point upon which a crowbar rests when used to lift or to pry loose some object; the effort is applied at the end farther from the fulcrum and is relatively small. The distance from the operator's hands to the fulcrum is known as the lever arm, or effort arm; the object being pried loose is the resisting force, or resistance; the object's distance from the fulcrum is the resistance arm. Levers in which the fulcrum is located between the effort and the resistance, as in the crowbar and the beam balance, are known as first-class levers. The fulcrum may also be located at one end of the lever, with the effort applied at the other end and the resistance in between; this type of lever, illustrated by the wheelbarrow and the nutcracker, is known as a second-class lever. The final possibility, known as a third-class lever, has the effort applied between the fulcrum and the resistance and is illustrated by various types of tongs.