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When you work with crude wood (or iron) without gloves, you easily get injured with a tiny sharp piece of wood which remains under your skin and needs to be removed.

What is the word for this small piece of wood used in that particular case? I've found several words in the dictionary but without the collocation: splint, splinter, sliver.

And what is the whole phrase for the injury? Something like to get a splint?

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closed as off-topic by FumbleFingers, TimLymington, medica, Josh61, choster Jul 20 at 15:26

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Why -1? Please explain how my question doesn't meet the site's standard. –  Honza Zidek Jul 19 at 17:32
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@ Honza: Wll, you'd already got as far as identifying splint, splinter, sliver as possible candidates. Obviously you missed Merriam-Webster's example usage I got a splinter in my finger.. It's a judgement call, but I'd say checking example usages should be the next step for you. If your knowledge of English doesn't stretch that far perhaps you should be asking questions on English Language Learners rather than here. –  FumbleFingers Jul 19 at 18:39
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@WS2: So Eric Fowler says (shiver, not shivver). But there are only three instances of shiver in my finger in Google Books - they're all in "Norfolk dialect guides", and the other two are from the 1800s. Not too common compared to 1710 instances of splinter in my finger. –  FumbleFingers Jul 20 at 0:41
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@Lacey See here here and here for more info....and I'm still trying to figure it out myself ;) –  AnotherUser Jul 20 at 3:57
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A splint is apt to be understand as some rigid item used to stabilize a broken or severly sprained limb. A finger split might be used in the case of an injured finger, for example. –  hardmath Jul 20 at 5:11

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I think that you can use splinter regardless of the material. In Merriam-Webster's Unabridged Dictionary online (subscription required), the example sentence for splinter in the meaning you intend references metal.

splin·ter
noun \ˈsplintə(r)\
plural -s
1 a (1) : a thin often jagged or needlelike piece split or rent off lengthwise : sliver, chip, fragment

gloves … protect a worker from sharp steel splinters — Michael Cawley
the steering wheel … was knocked into splinters by an enemy shot — Edward Breck

(2) : a small jagged or needlelike particle or flash

flying splinters of ice — William Beebe
irradiated for a moment now and then by splinters shooting through the darkness — E. K. Brown

And I think sliver is an acceptable synonym for splinter in your use. Here's the definition for sliver from the same source:

sliv·er
noun \ˈslivə(r)\
plural -s
1 a : a long slender piece cut or torn off : splinter

a piece of apple pie with a sliver of cheese on top — F. C. Othman
was building up the fire with split logs and pine slivers — William Faulkner

Neither of these words refer to the action of getting a fragment stick under the skin, so in formal use you would have to specify: "Last time Bob tried whittling, a splinter stuck in his finger, and he couldn't get it out for days." But when the use is informal, I don't think it's a problem to imply the action: "Ow! I just got a splinter!"

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To me, a sliver and a splinter are basically the same object. But once it gets stuck under your skin an sits there, annoying the bejeezus out of you for ages, the synonymy stops: it can only be a splinter, then. I just cannot hear “I have a sliver in my finger” as normal in my head. M-W has the example, “I got a sliver of wood stuck in my finger”, which I think works because it has both ‘sliver of wood’ (referring to the thing-as-a-thing itself) and ‘stuck’; but I’ve never heard anyone say, “Ouch! I just got a sliver!”. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 20 at 7:51
    
@Lacey "splinter" and "sliver" are not synonyms. A sliver is any thin piece of any material, not necessarily sharp or even rigid, and there's no "default" material for a sliver: note that both the examples you quote specify the material, whereas "a splinter" is inferred to be a sharp sliver of wood unless stated otherwise. –  David Richerby Jul 20 at 10:22
    
Although less common, I have definitely heard people say, "I just got a sliver"—perhaps it is a regional use. –  Lacey Jul 20 at 16:16

It's called a splinter in the case of wood. "I've got a splinter in my bum from sliding down the bannister". Splints are something else.

That's because wood can break apart (splinter) into sharp bits. In the case of metal, I'd call it a metal cutting, a chip, a shaving, a sliver, or a piece of swarf.

In the case of glass, I'd call it a sliver or a shard.

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You can also call the metal thing a 'metal splinter'. –  Mitch Jul 20 at 2:15
    
@Mitch It looks better to me with scare quotes around "splinter". –  Spehro Pefhany Jul 20 at 2:29

There is an uncommon but a more specific word: skelf.

a splinter of wood, esp when embedded accidentally in the skin

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/skelf

It is from Scottish English and used as a slang mainly. You can encounter in literature too.

Also, spell and spelk is used as a splinter of wood but they are more of a dialectal word and uncommon.

Note: This would be a supplementary answer to Sphero Pefhany's answer. He already mentioned the most common usage in his answer.

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