The history of padlocks


Because of their simple, practical function, padlocks developed their basic shape of lock body, shackle, and key early on. Padlocks reflect large variations in design and technology, making them an important part of our technological history. Through decoration and choice of materials, the lock body and shackle can be adapted for different aesthetic and social contexts.

The advantage of padlocks as opposed to door locks is that they are usually small, hardy, and convenient to use, and usually cheaper than a door lock. The disadvantage is that they must be used with some kind of iron fittings.

Padlocks have an amazingly long history. Their roots are found in the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. As with many other everyday objects, they were invented when the need for them arose.

The basic technological concept of the first door locks – a bolt that can slide in both directions through the use of a key – also applied to the first padlocks.

A padlock is a lock that hangs freely from its shackle while holding together the rings or staples on a door, box, or chest. The word padlock comes from the Middle English padlok, but the meaning of the root pad is unknown. In most Germanic languages, the name is simply “hang lock”: Swedish hänglås, Danish haengelaas or haengelås, German Vorhängeschloss. The same is true of the Finnish word riippulukko, while the French word cadenas comes from the Latin catena, meaning chain.