Fulcrum is any pivotal point that supports the movement of a lever. It is also referred to as fulcrum point by many. Usually, there is only one fulcrum or fulcrum point in a lever. Literally, fulcrum had an existence before being endorsed by the scientific community and defined by physicists.
Imagine a lever and how it works. There is a load at one end of the lever or someplace else in specific circumstances, there is the point at the other end or some other part of the lever where the effort is applied and there is one pivotal point that allows the lever to be in place, to be moved, lifted, rotated or just to have the effort applied resulting in the movement of the load.
The easiest to understand example of a fulcrum is the seesaw. There is a plank set on a fixed support. The two halves of the plank on either side of the fixed support are equal in length and weight. The fixed support is the fulcrum. The two kids sitting on the two ends of the plank are the load and effort respectively. In a given swing, one is the load and the other is the effort. In the subsequent swing, there is a role reversal. When one child gently kicks the ground allowing the plank to go up and the other child who is hoisted up swings down, the former is the effort and the latter is the load. This gets reversed. The fixed support in the middle which is firmly installed in the ground works as the fulcrum.
Fulcrum makes a lever functional. It is the secret to facilitating the lifting of heavier loads with little effort. Imagine a crowbar, pry bar and wrecking bar. They all work on the concept of a lever which wouldn’t work without the fulcrum.
Animals or humans also have fulcrum. Any fixed or pivotal point that allows movement can be referred to as a fulcrum. Hence, the shoulder joint that allows you to move your arms, the knee that allows you to bend your legs, the spine that lets you twist your body and the vertebral column in the neck that helps you to turn and look around are all fulcrums.
The word fulcrum is from the Latin verb ‘fulcire’ which literally means ‘to prop’. In Latin, fulcrum was used to refer to ‘bedpost’. Sometime in the 17th century when English got heavily influenced by Latin and numerous Latin words made into the English dictionary, also resulting in the creation of new words, the word ‘fulcrum’ was inducted and it was used to mean any point that supported movement or a certain action.