As a piece of cutlery or kitchenware, a fork is a tool consisting of a handle with several narrow tines on one end. The fork as an eating utensil has been a feature primarily of the West, whereas in East Asia chopsticks have been more prevalent. Today, forks are increasingly available throughout East Asia. The utensil (usually metal) is used to lift food to the mouth or to hold ingredients in place while they are being cut. Food can be lifted either by spearing it on the tines, or by holding it on top of the tines, which are often curved slightly. A fork is also shaped in the form of a trident but curved at the joint of the handle to the points. Though the fork’s early history is obscure, the fork as a kitchen and dining utensil is generally believed to have originated in the Roman Empire, or in Ancient Greece. The personal table fork most likely originated in the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. Its use spread to what is now the Middle East during the first millennium CE and then spread into southern Europe during the second millennium. It did not become common in northern Europe until the 18th century and was not common in North America until the 19th century.