The prevailing hypothesis about grasping in primates stipulates an evolution from power towards precision grips in hominids. The evolution of grasping is far more complex, as shown by analysis of new morphometric and behavioural data. The latter concern the modes of food grasping in 11 species (one platyrrhine, nine catarrhines and humans). We show that precision grip and thumb-lateral behaviours are linked to carpus and thumb length, whereas power grasping is linked to second and third digit length. No phylogenetic signal was found in the behavioural characters when using squared-change parsimony and phylogenetic eigenvector regression, but such a signal was found in morphometric characters. Our findings shed new light on previously proposed models of the evolution of grasping. Inference models suggest that Australopithecus, Oreopithecus and Proconsul used a precision grip.