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ax

or axe

[aks]
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noun, plural ax·es [ak-siz] /ˈæk sɪz/.
  1. an instrument with a bladed head on a handle or helve, used for hewing, cleaving, chopping, etc.
  2. Jazz Slang. any musical instrument.
  3. the ax, Informal.
    1. dismissal from employment: to get the ax.
    2. expulsion from school.
    3. rejection by a lover, friend, etc.: His girlfriend gave him the ax.
    4. any usually summary removal or curtailment.
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verb (used with object), axed, ax·ing.
  1. to shape or trim with an ax.
  2. to chop, split, destroy, break open, etc., with an ax: The firemen had to ax the door to reach the fire.
  3. Informal. to dismiss, restrict, or destroy brutally, as if with an ax: The main office axed those in the field who didn't meet their quota. Congress axed the budget.
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Idioms
  1. have an ax to grind, to have a personal or selfish motive: His interest may be sincere, but I suspect he has an ax to grind.
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Origin of ax

before 1000; Middle English; ax(e), ex(e), Old English æx, æces; akin to Gothic aquizi, Old Norse øx, ǫx, Old High German acc(h)us, a(c)kus (German Axt), Middle High German plural exa < Germanic *akwiz-, akuz-, aksi-*ákəs, áks-; Latin ascia (< *acsiā), Greek axī́nē; < Indo-European *ag-s-
Related formsax·like, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for axe

axe

US ax

noun plural axes
  1. a hand tool with one side of its head forged and sharpened to a cutting edge, used for felling trees, splitting timber, etcSee also hatchet
  2. an axe to grind
    1. an ulterior motive
    2. a grievance
    3. a pet subject
  3. the axe informal
    1. dismissal, esp from employment; the sack (esp in the phrase get the axe)
    2. Britishsevere cutting down of expenditure, esp the removal of unprofitable sections of a public service
  4. US slang any musical instrument, esp a guitar or horn
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verb (tr)
  1. to chop or trim with an axe
  2. informal to dismiss (employees), restrict (expenditure or services), or terminate (a project)
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Word Origin

Old English æx; related to Old Frisian axa, Old High German acchus, Old Norse öx, Latin ascia, Greek axinē
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for axe

n.

Old English æces (Northumbrian acas) "axe, pickaxe, hatchet," later æx, from Proto-Germanic *akusjo (cf. Old Saxon accus, Old Norse ex, Old Frisian axe, German Axt, Gothic aqizi), from PIE *agw(e)si- (cf. Greek axine, Latin ascia).

The spelling ax is better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, and analogy, than axe, which became prevalent during the 19th century; but it is now disused in Britain. [OED]



The spelling ax, though "better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, & analogy" (OED), is so strange to 20th-c. eyes that it suggests pedantry & is unlikely to be restored. [Fowler]

Meaning "musical instrument" is 1955, originally jazz slang for the saxophone; rock slang for "guitar" dates to 1967. The axe in figurative sense of cutting of anything (expenses, workers, etc.), especially as a cost-saving measure, is from 1922, probably from the notion of the headman's literal axe (itself attested from mid-15c.). To have an axe to grind is from an 1815 essay by U.S. editor and politician Charles Miner (1780-1865) in which a man flatters a boy and gets him to do the chore of axe-grinding for him, then leaves without offering thanks or recompense. Misattributed to Benjamin Franklin in Weekley, OED print edition, and many other sources.

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v.

1670s, "to shape or cut with an axe," from axe (n.). Meaning "to remove, severely reduce," usually figurative, recorded by 1922. Related: Axed; axing.

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ax

n.

see axe (n.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

axe in Medicine

ax

abbr.
  1. axis
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with axe

ax

In addition to the idiom beginning with ax

also see:

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.