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[gav-uh l] /ˈgæv əl/
a small mallet used by the presiding officer of a meeting, a judge, etc., usually to signal for attention or order.
a similar mallet used by an auctioneer to indicate acceptance of the final bid.
Masonry. kevel2 .
verb (used with object)
to chair (a legislative session, convention, meeting, etc.).
  1. to request or maintain (order at a meeting) by striking a gavel.
  2. to begin or put into effect (a legislative session, motion, etc.) by striking a gavel.
Origin of gavel1
An Americanism dating back to 1795-1805; origin uncertain
Can be confused
gavel, gravel, grovel.


[gav-uh l] /ˈgæv əl/
feudal rent or tribute.
before 900; Middle English govel, Old English gafol, akin to giefan to give; cf. gabelle Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for gavel
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It broke up, now, and the judge in the middle rapped with his gavel.

    Lone Star Planet Henry Beam Piper and John Joseph McGuire
  • Mr. Trimmer pounded on the table with his pencil in lieu of a gavel.

    The Making of Bobby Burnit George Randolph Chester
  • Radbourn ruled with a gavel of iron, but they all enjoyed it the more.

    A Spoil of Office Hamlin Garland
  • Silence for a while, that Mr. Price may feel the gavel in his hand, which he does.

    Coniston, Complete Winston Churchill
  • The Speaker rapped with his gavel, and I failed to hear the opening words.

    A Far Country, Complete Winston Churchill
British Dictionary definitions for gavel


a small hammer used by a chairman, auctioneer, etc, to call for order or attention
a hammer used by masons to trim rough edges off stones
Word Origin
C19: of unknown origin
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
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Word Origin and History for gavel

"small mallet used by presiding officers at meetings," 1805, American English, of unknown origin; perhaps connected with German dialectal gaffel "brotherhood, friendly society," from Middle High German gaffel "society, guild," related to Old English gafol "tribute," giefan "to give" (see habit). But in some sources gavel also is identified as a type of mason's tool, in which case the extended meaning may be via freemasonry. As a verb, by 1887, from the noun.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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