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[ham-string] /ˈhæmˌstrɪŋ/
(in humans and other primates) any of the tendons that bound the ham of the knee.
(in quadrupeds) the great tendon at the back of the hock.
verb (used with object), hamstrung, hamstringing.
to disable by cutting the hamstring or hamstrings; cripple.
to render powerless or useless; thwart:
Their efforts were hamstrung by stubborn pride.
Origin of hamstring
First recorded in 1555-65; ham1 + string Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for hamstrung
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • For many minutes the bull stood motionless, his hamstrung quarter sinking lower and lower.

    Kazan James Oliver Curwood
  • Had he been less heavily muscled, this attack might have hamstrung him.

    Red Fox Charles G. D. Roberts
  • Getting up close behind the still fighting wild deer, with one stroke of their weapons they hamstrung the brave creatures.

    The Young Rajah W.H.G. Kingston
  • Wasn't it going to be nice to live in a world without punctured eardrums and hamstrung nerves?

    Cue for Quiet Thomas L. Sherred
  • I struggled to rise, but I could only flounder like a hamstrung horse.

  • On the night of our arrival at Hardin, a fine saddle horse had been hamstrung in his owner's stable by wolves.

British Dictionary definitions for hamstrung


(anatomy) any of the tendons at the back of the knee related adjective popliteal
the large tendon at the back of the hock in the hind leg of a horse, etc
verb (transitive) -strings, -stringing, -strung
to cripple by cutting the hamstring of
to ruin or thwart
Word Origin
C16: ham1 + string
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 hamstrung



1640s, "to disable, render useless," a figurative verbal extension from the noun hamstring "tendon at the back of the knee" (1560s), from ham "bend of the knee" (see ham (n.1)) + string. Cutting this would render a person or animal lame. Related: Hamstrung.

[I]n hamstring, -string is not the verb string; we do not string the ham, but do something to the tendon called the hamstring; the verb, that is, is made not from the two words ham & string, but from the noun hamstring. It must therefore make hamstringed. [Fowler]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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hamstrung in Medicine

hamstring ham·string (hām'strĭng')

  1. Any of the tendons at the rear hollow of the human knee.

  2. hamstrings The hamstring muscle.

  3. The large tendon in the back of the hind tarsal joint of the quadruped.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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hamstrung in Science
A powerful group of muscles at the back of the thigh that arise in the hip and pelvis and insert as strong tendons behind the knee. The hamstring bends the knee and helps to straighten the hip.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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