- to fold back and sew down the edge of (cloth, a garment, etc.); form an edge or border on or around.
- to enclose or confine (usually followed by in, around, or about): hemmed in by enemies.
- an edge made by folding back the margin of cloth and sewing it down.
- the edge or border of a garment, drape, etc., especially at the bottom.
- the edge, border, or margin of anything.
- Architecture. the raised edge forming the volute of an Ionic capital.
Origin of hem1
- (an utterance resembling a slight clearing of the throat, used to attract attention, express doubt, etc.)
- the utterance or sound of “hem.”
- a sound or pause of hesitation: His sermon was full of hems and haws.
- to utter the sound “hem.”
- to hesitate in speaking.
- hem and haw,
- to hesitate or falter: She hemmed and hawed a lot before she came to the point.
- to speak noncommittally; avoid giving a direct answer: He hems and haws and comes out on both sides of every question.
Origin of hem2
- variant of hemo- before a vowel: hemal.
Examples from the Web for hem
Such products are not suited for the rigours of public life, and need to be adapted, at the very least by sewing in hem weights.Kate Middleton's History of Flesh-Flashing Wardrobe Malfunctions
May 29, 2014
If I could sum it up in a few choice words, I would, but instead I hem and haw, before stumbling through some rambling rejoinder.Fear And Self-Loathing In Scandinavia: The Fiction Of Karl Ove Knausgaard
May 28, 2014
Music, too, can dismantle me—for instance, this morning: Sam Cooke singing “Touch the Hem of His Garment.”How I Write: Scott Spencer
March 13, 2014
Tessie rose, unrolled her scented handkerchief, and taking a bit of gum from a knot in the hem, placed it in her mouth.Read ‘The King in Yellow,’ the ‘True Detective’ Reference That’s the Key to the Show
Robert W. Chambers
February 20, 2014
Kate, sweetie, you really need to get some hem weights fitted to your clothes.New Wardrobe Malfunction Today Suggests Kate REALLY Needs Hem Weights
June 13, 2013
And it is, I cannot but confess it, it is too often—hem—acceptable.Little Dorrit
"Good as new, almost," she said, looking critically at the hem.The Incomplete Amorist
What, all the way to the well and back, nothing but hem, and clear his throat?Tales And Novels, Volume 8 (of 10)
Ten golden pieces are sewn into the hem of your under doublet.Micah Clarke
Arthur Conan Doyle
Then he fell before her and, for a second time, kissed the hem of her robe.
- an edge to a piece of cloth, made by folding the raw edge under and stitching it down
- short for hemline
- to provide with a hem
- (usually foll by in, around, or about) to enclose or confine
- a representation of the sound of clearing the throat, used to gain attention, express hesitation, etc
- (intr) to utter this sound
- hem and haw or hum and haw to hesitate in speaking or in making a decision
- a US variant of haemo-
Word Origin and History for hem
Old English hem "a border," especially of cloth or a garment, from Proto-Germanic *hamjam (cf. Old Norse hemja "to bridle, curb," Swedish hämma "to stop, restrain," Old Frisian hemma "to hinder," Middle Dutch, German hemmen "to hem in, stop, hinder"), from PIE *kem- "to compress." Apparently the same root yielded Old English hamm, common in place names (where it means "enclosure, land hemmed in by water or high ground, land in a river bend"). In Middle English, hem also was a symbol of pride or ostentation.
If þei wer þe first þat schuld puplysch þese grete myracles of her mayster, men myth sey of hem, as Crist ded of þe Pharisees, þat þei magnified her owne hemmys. [John Capgrave, "Life of Saint Gilbert of Sempringham," 1451]
late 15c., probably imitative of the sound of clearing the throat. Hem and haw first recorded 1786, from haw "hesitation" (1630s; see haw (v.)); hem and hawk attested from 1570s.
late 14c., "to provide (something) with a border or fringe" (surname Hemmer attested from c.1300), from hem (n.). Related: Hemmed; hemming. The phrase hem in "shut in, confine," first recorded 1530s.
- Variant ofhemo-