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[ouuh r-glas, -glahs, ou-er-] /ˈaʊərˌglæs, -ˌglɑs, ˈaʊ ər-/
an instrument for measuring time, consisting of two bulbs of glass joined by a narrow passage through which a quantity of sand or mercury runs in just an hour.
having a notably slim or narrow waist, midsection, or joining segment:
She has an hourglass figure.
Origin of hourglass
First recorded in 1505-15; hour + glass Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hourglass
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The marble was but roughly hewn, in lines that held the suggestion of an hourglass.

    A Bookful of Girls

    Anna Fuller
  • There is a good oak pulpit, with hourglass holder, and some heavy 15th-cent.

    Somerset G.W. Wade and J.H. Wade
  • To calculate it one must reckon a century for every turn of the hourglass.

  • At the sound the bearded old man raises his sceptre, opens his mouth, and turns an hourglass.

  • I think an hourglass running out would help the notion; perhaps her little tilings upon his knee, or in his hand.

  • The latter had an hourglass on his head, and in his hand a scythe, with which he aimed a blow at Mercury's feet.

  • The hourglass figure can of course be construed as the "filled-in angle" enlarged.

    Mohave Pottery Alfred L. Kroeber
  • It seems to refer to paired crossing lines as part of hourglass figures.

    Mohave Pottery Alfred L. Kroeber
British Dictionary definitions for hourglass


a device consisting of two transparent chambers linked by a narrow channel, containing a quantity of sand that takes a specified time to trickle to one chamber from the other
(modifier) well-proportioned with a small waist: an hourglass figure
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 hourglass

1510s, from hour + glass. Used 19c. in a variety of technical and scientific senses to describe the shape; reference to women's bodies is attested by 1897.

Men condemn corsets in the abstract, and are sometimes brave enough to insist that the women of their households shall be emancipated from them; and yet their eyes have been so generally educated to the approval of the small waist, and the hourglass figure, that they often hinder women who seek a hygienic style of dress. [Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, "The Story of My Life," 1898]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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