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  1. a clublike armor-breaking weapon of war, often with a flanged or spiked metal head, used chiefly in the Middle Ages.
  2. a ceremonial staff carried before or by certain officials as a symbol of office.
  3. macebearer.
  4. Billiards. a light stick with a flat head, formerly used at times instead of a cue.

Origin of mace1

1250–1300; Middle English < Old French (compare French masse) large mallet < Vulgar Latin *mattea; akin to Latin matteola kind of mallet; compare Sanskrit matya harrow


  1. a spice ground from the layer between a nutmeg shell and its outer husk, resembling nutmeg in flavor.

Origin of mace2

1350–1400; Middle English, back formation from macis (taken as plural) < Middle French < Latin maccis a spice


  1. Also called Chemical Mace. a nonlethal spray containing purified tear gas and chemical solvents that temporarily incapacitate a person mainly by causing eye and skin irritations: used especially as a means of subduing rioters.
verb (used with object), Maced, Mac·ing.
  1. (sometimes lowercase) to attack with Mace spray.

Origin of Mace

1965–70; probably from mace1 (in the sense “clublike weapon”)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for maces

Historical Examples

  • Woe betide them, for all their gold collars and maces, had they kept her out!

    Sir Ludar

    Talbot Baines Reed

  • When the men with maces had said this to me, I woke up, and lo!

    The Kath Sarit Sgara

    Somadeva Bhatta

  • The Chancellor of France bore two maces in saltire behind his shield.

    French Book-plates

    Walter Hamilton

  • Forty scimitars of gold and forty maces of gold were borne in front of him and behind.

  • They made havoc with their swords, pikes and maces among the English ranks.

British Dictionary definitions for maces


  1. trademark a liquid causing tears and nausea, used as a spray for riot control, etc
  1. (tr; sometimes not capital) to use Mace on


  1. a club, usually having a spiked metal head, used esp in the Middle Ages
  2. a ceremonial staff of office carried by certain officials
  3. See macebearer
  4. an early form of billiard cue

Word Origin

C13: from Old French, probably from Vulgar Latin mattea (unattested); apparently related to Latin mateola mallet


  1. a spice made from the dried aril round the nutmeg seed

Word Origin

C14: formed as a singular from Old French macis (wrongly assumed to be plural), from Latin macir an oriental spice
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 maces



"heavy metal weapon, often with a spiked head," late 13c., from Old French mace "a club, scepter" (Modern French masse), from Vulgar Latin *mattea (cf. Italian mazza, Spanish maza "mace"), from Latin mateola (in Late Latin also matteola) "a kind of mallet." The Latin word perhaps is cognate with Sanskrit matyam "harrow, club," Old Church Slavonic motyka "mattock," Old High German medela "plow" [Klein]. As a symbol of authority or office from mid-15c.



"spice made from dry outer husk of nutmeg," late 14c., from Old French macis (in English taken as a plural and stripped of its -s), of uncertain origin, sometimes said to be a scribal error for Latin macir, the name of a red spicy bark from India, but OED finds this etymology unlikely.



chemical spray originally used in riot control, 1966, technically Chemical Mace, a proprietary name (General Ordnance Equipment Corp, Pittsburgh, Pa.), probably so called for its use as a weapon, in reference to mace (1). The verb is first attested 1968. Related: Maced; macing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

maces in Medicine


  1. An alternate trademark for Chemical Mace, an aerosol used to immobilize an attacker temporarily.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.