[ ham ]
/ hæm /
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a cut of meat from the heavy-muscled part of a hog's rear quarter, between hip and hock, usually cured.
that part of a hog's hind leg.
the part of the leg back of the knee.
Often hams. the back of the thigh, or the thigh and the buttock together.
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Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of ham

before 1000; Middle English hamme,Old English hamm bend of the knee; cognate with Middle Dutch, Middle Low German hamme,Old High German hamma; akin to Old Norse hǫm buttock; perhaps akin to Greek knḗmē shin, Old Irish cnáim bone

Other definitions for ham (2 of 4)

[ ham ]
/ hæm /

an actor or performer who overacts.
an operator of an amateur radio station.
verb (used with or without object), hammed, ham·ming.
to act with exaggerated expression of emotion; overact.

Origin of ham

First recorded in 1880–85; short for hamfatter, after The Hamfat Man, a Black minstrel song celebrating an awkward man

Other definitions for ham (3 of 4)

[ ham ]
/ hæm /

the second son of Noah. Genesis 10:1.

Other definitions for ham (4 of 4)


or ham

[ ham ]
/ hæm /

adverb Slang.
hard as a motherfucker: in an extremely high-energy manner; to an exceptional degree (a euphemistic acronym used as a description of intensity, without explicit vulgarity): Nothing can stop me from partying HAM this spring break!

Origin of HAM

From its use in digital communications
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What else does ham mean?

To go ham is to put in an extraordinary, even aggressive, amount of effort. If you went crazy eating ham, you’d be going ham on some ham. In this sense, ham may stand for hard as a motherf****r.

Where does ham come from?

Hard has been used in hip-hop with a couple related meanings since the 1980s. If you do something with intensity, you do it hard. Rappers have been bragging about rolling and hustling hard since the 1980s. A person can also be hard, meaning they’re “tough.” In 1988, for example, Sir Mix-a-Lot bragged about being “born in the ghetto, hard as metal.” Q-Tip released a song titled “Go Hard” in 1999.

So, what if someone is (or goes) even harder than that? Then they might be hard as a motherf****r. An internet forum post from 1999 described Ice Cube as “hard as a motherf****r.” The phrase even found its way to at least one international hip-hop scene, as a 2003 book on Australian hip-hop said two local groups, Brethren and Def Wish Cast, “hit hard as a motherf****r.”

The acronym H.A.M. found widespread popularity in 2008. That January, Gucci Mane released “Go Ham on Em.” Later that year, Soulja Boy released his own song with the same title.

In 2011, Jay-Z and Kanye West teamed up on “H*A*M,” where they bragged about going harder than anyone else in the game.

How is ham used in real life?

Going ham isn’t just for hip-hop stars anymore. Athletes, who also respect intensity and toughness, adopted ham. Deshaun Watson, an NFL quarterback, tweeted when he was in high school in 2012: “If I get a chance to play in a national championship game, Imma go ham.” In 2017, Watson did play in the NCAA national championship—and he did go ham.

There’s also a sportswear brand named H.A.M. Even e-sports players can go ham. In 2015, a player of the game Heroes of the Storm was heard using the phrase on an ESPN2 broadcast.

Of course, you can go ham at anything you want, like say, dancing. Though the words ham stands in for may not be acceptable in polite society, ham itself isn’t considered offensive. In 2018, a Philadelphia news station used the term for a video of a pug and some pigs going ham on a pizza, showing just how mainstream the slang has come.

More examples of ham:

“With David Gordon Green’s Halloween set to premiere at this weekend’s Toronto International Film Festival, Blumhouse has unleashed a brutal new trailer — and we do mean brutal. Unlike the first trailer, this sneak peek finds Michael Myers going H.A.M. across Haddonfield, Illinois, terrorizing trick or treaters as he moves like a walking nightmare from within the shadows.”
—Michael Roffman, Consequence of Sound, September, 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use ham in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ham (1 of 2)

/ (hæm) /

the part of the hindquarters of a pig or similar animal between the hock and the hip
the meat of this part, esp when salted or smoked
  1. the back of the leg above the knee
  2. the space or area behind the knee
needlework a cushion used for moulding curves

Word Origin for ham

Old English hamm; related to Old High German hamma haunch, Old Irish cnāim bone, camm bent, Latin camur bent

British Dictionary definitions for ham (2 of 2)

/ (hæm) /

theatre informal
  1. an actor who overacts or relies on stock gestures or mannerisms
  2. overacting or clumsy acting
  3. (as modifier)a ham actor
  1. a licensed amateur radio operator
  2. (as modifier)a ham licence
verb hams, hamming or hammed
informal to overact

Word Origin for ham

C19: special use of ham 1; in some senses probably influenced by amateur
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

Cultural definitions for ham


One of the three sons of Noah. According to the biblical account, Noah and his family were the only human survivors of the great Flood and were therefore the progenitors of all the peoples on Earth.

notes for Ham

Egypt (see also Egypt) was traditionally called “the Land of Ham,” and Ham was considered to be the ancestor of the Egyptians and of all African peoples south of Egypt.

notes for Ham

The “curse of Ham” refers to the biblical story in which Ham, seeing his father drunk and naked, refused to turn away as his two brothers did. When Noah awoke, he cursed Ham and his son Canaan, supposedly causing a darker pigmentation in their descendants. This so-called curse has often been wrongly used to justify racism.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.