ham

2
[ham]
See more synonyms for ham on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with or without object), hammed, ham·ming.
  1. to act with exaggerated expression of emotion; overact.
Idioms
  1. ham it up, to overact; ham.

Origin of ham

2
1880–85; short for hamfatter, after The Hamfat Man, a black minstrel song celebrating an awkward man
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018


British Dictionary definitions for ham up

ham

1
noun
  1. the part of the hindquarters of a pig or similar animal between the hock and the hip
  2. the meat of this part, esp when salted or smoked
  3. informal
    1. the back of the leg above the knee
    2. the space or area behind the knee
  4. 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

ham

2
noun
  1. 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
  2. informal
    1. a licensed amateur radio operator
    2. (as modifier)a ham licence
verb hams, hamming or hammed
  1. 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

Word Origin and History for ham up

ham

n.1

"meat of a hog's hind leg used for food," 1630s, from Old English hamm "hollow or bend of the knee," from Proto-Germanic *hamma- (cf. Old Norse höm, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch hamme, Old High German hamma), from PIE *konemo- "shin bone" (cf. Greek kneme "calf of the leg," Old Irish cnaim "bone"). Ham-fisted (1928) was originally in reference to pilots who were heavy on the controls, as was ham-handed (by 1918). With hammen ifalden "with folded hams" was a Middle English way of saying "kneeling."

ham

n.2

"overacting inferior performer," 1882, American English, apparently a shortening of hamfatter (1880) "actor of low grade," said since at least 1889 to be from an old minstrel show song, "The Ham-fat Man" (1863). The song, a black-face number, has nothing to do with acting, so the connection must be with the quality of acting in minstrel shows, where the song was popular. Ham also had a sports slang sense of "incompetent pugilist" circa 1888, perhaps from ham-fisted. The notion of "amateurish" led to the sense of "amateur radio operator" (1919). The verb in the performance sense is first recorded 1933. As an adjective in this sense by 1935.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

ham up in Culture

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.

Note

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.

Note

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.

Idioms and Phrases with ham up

ham up

Exaggerate or overdo, especially with extravagant emotion, as in Hamming up the eulogy was disgraceful, especially since he didn't even know the deceased. It is also put as ham it up, meaning “overact,” as in She loves to ham it up in front of the class. This idiom probably alludes to the hamfat (lard) used to remove stage makeup, mentioned in the minstrel song, “The Ham-Fat Man.” From this hamfatter came to mean “an inexpert and flamboyant actor,” and was in the late 1800s shortened to ham. The idiom here was first recorded in 1933.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.