verb (used with or without object), hammed, ham·ming.
Origin of ham2
- the back of the leg above the knee
- the space or area behind the knee
Word Origin for ham
- an actor who overacts or relies on stock gestures or mannerisms
- overacting or clumsy acting
- (as modifier)a ham actor
- a licensed amateur radio operator
- (as modifier)a ham licence
verb hams, hamming or hammed
Word Origin for ham
"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."
"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.
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.
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.