[ ham-string ]
/ ˈhæmˌstrɪŋ /


(in humans and other primates) any of the tendons that bound the ham of the knee.
(in quadrupeds) the great tendon at the back of the hock.

verb (used with object), ham·strung, ham·string·ing.

to disable by cutting the hamstring or hamstrings; cripple.
to render powerless or useless; thwart: Their efforts were hamstrung by stubborn pride.

Nearby words

  1. hampton, lionel,
  2. hampton, wade,
  3. hamshackle,
  4. hamster,
  5. hamster wheel,
  6. hamstring muscle,
  7. hamsun,
  8. hamsun, knut,
  9. hamtramck,
  10. hamular

Origin of hamstring

First recorded in 1555–65; ham1 + string

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for hamstring

British Dictionary definitions for hamstring


/ (ˈhæmˌstrɪŋ) /


anatomy any of the tendons at the back of the kneeRelated adjective: popliteal
the large tendon at the back of the hock in the hind leg of a horse, etc

verb -strings, -stringing or -strung (tr)

to cripple by cutting the hamstring of
to ruin or thwart

Word Origin for hamstring

C16: ham 1 + string

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 hamstring



1640s, "to disable, render useless," a figurative verbal extension from the noun hamstring "tendon at the back of the knee" (1560s), from ham "bend of the knee" (see ham (n.1)) + string. Cutting this would render a person or animal lame. Related: Hamstrung.

[I]n hamstring, -string is not the verb string; we do not string the ham, but do something to the tendon called the hamstring; the verb, that is, is made not from the two words ham & string, but from the noun hamstring. It must therefore make hamstringed. [Fowler]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for hamstring


[ hămstrĭng′ ]


Any of the tendons at the rear hollow of the human knee.
hamstrings The hamstring muscle.
The large tendon in the back of the hind tarsal joint of the quadruped.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Science definitions for hamstring


[ hămstrĭng′ ]

A powerful group of muscles at the back of the thigh that arise in the hip and pelvis and insert as strong tendons behind the knee. The hamstring bends the knee and helps to straighten the hip.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.