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See more synonyms for hamstring on Thesaurus.com
  1. (in humans and other primates) any of the tendons that bound the ham of the knee.
  2. (in quadrupeds) the great tendon at the back of the hock.
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verb (used with object), ham·strung, ham·string·ing.
  1. to disable by cutting the hamstring or hamstrings; cripple.
  2. to render powerless or useless; thwart: Their efforts were hamstrung by stubborn pride.
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Origin of hamstring

First recorded in 1555–65; ham1 + string
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for hamstring

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • They rushed on the count and his lances, and began to hamstring the horses.

    The Days of Chivalry

    Ernest Louis Victor Jules L'Epine

  • He could not reach the hamstring, as his horse could not gain the proper position.

    In the Heart of Africa

    Samuel White Baker

  • Would it not be safer to hamstring the bull before he comes on?

    The Night-Born

    Jack London

  • The boy then sprang forward, and raised a knife as if to hamstring the pony.

    Captured by the Navajos

    Charles A. Curtis

  • Hamstring their horses, and burn their chariots with fire, etc..

British Dictionary definitions for hamstring


  1. anatomy any of the tendons at the back of the kneeRelated adjective: popliteal
  2. the large tendon at the back of the hock in the hind leg of a horse, etc
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verb -strings, -stringing or -strung (tr)
  1. to cripple by cutting the hamstring of
  2. to ruin or thwart
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Word Origin

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]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

hamstring in Medicine


  1. Any of the tendons at the rear hollow of the human knee.
  2. hamstrings The hamstring muscle.
  3. The large tendon in the back of the hind tarsal joint of the quadruped.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

hamstring in Science


  1. 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.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.