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.
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.

Origin of hamstring

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

Examples from the Web for hamstrung

Contemporary Examples of hamstrung

Historical Examples of hamstrung

  • If I am to administer this office, I will not be hamstrung by constant 36 Executive interference.

    The Clansman

    Thomas Dixon

  • We say when we cut these large muscles that we have “hamstrung” the animal.

    The Later Cave-Men

    Katharine Elizabeth Dopp

  • It was the horse Tommasino had ridden; it was hamstrung, and its throat had been cut.

  • Had he been less heavily muscled, this attack might have hamstrung him.

    Red Fox

    Charles G. D. Roberts

  • I struggled to rise, but I could only flounder like a hamstrung horse.

British Dictionary definitions for hamstrung


  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
verb -strings, -stringing or -strung (tr)
  1. to cripple by cutting the hamstring of
  2. 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 hamstrung



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

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

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