[ ouuh r-glas, -glahs, ou-er- ]
/ ˈaʊərˌglæs, -ˌglɑs, ˈaʊ ər- /


an instrument for measuring time, consisting of two bulbs of glass joined by a narrow passage through which a quantity of sand or mercury runs in just an hour.


having a notably slim or narrow waist, midsection, or joining segment: She has an hourglass figure.

Nearby words

  1. houppelande,
  2. hour,
  3. hour angle,
  4. hour circle,
  5. hour hand,
  6. hourglass contraction,
  7. hourglass murmur,
  8. hourglass stomach,
  9. houri,
  10. hourlong

Origin of hourglass

First recorded in 1505–15; hour + glass

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

Examples from the Web for hourglass

British Dictionary definitions for hourglass


/ (ˈaʊəˌɡlɑːs) /


a device consisting of two transparent chambers linked by a narrow channel, containing a quantity of sand that takes a specified time to trickle to one chamber from the other
(modifier) well-proportioned with a small waistan hourglass figure
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 hourglass



1510s, from hour + glass. Used 19c. in a variety of technical and scientific senses to describe the shape; reference to women's bodies is attested by 1897.

Men condemn corsets in the abstract, and are sometimes brave enough to insist that the women of their households shall be emancipated from them; and yet their eyes have been so generally educated to the approval of the small waist, and the hourglass figure, that they often hinder women who seek a hygienic style of dress. [Mary Ashton Rice Livermore, "The Story of My Life," 1898]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper