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See more synonyms for mortar on Thesaurus.com
  1. a receptacle of hard material, having a bowl-shaped cavity in which substances are reduced to powder with a pestle.
  2. any of various mechanical appliances in which substances are pounded or ground.
  3. a cannon very short in proportion to its bore, for throwing shells at high angles.
  4. some similar contrivance, as for throwing pyrotechnic bombs or a lifeline.
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verb (used with or without object)
  1. to attack with mortar fire or shells.
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Origin of mortar1

before 1000; Middle English, Old English mortere and Old French mortier < Latin mortārium; (defs 3, 4) translation of French mortier < Latin, as above; see -ar2


  1. a mixture of lime or cement or a combination of both with sand and water, used as a bonding agent between bricks, stones, etc.
  2. any of various materials or compounds for bonding together bricks, stones, etc.: Bitumen was used as a mortar.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to plaster or fix with mortar.
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Origin of mortar2

1250–1300; Middle English morter < Anglo-French; Old French mortier mortar1, hence the mixture produced in it
Related formsmor·tar·less, adjectivemor·tar·y, adjective
Can be confusedcement concrete mortar
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for mortar


  1. a mixture of cement or lime or both with sand and water, used as a bond between bricks or stones or as a covering on a wall
  2. a muzzle-loading cannon having a short barrel and relatively wide bore that fires low-velocity shells in high trajectories over a short range
  3. a similar device for firing lifelines, fireworks, etc
  4. a vessel, usually bowl-shaped, in which substances are pulverized with a pestle
  5. mining a cast-iron receptacle in which ore is crushed
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verb (tr)
  1. to join (bricks or stones) or cover (a wall) with mortar
  2. to fire on with mortars
  3. Midland English dialect to trample (on)
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Word Origin

C13: from Latin mortārium basin in which mortar is mixed; in some senses, via Old French mortier substance mixed inside such a vessel
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 mortar


"mixture of cement," late 13c., from Old French mortier "builder's mortar, plaster; bowl for mixing" (13c.), from Latin mortarium "mortar," also "crushed drugs," probably the same word as mortarium "bowl for mixing or pounding" (see mortar (n.2)). Dutch mortel, German Mörtel are from Latin or French.

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"bowl for pounding," c.1300, from Old French mortier "bowl; builder's mortar," from Latin mortarium "bowl for mixing or pounding," also "material prepared in it," of unknown origin and impossible now to determine which sense was original (Watkins says probably from PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm;" see morbid). Late Old English had mortere, from the same Latin source, which might also be a source of the modern word. German Mörser also is from Latin.

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"short cannon," 1550s, originally mortar-piece, from Middle French mortier "short cannon," in Old French, "bowl for mixing or pounding" (see mortar (n.2)). So called for its shape.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

mortar in Medicine


  1. A vessel in which drugs or other substances are crushed or ground with a pestle.
  2. A machine in which materials are ground and blended or crushed.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with mortar


see bricks and mortar.

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.