1. a tool consisting of a solid head, usually of metal, set crosswise on a handle, used for beating metals, driving nails, etc.
  2. any of various instruments or devices resembling this in form, action, or use, as a gavel, a mallet for playing the xylophone, or a lever that strikes the bell in a doorbell.
  3. Firearms. the part of a lock that by its fall or action causes the discharge, as by exploding the percussion cap or striking the primer or firing pin; the cock.
  4. one of the padded levers by which the strings of a piano are struck.
  5. Track. a metal ball, usually weighing 16 pounds (7.3 kg), attached to a steel wire at the end of which is a grip, for throwing for distance in the hammer throw.
  6. Anatomy. the malleus.
verb (used with object)
  1. to beat or drive (a nail, peg, etc.) with a hammer.
  2. to fasten by using hammer and nails; nail (often followed by down, up, etc.): We spent the day hammering up announcements on fences and trees.
  3. to assemble or build with a hammer and nails (often followed by together): He hammered together a small crate.
  4. to shape or ornament (metal or a metal object) by controlled and repeated blows of a hammer; beat out: to hammer brass; to hammer a brass bowl.
  5. to form, construct, or make with or as if with a hammer; build by repeated, vigorous, or strenuous effort (often followed by out or together): to hammer out an agreement; to hammer together a plot.
  6. to produce with or by force (often followed by out): to hammer out a tune on the piano; to hammer a home run.
  7. to pound or hit forcefully: to hammer someone in the jaw.
  8. to settle (a strong disagreement, argument, etc.); bring to an end, as by strenuous or repeated effort (usually followed by out): They hammered out their differences over a glass of beer.
  9. to present (points in an argument, an idea, etc.) forcefully or compellingly; state strongly, aggressively, and effectively (often followed by home).
  10. to impress (something) as if by hammer blows: You'll have to hammer the rules into his head.
  11. British.
    1. (in the London stock exchange) to dismiss (a person) from membership because of default.
    2. to depress the price of (a stock).
verb (used without object)
  1. to strike blows with or as if with a hammer.
  2. to make persistent or laborious attempts to finish or perfect something (sometimes followed by away): He hammered away at his speech for days.
  3. to reiterate; emphasize by repetition (often followed by away): The teacher hammered away at the multiplication tables.
  1. under the hammer, for sale at public auction: The old estate and all its furnishings went under the hammer.

Origin of hammer

before 1000; Middle English hamer, Old English hamor; cognate with German Hammer hammer, Old Norse hamarr hammer, crag; orig. made of stone; probably akin to Russian kámen' stone
Related formsham·mer·a·ble, adjectiveham·mer·er, nounham·mer·like, adjectiveout·ham·mer, verb (used with object)re·ham·mer, verb (used with object)un·der·ham·mer, noun

Synonyms for hammer

12, 13. knock, bang. 13. strike. 14. resolve, solve, thrash, work.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for under the hammer


  1. a hand tool consisting of a heavy usually steel head held transversely on the end of a handle, used for driving in nails, beating metal, etc
  2. any tool or device with a similar function, such as the moving part of a door knocker, the striking head on a bell, etc
  3. a power-driven striking tool, esp one used in forging. A pneumatic hammer delivers a repeated blow from a pneumatic ram, a drop hammer uses the energy of a falling weight
  4. a part of a gunlock that rotates about a fulcrum to strike the primer or percussion cap, either directly or via a firing pin
  5. athletics
    1. a heavy metal ball attached to a flexible wire: thrown in competitions
    2. the event or sport of throwing the hammer
  6. an auctioneer's gavel
  7. a device on a piano that is made to strike a string or group of strings causing them to vibrate
  8. anatomy the nontechnical name for malleus
  9. curling the last stone thrown in an end
  10. go under the hammer or come under the hammer to be offered for sale by an auctioneer
  11. hammer and tongs with great effort or energyfighting hammer and tongs
  12. on someone's hammer Australian and NZ slang
    1. persistently demanding and critical of someone
    2. in hot pursuit of someone
  1. to strike or beat (a nail, wood, etc) with or as if with a hammer
  2. (tr) to shape or fashion with or as if with a hammer
  3. (tr; foll by in or into) to impress or force (facts, ideas, etc) into (someone) through constant repetition
  4. (intr) to feel or sound like hammeringhis pulse was hammering
  5. (intr often foll by away) to work at constantly
  6. (tr) British
    1. to question in a relentless manner
    2. to criticize severely
  7. informal to inflict a defeat on
  8. (tr) slang to beat, punish, or chastise
  9. (tr) stock exchange
    1. to announce the default of (a member)
    2. to cause prices of (securities, the market, etc) to fall by bearish selling
See also hammer out
Derived Formshammerer, nounhammer-like, adjective

Word Origin for hammer

Old English hamor; related to Old Norse hamarr crag, Old High German hamar hammer, Old Slavonic kamy stone
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 under the hammer



Old English hamor "hammer," from Proto-Germanic *hamaraz (cf. Old Saxon hamur, Middle Dutch, Dutch hamer, Old High German hamar, German Hammer. The Old Norse cognate hamarr meant "stone, crag" (it's common in English place names), and suggests an original sense of "tool with a stone head," from PIE *akmen "stone, sharp stone used as a tool" (cf. Old Church Slavonic kamy, Russian kameni "stone"), from root *ak- "sharp" (see acme). Hammer and sickle as an emblem of Soviet communism attested from 1921, symbolizing industrial and agricultural labor.



late 14c., from hammer (n.). Meaning "to work (something) out laboriously" recorded from 1580s. Meaning "to defeat heavily" is from 1948. Related: Hammered; hammering. Hammered as a slang synonym for "drunk" attested by 1986.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

under the hammer in Medicine


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

Idioms and Phrases with under the hammer

under the hammer

For sale, as in These paintings and Oriental rugs must come under the hammer if we're to pay the mortgage. This expression alludes to the auctioneer's hammer, which is rapped to indicate a completed transaction. [Mid-1800s]


In addition to the idioms beginning with hammer

  • hammer and tongs
  • hammer away at
  • hammer out

also see:

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