or H.A.M. or HAM [ham]
What does ham mean?
Ham isn't just a staple for Christmas dinners or sandwiches. It can also stand for hard as a motherfucker.
To go ham is to put in an extraordinary, even aggressive, amount of effort. If you went crazy eating ham, you'd be going ham on some ham.
Examples of ham
Where does ham come from?
Hard has been used in hip-hop with a couple related meanings since the 1980s. If you do something with intensity, you do it hard. Rappers have been bragging about rolling and hustling hard since the 1980s. A person can also be hard, meaning they’re “tough.” In 1988, for example, Sir Mix-a-Lot bragged about being “born in the ghetto, hard as metal.” Q-Tip released a song titled “Go Hard” in 1999.
So, what if someone is (or goes) even harder than that? Then they might be hard as a motherfucker. An internet forum post from 1999 described Ice Cube as “hard as a motherfucker.” The phrase even found its way to at least one international hip-hop scene, as a 2003 book on Australian hip-hop said two local groups, Brethren and Def Wish Cast, “hit hard as a motherfucker.”
The acronym H.A.M. found widespread popularity in 2008. That January, Gucci Mane released “Go Ham on Em.” Later that year, Soulja Boy released his own song with the same title.
In 2011, Jay-Z and Kanye West teamed up on “H*A*M,” where they bragged about going harder than anyone else in the game. They also helpfully defined the acronym, rapping: “Let these niggas know who I am / I’m about to go H·A·M / Hard as a motherfucker.”
Who uses ham?
Going ham isn’t just for hip-hop stars anymore. Athletes, who also respect intensity and toughness, adopted ham. Deshaun Watson, an NFL quarterback, tweeted when he was in high school in 2012: “If I get a chance to play in a national championship game, Imma go ham.” In 2017, Watson did play in the NCAA national championship—and he did go ham.
If I get a chance to play in a national championship game, Imma go ham.
— Deshaun Watson (@deshaunwatson) February 5, 2012
There’s also a sportswear brand named H.A.M. Even e-sports players can go ham. In 2015, a player of the game Heroes of the Storm was heard using the phrase on an ESPN2 broadcast.
Of course, you can go ham at anything you want, like say, dancing.
Though the words ham stands in for may not be acceptable in polite society, ham itself isn’t considered offensive. In 2018, a Philadelphia news station used the term for a video of a pug and some pigs going ham on a pizza, showing just how mainstream the slang has come.
— Action News on 6abc (@6abc) March 4, 2018
This is not meant to be a formal definition of ham like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of ham that will help our users expand their word mastery.