\ ˈaks \
variants: or axe

Definition of ax 

(Entry 1 of 4)

1 : a cutting tool that consists of a heavy edged head fixed to a handle with the edge parallel to the handle and that is used especially for felling trees and chopping and splitting wood

2 : a hammer with a sharp edge for dressing (see dress entry 1 sense 6e) or spalling stone

3 informal

a : removal from office or release from employment : dismissal usually used with the Employees with poor evaluations got the ax.Trump quickly gave him the ax [=fired him] for his incompetence. —Laura Petrecca

b : abrupt elimination or severe reduction of something Unlimited expense accounts, signing bonuses, and office plants—all are getting the ax [=being cut or eliminated] thanks to corporate cost-cutting measures. —Amanda Hinnant No party was brave enough to offend its supporters by [=taking an axe to] [=severely reducing] expenditure.The Economist

4 slang : any of several musical instruments (such as a guitar or a saxophone)

ax to grind

: an ulterior often selfish underlying purpose claims that he has no ax to grind in criticizing the proposed law


variants: or axe
axed; axing

Definition of ax (Entry 2 of 4)

transitive verb

1a : to shape, dress (see dress entry 1 sense 6e), or trim with an ax ax stone

b : to chop, split, or sever with an ax ax branches from a tree

2 informal : to remove abruptly (as from employment or from a budget) The TV program was axed from the new schedule.

Definition of ax (Entry 3 of 4)

1 axiom

2 axis


biographical name
\ ˈaks \

Definition of Ax (Entry 4 of 4)

Emanuel 1949–     American (Ukrainian-born of Polish parents) pianist

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Examples of ax in a Sentence


the company was hemorrhaging money, so 700 employees would soon be given the ax


The boss told him that he had been axed. the boss will ax anyone who leaks company secrets
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Competitive ax throwing is similar to shooting targets. Kyle Arnold,, "Ax-throwing joint coming to downtown Orlando," 10 July 2018 Ax murder In the summer of 1976, two American soldiers were hacked to death by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers during a fight over U.S. efforts to trim a poplar tree at Demilitarized Zone that bisects the Koreas. Time, "From Spy Games to Summits, Here Are 10 Historic Moments in U.S.-North Korean Relations," 11 June 2018 On her last attempt, her ax landed right in the target's gut. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Do Not Mess with Serena Williams When She Is Holding an Ax," 26 Apr. 2018 Watch the 30-second spot here: -- On the other side, many of Trump’s most fervent supporters and closest friends are ramping up public calls for the special counsel to get the ax. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Trump fury after Cohen raids prods Hill Republicans to take sides on Mueller," 11 Apr. 2018 The White House's confidence that Trump has every right to fire Mueller triggered alarm among Democrats, who would try to shame Republicans into acting to rein in the President if the special counsel gets the ax. Stephen Collinson, CNN, "Trump's perceived persecution fuels unrest," 11 Apr. 2018 Unfortunately, the movie would've run too long, so that song got the ax. Stacey Grant, Seventeen, "23 Surprising DCOM Secrets Even Die-Hard Fans Didn't Know," 25 Oct. 2017 Players toss five axes, switch lanes, throw again and count up points. Kyle Arnold,, "Ax-throwing joint coming to downtown Orlando," 10 July 2018 France's butchers have an ax to grind with the country's vegan activists. Rebecca Tan, Washington Post, "France’s butchers fear the wrath of ‘militant vegans’," 28 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The company last week disclosed a corporate restructuring aimed at cutting 9 percent of its workforce while sparing Model 3 production employees from being axed. Kevin Mccoy, USA TODAY, "Elon Musk and Tesla cope with 'sabotage', space crunch for new Model 3 assembly line," 19 June 2018 Trump's budget also axes five climate change research missions, including a Carbon Monitoring System that costs NASA $10 million per year. Alex Stuckey, Houston Chronicle, "Bridenstine: NASA astronauts will remain in space even if ISS is privatized," 7 June 2018 After three controversial weeks in effect, Spotify is axing its hateful conduct policy., "And Just Like That, Spotify's Hateful Conduct Policy Is No More," 2 June 2018 Heck, Chicago axed Paul Thompson after an 11-5 loss in the 1944-45 opener. Ross Mckeon, San Francisco Chronicle, "Sharks’ playoff position to be settled Saturday," 6 Apr. 2018 Carlo Ancelotti, a former Chelsea manager, is available at the moment and has been out of a job since being axed by Bayern Munich last year., "Chelsea Eyeing Max Allegri & Luis Enrique as They Step Up Search for Antonio Conte Replacement," 12 Jan. 2018 History suggests the extra money makes a real difference: When the state of Georgia axed a $5,000 credit in July 2015, sales of EVs fell by 90 percent. Jack Stewart, WIRED, "The Terrible Timing of Tesla's Expiring $7,500 Tax Credit," 12 July 2018 Now, Mid-Continent is strongly considering a second round of 200 layoffs, says company spokeswoman Elizabeth Heaton, and all 500 employees could be axed by Labor Day. Paul Davidson, USA TODAY, "U.S. trade war with China, other countries: Layoffs, reduced hours, thinner profits," 6 July 2018 Scenes of violence were not cut, but a final scene involving a kiss was axed. Aya Batrawy,, "'It's a new era': First Saudi cinema opens with popcorn and 'Black Panther'," 19 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ax.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ax


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1674, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for ax


Middle English, from Old English æcs; akin to Old High German ackus ax, Latin ascia, Greek axinē


see ax entry 1

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Statistics for ax

Last Updated

19 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for ax

The first known use of ax was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for ax



English Language Learners Definition of ax

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a tool that has a heavy metal blade and a long handle and that is used for chopping wood



English Language Learners Definition of ax (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cut or remove (something)

: to fire (someone)


variants: or axe \ˈaks \

Kids Definition of ax

: a tool that has a heavy head with a sharp edge fixed to a handle and is used for chopping and splitting wood

Medical Definition of ax 


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Comments on ax

What made you want to look up ax? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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