\ ˈaks How to pronounce ax (audio) \
variants: or axe
plural axes

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 theEmployees 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; axes

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 How to pronounce Ax (audio) \

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

Noun the company was hemorrhaging money, so 700 employees would soon be given the ax Verb 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 But with no real evidence to make that connection, investigators turned their attention to the people who might have had an ax to grind with the energetic, often abrasive, Dr. Sievers. Erin Moriarty, CBS News, "Did a Florida man hire a look-alike to kill his wife?," 22 Aug. 2020 An immortal Charlize Theron walks tall and carries a sweet ax in Netflix's 'The Old Guard' Q: The film also boasts diversity in front of and behind the camera. Andrea Mandell, USA TODAY, "'Mom, honk!' Charlize Theron talks 'The Old Guard,' how she's talking to her children about the protests," 10 July 2020 At one point, a resident walking her dog confronted one of the rioters who was smashing a window with an ax. Fox News, "Denver anti-police protesters burn US flag, smash windows, throw bicycle at cop: reports," 23 Aug. 2020 Your other co-planner, with an ax to grind, wants to leave off Avery or Brad or both of them. Quanta Magazine, "Computer Search Settles 90-Year-Old Math Problem," 19 Aug. 2020 The ability to simply be had already been whittled down after years of austerity politics and stagnant wages bled workers dry; the coronavirus simply served as the last swing of the ax. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "The Obvious Futility of One-Time “Stimulus” Checks," 19 Aug. 2020 Per Ars Technica, the ax was likely made by cleaving off a piece of the hippo’s femur. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "1.4-Million-Year-Old Ax Made of Hippo Bone Found in Ethiopia," 15 July 2020 So sharpen your ax, get swinging, then make like Logi—the Norse god of fire. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, "Wild Fires," 9 Jan. 2017 Split kindling wood with an ax, hatchet, or knife to get sharp corners on dry inside fibers that catch easily. The Editors, Field & Stream, "3 Keys to Starting an Emergency Fire," 4 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The Pac-12 had plenty of time to consider its options on the basketball side of things and did not need to ax November and December on Aug. 11. Josh Newman, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Red All Over: Cancelling football made sense, but Pac-12 basketball?," 20 Aug. 2020 The impending loss of revenue has already prompted Stanford to ax 11 sports from its roster of 36, though its athletic department had been losing money for years. Julie Jag, The Salt Lake Tribune, "COVID-19 has Utah’s fall sports athletes and coaches playing things by ear," 28 Aug. 2020 Industry analysts believe American did not simply ax cities with the fewest flights or seats. Kenneth R. Gosselin,, "Amid airline flight cutbacks at two Connecticut airports, a call for coronavirus testing at Bradley International," 20 Aug. 2020 Industry analysts believe American did not simply ax cities with the fewest flights or seats. David Koenig, Star Tribune, "American Airlines will drop flights to 15 cities in October," 20 Aug. 2020 The initial proposal would start Aug. 26 and end May 27 for students, and would ax the fall break typically scheduled in early October. Olivia Krauth, The Courier-Journal, "JCPS committee postpones decision on a potential later fall start date," 2 July 2020 Two days after he was named UW's finalist, the Alaska System's board of regentsvoted to ax nearly 40 academic programs because of a budget crisis. Devi Shastri, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The only finalist for the UW System's top job is a white man, and critics say his credentials and vision for the future are lackluster," 11 June 2020 Abbott pointed to hospitalization numbers — which appeared to reach historic lows last week — as evidence his decision to ax the statewide shutdown was right. Lauren Mcgaughy, Dallas News, "Coronavirus: The number of Texans in hospitals hit record highs three days in a row," 10 June 2020 But Monday's stop at Wilmington's Bethel AME Church was his first organized event with potential voters since traditional campaign activities were axed in March due to the coronavirus. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Biden insists black support must be earned during first in-person campaign event in months," 1 June 2020

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

Noun and Verb

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

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Time Traveler for ax

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for ax

Last Updated

14 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ax.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for ax


How to pronounce Ax (audio)

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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