\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

There’s no hill on which the rich people live, no axes of power, as there are in Washington, that direct your eye to shining marble monuments or government buildings. Blair Kamin,, "For July 4th, four architectural freedoms," 2 July 2018 Using its own virtual currency called V-Bucks, players can purchase different axes, dance moves and gliders, which can then be used in the game. Eli Blumenthal, USA TODAY, "'Fortnite' popularity keeps growing as free game generates $318M in revenue for May," 26 June 2018 Over time, the ax and its successors made Indiana a leading timber producer. Emily Hopkins, Indianapolis Star, "Can cutting trees be good for Indiana forests? Or is it just about timber profits?," 11 Feb. 2018 That appears to be the captain trying to knock down the door with an ax. Thomas Houston, Popular Mechanics, "Germanwings Co-pilot Accelerated Plane Before Crash," 24 Mar. 2015 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Lopetegui was axed by the Spanish federation with the team already in Russia after agreeing a deal to become the Real Madrid coach next season. Martyn Wood,, "Cherchesov: Russia win over Spain 'is only the beginning'," 1 July 2018 Stunning developments as Roseanne gets axed by ABC. Fox News, "ABC axes 'Roseanne' following star's racially-charged tweet," 30 May 2018 Chyna alleged that the nude photo scandal — along with influence from the Kardashian family — are what got Rob & Chyna axed. Mike Miller,, "Blac Chyna Says Kardashians Threatened to Leave E! Unless Network Dropped Rob & Chyna: Report," 25 May 2018 As reported by the Sun, Zidane is set to be axed by Los Blancos if his side fail to win the Champions League this season, after a disappointing La Liga campaign., "Liverpool Boss Jürgen Klopp Emerges as Number 1 Target to Replace Zidane at Real Madrid This Summer," 8 Apr. 2018 The Washington Post over the weekend reported that Twitter had more than doubled the pace of its bot-policing efforts since October 2017, axing 70 million accounts in May and June and keeping up that rate in July. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Twitter’s wiping tens of millions of accounts from its platform," 11 July 2018 Although a petition called for Damon’s removal from the film after the actor made a few unfortunate comments about the #MeToo movement, director Gary Ross says that both actors’ appearances actually got axed for story reasons. Laura Bradley, HWD, "Ocean’s 8 Director Explains Why He Cut Matt Damon, Carl Reiner Cameos," 11 June 2018 The new show will replace the current simulcast of Amanpour, her CNN International show, which has been running as an interim replacement for Charlie Rose on PBS stations since he was axed. Maria Puente, USA TODAY, "Christiane Amanpour permanently replaces Charlie Rose in PBS late-night slot," 8 May 2018 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

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

31 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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