\ 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 Analysts have taken an ax to their earnings estimates for this year when they probably should have used a chain saw. Justin Lahart, WSJ, "Don’t Trust the ‘E’ in the Stock Market’s P/E Ratio," 15 Apr. 2020 Media: Kirk Sides, Houston Chronicle The trending sport of urban, indoor ax-throwing hopes to hit a bull’s-eye with the opening of Hurling Hatchets in Pearland. Don Maines, Houston Chronicle, "Pearland hatchet-throwing venue aims to be on cutting edge of fun," 24 Oct. 2019 Or compete in ax-throwing contests at Stumpy’s Hatchet House (75 Ferry St.) while drinking Lizzie’s Famous ’81 Whacks by Buzzards Bay Brewing. Andrea Simakis, cleveland, "Did she or didn’t she? On the bloody trail of Lizzie Borden in Fall River, Mass.," 20 Oct. 2019 Payrolls have largely been spared the ax, for now, because Congress set aside $25 billion to pay workers through September as long as airlines refrain from imposing furloughs or pay cuts. Niraj Chokshi, New York Times, "The Airline Business Is Terrible. It Will Probably Get Even Worse.," 10 May 2020 But the stone knives, axes, and spears produced by Neolithic cultures are near equals of their modern counterparts in both form and function. Keith Mccafferty, Field & Stream, "How to Make Primitive Survival Weapons in the Bush," 24 Apr. 2020 Stone was cutting-edge until about 10,000 years ago, when our ancestors discovered a better material from which to fashion their arrows and axes: copper. Grace Wade, Popular Science, "Copper is the ultimate tool for innovation," 16 Apr. 2020 Plus, there’s Emma Watson fighting off a bunch of dudes with an ax, Channing Tatum as a BDSM slave, and cameo by the Backstreet Boys. Los Angeles Times, "Disaster movies and disaster rations: A coronavirus food and film pairing," 3 Apr. 2020 Scientists measure boredom by looking across two axes: your ability to find meaning in a task; and your ability to pay attention to it. Michael Waters, Wired, "This Pandemic Is Perilously Boring," 31 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The minor league season, however, could be axed completely. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: Sports can return, but not with fans," 15 May 2020 In recent months, once overly bullish firms have tried to retrench — cutting jobs, axing deals and selling off assets in attempts to attain long-term viability. Alicia Wallace, CNN, "Turmoil in the cannabis business has claimed another CEO," 6 Feb. 2020 Oddsmakers think there's a good chance O'Brien could be axed this season. Peter Dawson, Houston Chronicle, "If Texans coach Bill O'Brien gets fired, here's who oddsmakers say will replace him," 3 Oct. 2019 Other SoftBank Vision Fund portfolio companies -- including Indian startup Oyo Hotel, co-working giant WeWork and real estate brokerage Compass -- have axed staff in recent weeks. Jennifer Surane,, "SoftBank-Backed Lender Kabbage Cuts Off Businesses as Cash Needs Mount," 7 May 2020 And Rock Am Ring, one of Germany’s largest outdoor music festivals and an event that normally features a lineup replete with hair metal acts has been axed for 2020. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, "How Automakers Continue Nürburgring Testing through COVID-19 Lockdown," 30 Apr. 2020 After several ships were stuck at sea for weeks, many cruise lines have axed sailings through the summer. Eric Rosen, Travel + Leisure, "Will Travel Change After Coronavirus? Here's What Experts Have to Say," 18 Apr. 2020 Two weeks ago, the Plain Dealer axed 18 union journalists and four editors. Meg Jamesstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Coronavirus crisis hastens the collapse of local newspapers. Here’s why it matters," 17 Apr. 2020 Alaska Airlines has axed about 70 percent of flights for the next two months. Rob Verger, Popular Science, "American Airlines hasn’t flown cargo-only flights since 1984. That just changed.," 27 Mar. 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

29 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ax.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 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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More from Merriam-Webster on ax

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ax

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ax

Spanish Central: Translation of ax

Nglish: Translation of ax for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ax for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about ax

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