noun (1)
\ ˈham How to pronounce ham (audio) \

Definition of ham

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : the hollow of the knee
b : a buttock with its associated thigh usually used in plural
2 : a cut of meat consisting of a thigh especially : one from a hog

3 [ short for hamfatter, from "The Ham-fat Man," minstrel song ]

a : a showy performer especially : an actor performing in an exaggerated theatrical style
b : someone who enjoys performing and who tends to behave in an exaggerated or playful way when people are watching A bit of a ham, she's been collecting these one-liners for decades.— Elizabeth Rubin " … I was always sort of a ham. I talk a lot. I'm wild. I was always performing growing up … "— Pokey LaFarge
c : a licensed operator of an amateur radio station
4 : a cushion used especially by tailors for pressing curved areas of garments


hammed; hamming

Definition of ham (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

: to execute with exaggerated speech or gestures : overact ham it up for the camera

intransitive verb

: to overplay a part


noun (2)
\ ˈham How to pronounce Ham (audio) \

Definition of Ham (Entry 3 of 3)

: a son of Noah held to be the progenitor of the Egyptians, Nubians, and Canaanites

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Other Words from ham

Noun (1)

ham adjective

Examples of ham in a Sentence

Noun (1)

We're having ham for dinner. He was once a fine actor, but now he's just an old ham. Cameras bring out the ham in her.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The menu will feature ham, baked beans, potato salad and peach shortcake. courant.com, "Community News For The Vernon Edition," 8 Aug. 2019 Bacon, gruyère and caramelized onion quiche tastes altogether authentic as does the croque madame on brioche, with ham, creamy Comté mornay and sunny-side-up egg. San Diego Union-Tribune, "We hate brunch. But we love these 10 brunch spots," 8 Aug. 2019 Share a tin of pimento cheese (sadly encumbered by strips of pickled onions — just let us at the cheese, please!) with saltines ($8) or fluffy biscuits and Benton ham, with a swipe of sorghum butter on the side, worth eating on its own ($16). Kara Baskin, BostonGlobe.com, "At The Porch in Medford, deviled eggs, fried chicken, pork rinds, and other Southern flavors," 7 Aug. 2019 Five points were shaved off Papa John’s score because diced ham, chicken nuggets and sausage were stored above acceptable temperatures. Howard Koplowitz | Hkoplowitz@al.com, al, "The 10 worst Jefferson County restaurant health scores for July 2019," 5 Aug. 2019 Food recall notices have been issues in 2018 for everything from eggs, to ham, to Romaine lettuce. Sheila Vilvens, Cincinnati.com, "Manufacturer recalls salads, sandwiches sold at Target, Fresh Market due to health risk," 21 July 2019 Color abounds in the pinks of the Spanish hams, the medium-rare flesh of the Chuletón, a Spanish-style ribeye for two served with a beef candle, the gold-orange of the saffron aioli. Amy Drew Thompson, orlandosentinel.com, "Holy Toledo! Sweeping vistas, Spanish flavors at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort," 18 July 2019 The kitschy menu features wiener combos like the Pineapplelachian with barbecue sauce, country ham, shredded cheese and crushed pineapple pieces. Stephanie Emma Pfeffer, PEOPLE.com, "The Best Hot Dogs in Every State and Washington, D.C.," 17 July 2019 The Megamax has pepperoni, ham, sausage, onions, green peppers, mushrooms and black olives. Kaila Contreras, Houston Chronicle, "Humble area pizzeria La Famiglia prides itself on family values," 12 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That’s not hamming it up for the camera; that’s all day, every day. Adam Rapoport, Bon Appétit, "These Are the Simplest Recipes We’ve Published This Year," 16 July 2019 Joel Grey hammed it up with a Southern accent as Jeff Sessions, and Jason Alexander, just because, killed in a Chris Christie cameo. Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker, "“It’s the End of My Presidency”: Movie Stars Channel Mueller," 1 July 2019 Developers Case Swenson and Chris Neale are also going to ham it up for the crowd, and comedian Will Durst will amp up the humor quotient. Sal Pizarro, The Mercury News, "San Jose’s iconic Dancing Pig sign restored to neon glory," 22 June 2019 The solution: combine the boys' limitless imaginations with their interest in art and fondness for hamming it up for the camera. Julia M. Chan, CNN, "Brothers with special needs star in a world without limits," 14 June 2019 The women held hands and hammed it up for the cameras. Lindzi Scharf, latimes.com, "Olivia Wilde, Storm Reid and more toast Face of the Future honoree Elizabeth Debicki," 12 June 2019 Frances McDormand McDormand was an absolute delight on the carpet, writhing around and hamming it up in her similarly bizarre-but-brilliant Valentino look. Maeve Mcdermott, USA TODAY, "Met Gala 2018: The most extra celebrity looks, from Sarah Jessica Parker to Katy Perry," 8 May 2018 Those figures suggest Chuying isn’t hamming this up. Jacky Wong, WSJ, "Buy a Bond in China, Get Some Pork in Return," 9 Nov. 2018 Residents are urged to plan ahead and take precaution in the event of a fast-moving storm suddenly hamming the area. Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, "Indianapolis weather: Heat advisory in effect for 4th of July," 2 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ham.' 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 ham

Noun (1)

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


1933, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Noun (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ham

Noun (1)

Middle English hamme, from Old English hamm; akin to Old High German hamma ham, Greek knēmē shinbone, Old Irish cnáim bone

Noun (2)


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Statistics for ham

Last Updated

15 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ham

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

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More Definitions for ham



English Language Learners Definition of ham

: meat from the leg of a hog that is often prepared by smoking or salting
disapproving : a bad actor who performs in an exaggerated way
: someone who enjoys performing and who tends to behave in an exaggerated or playful way when people are watching


\ ˈham How to pronounce ham (audio) \

Kids Definition of ham

1 : a cut of meat consisting of a thigh of pork
2 : an operator of an amateur radio station
3 : a showy performer I know she likes attention, but what a ham!


\ ˈham How to pronounce ham (audio) \

Medical Definition of ham

1 : the part of the leg behind the knee : the hollow of the knee : popliteal space
2 : a buttock with its associated thigh or with the posterior part of a thigh usually used in plural
3 : a hock or the hinder part of a hock

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More from Merriam-Webster on ham

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ham

Spanish Central: Translation of ham

Nglish: Translation of ham for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ham for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ham

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