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
3a : 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

Synonyms for ham

Synonyms: Noun (1)

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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 Stacked with ham, salami, and pepperoni and topped with Italian spices and vinaigrette, get ready to fall head over heels. Jasmine Li, Vulture, 16 July 2021 Bouvet Island also ranks as the second most-wanted place in the world to contact among ham-radio enthusiasts. John Mccormick, WSJ, 6 May 2021 Da Portable Rican brings the Media Noche, a classic Cuban sandwich including garlic bread, roasted pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, and sweet pickles. Cheryl V. Jackson, The Indianapolis Star, 8 July 2021 The inspiration behind this American declaration of independence is not just the classic French sandwich, but also the Mallorca ham and cheese, a sweet-and-savory combination from Puerto Rico. Washington Post, 16 June 2021 People carried home ham, beef or mutton, vegetables, tea, sugar, a pie, apples and oranges, and a little candy. Jacques Kelly, baltimoresun.com, 5 June 2021 The starchy fruit is pounded flat and fried crisp, with a subtle tropical flavor to complement sweet shredded brisket, ham, coleslaw and cheese. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, 4 June 2021 The impact on consumer prices for ham, pork chops and bacon isn't immediately clear and will depend on how the industry responds. David Pitt, Star Tribune, 27 May 2021 Crepes brim with matcha custard cream, strawberries, and green tea ice cream, or ham, eggs, and Mornay sauce. BostonGlobe.com, 25 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Like Velázquez – and unlike, for instance, Kehinde Wiley, whose blindingly decorative portrait-fictions ham up the theater of power and presence – Hendricks applied a genuinely tender feeling for truth to his project. Washington Post, 30 June 2021 The bowl packs in seafood and country ham along with seemingly a bushel of vegetables, in a broth made rich with a quartet of stocks. Washington Post, 25 May 2021 Against a backdrop of swaying cypruses, winding streets, and cathedral frescoes, Cher, Lily Tomlin, and the dames (Smith, plus Joan Plowright and Judi Dench) ham it up without getting melodramatic. Elle Carroll, Vulture, 20 May 2021 Young Megan, eyes twinkling, would ham it up for the crowd, doing her best Jim Carrey impressions (allllrighty, then!) to draw attention and laughs. Ryan Mcginley; Styling By Yashua Simmons, Harper's BAZAAR, 19 May 2021 Entree choices include salmon; lamb hash; New York strip steak and eggs; ham omelet and chicken and waffles. Cheryl V. Jackson, Indianapolis Star, 4 May 2021 Some ham it up for the paparazzi, or dress for the occasion. Sarah Spellings, Vogue, 16 Apr. 2021 Oscar winner Jamie Foxx gets to ham it up big time in a new Netflix laugh-track sitcom loosely based on Foxx’s real-life relationship with his daughter Corrine (who co-produces). BostonGlobe.com, 12 Apr. 2021 As directed by Grant Preisser, the performers ham it up as needed, but their singing is no laughing matter. Matthew J. Palm, orlandosentinel.com, 18 Dec. 2020

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, homme "back of the knee, hock of a quadruped," going back to Old English hamm, homm (strong feminine) "back of the knee," going back to Germanic *hammō-, *hamō- (whence also Middle Dutch hamme "back of the knee, shank," Old High German hamma, hama (feminine weak noun) "hollow of the knee, calf, hock," hammo (masculine weak noun) "hock," Old Norse hǫm "back of the leg, haunch (of a horse)," going back to an Indo-European ablauting paradigm *konh2-m-, *kn̥h2-m-os, whence also Old Irish cnáim "bone," Greek knḗmē "shank, tibia"; (sense 3) probably short for hamfatter

Note: The presumption is that the Germanic etymon is a generalization of the nominative form, while the Celtic and Greek etyma maintained the oblique form. The geminate -mm- in the Germanic words is most likely a reduction of *-nm-; G. Kroonen (Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic, Brill, 2013) explains the variation between single and double -m- as "analogical degemination [loss of gemination] in the nominative case of an n-stem paradigm."


derivative of ham entry 1 (sense 3)

Noun (2)


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Time Traveler for ham

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

1 Aug 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ham.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ham. Accessed 5 Aug. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on 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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