ham·​fat·​ter ˈham-ˌfa-tər How to pronounce hamfatter (audio)
plural hamfatters
dated slang
: a showy and unskillful performer : ham
"I'm afraid I will be unable to take the part, Bill," Boland replied seriously. "You see, they pay me about five hundred dollars a night for acting, and I couldn't work for less. You didn't know that, of course, so I think you'd better engage a hamfatter after all."Peter B. Kyne

Word History


ham fat + -er entry 2; allegedly after "The Ham Fat Man," a minstrel show song (1863)

Note: The connection between the song and unskilled performers is not apparent. Though minstrel shows were in decline at the time hamfatter first appeared in print, the claim that the song was emblematic of such shows, which were equated with low standards of performance, is questionable. The notion that poor, hence impoverished performers used ham fat to either put on or remove makeup is dubious at best.

First Known Use

1874, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of hamfatter was in 1874

Dictionary Entries Near hamfatter

Cite this Entry

“Hamfatter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hamfatter. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!

Fashionable Words

  • dog-sunglasses-scarf
  • Which of these items is named for a deadly weapon?
Name That Thing

You know what it looks like… but what is it called?

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?