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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

But there may be one sector that remains too large to fail, no matter how ham-handed Johnson’s determination to watch the sun set on Britain’s EU membership. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, "Hard Brexit could be a game-changer for the English Premier League and its players," 14 Sep. 2019 The ham is prized for its buttery richness, thanks to the breed's tendency toward obesity. Dallas News, "Spain's famous Jamón Ibérico store chooses Dallas for its first U.S. location," 21 Aug. 2019 But instead of making China’s case, Beijing’s ham-handed international efforts have largely failed to sway world public opinion. New York Times, "China’s Soft-Power Failure: Condemning Hong Kong’s Protests," 20 Aug. 2019 In one ham-handed instance, the company’s Twitter account crowed about how working at Amazon has helped an employee lose weight. Rani Molla, Vox, "Why Amazon pays warehouse employees to tweet about their jobs," 8 Aug. 2019 Start your day with an order of pitufos (miniature loaves of fresh, warm bread stuffed with tomatoes), cheese, or jamón serrano (cured ham). Stephen Connolly, National Geographic, "Beyond Barcelona: A weekend on Málaga’s magical coast," 6 Aug. 2019 Supporters have touted the free hams and turkeys Reznick and reserve officers delivered to residents on holidays. Freep.com, "This top cop ripped apart a Michigan town," 17 July 2019 The slicing stopped, the ham went in the trash and the cutting board went into the three-compartment sink. David J. Neal, miamiherald, "Two-hundred rodent poops. Roaches in a microwave. Why these restaurants failed inspection," 4 June 2019 But the suits say the sanctions amount to a ham-handed attempt at social engineering that backfired. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Harvard Faces Lawsuits Over Sanctions on Single-Sex Clubs," 3 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Photos of Jay-Z hamming it up with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who many see as the face of Kaepernick’s blackball, were off-putting, to put it politely. Jonathan Jones, SI.com, "The Sliver of Hope for Jay-Z’s NFL Ambitions," 21 Aug. 2019 Barry Anderson hams it up appropriately as the group’s producer, Bob Crewe, a fellow New Jersey native who was instrumental in the Four Seasons’ success. Terry Byrne, BostonGlobe.com, "‘Jersey Boys’ has the hits, and a captivating story to tell, too," 12 Aug. 2019 For three years, critics have hammed him for not having better operational control over his empire. Fred Vogelstein, WIRED, "Facebook Puts Its Stamp—and Name—on Instagram and WhatsApp," 2 Aug. 2019 Prince Louis was hamming it up for his aunt Meghan and cousin Archie while his mom beamed in the background. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle Are Reportedly Bonding Over Motherhood," 17 July 2019 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

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.

See More

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)


Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ham

Dictionary Entries near ham








Statistics for ham

Last Updated

10 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ham

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on ham

What made you want to look up ham? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a topic to which one constantly reverts

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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