\ 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
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
\ 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 Directed by Lance Hool, the film tells the true story of 19-year-old Christopher Gregory (a ham-fistedly goofy Jacob Elordi), an organ donor who saved the life of businessman Jorge Bacardi and whose legacy inspired his father to write a book. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, "Jacob Elordi drama 2 Hearts flatlines despite good intentions: Review," 16 Oct. 2020 The Good Morning Sweetness includes French toast, fruit and a choice of bacon, pork patties, ham or hot sausage. Will Coviello, NOLA.com, "Gambit's 2020 Fall Dining Guide: Where to eat in the New Orleans area amid new reopening phase," 12 Oct. 2020 When the day comes that the Cascadia fault running the length of the Pacific Northwest coast ruptures, help might not arrive in Forks for a month, so a network of residents keep ham radios at the ready to coordinate survival logistics. Lauren Smiley, Wired, "The True Story of the Antifa Invasion of Forks, Washington," 8 Oct. 2020 People are using Amazon to buy staples like wine and ham, as well as web cameras, printer cartridges and fitness bands. Daniel Tenreiro, National Review, "The Capital Note: A SPAC Fund & Palantir’s Public Listing," 29 Sep. 2020 People are using Amazon to buy staples like wine and ham, as well as web cameras, printer cartridges and fitness bands. Adam Satariano, New York Times, "Pasta, Wine and Inflatable Pools: How Amazon Conquered Italy in the Pandemic," 26 Sep. 2020 Kuo posts as @ai6yrham (a nod to his ham radio call sign), one of a handful of amateur scanner accounts on Twitter, including the very popular @CAFireScanner. Ryan Kost, SFChronicle.com, "When blazes spark, ‘Fire Twitter’ heats up," 3 Oct. 2020 Along with gifts for the children, families receive a food box including a certificate for a ham or turkey to share a Christmas meal. Staff Report, NOLA.com, "Registration is underway to play youth winter basketball at Pelican Park," 27 Sep. 2020 Thousands of pigs are trucked into the facility each day, where they are slaughtered and their meat is used for Dodger Dogs, as well as the ham, bacon, sausage and hot dogs sold under the Farmer John label. City News Service, Los Angeles Times, "Animal-rights activists cited in attempt to rescue a pig at Farmer John slaughterhouse," 26 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Henry Santos in particular danced, clapped and hammed it up at every turn. Joey Guerra, Houston Chronicle, "Aventura makes Houston swoon, again, at second Toyota Center show," 23 Feb. 2020 At events in Iowa, Biden is still hamming it up with visitors, hugging here and squeezing there. Time, "Facing First 2020 Test, Joe Biden Is Doing Things His Way," 2 Feb. 2020 To get fans to buy in, some artists are hamming it up. Micah Singleton, Billboard, "Why Hundreds of Music Stars Are Giving Fans Their Phone Numbers," 10 Nov. 2019 That includes hamming it up for a live show Tuesday morning, planning on enough Lakers and Clippers fans will fill a studio audience for ambiance. Tom Hoffarth, Los Angeles Times, "LeBron James and China isn’t a topic game broadcasters are eager to discuss," 20 Oct. 2019 The pals met the press together on Thursday morning, really hamming it up for the cameras by running around, sharing toys and playing hide-and-seek. Kate Hogan, PEOPLE.com, "These Photos of the New Dog and Cheetah Besties at the Cincinnati Zoo Will Give You All the Friday Feels," 4 Oct. 2019 Both hammed it up a bit for the crowd with some mid-song banter. Nick Romano, EW.com, "Glee vets Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff perform I'll Be Home for Christmas," 17 Dec. 2019 And the best all-around tight end ever to play the game is now hamming it up on television for a living. BostonGlobe.com, "Welcome to the Unconventional Review, which comes in lieu of the Unconventional Preview during the Patriots’ bye week when, as you might have noticed, there is no game to preview.," 11 Nov. 2019 Embiid hammed it up with teammates and the crowd before leaving the court. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, "Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns suspended after fight and escalating antics," 31 Oct. 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.

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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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Statistics for ham

Last Updated

23 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ham.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ham. Accessed 31 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for ham


How to pronounce Ham (audio)

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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