ham·​string | \ ˈham-ˌstriŋ How to pronounce hamstring (audio) \

Definition of hamstring

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : either of two groups of tendons at the back of the human knee
b : any of three muscles at the back of the thigh that function to flex and rotate the leg and extend the thigh
2 : a large tendon above and behind the hock of a quadruped


hamstrung\ ˈham-​ˌstrəŋ How to pronounce hamstrung (audio) \; hamstringing\ ˈham-​ˌstriŋ-​iŋ How to pronounce hamstringing (audio) \

Definition of hamstring (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to make ineffective or powerless : cripple hamstrung by guilt
2 : to cripple by cutting the leg tendons

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of hamstring in a Sentence

Verb The mayor tried to hamstring our efforts by cutting the budget. The company claims it is being hamstrung by government regulations.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The absence of captain Jordan Henderson, who sustained a hamstring injury against Atletico, has been significant, while the defense looked ragged against Watford with Dejan Lovren filling in at center back for Joe Gomez. Bloomberg.com, "Invincible No More: Liverpool Loses for 1st Time in EPL," 29 Apr. 2020 Bernard didn’t test overly well at the scouting combine, but a reported hamstring injury could have been the reason for his subpar performance. John Owning, Dallas News, "Film room: 3 UDFAs who have the best shot to make the Cowboys’ roster, including Dallas’ most intriguing signing," 29 Apr. 2020 In 2013, Dahl's second minor-league season amounted to 10 games because of a torn hamstring. Mark Inabinett | Minabinett@al.com, al, "David Dahl aiming to stay on field in 2020 MLB season," 6 Mar. 2020 John Henson, Antetokounmpo’s former teammate, didn’t make the trip because of a strained right hamstring that will sideline him for possibly a month. Chris Fedor, cleveland, "Tristan Thompson’s goal is to make first team All-Defense -- and he’s off to a strong start," 29 Oct. 2019 Moncada did miss time in August because of a strained right hamstring. Lamond Pope, chicagotribune.com, "Yoan Moncada is one of baseball’s hottest hitters as he finishes his promising season for the White Sox," 18 Sep. 2019 Centrowitz isn’t in peak form after getting a late start to the season because of hamstring and shin issues. oregonlive.com, "Smooth, confident, in control, Olympic champ Matthew Centrowitz rocks the Stumptown Twilight," 19 July 2019 Tzu-Wei Lin came out of the game after the first inning with a tight left hamstring. Peter Abraham, BostonGlobe.com, "Martin Perez says he’s not concerned about results after lasting two-thirds of an inning," 3 Mar. 2020 Sam Travis, also out with a hamstring, will play on March 1. Sam Blum, Dallas News, "Sherten Apostel’s defense raises eyebrows; Rangers taking precautions as coronavirus spreads," 29 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Biden, who is far behind Trump in fund-raising and hamstrung by social distancing rules, is preparing to begin his vetting process in the coming days, according to a person familiar with the plans. Jennifer Epstein, Bloomberg.com, "Biden Tackles Running Mate Decision Under Shadow of Virus Fight," 10 May 2020 Facilities are doing their best, industry leaders told me, but their efforts have been hamstrung by shortages of funding, testing, and, above all, personal protective equipment. Jacob Stern, The Atlantic, "A Senior Home’s ‘Drastic Step’ to Enforce Social Distancing," 21 Apr. 2020 The Legislature and City Council are particularly hamstrung because, unlike the federal government, they’re constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget. Gilbert Garcia, ExpressNews.com, "Garcia: Looming budget crisis becomes dominant issue in Texas Senate runoff," 10 Apr. 2020 Convention planning is also hamstrung by the fact that as long as Senator Bernie Sanders remains in the race, Democrats do not yet have a de facto presidential nominee. Reid J. Epstein, New York Times, "Democratic Convention Planners Look at Contingency Options," 23 Mar. 2020 That ruling gave Congress free reign two decades later to rebuild Southern state governments after the Civil War, though the high court later hamstrung Reconstruction’s potential in other ways. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Supreme Court Eyes an Escape Hatch From Trump’s Corruption," 28 Apr. 2020 Worker shortages for farms, plants and logistics could hamstring the food industry’s efforts to deal with the crisis, executives said. Jesse Newman, WSJ, "Coronavirus-Era Food Supply: America Has a Lot. Moving It Is Tricky.," 19 Mar. 2020 Cuomo also criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying the agency is slowing everything down and hamstringing states like New York. William Mansell And, ABC News, "Coronavirus live updates: US death toll rises to 19, New York declares state of emergency," 7 Mar. 2020 But any nation still requires government, and with Congress hamstrung most of the time power flows to the executive and the courts. Ryan Cooper, TheWeek, "American democracy is dying," 7 Feb. 2020

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


1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1641, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about hamstring

Time Traveler for hamstring

Time Traveler

The first known use of hamstring was in 1565

See more words from the same year

Statistics for hamstring

Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hamstring.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hamstring. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for hamstring


How to pronounce hamstring (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hamstring

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a tendon at the back of a person's knee
: a muscle at the back of a person's upper leg



English Language Learners Definition of hamstring (Entry 2 of 2)

: to damage or ruin the force or effectiveness of (something or someone)


ham·​string | \ ˈham-ˌstriŋ How to pronounce hamstring (audio) \

Medical Definition of hamstring

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : either of two groups of tendons bounding the upper part of the popliteal space at the back of the knee and forming the tendons of insertion of some muscles of the back of the thigh
2 : a large tendon above and behind the hock of a quadruped corresponding to the human Achilles tendon


transitive verb
hamstrung\ -​ˌstrəŋ How to pronounce hamstrung (audio) \; hamstringing\ -​ˌstriŋ-​iŋ How to pronounce hamstringing (audio) \

Medical Definition of hamstring (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cripple by cutting the leg tendons folklore has it that wolf packs try to hamstring their prey— John Madson

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on hamstring

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hamstring

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hamstring

Spanish Central: Translation of hamstring

Nglish: Translation of hamstring for Spanish Speakers

Comments on hamstring

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!