\ ˈhem How to pronounce hem (audio) \

Definition of hem

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1 : a border of a cloth article doubled back and stitched down
2 : rim, margin bright green hem of reeds about the ponds— R. M. Lockley


verb (1)
hemmed; hemming

Definition of hem (Entry 2 of 5)

transitive verb

1a : to finish with a hem
b : border, edge
2 : to surround in a restrictive manner : confine usually used with in hemmed in by enemy troops

intransitive verb

: to make a hem in sewing


verb (2)
\ ˈhem How to pronounce hem (audio) \
hemmed; hemming

Definition of hem (Entry 3 of 5)

intransitive verb

1 : to utter the sound represented by hem hemmed and hawed before answering
2 : equivocate the administration hemmed and hawed over the students' demands
\ usually read as ˈhem How to pronounce hem (audio) \

Definition of hem (Entry 4 of 5)

often used to indicate a vocalized pause in speaking
variants: or hemo-

Definition of hem- (Entry 5 of 5)

: blood hemagglutination hemoflagellate

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Other Words from hem

Verb (1)

hemmer noun

Examples of hem in a Sentence


shorten the hem of the dress the hem of the blouse was gold

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The scarf is made to the highest standards—the hems of the scarf are hand rolled, not machine stitched. The Reader's Catalog, "Shakespeare Love Silk Chiffon Scarf," 17 June 2019 The Haute Couture confection was made of a large spiral of sun ray pleated sheer tulle ruffles, and featured an asymmetrical hem and halter neckline. Chrissy Rutherford, Harper's BAZAAR, "Bella Hadid Is An Actual Angel In This White Tulle Gown at Cannes," 17 May 2019 The stories of these characters are even told through the costumes — even in small things like the turn of a hem or some embroidery. Tracy Brown, latimes.com, "Emma Watson’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ gown and Cinderella’s dresses on display at Disney’s D23 Expo," 4 June 2019 The Queen reportedly has small weights added to the hems of her dresses to prevent a breeze from ruffling her skirts too much, and has advised the Duchess of Cambridge to do the same. Sally Holmes, Marie Claire, "Kate Middleton Avoided a Wardrobe Malfunction at Princess Eugenie's Wedding," 12 Oct. 2018 Simply cut your fabric to the size and shape of your outdoor table, hem the edge, and voilà! Hadley Keller, House Beautiful, "What to Do with Fabric Scraps, No Matter How Little You Have Leftover," 17 Apr. 2019 Alisha Boe 13 Reasons Why actor Alisha Boe also went with the LBD vibes, opting for a form-fitting long dress with a flared hem, adorned with gold buttons down the front. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Best Celebrity Looks From Coachella 2019 Weekend 1," 13 Apr. 2019 Included in the drop are black nylon notched-collar jackets with red text printed down one side, and high-collar bombers (Adidas minidresses with stripes running past the hem, too). Liz Raiss, GQ, "Alexander Wang and Adidas Are Back from the Future," 14 May 2018 Cleaning also revealed two hems on the left of the Belgian work that complete the dresses of two girls on the right of the Toledo painting—leaving no doubt that these paintings were all once part of a whole. Judith H. Dobrzynski, WSJ, "‘Frans Hals Portraits: A Family Reunion’ Review: Piecing Together the Van Campen Clan," 20 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The team had last been in touch with base camp on May 26, according to four members of the expedition, all British nationals, who had remained there, hemmed in by the heavy snowfall, and rescued Sunday. Fox News, "India halts attempt to retrieve climbers' bodies on Himalayan mountain," 23 June 2019 Millions commute through a dense urban landscape that has expanded over the centuries, built atop fertile plains hemmed in by volcanic mountains. Neil Shea, National Geographic, "Tokyo became a megacity by reinventing itself," 12 June 2019 Tailor services — for example, to hem a skirt or alter a suit. cleveland.com, "Ohio charges sales tax on Amazon Prime memberships, a ton of other services: Money Matters," 12 June 2019 Bass on Ontario The Niagara River hems the western tip of New York, flowing northward from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. Gary Garth, USA TODAY, "Bass fishing with a fly rod? Try it – they're not just for trout anymore," 10 June 2019 The vessels aren’t ideal for the South China Sea, with its narrow shipping lanes hemmed in by shallow waters and coral reefs. David Pierson, latimes.com, "Military spending is soaring in the Asia-Pacific region. Here’s why," 7 June 2019 Thick stone walls hem lush citrus fields, and sunlight filters through swaying California pepper trees. Alex Schechter, Vogue, "Forget Poppies, Ojai’s Pixie Season Is the California Nature Event to Know," 10 Apr. 2019 The allegation hems close to what previous Trump accusers have detailed. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Another Woman Has Accused Donald Trump of Sexual Misconduct," 25 Feb. 2019 Health-care data released for public use are also closely hemmed in. J.j. Plecs And John H. Cochrane, WSJ, "Imagine What We Could Cure," 25 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

If this was the NFL, or almost any other sports league, there would be hemming and hawing, lawyers involved, delays, obfuscation, platitudes, denials. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Pacific Ocean? It’s the NBA and all its offseason drama that remains undefeated," 17 June 2019 There was also the nuts-and-bolts local government official, who at the beginning was largely hemmed in by a Board of Aldermen largely made up of Democrats and Republicans who had no interest in helping Sanders succeed and win re-election. Matthew Zeitlin, The New Republic, "Bernie’s Red Vermont," 13 June 2019 The bull has also always been a traffic and safety issue the city’s hemmed and hawed over. J. David Goodman, New York Times, "‘Fearless Girl’ to Move, and She May Take the Wall Street Bull With Her," 19 Apr. 2018 Reid hemmed and hawed about what grout color to use in the kitchen. Amanda Sims, House Beautiful, "11 Truly Surprising Ways to Use Color," 11 Mar. 2019 The allegation hems close to what previous Trump accusers have detailed. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Another Woman Has Accused Donald Trump of Sexual Misconduct," 25 Feb. 2019 Health-care data released for public use are also closely hemmed in. J.j. Plecs And John H. Cochrane, WSJ, "Imagine What We Could Cure," 25 Nov. 2018 Photo: Ian Vogler/WPA Pool/Getty Images Related Mrs. May’s laying out of her red lines in a speech in October 2016 is widely viewed as one of her original sins, hemming in the U.K.’s negotiating position in the subsequent two years. Max Colchester, WSJ, "Simple but Undefined Brexit Question Leads to Reckoning for U.K.’s May," 16 Nov. 2018 That was meant to deliver leaders hemmed in by checks and balances. Stephen Fidler, WSJ, "Brexit Upends British Political System," 10 Dec. 2018

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Verb (2)

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1525, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for hem


Middle English, from Old English; akin to Middle High German hemmen to hem in, Armenian kamel to press



Combining form

Latin haem-, haemo-, from Greek haim-, haimo-, from haima

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Dictionary Entries near hem








Statistics for hem

Last Updated

10 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hem

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

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More Definitions for hem



English Language Learners Definition of hem

: the edge of a piece of cloth that is folded back and sewn down


\ ˈhem How to pronounce hem (audio) \

Kids Definition of hem

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a border of a cloth article made by folding back an edge and sewing it down


hemmed; hemming

Kids Definition of hem (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to finish with or make a hem I hemmed my skirt.
2 : surround sense 1 Our yard is hemmed in by trees.

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More from Merriam-Webster on hem

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hem

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hem

Spanish Central: Translation of hem

Nglish: Translation of hem for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of hem for Arabic Speakers

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