\ 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
hemmed; hemming

Definition of hem (Entry 2 of 5)

transitive verb

1a : to finish with a hem
2 : to surround in a restrictive manner : confine usually used with inhemmed in by enemy troops

intransitive verb

: to make a hem in sewing
\ 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

Noun shorten the hem of the dress the hem of the blouse was gold
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Everyone's wearing colourful matching sweatsuits in gym-teacher-style fits, with elasticized hems, raglan sleeves, and a stitched Dorito at the neck. Connie Wang, refinery29.com, "How This Matching Sweatsuit Became The Unofficial Uniform Of Quarantine," 21 Apr. 2020 With a pack of cards in his hands, Houdini couldn’t kiss the hem of the late Ricky Jay’s rolled-up sleeve. David Denby, The New Yorker, "Harry Houdini and the Art of Escape," 23 Mar. 2020 Throw on attention-grabbing boots that just brush the hem of a turtleneck dress. Krystin Arneson, Glamour, "How to Wear the Season’s Best Dress Trend Without Buying a Whole New Wardrobe," 29 Nov. 2019 This isn’t the time for education leaders to hem and haw. Frederick M. Hess, National Review, "COVID-19 Took Away Public Education. Will We Miss It?," 16 Apr. 2020 It's narrated with the fictional world's news of the day: as a viral pandemic spreads in Raccoon City, the government hems and haws over quarantine orders, and the populace panics with unclear orders. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Resident Evil 3 Remake review: Are we ready for pandemic nostalgia?," 30 Mar. 2020 During a particularly warm and sunny week in the Italian fashion capital, street stylers wore a uniform of Bottega Veneta sandals, micro mini hems, and margarine yellow. Eliza Huber, refinery29.com, "Nothing Compares To Paris Fashion Week Street Style," 1 Mar. 2020 The Express wool-blend (with polyester) sports a straight hem and a center back vent. NBC News, "2020 shopping: Best things to buy in (what's left of) February," 21 Feb. 2020 But breaking in a pair of high-waisted jeans or sturdy boots takes time, and in 2020’s on-demand, same-day-shipping culture, many people lack the patience or the skill to lop off their own denim hems in a compelling way. Michelle Ruiz, WSJ, "Distressed Clothing: Offensive or Just Fashion?," 25 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The residential cabins at Pan de Vida are on the perimeter of a large, dusty plot, where a makeshift soccer pitch and playground are hemmed in by a border made of rubber tires. Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, "How the U.S. Asylum System Is Keeping Migrants at Risk in Mexico," 17 Sep. 2019 Williams also hemmed him in at times and Mayfield had some passes batted down. Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland.com, "Freddie Kitchens on Baker Mayfield: ‘He’s taking too many hits’," 17 Sep. 2019 The fault doesn’t wholly lie with Clegg, who as the company’s head of global affairs is no doubt hemmed in by Zuckerberg’s own blinkered vision. Washington Post, "Facebook Isn’t Making Any New Friends In Brussels," 3 Apr. 2019 In North Nashville, a community hemmed in by the Cumberland River and interstate highway, residents came out to help neighbors lay tarps, clear debris and pass out McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. Washington Post, "In the tornadoes’ aftermath, Tennesseans live up to ‘Volunteer State’ nickname," 6 Mar. 2020 On a recent day, a crew from Precision Lawn removed 5-foot piles hemming in her driveway, so there would be room for the next round of snow. Joe Barrett, WSJ, "Snow Piles Up in Fargo. Not Necessarily Because It Snowed.," 6 Feb. 2020 The Duchess of Cambridge had the $500 Aurora gown hemmed to midi length and completed her look with her signature blowout, Gianvito Rossi red suede pumps, and a red geometric clutch. Neha Prakash, Glamour, "Kate Middleton Dazzles in a Beaded Red Dress for a Reception at Buckingham Palace," 20 Jan. 2020 Piece by piece, the guardrails that had hemmed in the chaos of Trump's presidency crumpled. Carol D. Leonnig, Philip Rucker, Anchorage Daily News, "‘You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals," 17 Jan. 2020 Humes coordinated, in a black a-line hemmed gown with a matching shawl and silver jewelry. Dave Quinn, PEOPLE.com, "James Van Der Beek Reunites with Dawson's Creek Parents at DWTS for First Photo in 18 Years," 15 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb San Francisco, a city that’s hemmed in by water on three sides, has been the scene of a multidecade battle over who gets every available square inch. NBC News, "'San Francisco is full': Tech backlash reaches new heights with skyscraper battle," 5 Mar. 2020 Except instead of a big city, Whittier is hemmed in by the wilderness in every direction. Bill Roth, Anchorage Daily News, "In an Alaska town where almost everyone lives under the same roof, the pandemic threat feels different," 30 Mar. 2020 Bloomberg hemmed and hawed as his nascent campaign evaporated. Conrad Black, National Review, "Send Out the Clowns," 11 Mar. 2020 The hat was made from the extra cloth cut from the dress when it was hemmed for Grace’s grandmother, Nancy Naylor, for her wedding in 1966. cleveland, "Vista Springs Assisted Living residents say ‘I do’ to happy wedding day memories," 24 Feb. 2020 The Senators hemmed and hawed, and then Bilbo got really sick. Time, "Where Trump's Acquittal Fits Into the History of Impeachment, According to Historians," 6 Feb. 2020 But by giving the enthusiasts a green light, Mr Trump has hemmed in the prime minister—or whoever leads Israel next. The Economist, "Unsettling America’s decision to recognise Israeli settlements makes peace less likely," 21 Nov. 2019 Both Robbie and Yan are hemmed in by a system of production, endemic to franchise movies, that reduces the role of a director to that of a glorified functionary and closes off the margins for exploration. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“Birds of Prey,” Reviewed: The Wasted Exertions of Margot Robbie," 13 Feb. 2020 If the groups escalate their activities in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia would be hemmed in from all sides by factions with weapons similar to the ones used in Abqaiq. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, "Saudi Arabia says it’s ‘willing and able’ to respond to Iran. Is it?," 20 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for hem

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for hem

Last Updated

28 May 2020

Cite this Entry

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

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More Definitions for hem


How to pronounce hem- (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hem

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with 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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