1 of 3

noun (1)

mor·​tar ˈmȯr-tər How to pronounce mortar (audio)
: a sturdy vessel in which material is pounded or rubbed with a pestle
crushed the seeds in a mortar
[Middle French mortier]
: a portable muzzle-loading weapon having a tube short in relation to its caliber (see caliber sense 2b) that is used to throw bombs at high angles
mortars fired at the enemy positions
: any of several similar firing devices

Illustration of mortar

Illustration of mortar
  • M mortar
  • P pestle


2 of 3

noun (2)

: a plastic building material (such as a mixture of cement, lime, or gypsum plaster with sand and water) that hardens and is used in masonry or plastering
mortarless adjective


3 of 3


mortared; mortaring; mortars

transitive verb

: to plaster or make fast with mortar

Examples of mortar in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
In general, commercial sales over $14 million, and sales of military-grade weaponry like mortars or missiles, require State Department approval and congressional notification. Nick Penzenstadler, USA TODAY, 8 Sep. 2023 As Russian forces target troop locations and strike civilian infrastructure with artillery fire, mortar rounds and aerial bombs, the Ukrainians are digging into positions in the woods and on the sides of roads — and striking back. Serhii Korolchuk, Washington Post, 22 Aug. 2023 To the mortar, add the chiles, garlic, and shallot and pound until bruised. Saveur Editors, Saveur, 10 Aug. 2023 Rojo chimichurri, an herb sauce, is made fresh at the table with a mortar and pestle. Erin Couch, The Enquirer, 7 Aug. 2023 For a complete, 387-square-foot home that was constructed, roughly 8% of the sand in concrete and mortar overall could be swapped out for diaper shreds–about 1.7 cubic meters of waste repurposed rather than being dumped straight into a landfill. Carolyn Barber, Fortune, 13 July 2023 Since the conflict started, mobs have taken more than 4,900 weapons and 600,000 rounds of ammunition—including mortars, machine guns, and AK-47s—from Manipur’s stockpiles. Sushant Singh, Foreign Affairs, 4 Sep. 2023 Unlike many other vendors on street, Mr. Gonzalez wants the brick and mortar. Susan Hartman Todd Heisler, New York Times, 1 Sep. 2023 Step 2 To the mortar, add the green beans and tomatoes and lightly pound to extract their juices. Saveur Editors, Saveur, 10 Aug. 2023
Their homes, mortared with mud and topped with straw, are vulnerable to rain. Xanthe Scharff, The Christian Science Monitor, 24 July 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mortar.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English morter, from Old English mortere & Anglo-French mortier, from Latin mortarium

Noun (2)

Middle English morter, from Anglo-French morter, mortier, from Latin mortarium

First Known Use

Noun (1)

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

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above


14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mortar was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near mortar

Cite this Entry

“Mortar.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
mor·​tar ˈmȯrt-ər How to pronounce mortar (audio)
: a strong deep bowl in which substances are pounded or crushed with a pestle
: a short muzzle-loading cannon used to fire shells at a low speed and at high angles


2 of 2 noun
: a building material made of lime and cement mixed with sand and water that is spread between bricks or stones so as to hold them together when it hardens
mortar verb

Medical Definition


mor·​tar ˈmȯrt-ər How to pronounce mortar (audio)
: a strong vessel in which material is pounded or rubbed with a pestle

More from Merriam-Webster on mortar

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