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mor·​tise ˈmȯr-təs How to pronounce mortise (audio)
variants or less commonly mortice
: a hole, groove, or slot into or through which some other part of an arrangement of parts fits or passes
especially : a cavity cut into a piece of material (such as timber) to receive a tenon see dovetail illustration


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variants or less commonly mortice
mortised also morticed; mortising also morticing

transitive verb

: to join or fasten securely
specifically : to join or fasten by a tenon and mortise
: to cut or make a mortise in

Examples of mortise in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The beams were assembled using mortise and tenon joinery, in which a protruding tenon slots into a mortise hole and is held fast with an oak peg. Aurelien Breeden, New York Times, 29 Mar. 2024 This essentially creates a mortise and tenon joint, without having to actually cut a mortise and tenon, which is time-consuming and requires skill and practice. Jean Levasseur, Popular Science, 26 July 2023 Timber framing is a centuries-old construction method known for its heavy timbers and handmade joinery: Tenons fit into mortises, which are then fastened with wooden pegs (no metal). Brooke Hauser,, 31 Mar. 2023 All the structures inside the Suzhou Garden are made of solid wood jointed by mortise and tenon joints (two pieces of wood are locked together without nails). Maggie Hiufu Wong, CNN, 19 Mar. 2023 This bike is a collection of interlocking tubes held together by mortise-and-tenon construction and bolt collars. Kevin Purdy, Ars Technica, 5 Feb. 2023 The Egyptian ships were also unique in that they were held together with mortise-and-tenon joints, tab-and-slot fittings that needed no metal fasteners and could be taken apart and put back together again. Andrew Curry, Discover Magazine, 5 Sep. 2011 The use of long mortise-and-tenon joints and a developed internal structure point toward the Classical time period. Joshua Hawkins, BGR, 20 July 2022 For a long time, there weren't any smart mortise-style locks. Dan Diclerico, Good Housekeeping, 10 May 2022
It is mortised throughout and the home's joints were set in white lead. Alice Adams, Houston Chronicle, 20 Sep. 2019

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

Word History



Middle English mortays, from Anglo-French mortais

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of mortise was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near mortise

Cite this Entry

“Mortise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
mor·​tise ˈmȯrt-əs How to pronounce mortise (audio)
: a hole or groove cut in a piece of wood or other material into which another piece fits so as to form a joint


2 of 2 verb
mortised; mortising
: to join or fasten securely especially by a tenon and mortise
: to cut a mortise in
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