mor·​tise | \ ˈmȯr-təs How to pronounce mortise (audio) \
variants: or less commonly mortice

Definition of mortise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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


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

Definition of mortise (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

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

Examples of mortise in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Here the standard types of joint, such as mortise and tenon, tongue and groove, and dovetail, are developed with ingenious intricacy. Michael J. Lewis, WSJ, "‘When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools From Japan’ Review: No Nails? No Problem!," 20 Apr. 2021 Instead, posts and beams were fitted together with mortise and tenon joints. John Kelly, Washington Post, "This might be Washington’s oldest house, but it came from New England," 28 Nov. 2020 Design detailing includes mortise-and-tenon joinery, handmade hardware and simple curved arches that soften the severely straight, parallel-sided appearance. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "How To Build This Expert-Level Dresser on Your Own," 8 Aug. 2020 Finish each mortise in three or four light passes to avoid burning the bit or overloading the motor. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, "How To Build This Expert-Level Dresser on Your Own," 8 Aug. 2020 Tape around the mortise and tenons, and fill the voids with a sanded grout mixture, adding pigment to match the bench color if desired [10]. David Agrell And Eric Weil, Popular Mechanics, "Stone Cold Beautiful: How To Build a Concrete Bench," 25 July 2020 Kreg Pocket Screw Jig There will be plenty of time later to learn how to cut complex woodworking joints like mortise and tenons and dovetails. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "18 Essential Tools For Your First Woodshop," 15 Oct. 2019 The thick perimeter pieces and crosspieces were joined with interlocking mortise and tenon joints. Washington Post, "This is what happens when someone slaps veneer on a century-old wood door," 17 June 2019 For example, the notch for a hinge (called a hinge mortise) may have been cut a little too deeply. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "Need To Know: The Life-Changing Power of Shims," 9 Nov. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb It is mortised throughout and the home's joints were set in white lead. Alice Adams, Houston Chronicle, "The Menard house is one of Galveston’s oldest structures," 20 Sep. 2019

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


15th century, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mortise


Middle English mortays, from Anglo-French mortais

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Time Traveler for mortise

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

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Last Updated

27 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mortise.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of mortise

technical : a hole that is cut in a piece of wood or other material so that another piece (called a tenon) will fit into it to form a connection

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