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sledge·​ham·​mer ˈslej-ˌha-mər How to pronounce sledgehammer (audio)
: a large heavy hammer that is wielded with both hands
also : something that resembles a sledgehammer in action


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sledgehammered; sledgehammering; sledgehammers

transitive verb

: to strike with or as if with a sledgehammer

intransitive verb

: to strike blows with or as if with a sledgehammer


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: marked by heavy-handed directness or hard-hitting force
trusting in sledgehammer warfareC. J. Rolo

Examples of sledgehammer in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The organization’s members and museum staff were able to surround the suspect, who was still holding the sledgehammer, Shikuma said. Kimmy Yam, NBC News, 19 Sep. 2023 After another strike Monday, in the southern town of Khan Younis, men dug through the rubble with sledgehammers and their bare hands. Compiled By Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 7 Nov. 2023 Mensch includes a vista of the cheese grater, here cutting a lonely path into the sky far above more modest buildings, jutting upward from the city like the handle of a sledgehammer. Nicole Rudick, The New Yorker, 30 Sep. 2023 The visual then cuts to a van filled with people who exit throughout the back door to an empty courtyard, with Jung Kook later reappearing in an all-black outfit, holding a sledgehammer. Starr Bowenbank, Billboard, 27 Sep. 2023 By the time police arrived, the man who made the call was carrying a sledgehammer and had scaled an outer fence at McKinley Elementary School, a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade campus located half a mile away, and had reached a parking lot. Andrew J. Campa, Los Angeles Times, 20 Sep. 2023 For their nail-biting presentation, Experience Theatre Project swings a sledgehammer to the fourth wall, immersing audience members in up-close, slow-building terror. oregonlive, 5 Sep. 2023 For citizens, in any case, the Russian Idea will remain a sledgehammer that the state can continue to wield against them. Andrei Kolesnikov, Foreign Affairs, 22 Aug. 2023 Against that backdrop, some Mizrahim perceive the judicial overhaul as a sledgehammer to any remaining Ashkenazi privilege and view Mr. Netanyahu — though Ashkenazi himself — as the man wielding that hammer. Patrick Kingsley, New York Times, 23 July 2023
The move means the 7-foot Kiwi will be under contract for the next three seasons and signals that at a time when the game is becoming increasingly perimeter-oriented, the Pelicans will try to sledgehammer their way to wins. Christian Clark,, 24 Nov. 2020 While Beijing’s sledgehammer approach — seen by many as an extreme experiment unprecedented in size and scope — worked to quickly lower the number of infections, the price in human trauma and economic loss was severe. Javier C. Hernández, New York Times, 17 Mar. 2020 The suit stemmed from a May 10, 2019, incident in which police sledgehammered the front gate of his Outer Richmond home, held him in handcuffs for hours and seized his phone, computers and other equipment. Megan Cassidy,, 31 Mar. 2020 Perhaps the most brazen took place in 1958, when two men sledgehammered the Fifth Avenue display windows in the middle of the night. James Barron, New York Times, 13 Jan. 2020 Should have done steel ball on window, *then* sledgehammer the door. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, 25 Nov. 2019 This aluminum-block five is a beast, spinning out a lag-free 400 horsepower and sledgehammering 354 pound-feet of torque from 1700 rpm all the way to 5850 rpm. Ezra Dyer, Car and Driver, 26 Jan. 2018 Also, remember that sidewalks aren’t that difficult or expensive to sledgehammer out and rebuild a few feet away. Neil Sperry, San Antonio Express-News, 5 Jan. 2018 Historians have been trying to sledgehammer people into remembering these events. Washington Post, 2 Nov. 2017
If coffee is a sledgehammer blow to the brain — admittedly sometimes useful — yaupon was more like a gentle neural stroking. Gabriel Popkin, Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2022 And Sundwall said that, in retrospect, state health officials took a sledgehammer approach to mitigating the pandemic, such as school closings in 2020, when the state could have taken a more surgical tack. Bethany Rodgers, The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Sep. 2021 The Academy Award winner quickly turned into a sledgehammer pro, getting involved in breaking through walls and ripping out fixtures. Vanessa Etienne,, 9 July 2021 There’s no in between when the world’s best heavyweights start throwing sledgehammer punches. San Diego Union-Tribune, 20 Apr. 2021 Beside the sledgehammer threat of the PPP tax issue, several other emergency programs for small businesses are scheduled to expire at year-end unless Congress extends them. Geoff Colvin, Fortune, 7 Dec. 2020 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1834, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


1827, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near sledgehammer

Cite this Entry

“Sledgehammer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
sledge·​ham·​mer ˈslej-ˌham-ər How to pronounce sledgehammer (audio)
: a large heavy hammer usually used with both hands
sledgehammer verb


2 of 2 adjective
: marked by directness or strong force
a sledgehammer approach to the problem

More from Merriam-Webster on sledgehammer

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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