1. a small mallet used by the presiding officer of a meeting, a judge, etc., usually to signal for attention or order.
  2. a similar mallet used by an auctioneer to indicate acceptance of the final bid.
  3. Masonry. kevel2.

verb (used with object)

  1. to chair (a legislative session, convention, meeting, etc.).
  2. (of a presiding officer)
    1. to request or maintain (order at a meeting) by striking a gavel.
    2. to begin or put into effect (a legislative session, motion, etc.) by striking a gavel.


  1. feudal rent or tribute.


  1. a small hammer used by a chairman, auctioneer, etc, to call for order or attention
  2. a hammer used by masons to trim rough edges off stones

“small mallet used by presiding officers at meetings,” 1805, American English, of unknown origin; perhaps connected with German dialectal gaffel “brotherhood, friendly society,” from Middle High German gaffel “society, guild,” related to Old English gafol “tribute,” giefan “to give” (see habit). But in some sources gavel also is identified as a type of mason’s tool, in which case the extended meaning may be via freemasonry. As a verb, by 1887, from the noun.

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