1. an actor or performer who overacts.
  2. an operator of an amateur radio station.

verb (used with or without object), hammed, ham·ming.

  1. to act with exaggerated expression of emotion; overact.

  1. ham it up, to overact; ham.


  1. the part of the hindquarters of a pig or similar animal between the hock and the hip
  2. the meat of this part, esp when salted or smoked
  3. informal
    1. the back of the leg above the knee
    2. the space or area behind the knee
  4. needlework a cushion used for moulding curves


  1. theatre informal
    1. an actor who overacts or relies on stock gestures or mannerisms
    2. overacting or clumsy acting
    3. (as modifier)a ham actor
  2. informal
    1. a licensed amateur radio operator
    2. (as modifier)a ham licence

verb hams, hamming or hammed

  1. informal to overact

“meat of a hog’s hind leg used for food,” 1630s, from Old English hamm “hollow or bend of the knee,” from Proto-Germanic *hamma- (cf. Old Norse höm, Middle Low German, Middle Dutch hamme, Old High German hamma), from PIE *konemo- “shin bone” (cf. Greek kneme “calf of the leg,” Old Irish cnaim “bone”). Ham-fisted (1928) was originally in reference to pilots who were heavy on the controls, as was ham-handed (by 1918). With hammen ifalden “with folded hams” was a Middle English way of saying “kneeling.”


“overacting inferior performer,” 1882, American English, apparently a shortening of hamfatter (1880) “actor of low grade,” said since at least 1889 to be from an old minstrel show song, “The Ham-fat Man” (1863). The song, a black-face number, has nothing to do with acting, so the connection must be with the quality of acting in minstrel shows, where the song was popular. Ham also had a sports slang sense of “incompetent pugilist” circa 1888, perhaps from ham-fisted. The notion of “amateurish” led to the sense of “amateur radio operator” (1919). The verb in the performance sense is first recorded 1933. As an adjective in this sense by 1935.

One of the three sons of Noah. According to the biblical account, Noah and his family were the only human survivors of the great Flood and were therefore the progenitors of all the peoples on Earth.

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