1. a small, short-handled ax having the end of the head opposite the blade in the form of a hammer, made to be used with one hand.
  2. a tomahawk.
  3. hatchetfish.

verb (used with object)

  1. to cut, destroy, kill, etc., with a hatchet.
  2. to abridge, delete, excise, etc.: The network censor may hatchet 30 minutes from the script.

  1. bury the hatchet, to become reconciled or reunited; make peace.
  2. take up the hatchet, to begin or resume hostilities; prepare for or go to war: The natives are taking up the hatchet against the enemy.


  1. a short axe used for chopping wood, etc
  2. a tomahawk
  3. (modifier) of narrow dimensions and sharp featuresa hatchet face
  4. bury the hatchet to cease hostilities and become reconciled

c.1300 “small ax” (mid-12c. in surnames), from Old French hachete, diminutive of hache “ax, battle-axe, pickaxe,” possibly from Frankish *happja or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *hæbijo (cf. Old High German happa “sickle, scythe”), from PIE root *kop- “to beat, strike” (cf. Greek kopis “knife;” Lithuanian kaplys “hatchet,” kapoti “cut small;” Old Church Slavonic skopiti “castrate”).

In Middle English, hatch itself was used in a sense “battle-axe.” In 14c., hang up (one’s) hatchet meant “stop what one is doing.” Phrase bury the hatchet (1794) is from a supposed Native American peacemaking custom. Hatchet-man was originally California slang for “hired Chinese assassin” (1880), later extended figuratively to journalists who attacked the reputation of a public figure (1944).

In addition to the idioms beginning with hatchet

  • hatchet job
  • hatchet man

also see:

  • bury the hatchet
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