verb (used with object), jammed, jam·ming.

  1. to press, squeeze, or wedge tightly between bodies or surfaces, so that motion or extrication is made difficult or impossible: The ship was jammed between two rocks.
  2. to bruise or crush by squeezing: She jammed her hand in the door.
  3. to fill too tightly; cram: He jammed the suitcase with clothing.
  4. to press, push, or thrust violently, as into a confined space or against some object: She jammed her foot on the brake.
  5. to fill or block up by crowding; pack or obstruct: Crowds jammed the doors.
  6. to put or place in position with a violent gesture (often followed by on): He jammed his hat on and stalked out of the room.
  7. to make (something) unworkable by causing parts to become stuck, blocked, caught, displaced, etc.: to jam a lock.
  8. Radio.
    1. to interfere with (radio signals or the like) by sending out other signals of approximately the same frequency.
    2. (of radio signals or the like) to interfere with (other signals).
  9. to play (a piece) in a freely improvised, swinging way; jazz up: to jam both standard tunes and the classics.
  10. Nautical. to head (a sailing ship) as nearly as possible into the wind without putting it in stays or putting it wholly aback.

verb (used without object), jammed, jam·ming.

  1. to become stuck, wedged, fixed, blocked, etc.: This door jams easily.
  2. to press or push, often violently, as into a confined space or against one another: They jammed into the elevator.
  3. (of a machine, part, etc.) to become unworkable, as through the wedging or displacement of a part.
  4. Jazz. to participate in a jam session.


  1. the act of jamming or the state of being jammed.
  2. a mass of objects, vehicles, etc., jammed together or otherwise unable to move except slowly: a log jam; a traffic jam.
  3. Informal. a difficult or embarrassing situation; fix: He got himself into a jam with his boss.
  4. jam session.


  1. mountaineering a rock-climbing technique in which holds are got by wedging the hands and feet in suitable cracks

verb jams, jamming or jammed

  1. (tr) to cram or wedge into or against somethingto jam paper into an incinerator
  2. (tr) to crowd or packcars jammed the roads
  3. to make or become stuck or lockedthe switch has jammed
  4. (tr often foll by on) to activate suddenly (esp in the phrase jam on the brakes)
  5. (tr) to block; congestto jam the drain with rubbish
  6. (tr) to crush, bruise, or squeeze; smash
  7. radio to prevent the clear reception of (radio communications or radar signals) by transmitting other signals on the same frequency
  8. (intr) slang to play in a jam session


  1. a crowd or congestion in a confined spacea traffic jam
  2. the act of jamming or the state of being jammed
  3. informal a difficult situation; predicamentto help a friend out of a jam
  4. See jam session


  1. a preserve containing fruit, which has been boiled with sugar until the mixture sets
  2. slang something desirableyou want jam on it
  3. jam today the principle of living for the moment

“to press tightly,” also “to become wedged,” 1706, of unknown origin, perhaps a variant of champ (v.). Of a malfunction in the moving parts of machinery, by 1851. Sense of “cause interference in radio signals” is from 1914. Related: Jammed; jamming. The adverb is recorded from 1825, from the verb.


“fruit preserve,” 1730s, probably a special use of jam (v.) with a sense of “crush fruit into a preserve.”


“a tight pressing between two surfaces,” 1806, from jam (v.). Jazz meaning “short, free improvised passage performed by the whole band” dates from 1929, and yielded jam session (1933); but this is perhaps from jam (n.1) in sense of “something sweet, something excellent.” Sense of “machine blockage” is from 1890, which probably led to the colloquial meaning “predicament, tight spot,” first recorded 1914.


  1. To block, congest, or clog.
  2. To crush or bruise.

see under get in a bind.

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