Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An edge or border on a piece of cloth, especially a finished edge, as for a garment or curtain, made by folding an edge under and stitching it down.
  • noun The height or level of the bottom edge of a skirt, dress, or coat; a hemline.
  • transitive verb To fold back and stitch down the edge of.
  • transitive verb To surround and shut in; enclose: synonym: enclose.
  • noun A short cough or clearing of the throat made especially to gain attention, warn another, hide embarrassment, or fill a pause in speech.
  • intransitive verb To utter a hem.
  • intransitive verb To hesitate in speech.
  • idiom (hem and haw) To be hesitant and indecisive; equivocate.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • An interjectional utterance, a sort of voluntary half-cough, intended to attract the attention of a particular person, to cover embarrassment by feigned indifference or hesitation, etc. Also ahem.
  • noun A narrow fold in the edge of a piece of textile material, made to prevent it from raveling.
  • noun Edge; border; margin.
  • noun In architecture, the projecting spiral of the Ionic capital.
  • See hemato-.
  • To form a hem or border to; fold and sew down the edge of: as, to hem an apron.
  • To border; edge.
  • To inclose; circumscribe; limit or confine by an environment of any kind: with in, about, or around.
  • See he, I., D .
  • To make the sound expressed by the word hem; hence, to hesitate or stammer in speaking: as, to hem and haw.
  • To remove or otherwise affect by coughing.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun An utterance or sound of the voice, hem or hm, often indicative of hesitation or doubt, sometimes used to call attention.
  • pronoun obsolete Them.
  • intransitive verb To make the sound expressed by the word hem; hence, to hesitate in speaking.
  • transitive verb To form a hem or border to; to fold and sew down the edge of.
  • transitive verb To border; to edge.
  • transitive verb to inclose and confine; to surround; to environ.
  • transitive verb to shut out.
  • interjection An onomatopoetic word used as an expression of hesitation, doubt, etc. It is often a sort of voluntary half cough, loud or subdued, and would perhaps be better expressed by hm.
  • noun The edge or border of a garment or cloth, doubled over and sewed, to strengthen it and prevent raveling.
  • noun Border; edge; margin.
  • noun A border made on sheet-metal ware by doubling over the edge of the sheet, to stiffen it and remove the sharp edge.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • pronoun Obsolete form of 'em.
  • interjection Used to fill in the gap of a pause with a vocalized sound.
  • noun sewing The border of an article of clothing doubled back and stitched together to finish the edge and prevent it from fraying.
  • noun A rim or margin of something.
  • noun In sheet metal design, a rim or edge folded back on itself to create a smooth edge and to increase strength or rigidity.
  • verb intransitive (in sewing) To make a hem.
  • verb intransitive (in speaking) To make a sound like hem (usually coupled with "haw" as in "hemmed and hawed.")
  • verb transitive : To put hem on an article of clothing, to edge or put a border on something.
  • verb transitive : To surround something or someone in a confining way.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb utter `hem' or `ahem'
  • noun the edge of a piece of cloth; especially the finished edge that has been doubled under and stitched down
  • verb fold over and sew together to provide with a hem
  • noun the utterance of a sound similar to clearing the throat; intended to get attention, express hesitancy, fill a pause, hide embarrassment, warn a friend, etc.

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old English hem, hemm.]

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[From Middle English heminge, coughing, of imitative origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old English him, heom, originally a dative plural form but in Middle English coming to serve as an accusative plural as well.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

A sound uttered in imitation of clearing the throat (onomatopoeia)

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English hem, hemm, in turn from Old English hemm and related to Middle High German hemmen ("to hem in"), Old Norse hemja ("to hem in, restrain"). The Proto-Indo-European root gave rise also to Armenian քամել (k'amel, "to press, wring") and Russian ком (kom, "lump").

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