hem 1  (hm) n.

1. 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.
2. The height or level of the bottom edge of a skirt, dress, or coat; a hemline.
tr.v. hemmed, hem·ming, hems
1. To fold back and stitch down the edge of.
2. To surround and shut in; enclose: a valley hemmed in by mountains. See Synonyms at enclose.

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

hem 2  (hm) n.
A short cough or clearing of the throat made especially to gain attention, warn another, hide embarrassment, or fill a pause in speech.

intr.v. hemmed, hem·ming, hems

1. To utter a hem.
2. To hesitate in speech.


hem and haw

To be hesitant and indecisive; equivocate: “a leader who cannot make up his or her mind, never knows what to do, hems and haws” (Margaret Thatcher).

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

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

ThesaurusLegend:  Synonyms Related Words Antonyms
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2008 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


noun edge, border, margin, trimming, fringeCut a jagged edge along the hem to give a ragged look.

hem something or someone in
1. surround, edge, border, skirt, confine, enclose, shut in, hedge in, environ Manchester is hemmed in by greenbelt countryside.
2. restrict, confine, beset, circumscribe hemmed in by rigid, legal contracts

Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002

n hem[hem]

the border of a piece of clothing, folded over and sewn.

vpast tense, past participle hemmed

to make a hem on (a piece of clothing) I’ve hemmed the skirt.

hem in

to surround (someone) The soldiers were hemmed in on all sides by the enemy.

Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2010 K Dictionaries Ltd.