9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[gav-uh l] /ˈgæv əl/
a small mallet used by the presiding officer of a meeting, a judge, etc., usually to signal for attention or order.
a similar mallet used by an auctioneer to indicate acceptance of the final bid.
Masonry. kevel.
verb (used with object)
to chair (a legislative session, convention, meeting, etc.).
  1. to request or maintain (order at a meeting) by striking a gavel.
  2. to begin or put into effect (a legislative session, motion, etc.) by striking a gavel.
Origin of gavel1
1795-1805, Americanism; origin uncertain
Can be confused
gavel, gravel, grovel.


[gav-uh l] /ˈgæv əl/
feudal rent or tribute.
before 900; Middle English govel, Old English gafol, akin to giefan to give; cf. gabelle Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for gavel
  • The result is a display of art jewels that will be remembered long after the last bang of the gavel.
  • Snipes sat erect, grasping a gavel and looking magisterial in his robes.
  • Our jobs can simply disappear with the crisp signature of a board member or the ringing gavel of a state legislature.
  • Consensus was held not to require unanimity, and down came the gavel.
  • The experiment banged the gavel on the overbidding debate.
  • With their debate moderated by a gavel-swinging judge, the two litigants present conflicting versions of their brief romance.
  • Since then, the gavel has fallen on apartments of every type in buildings new and old.
British Dictionary definitions for gavel


a small hammer used by a chairman, auctioneer, etc, to call for order or attention
a hammer used by masons to trim rough edges off stones
Word Origin
C19: of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gavel

"small mallet used by presiding officers at meetings," 1805, American English, of unknown origin; perhaps connected with German dialectal gaffel "brotherhood, friendly society," from Middle High German gaffel "society, guild," related to Old English gafol "tribute," giefan "to give" (see habit). But in some sources gavel also is identified as a type of mason's tool, in which case the extended meaning may be via freemasonry. As a verb, by 1887, from the noun.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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