(in humans and other primates) any of the tendons that bound the ham of the knee.
(in quadrupeds) the great tendon at the back of the hock.
verb (used with object), hamstrung, hamstringing.
to disable by cutting the hamstring or hamstrings; cripple.
to render powerless or useless; thwart: Their efforts were hamstrung by stubborn pride.

1555–65; ham1 + string

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
hamstring (ˈhæmˌstrɪŋ)
1.  anatomy any of the tendons at the back of the kneeRelated: popliteal
2.  the large tendon at the back of the hock in the hind leg of a horse, etc
vb , -strings, -stringing, -strung
3.  to cripple by cutting the hamstring of
4.  to ruin or thwart
Related: popliteal
[C16: ham1 + string]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

1641, "to disable, render useless," a figurative verbal extension from the noun hamstring "tendon at the back of the knee" (1565), from ham "bend of the knee" (see ham (1)) + string. Cutting this would render a person or animal lame.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

hamstring ham·string (hām'strĭng')

  1. Any of the tendons at the rear hollow of the human knee.

  2. hamstrings The hamstring muscle.

  3. The large tendon in the back of the hind tarsal joint of the quadruped.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
hamstring   (hām'strĭng')  Pronunciation Key 
A powerful group of muscles at the back of the thigh that arise in the hip and pelvis and insert as strong tendons behind the knee. The hamstring bends the knee and helps to straighten the hip.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
It is often hamstrung by diplomacy and domestic public opinion.
But the public university is hamstrung if state government and its citizens
  won't support it.
In their defense, trustees have long said that they are hamstrung.
However, previous efforts to make spider silk using bacteria have been
  hamstrung for several reasons.
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