(also hatchet) A professional killer; hit man(1880+)
A person whose task and predilection is to destroy an opponent, often by illegitimate means (1944+)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D. Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers. Cite This Source
Idioms and Phrases with hatchet-man
A person assigned or hired to carry out a disagreeable task or unscrupulous order. For example, When it came to firing an employee, Arthur was his boss's hatchet man. This expression originally referred to a hired assassin but in the mid-1900s was transferred to less nefarious enterprises.
A person who attacks the reputation of others, especially a journalist hired to do so, as in You can count on Mary's column to destroy the mayor—she's the perfect hatchet man. This usage gave rise to
hatchet job, meaning “harsh destructive criticism.”