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hem2

[hem] /hɛm/
interjection
1.
(an utterance resembling a slight clearing of the throat, used to attract attention, express doubt, etc.)
noun
2.
the utterance or sound of “hem.”.
3.
a sound or pause of hesitation:
His sermon was full of hems and haws.
verb (used without object), hemmed, hemming.
4.
to utter the sound “hem.”.
5.
to hesitate in speaking.
Idioms
6.
hem and haw,
  1. to hesitate or falter:
    She hemmed and hawed a lot before she came to the point.
  2. to speak noncommittally; avoid giving a direct answer:
    He hems and haws and comes out on both sides of every question.
Origin
1520-1530
1520-30; imitative
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for hem and haw

hem1

/hɛm/
noun
1.
an edge to a piece of cloth, made by folding the raw edge under and stitching it down
2.
short for hemline
verb (transitive) hems, hemming, hemmed
3.
to provide with a hem
4.
usually foll by in, around, or about. to enclose or confine
Word Origin
Old English hemm; related to Old Frisian hemme enclosed land

hem2

/hɛm/
noun, interjection
1.
a representation of the sound of clearing the throat, used to gain attention, express hesitation, etc
verb hems, hemming, hemmed
2.
(intransitive) to utter this sound
3.
hem and haw, hum and haw, to hesitate in speaking or in making a decision
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 hem and haw

hem

n.

Old English hem "a border," especially of cloth or a garment, from Proto-Germanic *hamjam (cf. Old Norse hemja "to bridle, curb," Swedish hämma "to stop, restrain," Old Frisian hemma "to hinder," Middle Dutch, German hemmen "to hem in, stop, hinder"), from PIE *kem- "to compress." Apparently the same root yielded Old English hamm, common in place names (where it means "enclosure, land hemmed in by water or high ground, land in a river bend"). In Middle English, hem also was a symbol of pride or ostentation.

If þei wer þe first þat schuld puplysch þese grete myracles of her mayster, men myth sey of hem, as Crist ded of þe Pharisees, þat þei magnified her owne hemmys. [John Capgrave, "Life of Saint Gilbert of Sempringham," 1451]

interj.

late 15c., probably imitative of the sound of clearing the throat. Hem and haw first recorded 1786, from haw "hesitation" (1630s; see haw (v.)); hem and hawk attested from 1570s.

v.

late 14c., "to provide (something) with a border or fringe" (surname Hemmer attested from c.1300), from hem (n.). Related: Hemmed; hemming. The phrase hem in "shut in, confine," first recorded 1530s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for hem and haw

hem and haw

verb phrase

To hesitate; tergiversate; temporize: Stop hemming and hawing and do something (1580+)


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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hem and haw in the Bible

of a garment, the fringe of a garment. The Jews attached much importance to these, because of the regulations in Num. 15:38, 39. These borders or fringes were in process of time enlarged so as to attract special notice (Matt. 23:5). The hem of Christ's garment touched (9:20; 14:36; Luke 8:44).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with hem and haw
Be hesitant and indecisive; avoid committing oneself, as in When asked about their wedding date, she hemmed and hawed, or The President hemmed and hawed about new Cabinet appointments. This expression imitates the sounds of clearing one's throat. [ Late 1700s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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8
8
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