Quiz: Remember the definition of mal de mer?


[mawr-ter] /ˈmɔr tər/
a receptacle of hard material, having a bowl-shaped cavity in which substances are reduced to powder with a pestle.
any of various mechanical appliances in which substances are pounded or ground.
a cannon very short in proportion to its bore, for throwing shells at high angles.
some similar contrivance, as for throwing pyrotechnic bombs or a lifeline.
verb (used with object), verb (used without object)
to attack with mortar fire or shells.
before 1000; Middle English, Old English mortere and Old French mortier < Latin mortārium; in defs. 3, 4 translation of French mortier < Latin, as above; see -ar2


[mawr-ter] /ˈmɔr tər/
a mixture of lime or cement or a combination of both with sand and water, used as a bonding agent between bricks, stones, etc.
any of various materials or compounds for bonding together bricks, stones, etc.:
Bitumen was used as a mortar.
verb (used with object)
to plaster or fix with mortar.
1250-1300; Middle English morter < Anglo-French; Old French mortier mortar1, hence the mixture produced in it
Related forms
mortarless, adjective
mortary, adjective
Can be confused
cement, concrete, mortar. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for mortar
  • Convoys of carts loaded with bricks and mortar were arriving every day along dirt tracks.
  • Scientists also found no mortar on the corners or sides of the stone blocks.
  • But if throwing fancy-dress garden parties is your style, set the bricks in mortar on a concrete base.
  • When troops set up camp in areas of conflict, they face the threat of incoming mortar shells.
  • It was unclear if the mortar shell was intended for the school.
  • They are not necessarily interested in typical brick and mortar activities such as social events and socializing.
  • He periodically moved the wheelbarrow of mud further down the line so she could slap another shovelful of mortar in place.
  • Fill the cells with mortar and set the rebar in the mortar.
  • Brick and mortar stores can't start confiscating cell phones at the door.
  • Bricks and mortar were never so multiplied, magnified, and glorified.
British Dictionary definitions for mortar


a mixture of cement or lime or both with sand and water, used as a bond between bricks or stones or as a covering on a wall
a muzzle-loading cannon having a short barrel and relatively wide bore that fires low-velocity shells in high trajectories over a short range
a similar device for firing lifelines, fireworks, etc
a vessel, usually bowl-shaped, in which substances are pulverized with a pestle
(mining) a cast-iron receptacle in which ore is crushed
verb (transitive)
to join (bricks or stones) or cover (a wall) with mortar
to fire on with mortars
(Midland English, dialect) to trample (on)
Word Origin
C13: from Latin mortārium basin in which mortar is mixed; in some senses, via Old French mortier substance mixed inside such a vessel
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 mortar

"mixture of cement," late 13c., from Old French mortier "builder's mortar, plaster; bowl for mixing" (13c.), from Latin mortarium "mortar," also "crushed drugs," probably the same word as mortarium "bowl for mixing or pounding" (see mortar (n.2)). Dutch mortel, German Mörtel are from Latin or French.

"bowl for pounding," c.1300, from Old French mortier "bowl; builder's mortar," from Latin mortarium "bowl for mixing or pounding," also "material prepared in it," of unknown origin and impossible now to determine which sense was original (Watkins says probably from PIE root *mer- "to rub away, harm;" see morbid). Late Old English had mortere, from the same Latin source, which might also be a source of the modern word. German Mörser also is from Latin.

"short cannon," 1550s, originally mortar-piece, from Middle French mortier "short cannon," in Old French, "bowl for mixing or pounding" (see mortar (n.2)). So called for its shape.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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mortar in Medicine

mortar mor·tar (môr'tər)

  1. A vessel in which drugs or other substances are crushed or ground with a pestle.

  2. A machine in which materials are ground and blended or crushed.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for mortar


Related Terms

bricks and mortar

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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mortar in the Bible

(Heb. homer), cement of lime and sand (Gen. 11:3; Ex. 1:14); also potter's clay (Isa. 41:25; Nah. 3:14). Also Heb. 'aphar, usually rendered "dust," clay or mud used for cement in building (Lev. 14:42, 45). Mortar for pulverizing (Prov. 27:22) grain or other substances by means of a pestle instead of a mill. Mortars were used in the wilderness for pounding the manna (Num. 11:8). It is commonly used in Palestine at the present day to pound wheat, from which the Arabs make a favourite dish called kibby.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Idioms and Phrases with mortar


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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