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[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 mortars
  • My interest in pharmacology has spawned a personal museum of mortars, pestles and old medicine bottles.
  • Already pounded by mortars, the floundering line is instantly swept by crossing machine-gun fires from both ends of the beach.
  • We sought cover beside a building as the mortars exploded.
  • The team also tested various additives within small cylinders of cement mortars--essentially, concrete without the aggregates.
  • Pinole mortars were usually small enough to tote around, and the pestles were relatively small.
  • As mortars dropped from the skies, the bunkers would crumble around me, forcing me to escape and seek out a new safe haven.
  • Interfacial transition zone effects on the elastic moduli of mortars.
  • The objective of this study was to develop a test method to measure the hardness of masonry mortars with a pendulum hammer.
  • Standard mortars and patches will only temporarily cover over the problem and typically fail and fall off within several years.
  • Other tools that archaeologists commonly find in gathering societies are mortars and pestles.
British Dictionary definitions for mortars


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 mortars



"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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mortars 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 mortars


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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mortars 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 mortars


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