Word Origin & History
mid-12c., from O.Fr. hachette, dim. of hache "axe," possibly from Frank. *happja (cf. O.H.G. happa "sickle, scythe"), from P.Gmc. *khæbijo, from PIE base *(s)qep- "to cut" (cf. Gk. kopis "knife," Lith. kaplys "hatchet"). Phrase bury the hatchet (1794) is from Native American peacemaking custom.
Hatchet-man was originally California slang for "hired Chinese assassin" (1880), later extended figuratively to journalists who attacked the reputation of a public figure (1944).