This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. See our privacy statement
World Wide Words logo

Hammer and tongs

Q From Lee Haas: I am interested in the phrase hammer and tongs because it is used by our fraternity (Theta Tau, a professional fraternity for engineering students). We are of the belief that this is a very old English phrase.

A Well, oldish. It’s first recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1708, though it had probably been around in the spoken language for some time before then. It derives from the blacksmith’s forge, where to go at something hammer and tongs is to work hard at shaping the metal.

Page created 18 Jul. 1998

Support World Wide Words.

Donate by selecting your currency and clicking the button.


Buy anything from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you.

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon USA

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-ham1.htm
Last modified: 18 July 1998.