1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hammer
HAMMER, an implement consisting of a shaft or handle with head fixed transversely to it. The head, usually of metal, has one flat face, the other may be shaped to serve various purposes, e.g. with a claw, a pick, &c. The implement is used for breaking, beating, driving nails, rivets, &c., and the word is applied to heavy masses of metal moved by machinery, and used for similar purposes. (See Tool.) “ Hammer ” is a word common to Teutonic languages. It appears in the same form in German and Danish, and in Dutch as hamer, in Swedish as hammare. The ultimate origin is unknown. It has been connected with the root seen in the Greek κάμπτειν, to bend; the word would mean, therefore, something crooked or bent. A more illuminating suggestion connects the word with the Slavonic kamy, a stone, cf. Russian kamen, and ultimately with Sanskrit acman, a pointed stone, a thunderbolt. The legend of Thor's hammer, the thunderbolt, and the probability of the primitive hammer being a stone, adds plausibility to this derivation. The word is applied to many objects resembling a hammer in shape or function. Thus the “striker ” in a clock, or in a bell, when it is sounded by an independent lever and not by the swinging of the “ tongue, ” is called a “ hammer ”; similarly, in the “ action ” of a pianoforte the word is used of a wooden shank with felt covered head attached to a key, the striking of which throws the “hammer” against the strings. In the mechanism of a fire-arm, the “ hammer ” is that part which by its impact on the cap or primer explodes the charge. (See Gun.) The hammer, more usually known by its French name of martel de fer, was a medieval hand-weapon. With a long shaft it was used by infantry, especially when acting against mounted troops. With a short handle and usually made altogether of metal, it was also used by horse-soldiers. The martel had one part of the head with a blunted face, the other pointed, but occasionally both sides were pointed. There are 16th century examples in which a hand-gun forms the handle. The name of “ hammer,” in Latin malleus, has been frequently applied to men, and also to books, with reference to destructive power. Thus on the tomb of Edward I. in Westminster Abbey is inscribed his name of Scotorum Malleus, the “ Hammer of the Scots.” The title of “ Hammer of Heretics," Malleus Haereticorum, has been given to St Augustine and to Johann Faber, whose tract against Luther is also known by the name. Thomas Cromwell was styled Malleus Monachorum. The famous text-book of procedure in cases of witchcraft, published by Sprenger and Kramer in 1489, was called Hexenhammer or Malleus Maleficarum (see Witchcraft).
The origin of the word “ hammer-cloth,” an ornamental cloth covering the box-seat on a state-coach, has been often explained from the hammer and other tools carried in the box-seat by the coachman for repairs, &c. The New English Dictionary points out that while the word occurs as early as 1465, the use of a boxseat is not known before the 17th century. Other suggestions are that it is a corruption of “ hamper-cloth,” or of “ hammock cloth,” which is used in this sense, probably owing to a mistake. Neither of these supposed corruptions helps very much. Skeat connects the word with a Dutch word hemel, meaning a canopy. In the name of the bird, the yellow-hammer, the latter part should be “ ammer." This appears in the German name, Emmerling, and the word probably means the “ chirper,” cf. the Ger. jammern, to wail, lament.