Contemporary Examples

He is the drone official, the bland-faced human-resources manager tasked with dropping the axe.
Scott Walker: Too Boring to Beat Ana Marie Cox November 4, 2014

And that means they also fall under the umbrella of programs most likely to get the axe when state and federal budgets are tight.
How to Solve the Policing Crisis Keli Goff January 4, 2015

A snowplow driver got the axe after posting a video of himself gleefully dumping snowdrifts onto cars earlier this winter.
Miners Fired Over ‘Harlem Shake’ Video & Other Job-Killing Memes Kevin Fallon March 3, 2013

Although it does contain the best Bill Murray line in the film, featuring him shirtless, wielding a bottle of wine and an axe.
‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’: Ranking the Best Wes Anderson Movie Trailers Marlow Stern October 16, 2013

axe respected Plouffe highly, but he did not believe that Messina was an honest broker.
No Drama Obama’s Dramatic 2012 Reelection Campaign Richard Wolffe September 11, 2013

Historical Examples

No ring of the axe, no shout of the driver, no fall of the tree broke the silence.
Blazed Trail Stories Stewart Edward White

A man cutting brush in a vacant lot leaned on his axe to look after us.
The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark

Do not tire Him out, for if he calls for the axe, there is no hope.
Broken Bread Thomas Champness

I will cause the axe in the act of sinking to do away his sin.
The Babylonian Legends of the Creation British Museum

Only he hadn’t been holding the axe; it had been hanging in mid-air without support.
Stopover William Gerken

noun (pl) axes
a hand tool with one side of its head forged and sharpened to a cutting edge, used for felling trees, splitting timber, etc See also hatchet
an axe to grind

an ulterior motive
a grievance
a pet subject

(informal) the axe

dismissal, esp from employment; the sack (esp in the phrase get the axe)
(Brit) severe cutting down of expenditure, esp the removal of unprofitable sections of a public service

(US, slang) any musical instrument, esp a guitar or horn
verb (transitive)
to chop or trim with an axe
(informal) to dismiss (employees), restrict (expenditure or services), or terminate (a project)

Old English æces (Northumbrian acas) “axe, pickaxe, hatchet,” later æx, from Proto-Germanic *akusjo (cf. Old Saxon accus, Old Norse ex, Old Frisian axe, German Axt, Gothic aqizi), from PIE *agw(e)si- (cf. Greek axine, Latin ascia).

The spelling ax is better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, and analogy, than axe, which became prevalent during the 19th century; but it is now disused in Britain. [OED]

The spelling ax, though “better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, & analogy” (OED), is so strange to 20th-c. eyes that it suggests pedantry & is unlikely to be restored. [Fowler]

Meaning “musical instrument” is 1955, originally jazz slang for the saxophone; rock slang for “guitar” dates to 1967. The axe in figurative sense of cutting of anything (expenses, workers, etc.), especially as a cost-saving measure, is from 1922, probably from the notion of the headman’s literal axe (itself attested from mid-15c.). To have an axe to grind is from an 1815 essay by U.S. editor and politician Charles Miner (1780-1865) in which a man flatters a boy and gets him to do the chore of axe-grinding for him, then leaves without offering thanks or recompense. Misattributed to Benjamin Franklin in Weekley, OED print edition, and many other sources.


1670s, “to shape or cut with an axe,” from axe (n.). Meaning “to remove, severely reduce,” usually figurative, recorded by 1922. Related: Axed; axing.


Any musical instrument, esp the saxophone: He played his ax at the casino (1950s+ Jazz musicians)
A guitar (Rock and roll)


To dismiss someone from a job, a team, a school, a relationship, etc; can, fire: who suggested to Reagan that Deaver be axed
To eliminate; cut: They axed a lot of useless stuff from the budget

[musical instrument sense fr the resemblance in shape between a saxophone and an ax, and possibly fr the rhyme with sax]

A text editor for the X Window System. No longer maintained.

used in the Authorized Version of Deut. 19:5; 20:19; 1 Kings 6:7, as the translation of a Hebrew word which means “chopping.” It was used for felling trees (Isa. 10:34) and hewing timber for building. It is the rendering of a different word in Judg. 9:48, 1 Sam. 13:20, 21, Ps. 74:5, which refers to its sharpness. In 2 Kings 6:5 it is the translation of a word used with reference to its being made of iron. In Isa. 44:12 the Revised Version renders by “axe” the Hebrew _maatsad_, which means a “hewing” instrument. In the Authorized Version it is rendered “tongs.” It is also used in Jer. 10:3, and rendered “axe.” The “battle-axe” (army of Medes and Persians) mentioned in Jer. 51:20 was probably, as noted in the margin of the Revised Version, a “maul” or heavy mace. In Ps. 74:6 the word so rendered means “feller.” (See the figurative expression in Matt. 3:10; Luke 3:9.)


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  • Axed

    an instrument with a bladed head on a handle or helve, used for hewing, cleaving, chopping, etc. Jazz Slang. any musical instrument. the ax, Informal. dismissal from employment: to get the ax. expulsion from school. rejection by a lover, friend, etc.: His girlfriend gave him the ax. any usually summary removal or curtailment. to shape […]

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