from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A small mallet used by a presiding officer or an auctioneer to signal for attention or order or to mark the conclusion of a transaction.
  • n. A maul used by masons in fitting stones.
  • transitive v. To bring about or compel by using a gavel: "The chairman . . . tries to gavel the demonstration to an end” ( New Yorker).
  • n. Tribute or rent in ancient and medieval England.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Rent.
  • n. Usury; interest on money.
  • n. A wooden mallet, used by a judge in a courtroom, or a chairman of a committee, struck against a sounding block to quiet the rabble down.
  • n. The legal system as a whole.
  • v. To use a gavel.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A gable.
  • n. A small heap of grain, not tied up into a bundle.
  • n. The mallet of the presiding officer in a legislative body, public assembly, court, masonic body, etc.
  • n. A mason's setting maul.
  • n. Tribute; toll; custom. [Obs.] See gabel.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To bind into sheaves.
  • To partition and distribute (or redistribute) equally (the lands of one deceased) according to the practice of gavelkind. See gavel , n., and gavelkind.
  • n. In old English law, rent; tribute; toll; custom; more specifically, rent payable otherwise than in feudal military service.
  • n. The tenure by which, according to either the ancient Saxon or Welsh custom, land on the death of the tenant did not go to the eldest son, but was partitioned in equal shares among all the sons, or among several members of the family in equal degree, or by which, according to the Irish custom, the death of a holder involved a general redistribution of the tribal lands. Compare gavelkind.
  • n. A partition made pursuant to such custom.
  • n. A sheaf of corn before it is tied up; a small heap of unbound wheat or other grain.
  • n. A small mallet used by the presiding officer of a legislative body or public assembly to attract attention and signal for order.
  • n. A dialectal form of gable.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a small mallet used by a presiding officer or a judge


Origin unknown.
Middle English, from Old English gafol; see ghabh- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English gafol. (Wiktionary)
Origin obscure. Perhaps alteration of cavel ("a stone mason's hammer"). More at cavel. (Wiktionary)



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