from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A digging tool with a flat blade set at right angles to the handle.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun An instrument for loosening the soil in digging, shaped like a pickax, but having its ends broad instead of pointed.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun An implement for digging and grubbing. The head has two long steel blades, one like an adz and the other like a narrow ax or the point of a pickax.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An agricultural tool whose blades are at right angles to the body, similar to a pickax.

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

  • noun a kind of pick that is used for digging; has a flat blade set at right angles to the handle


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

[Middle English, from Old English mattuc, perhaps from Vulgar Latin *matteūca, club; akin to *mattea; see mace.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English mattok ("mattock, pickaxe"), from Old English mattuc, meottoc, mettac ("mattock, fork, trident"), from Proto-Germanic *mattukaz (“mattock, ploughshare”), from Proto-Indo-European *matn-, *mat- (“a hoe, ploughshare”). Related to Old High German medela ("plough"), Middle High German metze, metz ("knife"), Latin mateola ("implement for digging in the soil"), Russian мотыга (motýga, "hoe, mattock"), Lithuanian  (matikkas, "mattock"), Sanskrit मत्य (matyà, "harrow, roller, club"). More at mason.


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  • [320-5] A mattock is a two-bladed instrument for digging.

    Journeys Through Bookland, Vol. 8

  • A mattock is a digging tool that is used to break up soil so that you can shovel it easier.

    Epinions Recent Content for Home

  • These new arrivals from the continent renamed the landscape, towns, and many of the rivers in their own tongue so that only a handful of pre-Anglo Saxon British words-such as mattock, brock, bannock-remain in modern English.

  • Matthew needs to get to the bottom line of this Bushian toilet flush: all the American consumer ultimately needs is a mattock, an axe, some seed corn, and an iron pot.

    Matthew Yglesias » Toyota Idling

  • Fred Phelps beat his wife and his children with his fists, a leather barber strap, or the wooden handle of a mattock, a tool like an ax.

    Son Leaves 'America's Most Hated Family,' And God, Behind

  • Ravenswood found that the man of the last mattock was absent at a bridal, being fiddler as well as grave-digger to the vicinity.

    The Bride of Lammermoor

  • Such trenches are ordinarily extremely deep; a man sweats, digs, toils all night — for it must be done at night; he wets his shirt, burns out his candle, breaks his mattock, and when he arrives at the bottom of the hole, when he lays his hand on the

    Les Miserables

  • “Give me your mattock and wait a couple of minutes for me.”

    Les Miserables

  • A mattock and shovel lay by the verge of the grave.

    The Monastery

  • “To Corri-nan-shian, Father,” answered the youth. — “Martin and Dan, take pickaxe and mattock, and follow me if you be men!”

    The Monastery


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  • Along with the pitchfork, the favoured weapon of the revolting feudal peasant.

    July 25, 2008

  • Cool. I am totally down with revolting feudal peasants. (P.S. is there another kind of revolting peasant?)

    July 25, 2008

  • In my opinion a peasant can be revolting, but not feudal. Others may differ.

    July 25, 2008

  • Umm... I thought the system of feudalism was what created peasants--that you couldn't actually be a peasant without being feudal. Of course i could be wrong... can you enlighten me?

    July 25, 2008

  • I suppose I was thinking of a broader sense of peasant, connoting a subservient or lowest socio-economic grouping.

    July 25, 2008

  • Ah. I gotcha. Thanks.

    July 25, 2008

  • Resistance is feudal.

    July 29, 2008

  • Just a quick story - we had a mattock in my house in Virginia when I grew up, and it turns out that the metal part at the end of the handle (both blades) fits on the tapered handle in such a way that the only reason it stays at the end is due to the centrifugal force generated when you swing it. So my father was digging something with it (or cutting tree roots or something like that) and so I decided to pick it up and imitate him - I was about 10, so I was pretty weak, and when I picked it up and when I slowly slung it over my head, the whole blade end slid down and smashed the bejeezus out of my hands -

    July 29, 2008

  • *wince* ouch

    July 29, 2008

  • Wordie seems to be well-represented in VA. :D

    July 29, 2008

  • "In the eastern United States, the shafts of mattocks are often fitted with a screw below the head and parallel with it to secure the head from slipping down the shaft, but in the western United States, where tools are more commonly dismantled for transport, this is rarely done. When made to be dismantled, the shaft of a mattock fits into the oval eye of the head, and is fixed by striking the head end of the shaft against a solid surface, such as a tree stump, rock, or firm ground. The head end of the shaft is tapered outwards, and the oval opening of the iron head is similarly tapered so that the head will not fly off when used. The mattock head ought never be raised higher than the user's hands, so that it will not slide down and hit the user's hands."


    (I wonder whether lyron's father's mattock was actually from West Virginia.)

    September 10, 2018