Definition of tomahawk in English:



  • 1A light axe used as a tool or weapon by North American Indians.

    • ‘Above the clasped hands are a peace pipe and a tomahawk.’
    • ‘Haynes seems to have included the pendant, separated from the tomahawk, in some pictures simply as another piece of Indian beadwork.’
    • ‘The drop earrings, tomahawk, knife and scabbard, and bow and arrows vie for the viewer's attention with the striking claret color of the headdress, which matches both the fringe of the frock coat and one of the shoulder sashes.’
    • ‘On one occasion the men dared Daniel T. Potts to charge a buffalo armed only with a tomahawk.’
    • ‘I think about my teepee, my tomahawk, my stocky bay horse who is standing even now, a striped blanket thrown over his back, ready to gallop me over the plains, into the red and dusty West.’
    • ‘Drawn in the tradition of rock art, these last depict the weapons and utensils necessary for hunting and fighting - spears, shields, boomerangs, digging sticks, sharpening stones and tomahawks.’
    • ‘He was arrested for possession of a weapon, the tomahawk, and the report indicated the police officer used force by drawing his service weapon to affect the arrest.’
    • ‘Putting his performance down to beginner's luck, I stepped up for another go, determined not to lay down my weapons until I had succeeded in making at least one tomahawk stick in the tree trunk.’
    • ‘Munduli is ‘the tomahawk place’ where they used to get stone for tomahawks.’
    • ‘Having now experienced the skill involved in throwing a tomahawk, how Sitting Bull and Little White Dove managed to hunt, kill and bring home the buffalo for dinner is beyond me.’
    • ‘The original Native American tap was simply a V-shaped incision made with a tomahawk, and it allowed the sap to flow down into a bowl.’
    • ‘The demand for his knives, tomahawks, powder horns, hunting pouches and other hand-crafted items finally grew to the point it became a full time endeavor.’
    • ‘They carried medicine bundles, the red sticks of invincibility, and their tomahawks, and they also carried rifles and guns from Panton Leslie and Company.’
    • ‘On display on the ground floor of the well-preserved premises are colourful beads and stones, rolls of fur and skins, tomahawks and axes that Indians traded for bales of cloth, guns and other manufactured goods from Europe.’
    • ‘A little over 300 years ago, shrieking war cries and flying tomahawks shattered the summer calm in a frontier town of the Massachusetts Province.’
    • ‘She was as good with a gun, knife or tomahawk as any man alive, and though eastern schools had polished her vocabulary and ignited an unquenchable curiosity in her they had done little to tame her.’
    • ‘The party is ambushed by Cherokee Indians who attack with bow and arrow, tomahawks, and a handful of lever action rifles.’
    • ‘Steel pots and knives, tomahawks, glass beads, manufactured cloth, guns, and gunpowder gradually replaced traditional products of native manufacture.’
    • ‘The latter was given in full war paint and feathers, to the music of native drums and was accompanied by the usual brandishing of tomahawks and scalping knives.’
    • ‘The French fought with firearms, while traditional Iroquois weapons were bows and arrows, stone tomahawks, and wooden warclubs.’
    poleaxe, axe, pike, halberd, war mattock, mace
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1NZ, Australian A hatchet.
      • ‘Some very brutal things happened - certainly when she was struck on a head by a tomahawk.’
      • ‘A week later, a larger party of some 200 Maori appeared, this time with spears slung over their backs, and muskets and tomahawks.’
      • ‘Shortly afterwards they murdered John by bashing in his skull with a tomahawk.’
      • ‘The injuries were of a type consistent with being inflicted by a hatchet or tomahawk.’
      • ‘I recall being locked in the washhouse by a friend of my elder brother, and at another time, hurling a tomahawk at the same boy.’
      • ‘I threw them aside and got possession of a tomahawk from one of them.’
      • ‘He was struck in the face with a tomahawk, the force so great it broke the weapon's handle, before receiving several blows from the taiaha.’


[with object]
  • Strike or cut with or as if with a tomahawk.

    ‘I took a hammer from the drawer and tomahawked their dolls’
    • ‘Later, a coroner found that he had been tomahawked several times, causing instant death.’
    • ‘But I suppose it was her last chance and the old man would have tomahawked me if I hadn't taken her.’


Early 17th century: from a Virginia Algonquian language.