hem and haw

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hem 1

1. An edge or border on a piece of cloth, especially a finished edge, as for a garment or curtain, made by folding an edge under and stitching it down.
2. The height or level of the bottom edge of a skirt, dress, or coat; a hemline.
tr.v. hemmed, hem·ming, hems
1. To fold back and stitch down the edge of.
2. To surround and shut in; enclose: a valley hemmed in by mountains. See Synonyms at enclose.

[Middle English, from Old English hem, hemm.]

hem′mer n.

hem 2

A short cough or clearing of the throat made especially to gain attention, warn another, hide embarrassment, or fill a pause in speech.
intr.v. hemmed, hem·ming, hems
1. To utter a hem.
2. To hesitate in speech.
hem and haw
To be hesitant and indecisive; equivocate: "a leader who cannot make up his or her mind, never knows what to do, hems and haws" (Margaret Thatcher).

[From Middle English heminge, coughing, of imitative origin.]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Verb1.hem and haw - utter `hems' and `haws'; indicated hesitation; "He hemmed and hawed when asked to address the crowd"
pause, hesitate - interrupt temporarily an activity before continuing; "The speaker paused"
References in periodicals archive ?
Even the best artists hem and haw over their work, including Rembrandt.
The mice, Sniff and Scurry, venture without hesitation into the maze to find more cheese and the two other characters, Hem and Haw, hang back and discuss and debate what they should do next.
You can't hem and haw because someone else less fussy will beat you to it.