Hem and haw


      • to hesitate or be indecisive
        to show uncertainty or reluctance in making a decision or giving an answer

      • to avoid giving a direct answer
        to speak evasively or ambiguously, especially in order to avoid making a commitment

    Examples of Hem and haw

    • The salesperson hemmed and hawed when I asked for a discount.

      The salesperson hesitated and seemed uncomfortable when I asked for a discount. This idiom is used to describe someone who speaks with hesitation or uncertainty, often because they are unsure how to respond or do not want to commit to a decision.

    • I wasn't sure how to respond, so I hemmed and hawed before finally admitting that I hadn't read the book.

      I hesitated and seemed unsure of myself before finally admitting that I hadn't read the book. This idiom is often used when someone wishes to avoid saying something they feel will cause a negative reaction from others.

    • The senator hemmed and hawed during the debate, struggling to make a clear statement on the issue.

      The senator hesitated and seemed uncertain while speaking during the debate, finding it difficult to express a clear position on the issue. This idiom is frequently used in political discourse to describe a politician's indecisiveness or lack of clarity.

    • The job applicant hemmed and hawed as the interviewer asked tough questions, fumbling for the right words.

      The job applicant hesitated and seemed unsure of themselves as the interviewer asked difficult questions, struggling to find the right words to respond. This idiom is commonly used in professional settings to describe someone's nervousness or lack of confidence during an interview or presentation.

    • The sales manager hemmed and hawed as she tried to come up with a way to convince the board of directors to approve a new marketing strategy.

      The sales manager hesitated and avoided making a decision or expressing an opinion as she dealt with a difficult situation. Hemming and hawing can indicate indecisiveness, uncertainty, or discomfort in speaking one's mind.

    • The politician hemmed and hawed when he was asked a direct question during the debate.

      The politician avoided giving a clear answer, perhaps because he wasn't sure of the right response or didn't want to reveal his true feelings. Hemming and hawing can also be a way to buy time or evade answering a difficult question.

    • The CEO hemmed and hawed as he explained the reasons for the company's financial losses.

      The CEO hesitated and avoided taking full responsibility for the company's problems, possibly because he didn't want to admit his own mistakes or fears about future losses. Hemming and hawing can also suggest a lack of confidence or expertise in a given situation.

    • The junior executive hemmed and hawed as she presented her ideas to the senior managers.

      The junior executive hesitated and lacked confidence in her ability to convince the senior managers of the merits of her proposals. Hemming and hawing can suggest that the person is still learning how to handle important decisions and is unsure of her own judgment.


    The idiom "hem and haw" is used to describe someone who is hesitant, indecisive, or evasive in their speech or actions. It can be used to caution against making a decision without being fully committed or to advise against engaging in a particular activity without a clear plan. It can also be used to describe someone who is intentionally avoiding giving a direct answer or making a commitment.

    Origin of "Hem and haw"

    The origin of the idiom "hem and haw" dates back to the 15th century, where "hem" and "haw" were used to represent the sounds of hesitation or clearing one's throat. "Hem" was used to signify a pause before speaking, while "haw" was used to signify a pause in the middle of speaking. Over time, the combination of the two sounds came to represent indecision or evasion in speech. The idiom has since evolved to encompass both hesitancy and evasiveness in decision-making and communication. Examples of the use of "hem and haw" can be found in literature and historical documents, illustrating its long-standing presence in the English language.