AskDefine | Define mallet

Dictionary Definition



1 a sports implement with a long handle and a head like a hammer; used in sports (polo or croquet) to hit a ball
2 a light drumstick with a rounded head that is used to strike percussion instruments
3 a tool resembling a hammer but with a large head (usually wooden); used to drive wedges or ram down paving stones or for crushing or beating or flattening or smoothing [syn: beetle]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. A small maul with a short handle, used especially for driving a tool, as a chisel or the like.
  2. (Weapon) A weapon resembling the tool, but typically much larger.
    • 1786: The Mallet of arms, according to the representation of it given by Father Daniel, exactly resembles the wooden instrument of that name, now in use, except in the length of the handle, it was like the hammer of arms, to be used with both hands, indeed it differed very little from that weapon in its form. — Francis Grose, A Treatise on Ancient Armour and Weapons, page 51.
  3. A light beetle with a long handle used in playing croquet.


small maul
weapon resembling the tool
  • Finnish: nuija
instrument for playing croquet
  • Finnish: maila
  • Hungarian: ütő

Extensive Definition

A mallet is a type of hammer with a head made of softer materials than the steel normally used in hammerheads, so as to avoid damaging a delicate surface.


Tool mallets come in different types, the most common of which are:
  • Rubber mallets are used when a softer blow is called for than that delivered by a metal hammer. They are typically used to form sheet metal, since they don't leave marks, as well as for forcing tight-fitting parts together, for shifting plasterboard into place, in upholstery, and a variety of other general purposes, including some toys. It is the most commonly used mallet.The Three Stooges often used rubber mallets to konk each other on the head and thus brought laughter to thousands of people who liked silliness.
  • Wooden mallet, usually used in carpentry to knock wooden pieces together, or to drive dowels or chisels. A wooden mallet will not deform the striking end of a metal tool, as most metal hammers would, but it also reduces the force available to drive the cutting edge of a chisel.
  • Copper and leaden mallets are typically used on machinery to apply force to parts with a reduced risk of damaging them and to avoid sparks. As copper is softer than steel, the mallet is deformed rather than any steel object it is hitting.
  • Meat mallets tenderise or flatten meat. Made from wood or metal, they are typically two-sided, one flat with slight bumps, and the other with more pronounced protrusions. Meat mallets can be made from wood, plastic, or steel, but their use has lessened with the invention of cube steak machines and other electric tenderisers. Meat mallets can also be used to crush ice. This is done by wrapping the ice in a fabric (usually a tea towel) and crushing the ice with the mallet until the desired size of the ice is achieved.
Less common mallets include:
  • Rawhide mallets, which may employ rawhide covering a steel head, or simply consist of rolled-up rawhide, are used for leatherwork, jewellery, and assembling electric motors and delicate machinery.
  • Plastic mallets, made of nylon, polycarbonate, or polystyrene are used especially in leatherwork and jewellery.
  • Split head mallets, which have removable faces which can be changed to an appropriate material for the job.
  • Beedle mallet, a large wooden mallet with a circular pine head, with rounded ends about 18 inches to 15 inched in diameter, with a handle about 3 feet long. It was used by paviours for punning paving stones into position when bedding. An illustration of the mallet can be found in Charles F. Mitchell's Building Construction,11th edition, printed in 1930 by B.T. Batford, Ltd, 94 High Holborn, London.
Beedles are also used in jobs such as timber framing to shift the bases of large wooden posts, fit joints, and drive in pegs.
  • Dead blow mallets, which have an internal cavity filled with steel or lead shot. This addition evens out the time-impulse curve of the impact, enabling a more powerful blow to be delivered without risk of marring the target.
Mallets of various types are some of the oldest forms of tools, and have been found in stone age gravesites.

Musical instruments

Mallets used as drumsticks are often used to strike a marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, metallophone, or vibraphone, collectively referred to as mallet percussion. They usually have shafts made of rattan, birch, or fiberglass. Rattan shafts are more flexible than the other materials. Heads vary in size, shape, and material. They may be made of metal, plastic, rubber, or wood, and some are wrapped with felt, cord, or yarn. Heavier heads produce louder sounds. Harder heads produce sharper and louder sounds and generate more overtones.


Mallets are commonly used as children's toys. Lightweight wooden mallets are used for peg toys. Toy mallets are also used in games such as Whack-a-Mole. Another type of toy mallet is a plastic mallet made of soft, hollow vinyl, with bellows and a built-in whistle, so that when the mallet is struck, it produces a sharp, chirping sound.



The accidents received from mistreatment of wooden mallets in the workplace became a classic gag in the Looney Tunes and Disney cartoons. Characters like Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Daffy Duck and Roger Rabbit made use of mallets as part of their arsenal in the Golden Age of animation.
In anime and Manga it is very common for an angry character to pull out a large mallet, via hammerspace, and attack the person or thing that is angering him/her.
mallet in German: Knüpfel
mallet in Esperanto: Maleo
mallet in French: Maillet (outil)
mallet in Ido: Dolca kapo-martelo
mallet in Italian: Mallet
mallet in Dutch: Mallet (gereedschap)
mallet in Finnish: Nuija

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

air hammer, ball peen hammer, beetle, chipping hammer, chisel, claw hammer, drop hammer, electric hammer, jackhammer, modeling clay, pile hammer, point, raising hammer, riveting hammer, rubber mallet, sledge, sledgehammer, solder, soldering iron, spatula, steam hammer, stone hammer, tack hammer, triphammer
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