It's from a fiction book:

...looked up at the hammer-beamed ceiling....

I've looked up "hammer" and "to beam" and the only ones that make any sense to me are for "to beam":

  1. (lb en transitive) To furnish or supply with #Nouns.
  2. (lb en transitive) To give the appearance of #Nouns to.

So meaning is ceiling looked like hammer(s). Is it correct?

Before the ceiling was described as

walls rose to red piers at the top...supporting huge black beams of wood...

  • Hammered means pounded by a hammer to give a pattern of irregular circles. There is no "to beam" verb here, they are big horizontal lengths of wood holding up the roof. Commented May 16 at 14:46
  • The hyphen shows that 'hammer-beam/ed' should be looked up, not 'hammer' or 'beam'. Commented May 16 at 15:57
  • @EdwinAshworth: Hammer-beamed is not a word, and thus cannot be looked up. And only one of the three dictionaries I tried contained hammer beam. This is not a straightforward dictionary-lookup question. Commented May 16 at 21:17
  • @Peter Shor "Hammer-beam meaning" gives many hits on Google; in my search, M-W, Wikipedia, Britannica, Dictionary.com, OED, and Collins give clear entries among the first 11 hits. The interspersed ones are from architectural sites and are also pellucid. 'Hammer-beamed' can easily be deduced to be the (compound) participle adjective. Commented May 16 at 21:47
  • 1
    @Martian2020: At What is an ing-form used as what appears to be a participial adjective but for which there is no corresponding verb? Pseudo-participles (thus pseudo-participle adjectives) (eg able-bodied, half-hearted, two-faced, white-haired, yellow-bellied, fun-loving; talented, enterprising) Commented May 23 at 15:34

1 Answer 1


Beam is not a verb here, but a noun. From Merriam-Webster

Beam: a long piece of heavy often squared timber suitable for use in construction.

It should probably not be hammer-beamed ceiling but hammer-beam or hammerbeam ceiling. These are named after the hammer beams used in their construction, which are beams that do not span the entire width of the roof, but only a fraction of this width.

Wikipedia says that a hammerbeam roof is

a decorative, open timber roof truss typical of English Gothic architecture and has been called "...the most spectacular endeavour of the English Medieval carpenter".

A room with a hammer-beam ceiling is presumably one directly beneath and open to a hammer-beam roof. There are a number of spectacular pictures in the Wikipedia article I link to above illustrating what they look like.

  • Interestingly, "Google Books" gives many examples of writers choosing "hammer-beamed" ceiling.
    – user405662
    Commented May 16 at 14:54
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    @user405662: Google Ngrams shows a sizeable number of uses of "hammer-beamed roof", but these are dwarfed by the number of "hammer-beam" and "hammerbeam" roofs. Commented May 16 at 14:59
  • Thanks. The quote came from a contemporarily Scottish author BTW. Commented May 16 at 15:05

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