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hone 1 (hōn)
Share:
n.
1. A fine-grained whetstone for giving a keen edge to a cutting tool.
2. A tool with a rotating abrasive tip for enlarging holes to precise dimensions.
tr.v. honed, hon·ing, hones
1. To sharpen on a fine-grained whetstone.
2. To perfect or make more intense or effective: a speaker who honed her delivery by long practice.
Phrasal Verb:
hone in Usage Problem
1. To move or advance toward a target or goal: The missiles honed in on the military installation.
2. To focus the attention or make progress achieving an objective: The lawyer honed in on the gist of the plaintiff's testimony.

[Middle English, from Old English hān, stone; see kō- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots. Hone in, alteration of home in.]

Usage Note: The verb home has been used to mean "to return home" (what homing pigeons do) since the 1920s. The introduction of radar in World War II gave it the related meaning "to return home by following a beam or landmark" and then "to find a target via a beam or signal," as when pilots and aircraft homed on a target. In the 1950s the verb was extended to the figurative sense "to narrow attention on" and in was added, so the expression became home in on. A decade later hone in on, containing the verb meaning "to sharpen," began to be used in the same sense. Presumably the substitution was encouraged both by the similarity in sound and the overlap in metaphorical meaning: sharpening one's focus made as much sense as directing it homeward. Whatever its origin, hone in, despite being common, is often viewed as a mistake. In our 2015 survey, 36 percent of the Usage Panel disapproved of the example Direct mail allows you to hone in on your target audience, and 40 percent would not accept The purpose of the meeting was to hone in on strategies for improving the company's performance. If you prefer to employ the more widely accepted idiom, stick with home in or use zero in.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 
hone 2 (hōn)
Share:
intr.v. honed, hon·ing, hones
Informal
1. To whine or moan.
2. To hanker; yearn.

[Obsolete French hoigner, from Old French, perhaps from hon, cry of discontent.]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

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