A gavel is a small ceremonial mallet commonly made of hardwood, typically fashioned with a handle and often struck against a sound block to enhance its sounding qualities. It is a symbol of the authority and right to act officially in the capacity of a chair or presiding officer. It is used to call for attention or to punctuate rulings and proclamations. It is customarily struck to indicate the opening (call to order) and closing (adjournment) of proceedings, giving rise to the phrase "gavel-to-gavel" to describe the entirety of a meeting or session. Gavels are also used by auctioneers.

By metonymy, the gavel represents the entire judiciary system, especially of judgeship; to "bring down the gavel" means to enforce or compel with the power of a court. It also represents the authority of presiding officers; thus the expression "passing the gavel" signifies an orderly succession from one chair to another.

Proper use of a gavel

"Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised" provides guidelines on the proper use of the gavel in deliberative assemblies. For instance, the chair is never to use the gavel in an attempt to drown out a disorderly member; [cite parl |title=RONR|pages=626] rather, the chair should give one vigorous tap at a time at intervals. The chair should not lean on the gavel, juggle or toy with it, or use it to challenge or threaten or to emphasize remarks. The prohibited practice of a chair cutting off members' right to debate or introduce secondary motions by quickly putting a question to vote before any member can get the floor is referred to as "gaveling through" a measure. [RONR (10th ed.), p. 374]

"Demeter's Manual" notes that, in addition to an optional light tap after a vote, there are three other uses of a gavel:cite parl|title=DEM|pages=39-40]
#To attract attention and call a meeting to order. In most organizations, two raps raise and one rap seats the assembly; in others, two raps raise and three raps seat it.
#To maintain order and restore it when breached in the course of the proceedings. (Rap the gavel once, but vigorously.)
#To be handed over to successors in office or to officiating officers as ceremonials, etc. (Always extend the holding end.)

United States Congress gavels

The unique gavel of the United States Senate has an hourglass shape and no handle. Presented to the Senate by the Republic of India and first used on November 17, 1954, it replaced the ivory gavel in use since at least 1789, which had deteriorated over the years. In 1952, silver plates were added to both ends in an attempt to further prevent damage to the old gavel. In 1954, then-Vice President Richard Nixon used it during a heated debate on nuclear energy. Unable to obtain a piece of ivory large enough to replace the gavel, the Senate appealed to the Indian embassy. On November 17, 1954, India presented to the United States a solid ivory replica still in use.

In contrast to the Senate, the gavel of the United States House of Representatives is plain and wooden. Used more often and more forcefully in the more unruly chamber, it has been broken and replaced many times.


* [ The Senate's New Gavel (]
* [ Comparison of the gavels of the House and Senate (]


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(of a presiding officer)

Look at other dictionaries:

  • gavel — ☆ gavel [gav′əl ] n. [? dial. var. of Scot gable, a fork, tool with forked handle < ME < OE gafol, akin to Ger gabel] a small mallet rapped on the table by a presiding officer in calling for attention or silence, or by an auctioneer vt.… …   English World dictionary

  • Gavel — (Ла Серена,Чили) Категория отеля: Адрес: Av Del Mar 800, 1710000 Ла Серена, Чили …   Каталог отелей

  • Gavel — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Anton Gavel (* 1984), slowakischer Basketballspieler Henri Gavel (1880–1959), französischer Romanist, Hispanist, Okzitanist und Baskologe Diese Seite ist eine Begriffsklärung zur U …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gavel — Gav el, n. [OF. gavel, AS. gafol, prob. fr. gifan to give. See {Give}, and cf. {Gabel} tribute.] (Law) Tribute; toll; custom. [Obs.] See {Gabel}. Cowell. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gavel — small mallet used by presiding officers at meetings, 1805, Amer.Eng., of unknown origin; perhaps connected with Ger. dial. gaffel brotherhood, friendly society, from M.H.G. gaffel society, guild, related to O.E. gafol tribute, giefan to give (see …   Etymology dictionary

  • gavel — ► NOUN ▪ a small hammer with which an auctioneer, judge, etc., hits a surface to call for attention or order. ► VERB (gavelled, gavelling; US gaveled, gaveling) ▪ bring to order by use of a gavel. ORIGIN originally denoting a stonemason s mallet …   English terms dictionary

  • Gavel — Gav el (g[a^]v [e^]l), n. A gable. [Prov. Eng.] Halliwell. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Gavel — Gav el, n. [OF. gavelle, F. javelle, prob. dim. from L. capulus handle, fr. capere to lay hold of, seize; or cf. W. gafael hold, grasp. Cf. {Heave}.] A small heap of grain, not tied up into a bundle. Wright. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Gavel — Gav el, n. [Etymol. uncertain.] 1. The mallet of the presiding officer in a legislative body, public assembly, court, masonic body, etc. [1913 Webster] 2. A mason s setting maul. Knight. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gavel — n. m. (France rég.) Sarment de vigne …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Gavel — Porté notamment dans le Pas de Calais et la Somme, le nom est plus fréquent sous la forme Gavelle. C est l équivalent picard du mot javelle , terme lié à la moisson, qui est ici soit un toponyme, soit un surnom de moissonneur (celui qui lie les… …   Noms de famille

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