"Kladivo na čarodějnice" (in czech) or "Malleus Maleficarumis" (in latin) is a title of czech novel translated as Witches' Hammer or Witchhammer. Hammer on Witches is the name of book (manual) used in this novel to seek out and eradicate witches.

Is the phrase "Witchhammer" understood by native English speaker as phrase with hidden meaning?

For example like hidden meaning when we imagine the situation of two guys listening radio news on politics and one guy say to another: "This senator speaks again in Orwellian language?" (hint of 1984 book - angsoc, face-crime, double-think etc.)

Orwellian language - not telling the TRUE names

Kladivo na čarodějnice - to use effective handbook (full of effective and cruel methods) for solving the problem ruthlessly

  • To explain maybe: It is this one. Wikipedia knows it as Hammer of (the) witches: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malleus_Maleficarum
    – skymningen
    Nov 12, 2013 at 15:10
  • 1
    For the record, "Witch's hammer" sounds like a hammer that witches use. "Witchhammer" is more likely to be a hammer that others use to attack witches.
    – The Photon
    Nov 12, 2013 at 19:55

3 Answers 3


I have never heard of this book before, nor have I heard the phrase "witchhammer" or any variation I can think of as having a well-recognized meaning. I think this is just another case of an idiom or allusion that cannot be translated literally into another language and still retain its meaning.

I am speaking as an American. I see that Tristan says the same thing as a Briton. It's possible that people in some other English-speaking country would recognize the reference, but I'd expect they wouldn't.

The closest I can think of in English is "Machiavellian". If someone is being treacherous and ruthless we often say that he is being Machiavellian. The phrase comes from Niccolo Machiavelli and his book "The Prince", which is popularly perceived to advocate a ruthlessly pragmatic approach to problems. This book is viewed as a manual on how to be ruthless. (I have not read the book -- it's sitting on my bookshelf as one of those books I really really want to get to someday -- so I can only speak of the popular perception and not of the reality. But that's probably what matters here anyway.)


Kramer's Malleus Maleficarum is fairly well known in scholarly circles under its (original) Latin name, and I daresay is equally well known to laymen who have any interest in mediaeval witchcraft. The title is usually translated The Hammer of Witches.

But the phrase has no reference apart from the book.

The closest phrase I can think of is "witch-hunt"; this is widespread in the US, referring in the first instance to the Salem Witch Trials but often employed today to speak of any popular effort to identify and destroy narrowly defined 'public enemies', especially unorthodox thinkers. I think the phrase became common during the frantic right-wing hunt for Communists in the 1950s, but it has since been used equally of left-wing activists against right-wing opinion. Right now you see it applied to the anti-big-government Tea Party and to Major League Baseball's zealous campaign against purported steroid users. Its overtones have less to do with ruthlessness and effectiveness than with rigidity, irrationality and paranoia.


It is not well known in England and the rest of the UK. I had not heard of it before I saw this question.

  • Thank you for answer! And you know any other idiom to express "to use effective handbook/method (full of effective and cruel methods) for solving the problem ruthlessly" ? Nov 12, 2013 at 15:06
  • I'm not sure what exactly you mean when mentioning a handbook. Please elaborate.
    – Tristan
    Nov 12, 2013 at 15:08
  • In novel the inquisitor have a book called "Hammer on Witches" in which are described methods how to deal with witches (non-existing problem). Maybe "manual" is the better word. Nov 12, 2013 at 15:11
  • I don't think there is an idiom for it. To talk about the book in English, you can mention its name "Hammer on Witches", provided that you establish the context for it, as you have done in your question. You could also mention its name without context, if whoever you talking about it to, already knows.
    – Tristan
    Nov 12, 2013 at 15:34
  • The word manual could also be used to refer to the book, after you have established which one in particular you are talking about, in order to avoid excessively repeating its name.
    – Tristan
    Nov 12, 2013 at 15:45

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