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ham it up
To act in an exaggerated way, typically in order to be funny. Your daughter loves to ham it up for the camera—you might have a little actress on your hands!
To exaggerate a performance or act in an overstated or over-the-top manner, often to the level of being irksome or inappropriate. A noun or pronoun can be used between "ham" and "up." This is a serious play, so please don't ham up your part. My toddlers like to ham it up whenever we have company.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
ham something up
Fig. to make a performance seem silly by showing off or exaggerating one's part. (A show-off actor is known as a ham.) Come on, Bob. Don't ham it up! The play was going fine until Bob got out there and hammed up his part.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
Exaggerate or overdo, especially with extravagant emotion, as in Hamming up the eulogy was disgraceful, especially since he didn't even know the deceased. It is also put as ham it up, meaning "overact," as in She loves to ham it up in front of the class. This idiom probably alludes to the hamfat (lard) used to remove stage makeup, mentioned in the minstrel song, "The Ham-Fat Man." From this hamfatter came to mean "an inexpert and flamboyant actor," and was in the late 1800s shortened to ham. The idiom here was first recorded in 1933.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
ˌham it ˈup(informal) (especially of actors) when people ham it up, they deliberately exaggerate their emotions or movements: When we realized we were being filmed, we all started behaving differently, hamming it up for the cameras.
A ham is an informal word for an actor who performs badly, especially by exaggerating emotions.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017