Tomahawk, a weapon of certain North American Indian tribes. The name was derived from an Algonquian word. Originally, the tomahawk had a stone head that was lashed with thongs to a wooden handle or inserted in a hole bored or burned through the handle. Early in the 17th century, European-made iron or steel hatchets called trade tomahawksbegan to replace the stone weapons.

The tomahawk was ordinarily a weapon of hand-to-hand combat, but many Indians and some white frontiersmen were adept at hurling it as a missile. The tomahawk also had symbolic, ceremonial uses. It was laid on the ground at council meetings of some tribes. When the war leader “took up the tomahawk” it meant that a decision for war was approved. To “bury the tomahawk” or “bury the hatchet” meant an end to warfare.