boot·​strap | \ ˈbüt-ˌstrap How to pronounce bootstrap (audio) \

Definition of bootstrap

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : a looped strap sewed at the side or the rear top of a boot to help in pulling it on
2 bootstraps plural : unaided efforts often used in the phrase by one's own bootstraps



Definition of bootstrap (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : designed to function independently of outside direction : capable of using one internal function or process to control another a bootstrap operation to load a computer
2 : carried out with minimum resources or advantages bootstrap efforts


bootstrapped; bootstrapping

Definition of bootstrap (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to promote or develop by initiative and effort with little or no assistance bootstrapped herself to the top … turns out to be pretty talented at identifying and bootstrapping promising creative endeavors.— Harry McCracken

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Other Words from bootstrap


bootstrapper noun

Examples of bootstrap in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Rokas and Salichos used a statistical method called bootstrap analysis to select the most informative genes. Quanta Magazine, "A New Approach to Building the Tree of Life," 4 June 2013 Vance’s blockbuster 2016 bootstraps memoir, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, was greeted as a timely diagnosis of the unlikely growth of Trumpism in the down-at-its-heels heartland. Kim Kelly, The New Republic, "On Being White and Broke in America," 6 Apr. 2020 Forty years of stagnant wages later, many Americans have come to believe that the rules are stacked against them and that the up-by-your-bootstraps story is a myth. Andrea Flynn, Time, "It Takes Black Women in the U.S. 20 Months to Earn What White Men Make in a Year. Here's the History Behind That Wage Gap," 22 Aug. 2019 In theory, anyone can lift themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps and live the dream. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "The coronavirus crisis proves the internet should be a public utility," 26 Mar. 2020 Below is the Top 10, with the number of up-by-the-bootstraps billionaires each institution can claim. 10. oregonlive, "Where did the world’s self-made billionaires go to college? Here are the Top 10 universities," 17 Feb. 2020 But dos Santos’ up-from-her-bootstraps narrative never stood up to much scrutiny. Ben Hallman, Quartz Africa, "How Western advisers helped an autocrat’s daughter amass and shield a fortune," 19 Jan. 2020 Unlike the original authors, the team released video of each experiment, for example, as well as the bootstrap analysis code. Martin Enserink, Science | AAAS, "Analysis challenges slew of studies claiming ocean acidification alters fish behavior," 8 Jan. 2020 The Prouds are a firmly middle-class nuclear family; dad Oscar is an entrepreneur obsessed with upward social mobility and pulling himself up by the bootstraps, and mom Trudy comes from a bougie, wealthy background. Ineye Komonibo,, "Disney Fans Are Discovering New Easter Eggs In Old Episodes Of The Proud Family," 7 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The plan from Gates’ army of lawyers and PR handlers seemed to be to wield his image as a software wunderkind who dropped out of Harvard to bootstrap his company and went on to become the world’s richest man. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Revisiting the spectacular failure that was the Bill Gates deposition," 10 Sep. 2020 How might a college town bootstrap this community-building engine? Zach Wener-fligner, Quartz at Work, "Remote workers really should consider moving to college towns," 11 Aug. 2020 Typically, users must bootstrap only rarely after the bootstrapping process, such as when Google detects suspicious behavior. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Nest users now covered by Google’s ultra-secure Advanced Protection Program," 1 June 2020 Once a phone is added, people use it to bootstrap each smart home device connected to the account. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Nest users now covered by Google’s ultra-secure Advanced Protection Program," 1 June 2020 To bootstrap, Chrome also isolates a crowdsourced list of sites where mobile users have been entering passwords most frequently. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Chrome rolls out new protections preventing password and data theft," 17 Oct. 2019 All are trying to bootstrap their way into English language proficiency — perhaps even a shot at college., "ada Pierre is tiny, her ambition drawn taut as a bowstring. The 16-year-old daughter of Haitian immigrants wears her hair in a small bun atop her head, her emerging political consciousness finding its voice in the bevy of Black Lives Matter and #MeToo stickers she’s pasted to her MacBook.," 15 Sep. 2019 Giving poor people small loans without collateral, albeit at higher interest rates than on conventional loans, was meant to spur entrepreneurship and allow people to bootstrap their way out of poverty. The Economist, "Microfinance is driving many Sri Lankan borrowers to despair," 15 Aug. 2019 This feedback loop also allows the AI to quickly bootstrap itself out of a nearly blank-slate state of ignorance. Quanta Magazine, "Clever Machines Learn How to Be Curious," 19 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bootstrap.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bootstrap


1875, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1926, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1951, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for bootstrap

Time Traveler

The first known use of bootstrap was in 1875

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Cite this Entry

“Bootstrap.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

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