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

This woman is clearly a firm believer in the bootstraps mentality. Ashley Hoffman, Time, "'I Wonder Who Will Get Fired First.' Mom Holds In-House Job Fair for Kids Who Demanded a Bigger Allowance," 22 Aug. 2019 Tracy, in contrast, is a striver, the only daughter of a single mother who works as a paralegal and has raised Tracy in a regimen of up-by-the-bootstraps positive thinking. New York Times, "What America Gets Wrong About Tracy Flick," 27 Sep. 2017 Last March, researchers found that another RubyGems library called bootstrap-sass was also backdoored. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "The year-long rash of supply chain attacks against open source is getting worse," 21 Aug. 2019 The statue calls out to families who want to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Letters To The Editor, The Mercury News, "Letter: Why is aid needed to back Lady Liberty’s ideals now?," 19 Aug. 2019 Here in bootstraps America, happiness is a state many moms find difficult to achieve. Olivia Campbell, Good Housekeeping, "I've Struggled With Depression, So I Can't Always Be The "Happy" Mom," 8 July 2019 Yet even in Spider-Verse — a genuinely wonderful and magical movie — Miles’s presence in a magnet school is an easy shorthand for a talented kid from a working-class background pulling himself up by his bootstraps. Emily Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "Spider-Man: Far From Home turns a class-conscious hero into a tech bro," 3 July 2019 But their new bootstrap trick opened up a gold mine. Quanta Magazine, "Physicists Uncover Geometric ‘Theory Space’," 23 Feb. 2017 Can’t pull yourself up by the bootstraps when centuries-old systems are designed to keep you from the damn boot. Thomas Page Mcbee, Teen Vogue, "Kendrick Sampson on Masculinity, Race, and Why Men Should Be More Vulnerable," 26 Mar. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 The first time Kia tried to bootstrap itself into the premium/entry luxury space was in 2012, with the K900 sedan. Dan Neil, WSJ, "2018 Kia Stinger GT2: The Best German Car to Come Out of South Korea," 6 Apr. 2018 On top of sweat equity, Markkula sunk a substantial portion of his personal wealth into Apple and helped persuade others to bootstrap the firm. Stephen Phillips, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age,’ by Leslie Berlin," 3 Nov. 2017 Immigrants, regardless of their merit coming in, tend to bootstrap themselves up in a remarkable way. Roger Showley,, "Merit-based immigration: Good idea?," 10 Aug. 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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Statistics for bootstrap

Last Updated

20 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for bootstrap

The first known use of bootstrap was in 1875

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More Definitions for bootstrap



Financial Definition of bootstrap

What It Is

Bootstrapping refers to the efforts of an entrepreneur to start a business using his own assets as the source of capital.

Bootstrapping can also refer to a highly-leveraged transaction when an investor acquires a controlling interest in a company, financing the transaction by using the assets of the company as collateral for the loan.

How It Works

Entrepreneurs typically apply for a business loan from a commercial bank or seek funding from independent investors. An entrepreneur who risks their own money as an initial source of venture capital is bootstrapping.

For example, someone who starts a business using $100,000 of their own money is bootstrapping.

In a highly-leveraged transaction, an investor obtains a loan to buy an interest in the company. The investor uses the assets of the company they are about to purchase as collateral for the loan.

Why It Matters

Bootstrapping frees the entrepreneur from having to pay interest on a loan or from having to share any potential profits with other investors. However, entrepreneurship involves significant risk. When personal funds are used to finance a new business, the person stands to lose not only the time invested but their own money as well.

Bootstrapping in leveraged transactions is extremely risky since the potential investor is using the company’s assets to service their loan.

Source: Investing Answers

More from Merriam-Webster on bootstrap

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bootstrap

Comments on bootstrap

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to spread over or through

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