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noun (1)

less common spelling of gauge

: a measurement (as of linear dimension) according to some standard or system: such as
: the distance between the rails of a railroad
: the size of a shotgun barrel's inner diameter nominally expressed as the number of lead balls each just fitting that diameter required to make a pound
a 12-gauge shotgun
: the thickness of a thin material (such as sheet metal or plastic film)
: the diameter of a slender object (such as wire or a hypodermic needle)
: the fineness of a knitted fabric expressed by the number of loops per unit width
: measure sense 1
surveys are a gauge of public sentiment
: an instrument for or a means of measuring or testing: such as
: an instrument for measuring a dimension or for testing mechanical accuracy
: an instrument with a graduated (see graduate entry 1 sense transitive 2a) scale or dial for measuring or indicating quantity
: relative position of a ship with reference to another ship and the wind
: a function introduced into a field equation to produce a convenient form of the equation but having no observable physical consequences


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noun (2)

: a token of defiance
specifically : a glove or cap cast on the ground to be taken up by an opponent as a pledge of combat
: something deposited as a pledge of performance


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gaged; gaging; gages

transitive verb

archaic : pledge
archaic : stake, risk


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noun (3)

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Gage vs. Gauge

There are two gages: one refers to pledges or securities and is no longer in common general use, and the other is a variant spelling of gauge, which in the noun form refers broadly to measurement (“fine-gauge wire”) or a standard by which something is measured (“polls are a good gauge of how voters might vote”). The earliest evidence we have for the noun gauge goes back to the 15th century, when English spelling was not yet standardized, and the word in question was spelled gauge and gage with roughly equal frequency. Gauge began to be preferred in the late 19th century for most general uses. Some claim that gage appears as a variant more frequently in the U.S., though our evidence shows that the vast majority of uses for gage are from specialized and technical industries, such as mechanical engineering, manufacturing, and electronics, and that these uses of gage are global, not limited to the U.S. Nonetheless, total use of the word gage is small when compared to the total use of the word gauge.

The verb gauge, which refers to measuring or estimating, also has a variant gage. This variant appears to show up primarily in informal sources, though not often. Gauge is by far the preferred spelling in general usage for both the noun and the verb; we encourage you use it.

Examples of gage in a Sentence

Noun (2) in the old days a sheriff would take gage in the form of personal goods from an accused person who then had to appear in court or forfeit the goods
Recent Examples on the Web
Passively hang from bar, then en-gage core, lats, and glutes to perform a full pullup. Mallory Creveling, Women's Health, 23 Feb. 2023 No water ran through gage, but Curtis said that’s normal for this late in the summer. Jacob Scholl, The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 Sep. 2022 Cantore, whose Twitter coverage alone often spans multiple states, is an expert gage on the severity of adverse weather. Molly Weisner, The Courier-Journal, 12 Dec. 2021 In mid-June, the Charleston stream gage showed the flow dropped very close to zero. Ian James,, 7 Sep. 2021 The Fox River’s water height, known as gage, was 12.34 feet when measured Friday in South Elgin, nearly two feet lower than the 14.31 inches recorded in May 2020, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, which maintains river data. Gloria Casas,, 22 May 2021
The owners checked in with their old staff to gage their desire to return to work. oregonlive, 1 July 2020 Over the course of a conversation, in-person eye contact is made through a series of glances – by the speaker, to make sure the other person has understood or to gage reactions, and by the listener to indicate interest in either the other person or what’s being said. Carol Kinsey Goman, Forbes, 15 June 2021 The second test, designed to gage flexibility, is the sit and reach. Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 30 Apr. 2022 There will be a considerable sample size to gage by then. David Furones, Sun Sentinel, 20 Sep. 2022 The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in August to gage how Americans would prioritize changes around immigration and border security. Rafael Carranza, The Arizona Republic, 18 June 2022 The second event is the vertical jump, performed using a Vertech machine to gage exactly how high each of them can jump. Philip Ellis, Men's Health, 6 Mar. 2022 The district was assigned to reach out to its labor unions, community partners, district parents and its partners at the Cincinnati Health Department to gage support of the policy before any official proposal comes to the board for approval. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, 8 June 2021 In a 2020 study, Mikołaj Kamiński, a researcher at the Pomeranian Medical University in Poland, used Google Trends to gage the public’s interest in various kinds of diets and food trends between 2004 and 2019. Benjamin Plackett, Discover Magazine, 7 Apr. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gage.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Noun (2)

Middle English, "pledge, formal pledge of a person's appearance to do battle," borrowed from Anglo-French — more at wage entry 1


borrowed from Anglo-French gager "to offer surety, give as a pledge," derivative of gage "pledge, gage entry 2"

Noun (3)

by shortening

First Known Use

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (3)

1847, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gage was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near gage

Cite this Entry

“Gage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: a glove or cap thrown on the ground as a challenge to combat
: something given as a pledge of performance : security


2 of 2

variant of gauge

Medical Definition


variant of gauge

Biographical Definition


biographical name

Thomas 1721–1787 British general and colonial governor in America

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