1 of 3

noun (1)

: leg


2 of 3

noun (2)

: a visit or friendly conversation at sea or ashore especially between whalers
: a school of whales


3 of 3


gammed; gamming

intransitive verb

: to engage in a gam (see gam entry 2 sense 1)

transitive verb

: to have a gam with (see gam entry 2 sense 1)
: to spend or pass (time) talking

Did you know?

But what is a gam? You might wear out your index-finger running up and down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word. So says the narrator, who calls himself Ishmael, of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. These days you will indeed find "gam" entered in dictionaries; Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the noun "gam" as "a visit or friendly conversation at sea or ashore especially between whalers." (It can also mean "a school of whales.") Melville’s narrator explains that when whaling ships met far out at sea, they would hail one another and the crews would exchange visits and news. English speakers have been using the word gam to refer to these and similar social exchanges since the mid-19th century.

Examples of gam in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The high-low style shows off your gorgeous gams and the off-the-shoulder silhouette gives this dress serious evening elegance. Alesandra Dubin, Woman's Day, 1 Apr. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'gam.' 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 (1)

originally in British underworld argot, probably going back to Lingua Franca gamba "leg," going back to Italian, going back to Late Latin — more at jamb

Noun (2)

perhaps short for gammon entry 5


derivative of gam entry 2

First Known Use

Noun (1)

circa 1785, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1831, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1849, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of gam was circa 1785


Dictionary Entries Near gam

Cite this Entry

“Gam.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on gam

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