\ ˈgam How to pronounce gam (audio) \

Definition of gam

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: leg

Definition of gam (Entry 2 of 3)

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


gammed; gamming

Definition of gam (Entry 3 of 3)

intransitive verb

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

transitive verb

1 : to have a gam with (see gam entry 2 sense 1)
2 : 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.

First Known Use of gam

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

History and Etymology for gam

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

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Time Traveler for gam

Time Traveler

The first known use of gam was circa 1785

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Cite this Entry

“Gam.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gam. Accessed 27 January 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on gam

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gam

Britannica English: Translation of gam for Arabic Speakers

Comments on gam

What made you want to look up gam? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one that suddenly gains wealth or power

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