gump·​tion ˈgəm(p)-shən How to pronounce gumption (audio)
: enterprise, initiative
lacked the gumption to try
chiefly dialectal : common sense, horse sense

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English speakers have had gumption (the word, that is) since the early 1700s. The term's exact origins aren't known, but its earliest known uses are found in British and especially Scottish dialects (which also include the forms rumblegumption and rumgumption). In its earliest uses, gumption referred to common sense. American English speakers adopted the word and took it in a new direction, using it refer to the kind of courage or get-up-and-go that makes undertaking difficult things possible. Artists may know the word with another application: it's also used to refer to the art of preparing painters' colors.

Example Sentences

It took a lot of gumption to speak up for yourself like that. the company needs a new leader with the gumption and know-how that comes from experience
Recent Examples on the Web Neither Bush nor Donalds was born with distinctive advantages other than, perhaps, faith and gumption. Robin Givhan, Washington Post, 4 Jan. 2023 His gumption was commendable, however, and Rush mounted a comeback that saw the Cowboys cut the Philadelphia lead to 20-17. Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY, 17 Oct. 2022 The outrage that Caruso tapped into is fuelled by a type of magical thinking that posits that Los Angeles’s forty-two thousand homeless residents will somehow disappear with the right mixture of tough love, big-picture thinking, and gumption. Jay Caspian Kang, The New Yorker, 16 Dec. 2022 And with a mix of physicality and sheer gumption, Robbie rules the most raucous sequences as Nellie loses her cool on set, ruins a fancy-pants shindig and wrestles a rattlesnake. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, 16 Dec. 2022 Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton all risen to the challenge of playing Queen Elizabeth in the Netflix hit, bringing grace and gumption to each season of her life. Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 20 Oct. 2022 Monroe and far too many others lived and died in times when issues with mental health were viewed in terms of morality and grit, when addiction was considered a character flaw and depression a failure of gumption. Mary Mcnamaraculture Columnist And Critic, Los Angeles Times, 3 Oct. 2022 Until Beijing works up the gumption to intervene more decisively to restore confidence, the slow drift downward of the market—and the broader economy—seems likely to continue. Jacky Wong, WSJ, 16 Sep. 2022 His gumption, along with the hard work of his partners, has turned an idea into the only 24-hour, 7-days-a-week sports network in the country. Chris Hays, Orlando Sentinel, 31 July 2022 See More

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

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

1719, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of gumption was in 1719


Dictionary Entries Near gumption

Cite this Entry

“Gumption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


gump·​tion ˈgəm(p)-shən How to pronounce gumption (audio)
: courageous or ambitious initiative
lacked the gumption to try

More from Merriam-Webster on gumption

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