gump·​tion | \ ˈgəm(p)-shən How to pronounce gumption (audio) \

Definition of gumption

1 chiefly dialectal : common sense, horse sense
2 : enterprise, initiative lacked the gumption to try

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

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 intelligence or common sense, especially when those qualities were combined with high levels of energy. By the 1860s, American English speakers were also using gumption to imply ambition or tenacity, but it wasn't until the early 1900s that gumption began to appear in English texts as a direct synonym of courage or get-up-and-go. American showman P.T. Barnum also claimed that gumption named a particular kind of hard cider, but that sense is far from common today.

Examples of gumption in a Sentence

It took a lot of gumption to speak up for yourself like that. that girl has no more gumption than a grasshopper and is likely to marry the first man who comes along

Recent Examples on the Web

The cohosts were singing Duncan’s praise: Hoover sported a T-shirt printed with the brand’s name in bold letters, while Brill lauded Duncan for having the gumption to launch a line of clothing while juggling her day job. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "A Flock of Cool Girls Celebrated the Launch of Womenswear Label Duncan," 11 Feb. 2019 Her initial resistance to this makeover is depicted as petty, a matter of self-defeating scruples and proletarian lack of gumption. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Review: ‘Dan Cody’s Yacht’ Sells Upward Mobility for Dummies," 6 June 2018 In its current manifestation, Shirkers is a beguiling, stranger-than-fiction caper about youthful gumption, older-male coercion, and female friendship gone awry (Tan and Ng have never quite resolved their differences about the escapade). Julia Felsenthal, Vogue, "Sandi Tan’s Shirkers May Be the Year’s Most Compelling Grifter Story," 15 Oct. 2018 Handstands and guns appear, ghostly music, exigency — the passage bursts with vernacular gumption, prismatic parlance. Simone White, New York Times, "Poem: From ‘We Are Here to Slow Time’," 13 June 2018 Miller is ready to show culinary skills laced with Houston gumption. Greg Morago, Houston Chronicle, "First Look: International Smoke at CityCentre," 3 July 2018 Whoever makes that roll of the dice should have a clear vision of the road ahead, and the gumption to see it through. Michael Powell, New York Times, "The Mets Are Deeply, Thoroughly Broken," 27 June 2018 This guy’s all wide-eyed gumption and smirking confidence — not the cynic who gets a crash course in the Force later in life. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Review: 'Solo' gambles (and wins) by not being just another 'Star Wars' movie," 15 May 2018 Several people who have worked with McMaster perceive, in his tireless gumption, a form of naïveté. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker, "McMaster and Commander," 23 Apr. 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of gumption

1719, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gumption

origin unknown

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gumption

Listen to Our Podcast about gumption

Statistics for gumption

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gumption

The first known use of gumption was in 1719

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gumption



English Language Learners Definition of gumption

informal : courage and confidence


gump·​tion | \ ˈgəmp-shən How to pronounce gumption (audio) \

Kids Definition of gumption

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on gumption

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gumption

Spanish Central: Translation of gumption

Nglish: Translation of gumption for Spanish Speakers

Comments on gumption

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


a sum of money that is sent as a payment

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!