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

Definition of gumption

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

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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 Only Hanks could battle Nazis in the Atlantic Ocean wearing slippers and with gumption to spare. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, "10 movies that got us through quarantine this summer, from 'Black Is King' to 'Da 5 Bloods'," 26 Aug. 2020 The Mavericks will need to muster similar gumption after tying the worst playoff loss in franchise history (by 43 points) to extend their upstart season against a championship contender. Callie Caplan, Dallas News, "3 thoughts on Mavs’ Game 5 loss to Clippers: Porzingis’ void, technical fouls contribute to Dallas’ record loss," 26 Aug. 2020 Of the nearly two dozen coaches in Texas’ storied football history, a little less than a third had enough gumption or gas left to start over as a head coach someplace else. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, "Mack Brown’s second act at North Carolina is already a rare feat for ex-Texas coaches and he’s just getting started," 10 July 2020 Today, anyone with the gumption can still experience the brown bears and wild country of the Tongass. Bjorn Dihle, Outdoor Life, "The Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest is Vital for Both Hunters and Brown Bears," 16 June 2020 Will Alameda County have the gumption to challenge Musk’s flouting of rules designed to keep workers safe from the coronavirus and reduce the chance that infected employees could spread COVID-19 in the community? Los Angeles Times, "Column: Does Elon Musk need California more than California needs Elon Musk?," 11 May 2020 Hosts like Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro praised the demonstrators for their gumption, even as Fox executives urged anchors to remind their viewers to practice social distancing. Emma Grey Ellis, Wired, "The Anti-Quarantine Protests Aren't About Covid-19," 27 Apr. 2020 Instead, The Great is too busy celebrating her gumption. Inkoo Kang, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Great': TV Review," 1 May 2020 They are often urged to return by family members, who fear that foreign countries do not have the gumption or the power to enforce the kind of sweeping restrictions that China has used to fight the new coronavirus. The Economist, "A frosty welcome China worries about infections by travellers from abroad," 21 Mar. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of gumption

1719, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for gumption

origin unknown

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The first known use of gumption was in 1719

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Last Updated

6 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gumption.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for gumption


How to pronounce gumption (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of gumption

informal : courage and confidence


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

Kids Definition of gumption

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gumption

Nglish: Translation of gumption for Spanish Speakers

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