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

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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

Warren & Castro Won The Debate For Progressives Gillibrand gave the male candidates a run for their money and decided to cut in as well — leading some on Twitter to call her out, while others celebrated her gumption. Tiffany Diane Tso,, ""It's My Turn": Biden & Bernie Couldn't Stop Interrupting Everyone," 28 June 2019 Masai Ujiri, Toronto’s team president, had the gumption to acquire Leonard via trade from the Spurs last July and instantly transformed the Raptors, who previously had struggled in the playoffs, into an Eastern Conference force. Marc Stein, New York Times, "How the Raptors Won Their First N.B.A. Championship," 13 June 2019 But with enough pluck and gumption, plus money and genius, it can be done. The Washington Post,, "How did NASA put men on the moon? One harrowing step at a time," 19 June 2019 But with enough pluck and gumption, plus money and genius, it can be done. Joel Achenbach, Washington Post, "How did NASA put men on the moon? One harrowing step at a time.," 19 June 2019 But there is also another line of reasoning that argues that screwing up some gumption and acting to impeach is, in fact, the only way Trump can be defeated in 2020. Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, "The Week in Washington: “It’s a Dirty, Filthy, Disgusting Word!”," 2 June 2019 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

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 1

History and Etymology for gumption

origin unknown

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Last Updated

9 Jul 2019

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The first known use of gumption was in 1719

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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

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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

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characterized by aphorism

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