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 Fields that were once the preserve of men are being transformed by the sheer passion and gumption of new generations of women. Katherine Ormerod, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Secrets of Daring Women," 24 Oct. 2019 Its crew of five Greenlanders keeps it running with a mix of grease, tobacco, and gumption. Paul Voosen, Science Magazine, "A project to monitor every aspect of a fast-shrinking glacier could hold an answer to an urgent question: How fast will seas rise?," 10 Oct. 2019 Middle-class students, the majority of those who fill out the FAFSA, can end up in a gap of funding without hope, a future of debt and no gumption pushing them to file again. Lily Jackson |, al, "Not getting what you expect from FAFSA? Here are your next steps to funding college," 10 Oct. 2019 There was a time when fashion in New York City was far less corporate, more ad hoc, when tribes and teams operated on the slimmest of margins and relied for survival on passion, gumption, favors, connections and maxing out somebody’s credit card. New York Times, "For New York Men’s Fashion, Small Is Beautiful," 5 June 2019 There is a special place in the American imagination for stories like Morton’s, in which gumption is rewarded and opportunity is capitalized on. Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, "The Price of Ascending America’s Class Ladder," 16 Sep. 2019 But athletic gumption launched Monica entirely beyond classification. Wesley Morris, New York Times, "‘Friends’ Is Turning 25. Here’s Why We Can’t Stop Watching it.," 5 Sep. 2019 Replacing two-time All-Metro Player of the Year Julie Lynch is the biggest concern, but the Pointers have the talent and gumption to keep rolling. Baltimore Sun Staff,, "2019 Baltimore-area girls soccer preseason Top 15 poll," 2 Sep. 2019 But the belief that anyone with enough gumption and grit can clamber to the top remains central to the nation’s self-image. Patricia Cohen, New York Times, "Southerners, Facing Big Odds, Believe in a Path Out of Poverty," 4 July 2019

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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Statistics for gumption

Last Updated

12 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for gumption

The first known use of gumption was in 1719

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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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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).


something of little or no value

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