oa·​kum ˈō-kəm How to pronounce oakum (audio)
: loosely twisted hemp or jute fiber impregnated with tar or a tar derivative and used in caulking seams and packing joints

Examples of oakum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Longtime DIY owners talk about pouring cement between the foundation rocks and buying oakum, sailor's tarry rope, to weave it between the logs to keep the wind out. Janet Eastman, OregonLive.com, 6 July 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'oakum.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English okum, from Old English ācumba tow, from ā- (separative & perfective prefix) + -cumba (akin to Old English camb comb) — more at abide

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of oakum was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near oakum

Cite this Entry

“Oakum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oakum. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


oa·​kum ˈō-kəm How to pronounce oakum (audio)
: hemp or jute fiber soaked with tar or something like tar and used in caulking seams (as of wooden ships) and packing joints (as of pipes)
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