gumption (n.) Look up gumption at
1719, originally Scottish, "common sense, shrewdness, acuteness of practical understanding," also "drive, initiative," possibly connected with Middle English gome "attention, heed," from Old Norse gaumr "heed, attention." Sense of "initiative" is first recorded 1812. Related: Gumptious (adj.), attested from 1823.
gumshoe (n.) Look up gumshoe at
"plainclothes detective," 1906, from the rubber-soled shoes they wore (allowing stealthy movement), which were so called from 1863 (gums "rubber shoes" is attested by 1859); from gum (n.1) + shoe (n.).
gun (n.) Look up gun at
mid-14c., gunne "an engine of war that throws rocks, arrows or other missiles from a tube by the force of explosive powder or other substance," apparently a shortening of woman's name Gunilda, found in Middle English gonnilde "cannon" and in an Anglo-Latin reference to a specific gun from a 1330 munitions inventory of Windsor Castle ("... una magna balista de cornu quae Domina Gunilda ..."). Also compare gonnilde gnoste "spark or flame used to fire a cannon" (early 14c.). The woman's name is from Old Norse Gunnhildr, a compound of gunnr and hildr, both meaning "war, battle." First element from PIE *gwhen- "to strike, kill" (see bane); for second, see Hilda. The identification of women with powerful weapons is common historically (such as Big Bertha, Brown Bess, Mons Meg, etc.). Or perhaps directly from Old Norse gunnr "battle." The word was perhaps influenced by or confirmed by (or possibly from) Old French engon, dialectal variant of engin "engine."

Meaning grew with technology, from cannons to firearms as they developed 15c.; popularly applied to pistols and revolvers from 1744. In modern military use the word is restricted to cannons (which must be mounted), especially long ones used for high velocity and long trajectory. Hence great guns (1884 as an exclamation) distinguished from small guns (such as muskets) from c. 1400. Meaning "thief, rascal" is from 1858. For son of a gun, see son. To jump the gun (1912, American English) is a figurative use from track and field. Guns "a woman's breasts" (especially if prominent) attested by 2006.
[G]un covers firearms from the heaviest naval or siege guns (but in technical use excluding mortars and howitzers) to the soldier's rifle or the sportsman's shotgun, and in current U.S. use even the gangster's revolver. In the other European languages there is no such comprehensive word, but different terms for the small or hand gun of the soldier or sportsman (even these, sometimes differentiated) and the heavy naval guns or artillery pieces .... [Buck, 1949]
gun (v.) Look up gun at
"shoot with a gun," 1620s, from gun (n.). Related: Gunned; gunning. The sense of "accelerate an engine" is from 1930, from earlier phrase give (her) the gun (1917), which appears to have originated in pilots' jargon in World War I; perhaps from the old military expression give a gun "order a gun to be fired" (c. 1600).
gun moll (n.) Look up gun moll at
"female criminal," 1908, second element from nickname of Mary, used of disreputable females since early 1600s; first element from slang gonif "thief" (1885), from Yiddish, from Hebrew gannabh "thief" (compare gonoph); influenced by gun (n.).
gun-metal (n.) Look up gun-metal at
type of bronze or other alloy formerly used in the manufacture of light cannons (since superseded by steel), 1540s, from gun (n.) + metal. Used attributively of a dull blue-gray color since 1905.
gun-shy (adj.) Look up gun-shy at
1849, originally of sporting dogs, from gun (n.) + shy (adj.).
gun-slinger (n.) Look up gun-slinger at
1916, American English, from gun (n.) + agent noun from sling (v.).
gunboat (n.) Look up gunboat at
also gun-boat, "small boat fitted with guns for service inshore or up rivers," 1793, from gun (n.) + boat (n.). Gunboat diplomacy is from 1916, originally with reference to Western policies in China.
gunfight (n.) Look up gunfight at
also gun-fight, a combat with handguns, 1889, American English, from gun (n.) + fight (n.). Related: Gunfighter.
gung ho (adj.) Look up gung ho at
also gung-ho, gungho, 1942, slang motto of Carlson's Raiders (2nd Marine Raider Battalion, under Lt. Col. Evans Carlson, 1896-1947), U.S. guerrilla unit operating in the Pacific in World War II, from Chinese kung ho "work together, cooperate." Widely adopted in American English 1959.
Borrowing an idea from China, Carlson frequently has what he calls 'kung-hou' meetings .... Problems are threshed out and orders explained. ["New York Times Magazine," Nov. 8, 1942]
gunk (n.) Look up gunk at
"viscous substance," 1949, American English, apparently from Gunk, trademark for a thick liquid soap patented 1932 by A.F. Curran Co. of Malden, Mass.
gunman (n.) Look up gunman at
1620s, from gun (n.) + man (n.). In early American English use, especially of Indian warriors.
gunnel (n.) Look up gunnel at
small marine fish, 1680s, of unknown origin; perhaps from Cornish.
gunner (n.) Look up gunner at
mid-14c., gonner "one who works a cannon, catapult, or mangonel," from gun (n.) + -er (1).
gunnery (n.) Look up gunnery at
c. 1600, "science of gun-making," from gun + -ery. Meaning "science of firing guns" is from 1816.
gunning (n.) Look up gunning at
1560s, "science of firing guns;" 1620s, "shooting," verbal noun from gun (v.).
gunny (n.1) Look up gunny at
1711, Anglo-Indian goney name of a strong, coarse fabric made from jute or hemp, from Hindi goni, from Sanskrit goni "sack." Gunny sack attested by 1862.
gunny (n.2) Look up gunny at
1940s, Armed Forces slang, short for gunnery sergeant.
gunplay (n.) Look up gunplay at
also gun-play, 1891, from gun (n.) + play (n.).
gunpowder (n.) Look up gunpowder at
"explosive powder for the discharge of projectiles from guns," early 15c., from gun (n.) + powder (n.). The Gunpowder Plot (or treason or conspiracy) was a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament on Nov. 5, 1605, while the King, Lords and Commons were assembled there in revenge for the laws against Catholics (see guy (n.2)).
gunsel (n.) Look up gunsel at
1914, American English underworld slang, from hobo slang, "a catamite;" specifically "a young male kept as a sexual companion, especially by an older tramp," from Yiddish genzel, from German Gänslein "gosling, young goose" (see goose (n.)). The secondary, non-sexual meaning "young hoodlum" seems to be entirely traceable to Dashiell Hammett, who sneaked it into "The Maltese Falcon" (1929) while warring with his editor over the book's racy language:
"Another thing," Spade repeated, glaring at the boy: "Keep that gunsel away from me while you're making up your mind. I'll kill him."
The context implies some connection with gun and a sense of "gunman," and evidently that is what the editor believed it to mean. The word was retained in the script of the 1941 movie made from the book, so evidently the Motion Picture Production Code censors didn't know it either.
The relationship between Kasper Gutman (Sidney Greenstreet) and his young hit-man companion, Wilmer Cook (Elisha Cook, Jr.), is made fairly clear in the movie, but the overt mention of sexual perversion would have been deleted if the censors hadn't made the same mistaken assumption as Hammett's editor. [Hugh Rawson, "Wicked Words," 1989, p.184]
gunshot (n.) Look up gunshot at
also gun-shot, early 15c., "the firing of a gun," from gun (n.) + shot (n.). Meaning "range of a gun or cannon" is from 1530s.
gunsmith (n.) Look up gunsmith at
1580s, from gun (n.) + smith. Middle English had gun-maker (late 14c.).
Gunther Look up Gunther at
masc. proper name, also Gunter, Old High German Gundhard, literally "bold in war," from gund "war" (see gun (n.)) + hart "hard, strong, bold" (see hard (adj.)).
gunwale (n.) Look up gunwale at
"uppermost edge of a ship's side," mid-15c., gonne walle, from gun (n.) + wale "plank" (see wale). Originally a platform on the deck of a ship to support the mounted guns.
guppy (n.) Look up guppy at
1918, so called about the time they became popular as aquarium fish, from the scientific name (Girardinus guppii), which honored R.J.L. Guppy, the British-born Trinidad clergyman who supplied the first specimen (1866) to the British Museum. The family name is from a place in Dorset. Other early popular names for it were rainbow fish and million fish. The class of streamlined U.S. submarines (1948) is an acronym from greater underwater propulsion power + -y.
Gupta (adj.) Look up Gupta at
1871 in reference to the 4c.-6c. North Indian dynasty, from Chandragupta, name of the founder.
gurges (n.) Look up gurges at
1660s, "heraldic spiral," from Latin gurges, literally "whirlpool," from PIE *gwrg-, reduplicated form of root *gwere- (4) "to swallow" (see voracity).
gurgitation (n.) Look up gurgitation at
late 14c., from Late Latin gurgulationem (nominative gurgulatio), noun of action from past participle stem of gurgitare "to engulf," from gurges "whirlpool, gorge" (see gurges).
gurgle (v.) Look up gurgle at
early 15c., medical term for "gurgling heard in the abdomen," a native, echoic formation, or ultimately from Latin gurguliare, perhaps via Dutch, German gurgeln. Extended (non-anatomical) use, in reference to water over stones, etc., is first recorded 1713. "This phenomenon of long specialized use before becoming a part of the general vocabulary is often found in English" [Barnhart]. Related: Gurgled; gurgling.
gurgle (n.) Look up gurgle at
early 15c., from gurgle (v.).
Gurkha (n.) Look up Gurkha at
member of a dominant race of Nepal, 1811. They are of Hindu descent, famous as warriors. Said to be ultimately from Sanskrit gauh "cow" (from PIE *gwou- "cow, ox, bull;" see cow (n.)) + raksati "he protects," from PIE *aleks-, extended form of root *lek- "to ward off, protect" (see Alexander).
gurnard (n.) Look up gurnard at
small marine fish, early 14c., from Old French gournart (13c.), formed by metathesis of gronir, from Latin grunire "to grunt." The fish so called for the sound it makes when pulled from the water. Compare grunt (n.), grunion.
gurney (n.) Look up gurney at
type of hospital cart, by 1921, of unknown origin. It also is a surname, and perhaps this use traces to the Gurney Ball Bearing Co. of Jamestown, N.Y., which was in active operation at the time but seems to have specialized in bearings for automobiles. Earliest use in hospital literature is in reference to carts for food and laundry.
guru (n.) Look up guru at
1806, gooroo, from Hindi guru "teacher, priest," from Sanskrit guru-s "one to be honored, teacher," from guru- "venerable, worthy of honor," literally "heavy, weighty," from PIE root *gwere- (2) "heavy" (see grave (adj.)). Generalized sense of "mentor" is from 1940 (in H.G. Wells); sense of "expert in something" first recorded c. 1966 in Canadian English in reference to Marshall McLuhan.
gush (v.) Look up gush at
c. 1400, "to rush out suddenly and forcefully" (of blood, water, etc.), probably formed imitatively in English or from Low German, or from or based on Old Norse gusa "to gush, spurt," from PIE *gus-, from PIE *gheus- "to pour," and related to geyser. Metaphoric sense of "speak in an effusive manner" first recorded 1873. Related: Gushed; gushing. The noun is 1680s, from the verb.
gusher (n.) Look up gusher at
"oil well that flows without pumping," 1886, agent noun from gush (v.). Earlier in a sense of "overly effusive person" (1864).
gushy (adj.) Look up gushy at
1845, from gush in the metaphoric sense + -y (2). Related: Gushily; gushiness.
gusset (n.) Look up gusset at
early 14c., from Old French gosset "armhole; piece of armor for the armpit" (13c.), apparently from gousse "shell of a nut," a word of unknown origin. Originally an armorer's term; of clothing from 1560s.
gussy (v.) Look up gussy at
"to dress up or decorate in a showy way," 1952, American English slang, apparently from Gussy (adj.), schoolyard slang for "overly dressed" (1940); perhaps related to gussie "effeminate man" (1901) and somehow connected to the nickname for Augusta and Augustus.
gust (n.) Look up gust at
1580s, "sudden squall of wind," possibly a dialectal survival from Old Norse gustr "a cold blast of wind" (related to gusa "to gush, spurt") or Old High German gussa "flood," both from Proto-Germanic *gustiz, from PIE *gheus-, from root *gheu- "to pour" (see found (v.2)). Probably originally in English as a nautical word.
gust (v.) Look up gust at
1813, from gust (n.). Related: Gusted; gusting.
gustation (n.) Look up gustation at
"act of tasting," 1590s, from Latin gustationem (nominative gustatio), noun of action from past participle stem of gustare "to taste, partake of, enjoy" (see gusto).
gustatory (adj.) Look up gustatory at
"of or pertaining to tasting," 1680s, from Latin gustatus "sense of taste; a taste" (noun use of past participle of gustare "to taste;" see gusto) + -ory. Gustative is from 1610s.
Gustavus Look up Gustavus at
masc. proper name, Latinized form of Swedish Gustaf; first element of unknown origin, second element literally "staff." Related: Gustavian.
gusto (n.) Look up gusto at
1620s, "very common from the beginning of the 19th c." [OED], from Italian gusto "taste," from Latin gustus "a tasting," related to gustare "to taste, take a little of," from PIE *gus-tu-, suffixed form of root *geus- "to taste, choose" (source also of Sanskrit jus- "enjoy, be pleased," Avestan zaosa- "pleasure," Old Persian dauš- "enjoy"). The root forms words for "taste" in Greek and Latin, but its descendants in Germanic and Celtic mostly mean "try" or "choose" (such as Old English cosan, cesan, Modern English choose; Gothic kausjan "to test, to taste of," Old High German koston "try," German kosten "taste of"). The semantic development could have been in either direction. English first borrowed the French form, guste "organ of taste; sense of taste" (mid-15c.), but this became obsolete.
gusty (adj.) Look up gusty at
c. 1600, from gust (n.) + -y (2). Related: Gustily; gustiness.
gut (n.) Look up gut at
Old English guttas (plural) "bowels, entrails," literally "a channel," related to geotan "to pour," from Proto-Germanic *gut-, from PIE *gheu- "pour" (see found (v.2)). Related to Middle Dutch gote, Dutch goot, German Gosse "gutter, drain," Middle English gote "channel, stream." Meaning "abdomen, belly" is from late 14c. Meaning "narrow passage in a body of water" is from 1530s. Meaning "easy college course" is student slang from 1916, probably from obsolete slang sense of "feast" (the connecting notion is "something that one can eat up"). Sense of "inside contents of anything" (usually plural) is from 1570s. To hate (someone's) guts is first attested 1918. The notion of the intestines as a seat of emotions is ancient (see bowel) and probably explains expressions such as gut reaction (1963), gut feeling (by 1970), and compare guts. Gut check attested by 1976.
gut (v.) Look up gut at
"remove the guts of" (fish, etc.), late 14c., from gut (n.); figurative use "plunder the contents of" is by 1680s. Related: Gutted; gutting.