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Etymology 1[edit]

Attested since about 1660, perhaps from Dutch gimp or French guimpe, and likely from Old French guimpre, a variant of guipure, a kind of trimming.

The regional sense of "gumption" is attested since about 1905, and may have developed due to the reinforced nature of gimp cord, or possibly the influence of the words gumption and gumph.


  • IPA(key): /ɡɪmp/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪmp


gimp (countable and uncountable, plural gimps)

  1. A narrow ornamental fabric or braid of silk, wool, or cotton, often stiffened with metallic wire or coarse cord running through it, used as trimming for dresses, curtains, furniture, etc. Also guimpe.
  2. Any coarse or reinforced thread, such as a glazed thread employed in lacemaking to outline designs, or silk thread used as a fishing leader, protected from the bite of fish by a wrapping of fine wire.
    • 1936, Djuna Barnes, Nightwood, Faber & Faber, published 2007, page 87:
      I'm a fisher of men and my gimp is doing a saltarello over every body of water to fetch up what it may.
  3. The plastic cord used in the plaiting and knotting craft Scoubidou (lanyard making); or, the process itself.
  4. (dated, chiefly North Eastern US) Gumption
    Synonyms: spirit, ambition, vigor, pep
    • 1898, Charles Frederick Wingate, What Shall Our Boys Do for a Living?[1], page 255:
      Love them and encourage them, but put some 'gimp' into them.
    • 1915, Frederick Frye Rockwell, The Key to the Land: What a City Man Did with a Small Farm[2], page 72:
      You haven't got gimp enough to, any more than you could smash the rest of that pint, instead of swallowing it. You're a weakling...
    • 1924, Booth Tarkington, The Midlander[3], page 219:
      When people put a lot on what their folks used to do, it always means they haven't got gimp enough left to do anything themselves.
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gimp (third-person singular simple present gimps, present participle gimping, simple past and past participle gimped)

  1. (of yarn, cord, thread, etc.) To wrap or wind (surround) with another length of yarn or wire in a tight spiral, often by means of a gimping machine, creating 'gimped yarn', etc. Also, generally, to wrap or twist with string or wire. See gimped.
    • 1856, Campbell Morfit, A Treatise on Chemistry Applied to the Manufacture of Soap and Candles, page 435 with illustration:
      It consists of seventy fine spun cotton threads, gimped or tied around with thread by a machine similar to that for wrapping bonnet wire.
    • 1982, Robert Donington, Music and Its Instruments[4], page 69:
      ...low strings later than the mid-seventeenth century are commonly gimped (wound with fine wire on a moderate core) to allow sufficient tension without excessive mass or stiffness.
  2. (dated) To notch or indent; to jag or make jagged; to edge with serrations or grooves.
    • 1890, Sarah Tyson Heston Rorer, How to Cook Vegetables[5], page 25:
      They are prettier cut and gimped in the shape of wheels.
    • 1906, Thomas Ernest Herbert, Telegraphy: A Detailed Exposition of the Telegraph System of the British[6], page 438:
      This active material consists of a tape of pure lead, which is gimped whilst cold with deep grooves and ridges...
    • 1906, George Dudley Aspinall Parr, Electrical Engineering: In Theory and Practice[7], page 421:
      Each hole is filled by a rosette of pure lead made by rolling up lead strip or tape which has been gimped or corrugated.
    • 1978, John Geraint Jenkins, Traditional Country Craftsmen[8], page 232:
      In some cases the leather has to be decorated with perforations while its edges may be serrated or gimped.

Etymology 2[edit]

Attested in US slang since the 1920s. Maybe influenced by, or cognate with limp.



gimp (plural gimps)

  1. (informal) A person who is lame due to a crippling of the legs or feet.
    Synonyms: cripple, disabled (person)
  2. (informal) A crippled leg.
  3. (informal) A limp or a limping gait.
    • 1934, Damon Runyon, Madame La Gimp[9]:
      She walks with a gimp in one leg, which is why she is called Madame La Gimp...
    • 1934, Damon Runyon, What, No Butler?[10]:
      ...Flat-wheel Walter...who is called by this name because he walks with a gimp on one side...
  4. (slang, derogatory) A name-calling word, generally for a person who is perceived to be inept, deficient or peculiar
    Synonyms: dweeb, nerd, geek, gump, spod, dork
  5. (BDSM) A sexual submissive, almost always male, dressed generally in a black leather suit. See Gimp (sadomasochism) in Wikipedia.
  6. (video games, slang, derogatory) A character or ability that is underpowered.
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gimp (third-person singular simple present gimps, present participle gimping, simple past and past participle gimped)

  1. (intransitive, informal) To limp; to hobble.
  2. (transitive, video games, slang) To make underpowered; to limit or restrict the useful effects of.
    Synonym: nerf

Etymology 3[edit]

(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.) Scots. Alternate form of jimp. Compare Welsh gwymp (fair, neat, comely).



gimp (comparative more gimp, superlative most gimp)

  1. (dated, Scotland and N England) Neat; trim; delicate; slender; handsome; spruce; elegant.
  • John T. Brockett (1846) A Glossary of North Country Words, page 190