From Scots gumption (“common sense, shrewdness; drive, initiative”); further etymology unknown, possibly connected with Middle English gome (“attention, heed”), from Old Norse gaumr (“attention, heed”). English cognates include gaum (“to comprehend, understand”) and goam (“to recognize, see”).
- (Britain) Common sense, initiative, resourcefulness. [from early 18th c.]
- Synonym: gumph
- 1834 March 5, “Gumption”, in Thomas G[reen] Fessenden, editor, The New England Farmer, and Horticultural Journal; […], volume III (New Series; volume XII overall), number 34, Boston, Mass.: Geo[rge] C. Barrett, […], OCLC 63516138, page 272, columns 1–2:
- When I see a man who has a good business, sufficient to support his family respectably, neglecting his affairs, and running into debt, in order to obtain a political office, I fancy that, whatever may be his talents, he is not burdened with gumption. […] When I see a man attending diligently to his own concerns, sending his children to school, paying his debts, and keeping clear of law suits, quarrels, and politics, I set him down as a man possessing a reasonable share of gumption.
- 1855 December, William T[urner] Coggeshall, “Genius and Gumption”, in D[avis] W[asgatt] Clark, editor, The Ladies’ Repository: A Monthly Periodical, Devoted to Literature and Religion, volume XV, Cincinnati, Oh.: L. Swormstedt and A. Poe; […], OCLC 247142692, page 734:
- As a balance to genius, which is ideally creative, gumption is required to control, to direct. […] Gumption is the power to realize the poetical worth of common sense. Without that power no man was ever truly great.
- 2013 April 29, C. A. McJack, “The Higher Path”, in The Unraveling (Fate’s Twisted Circle; 1), [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 313:
- Whatever the job turned out to be, if it went against her gumptions, she would make sure Gregory would have hell on his hands and make him eager to release her from the deal.
- (US) Boldness of enterprise; aggressiveness or initiative.
- 1936 June 30, Margaret Mitchell, chapter XXXVIII, in Gone with the Wind, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, OCLC 1049770437; republished New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, 1944, OCLC 20350211, part IV, page 666:
- "You've got a hard way of looking at things, Scarlett," he said. "But you think Hugh over. You could go far and do worse. I think his honesty and his willingness will outweigh his lack of gumption. Scarlett did not answer, for she did not want to be too rude. But to her mind there were few, if any, qualities that outweighed gumption.
- (US) Energy of body and mind, enthusiasm.
- Synonym: gumph
- 1974, Robert M[aynard] Pirsig, chapter 26, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values, New York, N.Y.: William Morrow & Company, →ISBN, part III, page 303:
- A person filled with gumption doesn't sit around dissipating and stewing about things. He's at the front of the train of his own awareness, watching to see what's up the track and meeting it when it comes. That's gumption.