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1719, originally Scottish, "common sense, shrewdness", also "drive, initiative", possibly connected with Middle English gome (attention, heed) from Old Norse gaumr (heed, attention). Sense of "initiative" is first recorded 1812. English cognates include gaum (to understand, comprehend) and goam (to see, recognize)



gumption (usually uncountable, plural gumptions)

  1. (Britain) Common sense, initiative, resourcefulness.
  2. (US) Energy of mind and body, enthusiasm.
    • 1974, Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, page 272:
      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.
  3. (US) Boldness of enterprise; initiative or aggressiveness.
    Synonyms: guts, spunk, initiative
    • 1936 Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind ("Gumption" was used as one of Scarlett O'Hara's defining personality traits.) "What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality 'gumption.' So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn't."


Derived terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg gumption on Wikipedia.Wikipedia
  • gumption in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911
  • gumption at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • gumption” in Douglas Harper, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001–2018.