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See also: Vamp



Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English vaumpe, vaum-pei, vampe (covering for the foot, perhaps a slipper or understocking; upper of a boot or shoe), or from Anglo-Norman vampe, *vaumpé (part of a stocking covering the top of the foot), from Old French avantpied, avantpiet, variants of avantpié,[1] from avant (in front) + pié (foot).[2]

Noun senses 2 and 3 (“a patch; something patched up or improvised”) appear to have been extended from sense 1 (“top part of a boot or shoe”). Sense 4 (“repeated and often improvised musical accompaniment”) was probably derived from sense 3, and sense 5 (“activity to fill or stall for time”) from sense 4.

The verb senses were derived from the noun.[3] Compare also Middle English vaum-peien ((uncertain) to repair (footwear) with a new upper or vamp; to fabricate an upper or vamp).[4]


vamp (plural vamps)

  1. The top part of a boot or shoe, above the sole and welt and in front of the ankle seam, that covers the instep and toes; the front part of an upper; the analogous part of a stocking. [from c. 1225]
  2. Something added to give an old thing a new appearance.
    Synonym: patch
  3. Something patched up, pieced together, improvised, or refurbished.
  4. (music) A repeated and often improvised accompaniment, usually consisting of one or two measures, often a single chord or simple chord progression, repeated as necessary, for example, to accommodate dialogue or to anticipate the entrance of a soloist. [from c. 1789]
  5. (by extension) An activity or speech intended to fill or stall for time.



vamp (third-person singular simple present vamps, present participle vamping, simple past and past participle vamped)

  1. (transitive) To patch, repair, or refurbish.
  2. (transitive) Often as vamp up: to fabricate or put together (something) from existing material, or by adding new material to something existing.
    • 1711, Jonathan Swift, An Excellent New Song
      He has vamp'd an old speech, and the court to their sorrow, / Shall hear him harangue against Prior to morrow.
    • 1838 March – 1839 October, Charles Dickens, “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Vincent Crummles, and Positively His Last Appearance on the Stage”, in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1839, OCLC 1057107260, page 478:
      For instance, you take the uncompleted books of living authors, fresh from their hands, wet from the press, cut, hack, and carve them to the powers and capacities of your actors, and the capability of your theatres, finish unfinished works, hastily and crudely vamp up ideas not yet worked out by their original projector, but which have doubtless cost him many thoughtful days and sleepless nights; []
    • 1911 May 20, G[ilbert] K[eith] Chesteron, “The Flying Stars”, in The Innocence of Father Brown, London; New York, N.Y.: Cassell and Company, published 1911, OCLC 2716904, page 112:
      With real though rude art, the harlequin danced slowly backwards out of the door into the garden, which was full of moonlight and stillness. The vamped dress of silver paper and paste, which had been too glaring in the footlights, looked more and more magical and silvery as it danced away under a brilliant moon.
  3. (transitive) To cobble together, to extemporize, to improvise.
    • 1728, [Alexander Pope], “Book the First”, in The Dunciad. An Heroic Poem. In Three Books, Dublin; London: [] A. Dodd, OCLC 1033416756, page 13:
      A paſt, vamp'd, future, old, reviv'd, new piece, / 'Twixt Plautus, Fletcher, Congreve, and Corneille, / Can make a C――r, Jo――n, or O――ll.
    • a. 1746, Jonathan Swift; Samuel Johnson, “A Vindication of the Libel: Or, A New Ballad, Written by a Shoe-boy, on an Attorney who was Formerly a Shoe-boy”, in The Works of the English Poets. With Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, [], volume XLIV (Containing Swift and Broome), London: Printed by T. Spilsbury and Son; for J[ames] Buckland, [], published 1790, OCLC 4254798, page 76:
      Two pence he had gotten by begging, that 's all; / One bought him a bruſh, and one a black ball; / [] / Thus vamp'd and accoutred, with clouts, ball, and bruſh, / He gallantly ventur'd his fortune to puſh; []
    • 1844, [Charles MacFarlane], “Lord Hereward Goes to Get His Own”, in The Camp of Refuge. In Two Volumes, volume I, London: Charles Knight & Co., Ludgate Street, OCLC 558168449, page 120:
      [S]ome men, nay, even some monks and brothers of this very house, are so envious of my state and foes to my peace of mind, that whenever they see me more happy and fuller of hope than common, they vamp me up some story or conjure some spectrum to disquiet me and sadden me!
    1. (transitive, intransitive, music, specifically) To perform a vamp (a repeated, often improvised accompaniment, for example, under dialogue or while waiting for a soloist to be ready).
      • 1880, [George] Bernard Shaw, chapter I, in The Irrational Knot [...] Being the Second Novel of His Nonage, London: Archibald Constable & Co., published 1905, OCLC 1050472693, page 14:
        "It is so unkind to joke about it," said the beautiful young lady. "What shall I do? If somebody will vamp an accompaniment, I can get on very well without any music. But if I try to play for myself I shall break down."
      • 1954, Alexander Alderson, chapter 4, in The Subtle Minotaur, London: John Gifford [], OCLC 7313814, OL 12152304W, page 52:
        The band played ceaselessly. Even when the other instruments were resting the pianist kept up his monotonous vamping, with a dreary furbelow for embellishment here and there, to which some few of the dancers continued to shuffle round the floor.
      • 1994, Donald Clarke, “The War Years”, in Wishing on the Moon: The Life and Times of Billie Holiday, New York, N.Y.: Viking, →ISBN; republished as Billie Holiday: Wishing on the Moon, Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 2002, →ISBN, page 206:
        [W]hen she [Billie Holiday] finally emerged from her dressing room, she would take her time getting to the stage, stopping and greeting people and even having drinks at the bar while her accompanists vamped.
  4. (transitive, shoemaking) To attach a vamp (to footwear).
    • 1899, [Charles B. Hatfield], “Cloth Quarters and Welt Shoes”, in Designing, Cutting and Grading Boot and Shoe Patterns: And Complete Manual for the Stitching Room. [], Boston, Mass.: Press of Superintendent and Foreman, OCLC 1016302564, page 56:
      The shoe is now ready to be vamped after the eyelets are put in.
  5. (transitive, intransitive, now dialectal) To travel by foot; to walk.
  6. (intransitive) To delay or stall for time, as for an audience.
    Keep vamping! Something’s wrong with the mic!
    She went out there to vamp since the speaker was late arriving.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

Clipping of vampire.[5] From a character type developed first for silent film, notably for Theda Bara's role in the 1915 film A Fool There Was.

The verb is derived from the noun.[6]


vamp (plural vamps)

  1. A flirtatious, seductive woman, especially one who exploits men by using their sexual desire for her. [from c. 1915]
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:vamp
  2. (informal) A vampire.
    • 1992, Robert Marrero, Dracula: The Vampire Legend on Film, 1st American edition, Key West, Fla.: Fantasma Books, →ISBN, page 20, column 2:
      The leader of the vampire cult (played by Ramon D'Salva) leads his cult of fellow vamps in an attack against some nasty werewolves.
Derived terms[edit]


vamp (third-person singular simple present vamps, present participle vamping, simple past and past participle vamped)

  1. (transitive) To seduce or exploit someone.
    • 1926 November, Gilbert Seldes, “Exit the Poor Actor!: Out at Elbow No Longer, Our Players To-day are among America’s Most Prosperous Citizens”, in Arthur Hornblow, editor, Theatre Magazine, volume XLIV, number 308, New York, N.Y.: Theatre Magazine Company, OCLC 560320332, page 58, column 4:
      We want a musical-comedy star to vamp a Senator or a member of the Cabinet; we want the protective tariff revised up or down because of an actress' whim; we want scarlet scandal in high life. And we are not likely to get them.
    • 1936, G[ilbert] K[eith] Chesterton, “The Vampire of the Village”, in The Penguin Complete Father Brown, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, London: Penguin Books, published 1985, OCLC 53434239, page 707:
      "People who lose all their charity generally lose all their logic," remarked Father Brown. "It's rather ridiculous to complain that she keeps to herself; and then accuse her of vamping the whole male population."
    • 1990 October, Jonathan Kellerman, chapter 27, in Time Bomb, New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books, →ISBN, page 321:
      She smiled again. Batted her lashes and laid down a few more mascara tracks. Vamping in order to maintain composure.

Etymology 3[edit]

Origin uncertain;[7] possibly related to vamp (etymology 1, above): see the 2008 quotation.


vamp (plural vamps)

  1. (US, slang) A volunteer firefighter.
    • 1892, “Companies of the Seventh District”, in Our Firemen: The Official History of the Brooklyn Fire Department, from the First Volunteer to the Latest Appointee. Compiled from the Records of the Department, Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.: [Brooklyn Fire Department], OCLC 6052102, page 371:
      John Mackin is one of the old-timers of the new Department. He was a volunteer fireman as well, [] John Mackin was among the number of "old vamps" who made application to the first Board of Fire Commissioners for appointment in the Paid Department.
    • 2000, “History of the Atlanta Fire Department”, in History of Service: Atlanta Fire Department Commemorative Yearbook, Paducah, Ky.: Turner Publishing Company, →ISBN, page 25, column 1:
      The vamps had to carry their equipment to the fire on foot!
    • 2008, John Delin, “The Vamps, Syosset’s Bravest”, in Syosset People and Places (Images of America), Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, →ISBN, page 88:
      Volunteer firemen are called vamps because they often went to fires on foot, vamp being an old English word for "walk." Syosset's first vamps responded quickly to fires and formed bucket brigades to extinguish them.


  1. ^ vaumpe, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 17 October 2018; “vaum-pei, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 17 October 2018.
  2. ^ vamp, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1916.
  3. ^ vamp, v.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1916.
  4. ^ vaum-peien, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 17 October 2018.
  5. ^ vamp, n.4”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1933.
  6. ^ vamp, v.3”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1933.
  7. ^ vamp, n.3”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1916.

Further reading[edit]



Borrowed from English vamp.


vamp f (invariable)

  1. vamp (flirtatious woman)



vamp m or f (plural vamps)

  1. vamp