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[guhm] /gʌm/
any of various viscid, amorphous exudations from plants, hardening on exposure to air and soluble in or forming a viscid mass with water.
any of various similar exudations, as resin.
a preparation of such a substance, as for use in the arts or bookbinding.
mucilage; glue.
rubber1 (def 1).
Philately. the adhesive by which a postage stamp is affixed.
Compare o.g (def 1).
Informal. a rubber overshoe or boot.
verb (used with object), gummed, gumming.
to smear, stiffen, or stick together with gum.
to clog with or as if with some gummy substance.
verb (used without object), gummed, gumming.
to exude or form gum.
to become gummy.
to become clogged with a gummy substance.
Verb phrases
gum up, Slang. to spoil or ruin.
gum up the works. work (def 50).
Origin of gum1
1350-1400; Middle English gomme < Old French < Vulgar Latin *gumma, for Latin gummi, cummi < Greek kómmi
Related forms
gumless, adjective
gumlike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for gum up
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Explosions and accidents of many kinds are possible with the lamp that is allowed to clog and gum up.

    Practical Carriage and Wagon Painting Mayton Clarence Hillick
  • He was more or less useful, even if he did gum up the plot there for a while.

    Torchy, Private Sec. Sewell Ford
  • Always wipe the stone dry after using, as the oil will dry and gum up the grinding surface if not kept clean.

    Toy Craft Leon H. Baxter
  • After the etching has dried remove the same with water, and gum up again.

    Practical Lithography Alfred Seymour
  • That was why I objected to it in the first place: 'fraid somebody would lose it and gum up things.

  • But if it ever came down to it I should be able to knock down an airplane, gum up the works on a fusing detonator, maybe even—.

    Cue for Quiet Thomas L. Sherred
  • In either case it is advisable to gum up the work with strong gum and allow it to stand until dry.

    Practical Lithography Alfred Seymour
  • If you do not follow this advice the glue will gum up the tools and the sandpaper used to finish the work.

    Carpentry for Boys J. S. Zerbe
British Dictionary definitions for gum up

gum up

verb (transitive, adverb)
to cover, dab, or stiffen with gum
(informal) to make a mess of; bungle (often in the phrase gum up the works)


any of various sticky substances that exude from certain plants, hardening on exposure to air and dissolving or forming viscous masses in water
any of various products, such as adhesives, that are made from such exudates
any sticky substance used as an adhesive; mucilage; glue
(NZ) short for kauri gum
(mainly Brit) a gumdrop
verb gums, gumming, gummed
to cover or become covered, clogged, or stiffened with or as if with gum
(transitive) to stick together or in place with gum
(intransitive) to emit or form gum
See also gum up
Derived Forms
gumless, adjective
gumlike, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Old French gomme, from Latin gummi, from Greek kommi, from Egyptian kemai


the fleshy tissue that covers the jawbones around the bases of the teeth Technical name gingiva, related adjective gingival
Word Origin
Old English gōma jaw; related to Old Norse gōmr, Middle High German gūme, Lithuanian gomurīs


used in the mild oath by gum!
Word Origin
C19: euphemism for God


genitourinary medicine
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gum up



"resin," c.1300, from Old French gome "(medicinal) gum, resin," from Late Latin gumma, from Latin gummi, from Greek kommi "gum," from Egyptian kemai. As a shortened form of chewing gum, first attested 1842 in American English. The gum tree (1670s) was so called for the resin it exudes.

"membranes of the mouth," Old English goma "palate, side of the mouth" (single or plural), from a Germanic source represented by Old Norse gomi "palate," Old High German goumo; related to Lithuanian gomurys "palate," and perhaps from PIE *gheu- "to yawn" (cf. Greek khaos; see chaos).


early 14c., gommen, "treat with (medicinal or aromatic) gums," from gum (n.1). In the transferred or figurative sense of "spoil, ruin" (usually with up), it is first recorded 1901, probably from the notion of machinery becoming clogged. Of infants, etc., "to chew or gnaw (something) with the gums," by 1907, from gum (n.2). Related: Gummed; gumming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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gum up in Medicine

gum 1 (gŭm)

  1. Any of various viscous substances that are exuded by certain plants and trees and dry into water-soluble, noncrystalline, brittle solids.

  2. A similar plant exudate, such as a resin.

  3. Any of various adhesives made from such exudates or other sticky substance.

gum 2
The firm connective tissue covered by mucous membrane that envelops the alveolar arches of the jaw and surrounds the bases of the teeth. Also called gingiva. v. gummed, gum·ming, gums
To chew food with toothless gums.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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gum up in Science
gum 1
Any of various sticky substances that are produced by certain plants and trees and dry into brittle solids soluble in water. Gums typically are colloidal mixtures of polysaccharides and mineral salts.
gum 2
See gingiva.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for gum up

gum up

verb phrase

To ruin; spoil; throw into confusion; bollix up, fuck up

[1890+; fr dialect gaum, ''handle improperly, damage,'' found by 1656, influenced by the stickiness and clogging capacity of gum]



  1. To talk; chatter: The he-gossips at the Press Club have been gumming about another romance (1940s+)
  2. gum up (1901+)

Related Terms

bat one's gums, bubblegum music, the bubblegum set

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with gum up

gum up

Ruin or bungle something, as in The front office has gummed up the sales campaign thoroughly. This idiom is also put as gum up the works, as in John's changes in procedures have gummed up the works in the shipping department. [ ; c. 1900 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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