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[oh-kuh m] /ˈoʊ kəm/
loose fiber obtained by untwisting and picking apart old ropes, used for caulking the seams of ships.
Origin of oakum
before 1000; Middle English okome, Old English ācuma, variant of ācumba, literally, offcombings, equivalent to ā- separative prefix (see a-3) + -cumba (see comb1) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for oakum
  • Perhaps the pounding and twisting of the ship had worked the oakum out of her seams or even separated her planking.
  • Where oakum is used, the unit shall be caulked with this material and then sealed with mortar or joint compound.
  • The increased motion forced out some of the oakum under the turret and water started pouring in through the gaps.
  • oakum and other types of absorptive materials shall not be used.
  • Ductile iron pipe joints are sealed by caulking a gasket of jute or oakum into the hub.
  • Backer rod shall be polyethylene foam, neoprene, oakum or equal as approved by the sealant manufacturer.
  • Optional sealing of pipe with oakum stop and caulk on exterior side is acceptable.
  • The open joints between the two different sizes of steel pipe near the measurement point were sealed with oakum.
British Dictionary definitions for oakum


loose fibre obtained by unravelling old rope, used esp for caulking seams in wooden ships
Word Origin
Old English ācuma, variant of ācumba, literally: off-combings, from ā- off + -cumba, from cemban to comb
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 oakum

"loose fiber obtained from taking apart old hemp ropes," early 15c., from Old English acumba "tow, oakum, flax fibers separated by combing," literally "what is combed out," from Proto-Germanic *us-kambon (cf. Old High German achambi); first element cognate with Old English a- "away, out, off;" second element from stem of cemban "to comb," from camb "a comb;" from PIE *gembh- "tooth, nail" (see comb (n.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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