Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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GUMPTION, n. Also gum(p)shi(o)n, †gumsh(e)on, †gumsion (Gsw. 1898 D. Willox Poems & Sk. 200), †gumtion. [′gʌmʃən]

1. Common sense, “horse sense,” shrewdness, mother wit, savoir faire. Gen.Sc. In common colloq. use in Eng. since early 19th c. but orig. Sc. Sc. 1719  in Ramsay Poems (S.T.S.) I. 124:
'Tis sma Presumption To say they're but unlearned Clarks, And want the Gumption.
Ayr. 1785  Burns To J. Goldie iii.:
Not a' her quacks wi' a' their gumption Can ever mend her.
Kcb. 1789  D. Davidson Seasons 15:
A son they had whase name was Gib, A lad o' muckle gumsheon.
Peb. 1805  J. Nicol Poems I. 86:
Sometimes I think it rank presumption In me to claim the Muses' gumption.
Sc. 1824  Scott Redgauntlet x.:
But though he is a windy body when he gets on his auld warld stories, he has mair gumption in him than most people.
Abd. 1871  W. Alexander Johnny Gibb xxvi.:
Ye mitha leern't mair wut ere noo, man, an' ye cud 'a ta'en a tellin' fae fowk wi' mair gumption nor yersel.
m.Sc. 1924  “O. Douglas” Pink Sugar x.:
But he hes nae gumption, kinna senseless.

Hence gumptionless, adj., devoid of common sense, foolish. Sc. 1819  J. Rennie St Patrick III. 46:
Haud your gumtionless tongue, man.
Ayr. 1823  Galt Entail xxii.:
Come awa, Watty, ye gumshionless cuif.
Ags. 1880  J. E. Watt Poet. Sk. 38:
His heid was a gumptionless creel.
Gall. 1901  Trotter Gall. Gossip 36:
He was a gumtionless aumitant.
Abd. 1946  Scots Mag. (Feb.) 344:
Bit fa wad hiv thocht a quate, gumptionless thing like you wad hae haen sic an idea?

2. Pluck, self-confidence (Sh., n.Sc., Arg., Kcb., Uls. 1955). Sc. 1868  D. M. Ogilvy Willie Wabster 14:
I'll no licht doon to raise a rumption, But faith a dram wad gie me gumption; . . . 'Twad set me firmer on the saddle.

3. See second quot. Sc. 1813  Scott Bridal of Triermain ii. Interlude ii.:
This thicket, for their [artists ] gumption fit, May furnish such a happy bit.
Sc. 1825  Scott Note in Jam.2 s.v. gumption:
Painters call their art of preparing colours their gumption.

[Origin unknown, phs. obscurely connected with Goam, with -tion ending. Cf. Rum(mle)-gumption, idem. 3. may be a different word.]

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"Gumption n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Feb 2019 <>



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