Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A tip; a gratuity.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A gratuity or tip as thanks for a service
  • v. To give or make a present to.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A present or bonus; -- originally applied to that paid on ships which entered the port of Canton.
  • transitive v. To give or make a present to.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A present of any kind; a gift or douceur; bakshish.

Etymologies

Pidgin English, from Chinese (Amoy) gamsia, an expression of thanks.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Min Nan (Hokkien) 感謝 (kám-siā, "thanks"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Even then he had the impudence to ask me for a "cumshaw" (tip), and in order that he might not lose face among the little crowd which had collected at the outer gateway, he only laughed as he rubbed his head and listened to a tremendous dressing-down delivered by the three of us.

    A Tour in Mongolia

  • "The good doctor is in it strictly for the old cumshaw."

    Tek Lab

  • Two centuries of survival had taught him that a bribe must be offered as gently and as indirectly as a gallant suggestion is made to a proud lady; in a very few minutes he came to the glum conclusion that civic virtue and public honesty could be run into the ground-the functionaries at Goddard Field seemed utterly innocent of the very notion of cumshaw, squeeze, or the lubricating effect of money in routine transactions.

    The Past Through Tomorrow

  • The concessionaires pay their fare and squeeze whatever cumshaw they can out of the women themselves and the miners or ranchers to whom their contracts are assigned.

    Podkayne Of Mars

  • In very many cases they do not even know how to mount, but finding ponies so cheap, or, better still, getting a discarded racer as a cumshaw, they take to riding as naturally as if to the manner born, so that there are but few residents of either sex who cannot ride, and China ponies consequently hold a place in the estimation of foreigners which is altogether denied them by the natives.

    Life and sport in China Second Edition

  • This the mafoo does with great pleasure, as, apart from the keen interest he takes in racing -- all Chinese being inveterate gamblers -- it is an understood thing that he will receive a good cumshaw from his master for each race that his stable wins.

    Life and sport in China Second Edition

  • "You wanchee cumshaw?" she asked, handing the furs to the Chinaman to be wrapped.

    Triple Spies

  • "Present for Missy; cumshaw," says the pleasant voice, and what can you do?

    Peking Dust

  • "Amelican lady you say down-stair, she buy heap pearls, so I bring Missy cumshaw."

    Peking Dust

  • "I never heard her ask for any cumshaw that weighed less than a ton and which required fewer than a dozen enlisted men and two trucks to move."

    Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

Comments

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  • JM asked this waiter fella if he expected a cumshaw and got a punch in the nose!!

    February 1, 2010

  • heh. I'll try my luck with wanky young Vancouver waiters

    September 21, 2009

  • Oh, madmouth, thanks for this.

    Tell your waiter you're gonna give them a great big cumshaw, you're likely to get a tureen dumped in your lap. Accidentally, of course.

    September 20, 2009