from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A sneaker or rubber overshoe.
  • noun Slang An investigator, especially a detective.
  • intransitive verb To work as a detective.
  • intransitive verb To move about stealthily; sneak.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A shoe made of gum, that is, india-rubber; a rubber overshoe.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun slang A detective; a private eye.
  • noun A shoe made of rubber, as a rubber overshoe.
  • noun A sneaker{3}.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A sneaker or rubber overshoe.
  • noun slang A detective.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun someone who is a detective
  • noun a waterproof overshoe that protects shoes from water or snow


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • Rome at that time seemed an ideal alternative to the big metropolitan settings of so may 'gumshoe' novels - a huge, dangerous, colourful city that saw itself as the centre of the world.

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  • We have no idea if "gumshoe" is a gender-neutral word but we're keeping it that way.

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  • Ms. WILLIAMS: When I knew to a moral certainty I was probably in my early 30s because back when I started - unfortunately for me, I do not have - the Internet was not available, so therefore it was the old kind of gumshoe hit the pavement, and that's really hard because, you know, when you face somebody, they can shut the door in your face, and it's not as easy to be able to have the information that today we have at our fingertips.

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  • The creator of Philip Marlowe, LA's greatest gumshoe, wanted to be a comparative philologist!

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  • The classic gumshoe archetype—the hard-drinking, jaded loner with emotional baggage and shrewd instincts—didn't change.

    The (Really) Long Goodbye

  • After a bit of gumshoe work, the wallet is reunited with Resta.

    Story pick: Wallet found after 40 years

  • The past haunts the present in this wonderful mystery novel featuring Kate Atikinson's regular English "gumshoe," Jackson Brodie, in pursuit of an ex-cop who has run off with an endangered child.

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  • Orth told CNN, “In the end, (authorities) reverted to the old gumshoe thing of a stakeout.”

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  • Reading detective fiction and being able to converse about it at length over an extended period of time were undoubtedly what got me moving in that direction, because in my personal life I’ve never been much of a gumshoe or very tough at all.

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  • Out Of The Past (1947)- Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) plays a former gumshoe trying to start a new life who gets dragged back in to his old one.

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  • The word gumshoe can be used as an intransitive verb, meaning to work as a detective, but more commonly gumshoe refers to the investigators themselves. While the etymology is a little murky, the term most likely refers to the new soft-soled gum that replaced leather on some shoes in the late 19th century. The soft rubber shoes, precursors to sneakers, sounded quiet on the pavement, allowing the wearer to sneak (get it?) around.

    (Read here)

    October 8, 2009