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.



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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