from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A watch.
  • noun Same as tampion.
  • noun The inking-pad of a lithographic printer. Also tampon.

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

  • noun A stopper of a cannon or a musket. See tampion.
  • noun (Mus.) A plug in a flute or an organ pipe, to modulate the tone.
  • noun The iron bottom to which grapeshot are fixed.

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

  • noun Alternative spelling of tampion.

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

  • noun plug for the muzzle of a gun to keep out dust and moisture


Sorry, no etymologies found.



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  • Usage note: "Then came the ritual words: 'Silence fore and aft. Cast loose your guns. Level your guns. Out tompions. Run out your guns.' And here there was a universal roar as eighteen tons of metal were heaved out as fast as they could go. 'Prime. Fire from forward as they bear.'"

    --Patrick O'Brian, The Reverse of the Medal, 83

    February 24, 2008

  • Oh dear. This sounds like a very large version of a feminine hygiene product.

    But it's a great word nonetheless. :-)

    February 25, 2008

  • 'And now we need as it were a tompion to protect the contents of this flask from invading bacteria. I presume you know what a tompion is, Cornelius?'


    'Oh, come on sir,' someone said. 'Tell us what it means.'

    'A tompion,' A.R. Woresley said, 'is a small pellet made out of mud and saliva which a bear inserts into his anus before hibernating for the winter, to stop the ants getting in.'

    Roald Dahl: "My Uncle Oswald" (page 62).

    also, Tompion - a famous English clockmaker, a thoroughbred racehorse.

    March 26, 2008

  • Sequence of orders regulating the firing of a single shot from a stowed and loaded cannon in Nelson's navy:


    Cast loose your gun!

    Level your gun!

    Take out your tompion!


    Run out your gun!

    Point your gun!


    Worm and sponge!

    Load with cartridge!

    Load with shot and wad to your shot!

    Ram home shot and wad!

    Put in your tompion!

    House your gun!

    Secure your gun!

    March 26, 2008

  • Ooh, those orders are sexy... Where did you find this info?

    I'm guessing there are more of them, broken down into more steps, I mean, than when they're actually using the guns to, you know, kill stuff. In the Rev. War-era army (whose manual of arms came from the British one, so I'm guessing it was also true of British artillery), they had the preparatory orders "As on the parade ground..." or "As on the battlefield..." The basic difference between the sequence of orders that followed was that "battlefield" orders are quicker and the gun crew does more of the steps automatically. With parade-ground orders (and that's what the Nelson-era naval artillery orders here sound like), you wait for the officer to tell you every stupid step. Which sometimes means placing the rammer just at the edge of the muzzle and standing there, waiting for him to say "ram down cartridge."

    But they're still sexy...

    March 26, 2008

  • c_b: I'm surprised you didn't comment on the other definition of tompion I provided. Which is not in the least bit madeupical. Well, OK, Dahl may have made it up - it would be consistent with his particular brand of humor.

    I came across the firing instructions in Schott's Miscellany (the 2002 version). A treasure trove o' trivia.

    March 26, 2008

  • I remain astounded at the things one can learn on Wordie.

    March 26, 2008

  • Oh, sorry, sionnach! I loved the other definition too. Being a bear myself, though, I didn't think it polite to comment publicly. I have never... well... MALE bears... Nevermind.

    I have Schott's Miscellany. I'm afraid to read it. My S.O. and I have a deal never to find out what anniversary gifts are associated with which anniversaries. And the list of anniversary gifts is in Schott's Miscellany, so I'm afraid I'll accidentally come across them and then me and my S.O. will have to break up. It isn't worth it! No!

    March 27, 2008

  • I have an idea, c_b. Give the book to a third party. Have that person find the page where the anniversary gift list is and cover it completely, say with a piece of heavy paper. Glue it on. Then you'll never have to worry about coming across the list, and you can read the darn book. :-)

    March 27, 2008

  • A search on Google Book's shows that the word anniversary doesn't occur in any of the four Schott Miscellanies. So I think you're safe, c_b. Still, it might be best to take reesetee's advice just as a precaution.

    March 27, 2008