Source: Oxford Dictionaries
Jasper: What exactly has got into you?
Iris: I don’t know. But I think what I’ve got is something slightly resembling… gumption!
– The Holiday (2006)
Anyone who identifies as a fan of romantic comedies must be familiar with The Holiday, a film that’s been hailed by many as a Christmas favorite since it came out just over a decade ago. In the above scene, Iris has just managed to fall out of love with her ex-boyfriend Jasper after he flies from England to Los Angeles to see her. When she finds out he’s still engaged (and probably has no intention of leaving his fiancé), she finally sees him for the dirtbag he is and gleefully kicks him out of the house. This last line she utters before slamming the door in his face is nothing short of epic; to finally take her heart and her life back from a man who doesn’t deserve them is a true act of “gumption”!
“Gumption” is an informal term for spirited or shrewd resourcefulness and initiative. The word arose in the early 18th century and is originally Scottish, meaning “common sense” or “drive”. The origin of this noun is uncertain, but it may stem from the Middle English noun gome “attention” and the Old Norse noun gaumr “heed”.
While its official definition references initiative and resourcefulness, more common synonyms for “gumption” include “nerve”, “wit”, and “imagination”. Note that it’s typically a colloquial word, so it works best in informal contexts such as dialogue, as does its equally informal adjective form “gumptious”. If you write characters full of spirit and determination, “gumption” may be just the word you need to add a touch of spunk to your stories!
What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?