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[puhmp] /pʌmp/
an apparatus or machine for raising, driving, exhausting, or compressing fluids or gases by means of a piston, plunger, or set of rotating vanes.
Engineering, Building Trades. a shore having a jackscrew in its foot for adjusting the length or for bearing more firmly against the structure to be sustained.
Biology. an animal organ that propels fluid through the body; heart.
Cell Biology. a system that supplies energy for transport against a chemical gradient, as the sodium pump for the transfer of sodium and potassium ions across a cell membrane.
verb (used with object)
to raise, drive, etc., with a pump.
to free from water or other liquid by means of a pump.
to inflate by pumping (often followed by up):
to pump a tire up.
to operate or move by an up-and-down or back-and-forth action.
to supply with air, as an organ, by means of a pumplike device.
to drive, force, etc., as if from a pump:
He rapidly pumped a dozen shots into the bull's-eye.
to supply or inject as if by using a pump:
to pump money into a failing business.
to question artfully or persistently to elicit information:
to pump someone for confidential information.
to elicit (information) by questioning.
verb (used without object)
to work a pump; raise or move water, oil, etc., with a pump.
to operate as a pump does.
to move up and down like a pump handle.
to exert oneself in a manner likened to pumping:
He pumped away at his homework all evening.
to seek to elicit information from a person.
to come out in spurts.
Verb phrases
pump up,
  1. to inflate.
  2. to increase, heighten, or strengthen; put more effort into or emphasis on; intensify:
    The store has decided to pump up its advertising.
  3. to infuse with enthusiasm, competitive spirit, energy, etc.:
    The contestants were all backstage pumping themselves up for their big moment.
prime the pump,
  1. to increase government expenditure in an effort to stimulate the economy.
  2. to support or promote the operation or improvement of something.
pump iron. iron (def 29).
Origin of pump1
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English pumpe (noun); cognate with German Pumpe, Dutch pomp
Related forms
pumpable, adjective
pumpless, adjective
pumplike, adjective
unpumpable, adjective
unpumped, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for prime the pump


any device for compressing, driving, raising, or reducing the pressure of a fluid, esp by means of a piston or set of rotating impellers
(biology) a mechanism for the active transport of ions, such as protons, calcium ions, and sodium ions, across cell membranes: a sodium pump
when tr, usually foll by from, out, into, away, etc. to raise or drive (air, liquid, etc, esp into or from something) with a pump or similar device
(transitive; usually foll by in or into) to supply in large amounts: to pump capital into a project
(transitive) to deliver (shots, bullets, etc) repeatedly with great force
to operate (something, esp a handle or lever) in the manner of a pump or (of something) to work in this way: to pump the pedals of a bicycle
(transitive) to obtain (information) from (a person) by persistent questioning
(intransitive; usually foll by from or out of) (of liquids) to flow freely in large spurts: oil pumped from the fissure
Word Origin
C15: from Middle Dutch pumpe pipe, probably from Spanish bomba, of imitative origin


a low-cut low-heeled shoe without fastenings, worn esp for dancing
a type of shoe with a rubber sole, used in games such as tennis; plimsoll
Word Origin
C16: of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for prime the pump



"apparatus for forcing liquid or air," early 15c., of uncertain origin, possibly from Middle Dutch pompe "water conduit, pipe," or Middle Low German pumpe "pump" (Modern German Pumpe), both from some North Sea sailors' word, possibly of imitative origin.



"low shoe without fasteners," 1550s, of unknown origin, perhaps echoic of the sound made when walking in them, or perhaps from Dutch pampoesje, from Javanese pampoes, of Arabic origin. Klein's sources propose a connection with pomp (n.). Related: pumps.



c.1500, from pump (n.1). Metaphoric extension in pump (someone) for information is from 1630s. To pump iron "lift weights for fitness" is from 1972. Related: Pumped; pumping.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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prime the pump in Medicine

pump (pŭmp)

  1. A machine or device for raising, compressing, or transferring fluids.

  2. A molecular mechanism for the active transport of ions or molecules across a cell membrane.

v. pumped, pump·ing, pumps
  1. To raise or cause to flow by means of a pump.

  2. To transport ions or molecules against a concentration gradient by the expenditure of chemically stored energy.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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prime the pump in Science

  1. A device used to raise or transfer fluids. Most pumps function either by compression or suction.

  2. A molecular mechanism for the active transport of ions or molecules across a cell membrane.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for prime the pump



  1. (also pumper) The heart; ticker: He had a hole through his pump (1885+)
  2. A home run; tater: He had three pumps yesterday. Three home runs! (1980s+ Baseball)


  1. To do the sex act; fuck, hump: Duffy wondered if Jert had been pumping Tish (1730+)
  2. To question long and closely; extract information: The cops pumped him for three days straight (1667+)
  3. To excite; amp, hype, pump up, turn on: That stripper at the party last night really pumped me (1980s+ Students)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with prime the pump

prime the pump

Encourage the growth or action of something, as in Marjorie tried to prime the pump by offering some new issues for discussion. In the late 1800s this expression originally was used for pouring liquid into a pump to expel the air and make it work. In the 1930s it was applied to government efforts to stimulate the economy and thereafter was applied to other undertakings.
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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