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  1. an alcoholic liquor or spirit distilled from molasses or some other fermented sugar-cane product.
  2. alcoholic drink in general; intoxicating liquor: He warned against the demon rum.

Origin of rum1

First recorded in 1645–55; perhaps short for obsolete rumbullion, rumbustion, of obscure origin
Related formsrum·less, adjective


adjective Chiefly British.
  1. odd, strange, or queer: a rum fellow.
  2. problematic; difficult.

Origin of rum2

1765–75; earlier rome, room great, perhaps < Romany; see Rom


noun Cards.
  1. rummy1.

Origin of rum3

by shortening


  1. Arabic name of Rome, once used to designate the Byzantine Empire.


  1. Romania.
  2. Romanian.Also Rum
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rum

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • They go from the school-room to the rum saloons, and dawdle away the rest of the day.

  • There was one who would have helped her father; would and could have saved him, even from rum.

  • We were free with our rum, and, as much as we dared to be, with our money.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • The man pretended that the captain had carried off the keys, and no rum was to be had.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • The rum cheered us up, and, if rum ever did good, I think it was to us on that occasion.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

British Dictionary definitions for rum


  1. spirit made from sugar cane, either coloured brownish-red by the addition of caramel or by maturation in oak containers, or left white

Word Origin

C17: perhaps shortened from C16 rumbullion, of uncertain origin


adjective rummer or rummest
  1. British slang strange; peculiar; odd
Derived Formsrumly, adverbrumness, noun

Word Origin

C19: perhaps from Romany rom man


  1. short for rummy 1
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

Word Origin and History for rum


"liquor from sugar cane or molasses," 1650s, shortening of rumbullion (1651), rombostion (1652), of uncertain origin, perhaps from rum (adj.).

The chiefe fudling they make in the Island [i.e. Barbados] is Rumbullion alias Kill-Devill, and this is made of suggar cane distilled, a hott, hellish and terrible liquor. ["A briefe Description of the Island of Barbados," 1651]

The English word was borrowed into Dutch, German, Swedish, Danish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Russian. Used since 1800 in North America as a general (hostile) name for intoxicating liquors.

Rum I take to be the name which unwashed moralists apply alike to the product distilled from molasses and the noblest juices of the vineyard. Burgundy in "all its sunset glow" is rum. Champagne, soul of "the foaming grape of Eastern France," is rum. ... Sir, I repudiate the loathsome vulgarism as an insult to the first miracle wrought by the Founder of our religion! [Oliver Wendell Holmes, "The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table," 1891]


"excellent, fine, good, valuable," 1560s, from rome "fine" (1560s), said to be from Romany rom "male, husband" (see Romany). E.g. rum kicks "Breeches of gold or silver brocade, or richly laced with gold or silver" [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1788].

A very common 16c. cant word, by 1774 it also had come to mean "odd, strange, bad, spurious," perhaps because it had been so often used approvingly by rogues in reference to one another. This was the main sense after c.1800.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper