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[tom-tom] /ˈtɒmˌtɒm/
a drum of American Indian or Asian origin, commonly played with the hands.
a dully repetitious drumbeat or similar sound.
Also, tam-tam.
Origin of tom-tom
First recorded in 1685-95, tom-tom is from the Hindi word ṭamṭam Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for tom-tom
Historical Examples
  • They would wring her heart as she heard them in the pauses of the tom-tom.

    Things as They Are Amy Wilson-Carmichael
  • Muted cornets, banjos and saxophones were wailing out a tom-tom adagio.

    Erik Dorn

    Ben Hecht
  • Her eye searched the room for a weapon, and found an Indian tom-tom club.

    Brand Blotters William MacLeod Raine
  • It was as though his head had become a tom-tom in the hands of fate.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • Now Smee had found the tom-tom, and was at that moment sitting on it.

    Peter and Wendy James Matthew Barrie
  • I heard the sound of the tom-tom above the wail of the wind.

    The Desert Drum Robert Hichens
  • The nights are always spent in dancing to the beating of the tom-tom or drum.

  • The assistant beat the tom-tom at the rate of 150 beats to the minute.

  • In the Congo they are haled by the tom-tom, which is the wireless of the woods.

    An African Adventure Isaac F. Marcosson
  • He resorts to his tom-tom, by which he hopes to frighten away the fearful monster.

British Dictionary definitions for tom-tom


a drum associated either with the American Indians or with Eastern cultures, usually beaten with the hands as a signalling instrument
a standard cylindrical drum, normally with one drumhead
a monotonous drumming or beating sound
verb -toms, -tomming, -tommed
(transitive) (informal) to pass (information, esp gossip) around a community very quickly
Word Origin
C17: from Hindi tamtam, of imitative 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 tom-tom

1690s, "drum" (originally used in India), from Hindi tam-tam, probably of imitative origin (cf. Sinhalese tamat tama and Malay tong-tong).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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