Try Our Apps


Famous Last Words


[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. 2017.
Cite This Source
Examples from the Web for tom-tom
Historical Examples
  • The tom-tom was still troubling the morning air, and the crackle of two or three gunshots came down the valley.

    Bulldog Carney W. A. Fraser
  • It was as though his head had become a tom-tom in the hands of fate.

    The Pagan Madonna Harold MacGrath
  • The accuser rises, and strikes a few discords with a seal-rib on a tom-tom or drum.

    Curiosities of Superstition W. H. Davenport Adams
  • I heard the sound of the tom-tom above the wail of the wind.

    The Desert Drum Robert Hichens
  • I can hear their tom-tom things beating furiously, and occasionally they set up a tremendous yell.

    The Lost Heir G. A. Henty
  • The nights are always spent in dancing to the beating of the tom-tom or drum.

  • Great is the value of the tom-tom, whether it be of pure native origin or constructed from an old Devos patent paraffin oil tin.

    West African studies Mary Henrietta Kingsley
  • In the Congo they are haled by the tom-tom, which is the wireless of the woods.

    An African Adventure Isaac F. Marcosson
  • It was quite an agreeable change from the "tom-tom" of the Indians.

  • 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
Cite This Source
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
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for tom-tom

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for tom

Scrabble Words With Friends

Nearby words for tom-tom