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See more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
  1. the portion of a shoe or boot upper that covers the instep and toes.
  2. something patched up or pieced together.
  3. Jazz. an accompaniment, usually improvised, consisting of a succession of simple chords.
verb (used with object)
  1. to furnish with a vamp, especially to repair (a shoe or boot) with a new vamp.
  2. to patch up; repair.
  3. to give (something) a new appearance by adding a patch or piece.
  4. to concoct or invent (often followed by up): He vamped up a few ugly rumors to discredit his enemies.
  5. Jazz. to improvise (an accompaniment or the like).
verb (used without object)
  1. Jazz. to improvise an accompaniment, tune, etc.

Origin of vamp1

1175–1225; Middle English vampe < Anglo-French; Middle French avant-pie, equivalent to avant- fore- (see avaunt) + pie foot (French pied; see -ped)
Related formsvamp·er, nounvamp·ish, adjective


  1. a seductive woman who uses her sensuality to exploit men.
verb (used with object)
  1. to use feminine charms upon; seduce.
verb (used without object)
  1. to act as a vamp.

Origin of vamp2

First recorded in 1905–10; short for vampire
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for vamping

Historical Examples

  • It was likely only her way of vamping a man, anyway, and a mighty tantalizing one at that.

    The City of Fire

    Grace Livingston Hill

  • Now, I must candidly confess that I do not know what ‘vamping’ is.


    Oscar Wilde

  • If he was so determined, for what earthly reason did he pass his valuable time in vamping up old plays and writing new ones?

  • I have sent you a sermon metamorphosed from an obscure publication by vamping, transposition, etc.

  • Peter began to wonder if he had decided wisely in vamping the old suit.

British Dictionary definitions for vamping


  1. a seductive woman who exploits men by use of her sexual charms
  1. to exploit (a man) in the fashion of a vamp
Derived Formsvamper, nounvampish, adjective

Word Origin

C20: short for vampire


  1. something patched up to make it look new
  2. the reworking of a theme, story, etc
  3. an improvised accompaniment, consisting largely of chords
  4. the front part of the upper of a shoe
  1. (tr often foll by up) to give a vamp to; make a renovation of
  2. to improvise (an accompaniment) to (a tune)
Derived Formsvamper, noun

Word Origin

C13: from Old French avantpié the front part of a shoe (hence, something patched), from avant- fore- + pié foot, from Latin pēs
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 vamping



"extemporize on a piano," 1789, originally a noun meaning "part of a stocking that covers the foot and ankle" (early 13c.), from Anglo-French *vaumpé, from Old French avantpié, from avant "in front" + pié "foot." Sense evolved to "provide a stocking with a new vamp" (1590s), to "patch up, repair" (cf. revamp) to "extemporize." Related: Vamped; vamping.



"seductive woman," 1911, short for vampire. First attested use is earlier than the release of the Fox film "A Fool There Was" (January 1915), with sultry Theda Bara in the role of The Vampire. But the movie was based on a play of that name that had been a Broadway hit (title and concept from a Kipling poem, "The Vampire"), and the word may ultimately trace to Bara's role. At any rate, Bara (real name Theodosia Goodman) remains the classic vamp.

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care)
But the fool, he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I.)

[Kipling, "The Vampire"]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper