noun Slang.

a person who bums off others.

Origin of bummer

1850–55, Americanism; probably < German Bummler, derivative with -er -er1 of bummeln ‘to take a stroll, dawdle, loiter’ (expressive v. of uncertain origin)




the unpleasant aftermath of taking narcotic drugs, especially frightening hallucinations or unpleasant physical sensations.
any unpleasant or disappointing experience: That concert was a real bummer.


(used to express disappointment, frustration, or the like): Looks like we're having a test tomorrow—bummer!

Origin of bummer

1965–70; apparently bum1 (adj. sense) + -er1




a person who avoids work and sponges on others; loafer; idler.
a tramp, hobo, or derelict.
Informal. an enthusiast of a specific sport or recreational activity, especially one who gives it priority over work, family life, etc.: a ski bum; a tennis bum.
Informal. an incompetent person.
a drunken orgy; debauch.

verb (used with object), bummed, bum·ming.

Informal. to borrow without expectation of returning; get for nothing; cadge: He's always bumming cigarettes from me.
Slang. to ruin or spoil: The weather bummed our whole weekend.

verb (used without object), bummed, bum·ming.

to sponge on others for a living; lead an idle or dissolute life.
to live as a hobo.

adjective, bum·mer, bum·mest. Slang.

of poor, wretched, or miserable quality; worthless.
disappointing; unpleasant.
erroneous or ill-advised; misleading: That tip on the stock market was a bum steer.
lame: a bum leg.

Verb Phrases

bum around, Informal. to travel, wander, or spend one's time aimlessly: We bummed around for a couple of hours after work.


    bum (someone) out, Slang. to disappoint, upset, or annoy: It really bummed me out that she could have helped and didn't.
    on the bum, Informal.
    1. living or traveling as or in a manner suggesting that of a hobo or tramp.
    2. in a state of disrepair or disorder: The oven is on the bum again.

Origin of bum

1860–65, Americanism; perhaps shortening of or back formation from bummer1; adj. senses of unclear relation to sense “loafer” and perhaps of distinct orig.

Synonyms for bum

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for bummer

disaster, misfortune, disappointment, drag, downer

Examples from the Web for bummer

Contemporary Examples of bummer

Historical Examples of bummer

British Dictionary definitions for bummer


noun slang

an unpleasant or disappointing experience
mainly US a vagrant or idler
an adverse reaction to a drug, characterized by panic or fear




British slang the buttocks or anus

Word Origin for bum

C14: of uncertain origin




a disreputable loafer or idler
a tramp; hobo
an irresponsible, unpleasant, or mean person
a person who spends a great deal of time on a specified sportbaseball bum
on the bum
  1. living as a loafer or vagrant
  2. out of repair; broken

verb bums, bumming or bummed

(tr) to get by begging; cadgeto bum a lift
(intr often foll by around) to live by begging or as a vagrant or loafer
(intr usually foll by around) to spend time to no good purpose; loaf; idle
bum someone off US and Canadian slang to disappoint, annoy, or upset someone


(prenominal) of poor quality; useless
wrong or inappropriatea bum note

Word Origin for bum

C19: probably shortened from earlier bummer a loafer, probably from German bummeln to loaf
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 bummer

"loafer, idle person," 1855, possibly an extension of the British word for "backside" (similar development took place in Scotland by 1540), but more probably from German slang bummler "loafer," agent noun from bummeln "go slowly, waste time."

According to Kluge, the German word is from 17c., and the earliest sense of it is "oscillate back and forth;" possibly connected to words in German for "dangle" (baumeln), via "back-and-forth motion" of a bell clapper, transferred to "going back and forth," hence "doing nothing." Meaning "bad experience" is 1968 slang.



"buttocks," late 14c., "probably onomatopœic, to be compared with other words of similar sound and with the general sense of 'protuberance, swelling.' " [OED]



"dissolute loafer, tramp," 1864, American English, from bummer "loafer, idle person" (1855), probably from German slang bummler "loafer," from bummeln "go slowly, waste time." Bum first appears in a German-American context, and bummer was popular in the slang of the North's army in the American Civil War (as many as 216,000 German immigrants in the ranks). Bum's rush "forcible ejection" first recorded 1910.



1863, "to loaf and beg," American English, a word from the Civil War, perhaps a back-formation from bummer "loafer," or from bum (n.). Meaning "to feel depressed" is from 1973, perhaps from bummer in the "bad experience" sense. Related: Bummed; bumming.



"of poor quality," 1859, American English, from bum (n.). Bum steer in figurative sense of "bad advice" attested from 1901.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with bummer


In addition to the idioms beginning with bum

  • bum around
  • bum out
  • bum rap
  • bum steer

also see:

  • on the blink (bum)
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.