Origin of gang

1300–50; Middle English; Old English gang, gong manner of going, way, passage; cognate with Old High German gang, Old Norse gangr, Gothic gagg; cf. gang2

Synonyms for gang

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

Related Words for gang up on


British Dictionary definitions for gang up on




a group of people who associate together or act as an organized body, esp for criminal or illegal purposes
an organized group of workmen
a herd of buffaloes or elks or a pack of wild dogs
NZ a group of shearers who travel to different shearing sheds, shearing, classing, and baling wool
  1. a series of similar tools arranged to work simultaneously in parallel
  2. (as modifier)a gang saw


to form into, become part of, or act as a gang
(tr) electronics to mount (two or more components, such as variable capacitors) on the same shaft, permitting adjustment by a single control
See also gang up
Derived Formsganged, adjective

Word Origin for gang

Old English gang journey; related to Old Norse gangr, Old High German gang, Sanskrit jangha foot




Scot to go

Word Origin for gang

Old English gangan to go 1




a variant spelling of gangue
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 gang up on



from Old English gang "a going, journey, way, passage," and Old Norse gangr "a group of men, a set," both from Proto-Germanic *gangaz (cf. Old Saxon, Old Frisian, Danish, Dutch, Old High German, German gang, Old Norse gangr, Gothic gagg "act of going"), from PIE root *ghengh- "to step" (cf. Sanskrit jangha "shank," Avestan zanga- "ankle," Lithuanian zengiu "I stride"). Thus not considered to be related to go.

The sense evolution is probably via meaning "a set of articles that usually are taken together in going" (mid-14c.), especially a set of tools used on the same job. By 1620s this had been extended in nautical speech to mean "a company of workmen," and by 1630s the word was being used, with disapproving overtones, for "any band of persons traveling together." Gangway preserves the original sense of the word, as does gangplank.



1856, from gang (n.). Related: Ganged; ganging. To gang up (on) is first attested 1919.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with gang up on


In addition to the idiom beginning with gang

  • gang up

also see:

  • like gangbusters
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.