/ (ˈɡɪtməʊ) /
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informal, mainly US Guantánamo: referring more specifically to the detainment camp run here by the US military, in which suspected terrorists are detained and questioned
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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


What is Gitmo?

Gitmo is an informal name for the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a notorious U.S. military prison located on a naval base along the Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

How is Gitmo pronounced?

[ git-moh ]

Where does Gitmo come from?

In military code, the area of Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is known as GTMO, evolving into Gitmo based on the common pronunciation of the abbreviation. The U.S. military has maintained the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base there since 1898.

Gitmo specifically named the detention camp once President George W. Bush ordered its establishment in January 2002 as a holding facility for al-Qaeda and Taliban-aligned terrorists captured after the 9/11 attacks.

Interest in the secretive Gitmo spiked in 2005 over the human and legal rights of prisoners held there. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin notably compared the American military wardens at Gitmo to Nazis and gulag operators on account of their interrogation tactics. These tactics were widely reported to include denial of food and drink and subjection to extreme temperatures, which violate the Geneva Convention rules for humane treatment of prisoners of war. Later accounts reported more forms of torture, including waterboarding, forcing prisoners to stand for long periods of time, making them go without clothing, disrespecting their holy texts, and subjecting them to months-long periods of isolation. Legal concerns centered on the indefinite detention of the captives without charge or trial.

Barack Obama pledged to close Gitmo as part of his 2008 presidential campaign, though this promise dogged his entire presidency due in part to resistance to detaining the prisoners on U.S. soil. Nearly 800 Muslim men have been detained in Gitmo over the prison’s history, with 41 remaining at the end of Obama’s presidency in January 2018.

How is Gitmo used in real life?

Like Durbin in the past, high-ranking U.S. political figures continue to use Gitmo as shorthand for the prison, including President Donald Trump, who ordered it to stay open. Gitmo is also widely used in domestic and international condemnation of the prison.

Because of Gitmo‘s notorious reputation, some people express their outrage at political figures in colloquial speech and writing by wishing they get sent to Gitmo. During the 2016 presidential campaign, for instance, some Trump supporters spoke and wrote online of sending Hillary Clinton to Gitmo.

Gitmo is also still referred to as GTMO or Guantanamo (Bay). These terms usually refer to the prison, though in some cases the naval base more generally.

More examples of Gitmo:

“For reasons that, like most things at Guantanamo, are never made clear, journalists who come to Gitmo to cover a commission hearing are not allowed to also tour the camps.”
—Janet Reitman, Rolling Stone, December, 2015


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use Gitmo in a sentence