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See more synonyms for slum on Thesaurus.com
  1. Often slums. a thickly populated, run-down, squalid part of a city, inhabited by poor people.
  2. any squalid, run-down place to live.
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verb (used without object), slummed, slum·ming.
  1. to visit slums, especially from curiosity.
  2. to visit or frequent a place, group, or amusement spot considered to be low in social status.
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Origin of slum

1805–15; compare earlier argot slum room; origin obscure
Related formsslum·mer, nounde·slum, verb (used with object), de·slummed, de·slum·ming.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for slum

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • If they were poor, like the slum people, I could understand it better.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine

  • Slum slid from the bar to the ground, and his deep-set eyes were smiling again.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • Slum lowered his cocktail and turned a disgusted look on him.

    The Night Riders

    Ridgwell Cullum

  • It was like a slum hidden away in the heart of a fashionable city.

  • The same procedure was followed at noon when slum was served.

    The Delta of the Triple Elevens

    William Elmer Bachman

British Dictionary definitions for slum


  1. a squalid overcrowded house, etc
  2. (often plural) a squalid section of a city, characterized by inferior living conditions and usually by overcrowding
  3. (modifier) of, relating to, or characteristic of slumsslum conditions
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verb slums, slumming or slummed (intr)
  1. to visit slums, esp for curiosity
  2. Also: slum it to suffer conditions below those to which one is accustomed
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Derived Formsslummer, nounslummy, adjective

Word Origin

C19: originally slang, of obscure 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

Word Origin and History for slum


1845, from back slum "dirty back alley of a city, street of poor or low people" (1825), originally a slang or cant word meaning "room," especially "back room" (1812), of unknown origin, pastime popularized by East End novels. Related: slums. Slumscape is from 1947.

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"visit slums of a city," especially for diversion or amusement, often under guise of philanthropy, 1884, from slum (n.). Pastime popularized by East End novels. Earlier it meant to visit slums for disreputable purposes or in search of vice (1860). Related: Slumming.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper