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.
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.

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. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for slumming

Contemporary Examples of slumming

Historical Examples of slumming

  • Four hours' slumming convinced me of this, and must convince anyone.

    Ireland as It Is

    Robert John Buckley (AKA R.J.B.)

  • There's something most distasteful to me, too, about Thyme's going about slumming.


    John Galsworthy

  • A year or two ago it was the mode in Society to go “slumming.”

    The Seven Secrets

    William Le Queux

  • I think, of all the humbugs of London society, slumming is about the worst.'

    The Dictator

    Justin McCarthy

  • How Miss Alice would like that—to catch me going 'slumming' with my maid!

    Miss Billy's Decision

    Eleanor H. Porter

British Dictionary definitions for slumming


  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
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
Derived Formsslummer, nounslummy, adjective

Word Origin for slum

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 slumming



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.



"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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper