verb (used with object), strummed, strum·ming.

to play on (a stringed musical instrument) by running the fingers lightly across the strings.
to produce (notes, a melody, etc.) by such playing: to strum a tune.

verb (used without object), strummed, strum·ming.

to play on a stringed musical instrument by running the fingers lightly across the strings.


the act of strumming.
the sound produced by strumming.

Origin of strum

1765–75; perhaps blend of string and thrum1
Related formsstrum·mer, noun




a strainer, as at the inlet of a system of tubing.

Origin of strum

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

Related Words for strum

plunk, pluck, pick

Examples from the Web for strum

Contemporary Examples of strum

Historical Examples of strum

  • Being able to strum on the mandoline settled it for me, and jolly thankful I was, too.

    Twos and Threes

    G. B. Stern

  • She is ingenious, She used to strum ballads to the moon on my adolescent nerves.

    Very Woman

    Remy de Gourmont

  • I'm made to strum on the piano for an hour every day, but I hate it.

  • He shifted his stool towards the middle of the piano and began to strum again.

    The Wave

    Algernon Blackwood

  • It had not the harps of the trees to strum on, but it made shift with the corners of the houses.

    H. R.

    Edwin Lefevre

British Dictionary definitions for strum


verb strums, strumming or strummed

to sound (the strings of a guitar, banjo, etc) with a downward or upward sweep of the thumb or of a plectrum
to play (chords, a tune, etc) in this way
Derived Formsstrummer, noun

Word Origin for strum

C18: probably of imitative origin; see thrum 1
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 strum

1775, possibly imitative of the sound of running the fingers across the strings of a musical instrument. Related: Strummed; strumming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper