noun (used with a singular or plural verb) Military.

a signal by bugle or drum, sounded at night as an order to extinguish all lights, and sometimes performed as a postlude to a military funeral.

Origin of taps

1815–25, Americanism; probably tap(too), variant of tattoo1 + -s3



verb (used with object), tapped, tap·ping.

to strike with a light but audible blow or blows; hit with repeated, slight blows: He tapped the door twice.
to make, put, etc., by tapping: to tap a nail into a wall.
to strike (the fingers, a foot, a pencil, etc.) upon or against something, especially with repeated light blows: Stop tapping your feet!
Basketball. to strike (a ball in the air) in the direction of a teammate or of the basket.
to enter information or produce copy by tapping on a keyboard: to tap data into a computer; to tap out a magazine article.
to add a thickness of leather to the sole or heel of (a boot or shoe), as in repairing.

verb (used without object), tapped, tap·ping.

to strike lightly but audibly, as to attract attention.
to strike light blows.


a light but audible blow: a tap on the shoulder.
the sound made by this.
a piece of metal attached to the toe or heel of a shoe, as for reinforcement or for making the tapping of a dancer more audible.
Basketball. an act or instance of tapping the ball: Hanson got the tap from our center, who, 6prime;9″ tall, couldn't lose a jump ball.
a thickness of leather added to the sole or heel of a boot or shoe, as in repairing.

Origin of tap

1175–1225; (v.) Middle English tappen, variant of early Middle English teppen, probably imitative; (noun) Middle English, derivative of the v.
Related formstap·pa·ble, adjectiveun·tap·pa·ble, adjective




a cylindrical stick, long plug, or stopper for closing an opening through which liquid is drawn, as in a cask; spigot.
a faucet or cock.
the liquor drawn through a particular tap.
British. a taphouse or taproom.
a tool for cutting screw threads into the cylindrical surface of a round opening.
Surgery. the withdrawal of fluid: spinal tap.
a hole made in tapping, as one in a pipe to furnish connection for a branch pipe.
Electricity. a connection brought out of a winding at some point between its extremities, for controlling the voltage ratio.
Informal. an act or instance of wiretapping.
Archaic. a particular kind or quality of drink.

verb (used with object), tapped, tap·ping.

to draw liquid from (a vessel or container).
to draw off (liquid) by removing or opening a tap or by piercing a container.
to draw the tap or plug from or pierce (a cask or other container).
to penetrate, open up, reach into, etc., for the purpose of using something or drawing something off; begin to use: to tap one's resources.
to connect into secretly so as to receive the message or signal being transmitted: to tap a telephone wire or telephone.
to furnish (a cask, container, pipe, etc.) with a tap.
to cut a screw thread into the surface of (an opening).
to open outlets from (power lines, highways, pipes, etc.).

Verb Phrases

tap into, Informal. to gain access to; become friendly with: The candidate tapped into some wealthy supporters.
tap off, to remove (liquid, molten metal, etc.) from a keg, furnace, or the like: to tap off slag from a blast furnace.

Origin of tap

before 1050; (noun) Middle English tappe, Old English tæppa; cognate with Dutch tap, Old High German zapfo, Old Norse tappi; (v.) Middle English tappen, Old English tæppian; cognate with Middle Low German, Middle Dutch tappen, German zapfen, Old Norse tappa
Related formstap·pa·ble, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for taps

Contemporary Examples of taps

Historical Examples of taps

  • But a bettor of the right sort slips in an' taps me for odds to a thousand.


    W. A. Fraser

  • Here Mr. Witherington was interrupted by two taps at the door.

  • In the middle of it some water was trickling from a couple of taps in the dim gloom.

  • First she comes up to me and taps me on the chest and says, ''Edge.'

    Cape Cod Stories

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • He did not then ask that taps or movements of the right hand should be given or made.


    W. W. Baggally

British Dictionary definitions for taps


noun (functioning as singular)

mainly US
  1. (in army camps, etc) a signal given on a bugle, drum, etc, indicating that lights are to be put out
  2. any similar signal, as at a military funeral
(in the Guide movement) a closing song sung at an evening camp fire or at the end of a meeting

Word Origin for taps

C19: from tap 1



verb taps, tapping or tapped

to strike (something) lightly and usually repeatedlyto tap the table; to tap on the table
(tr) to produce by striking in this wayto tap a rhythm
(tr) to strike lightly with (something)to tap one's finger on the desk
(intr) to walk with a tapping soundshe tapped across the floor
(tr) to attach metal or leather reinforcing pieces to (the toe or heel of a shoe)


a light blow or knock, or the sound made by it
the metal piece attached to the toe or heel of a shoe used for tap-dancing
short for tap-dancingSee tap-dancing
phonetics the contact made between the tip of the tongue and the alveolar ridge as the tongue is flicked upwards in the execution of a flap or vibrates rapidly in the execution of a trill or roll
See also taps
Derived Formstappable, adjective

Word Origin for tap

C13 tappen, probably from Old French taper, of Germanic origin; related to Middle Low German tappen to pluck, Swedish dialect täpa to tap




a valve by which a fluid flow from a pipe can be controlled by opening and closing an orificeUS and Canadian name: faucet
a stopper to plug a cask or barrel and enable the contents to be drawn out in a controlled flow
a particular quality of alcoholic drink, esp when contained in casksan excellent tap
British short for taproom
the surgical withdrawal of fluid from a bodily cavitya spinal tap
Also called: screw tap a tool for cutting female screw threads, consisting of a threaded steel cylinder with longitudinal grooves forming cutting edgesCompare die 2 (def. 2)
electronics, mainly US and Canadian a connection made at some point between the end terminals of an inductor, resistor, or some other componentUsual Brit name: tapping
stock exchange
  1. an issue of a government security released slowly onto the market when its market price reaches a predetermined level
  2. (as modifier)tap stock; tap issue
a concealed listening or recording device connected to a telephone or telegraph wire for the purpose of obtaining information secretly
on tap
  1. informalready for immediate use
  2. (of drinks) on draught

verb taps, tapping or tapped (tr)

to furnish with a tap
to draw off with or as if with a tap
to cut into (a tree) and draw off sap from it
British informal to ask or beg (someone) for moneyhe tapped me for a fiver
  1. to connect a tap to (a telephone or telegraph wire)
  2. to listen in secret to (a telephone message, etc) by means of a tap
to make a connection to (a pipe, drain, etc)
to cut a female screw thread in (an object or material) by use of a tap
to withdraw (fluid) from (a bodily cavity)
informal (of a sports team or an employer) to make an illicit attempt to recruit (a player or employee bound by an existing contract)
Derived Formstappable, adjective

Word Origin for tap

Old English tæppa; related to Old Norse tappi tap, Old High German zapfo



noun, verb

a Scot word for top 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 taps

U.S. military signal for lights out in soldiers' quarters (played 15 minutes after tattoo), 1824, from tap (v.), on the notion of drum taps (it originally was played on a drum, later on a bugle). As a soldier's last farewell, played over his grave, it may date to the American Civil War. The tune was revised several times in mid-19c.



"strike lightly," c.1200, from Old French taper "tap, rap, strike," from a Gallo-Romance or Germanic source ultimately imitative of the sound of rapping. Meaning "to designate for some duty or for membership" is recorded from 1952, from notion of a tap on the shoulder. Related: Tapped; tapping.



"stopper, faucet," Old English tæppa, from Proto-Germanic *tappon (cf. Middle Dutch tappe, Dutch tap, Old High German zapfo, German zapfen). Originally a tapering cylindrical peg (hence taproot). Phrase on tap "ready for use" is recorded from late 15c.



"to supply with a tap," Old English tæppian, from source of tap (n.1). Meaning "to draw liquor with a tap" is from mid-15c. Extended sense of "make use of" is first recorded 1570s. Meaning "to listen in secretly" (1869), originally with reference to telegraph wires. Tapped out "broke" is 1940s slang, perhaps from the notion of having tapped all one's acquaintances for loans already (cf. British slang on the tap "begging, making requests for loans," 1932).



"light blow or stroke," late 14c., from tap (v.1). Tap dancer first recorded 1927, from tap (n.) in the sense of "metal plate over the heel of a shoe" (1680s).



"device to listen in secretly on telephone calls," 1923, from tap (v.2) in the "listen secretly" sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

taps in Medicine




The removal of fluid from a body cavity.


To withdraw fluid from a body cavity, as with a trocar and cannula, hollow needle, or catheter.
To strike lightly with the finger or a hammerlike instrument, as in percussion or to elicit a tendon reflex.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with taps


see on tap.

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