- a drum of American Indian or Asian origin, commonly played with the hands.
- a dully repetitious drumbeat or similar sound.
Origin of tom-tom
First recorded in 1685–95, tom-tom is from the Hindi word ṭamṭam
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for tom-tom
They would wring her heart as she heard them in the pauses of the tom-tom.Things as They Are
Muted cornets, banjos and saxophones were wailing out a tom-tom adagio.Erik Dorn
Her eye searched the room for a weapon, and found an Indian tom-tom club.Brand Blotters
William MacLeod Raine
It was as though his head had become a tom-tom in the hands of fate.The Pagan Madonna
Now Smee had found the tom-tom, and was at that moment sitting on it.Peter and Wendy
James Matthew Barrie
- a drum associated either with the American Indians or with Eastern cultures, usually beaten with the hands as a signalling instrument
- a standard cylindrical drum, normally with one drumhead
- a monotonous drumming or beating sound
- (tr) informal to pass (information, esp gossip) around a community very quickly
C17: from Hindi tamtam, of imitative origin
Word Origin and History for tom-tom
1690s, "drum" (originally used in India), from Hindi tam-tam, probably of imitative origin (cf. Sinhalese tamat tama and Malay tong-tong).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper