verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
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Origin of vamp1
OTHER WORDS FROM vampvamper, nounvampish, adjective
Definition for vamp (2 of 2)
verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
Origin of vamp2
ABOUT THIS WORD
What else does vamping mean?
Vamping originally refers to repairing shoes with a new, upper part called a vamp. That action has been metaphorically extended to refer to such things as improvising chords on a piano or speaking off the cuff before a group of people.
In slang, vamping, based on vampire, means “staying up all night,” especially on one’s phone.
What are some other words related to vamping?
Where does vamping come from?
Let’s begin with footwear. Recorded around 1200, a vamp originally referred to the upper part of a shoe or boot—the part that covered the tokes and ankle. Thanks to modern manufacturing, we don’t really use this sense of vamp anymore. But the word does live on in a familiar word: revamp. Vamps of boots and shoes would wear down, naturally, and so cobblers would vamp shoes, that is, give them a new vamp. The verb vamp (recorded by the 1600s) came to describe fixing not just new vamps onto shoes, but patching up anything. Vamp’s notion of repairing inspired revamp, “to renovate, redo, revise,” first recorded around 1840–50.
Now, to something we do with our feet: dancing to music. If you vamp, or patch something together, that’s apparently sort of like improvising a part to a song, especially piano chords to accompany a melody or solo. The musical sense of vamping is recorded by the late 1700s, but it is closely associated with jazz today. In jazz, pianists vamp or play a vamp when they make up some simple chords they repeat, sometimes to buy a little time or for other musical effects. While commonly found in jazz, vamping is a staple in other genres of music, too.
People also vamp—or extemporize, to use a fancy word—when they are speaking off the cuff, buying time, repurposing old material, or otherwise winging it in a presentation, performance, speech, or the like.
The slang vamping, however, has nothing to do with vamping shoes, revamping houses, or vamping on pianos. Recorded in the early 2010s, this vamping means “staying up all night,” especially by spending time on their phones and social media—something we are all far too guilty of. It comes from vampire, that mythical creature known for its nocturnal activities.
How is vamping used in real life?
Vamping to describe a musical technique is used primarily by, you guessed it, musicians and music aficionados.
"Take Five" was composed by Paul Desmond in 5/4 – a defiant and revelatory time signature. This is evened by the constant vamp figure from Brubeck throughout, despite some whimsical drum solos from Morello. Get down and swing to Take Five with Jazz FM #TimeOut #LongPlayer pic.twitter.com/XjfOHWb5TK
— Jazz FM (@jazzfm) December 26, 2019
Vamping, for stalling while speaking in public, is often used pejoratively. The term implies that the person has run out of new things to say. However, vamping is also used neutrally or positively to describe, for instance, someone buying time when getting an audience ready for the next speaker.
President Clinton is running late. The current speaker is vamping.
— Audreya (@audcole) April 23, 2010
Actors and models are also said to vamp for the camera—making up poses, small-talking, and the like while tape is rolling but before any of the action begins, because there’s no script, or just to get some more candid content.
Ashley Greene and co-star Donna Benedicto both shared snaps of them vamping in their Christmas sweaters on the set of CHRISTMAS ON MY MIND, filming now in Vancouver for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. pic.twitter.com/vALilfxIck
— Ho! Ho! Holiday Viewing! (@SleepyKittyPaw) October 1, 2019
Finally, vamping, for staying up all night (while tweeting and texting), is generally used by or associated with young people. After all, pulling all-nighters is typically a young person’s game. Someone who vamps this way can be called a vamper.
re vamping this twitter after finals week .. yeah
— amanda🏹 (@paperbackstorms) May 5, 2020
More examples of vamping:
“Vamping harmony can be a good choice if your goal is to focus attention on other elements of a song, such as lyrics, or rhythmic groove.”
—Steve Hogan, Pandora, October 2013
“At one point [in Season 3 of the show Dear White People, the character] Sam is working on her film thesis, and her process includes milling around her large network of acquaintances and capturing random conversations on camera. She is repeatedly accused of stalling, or ‘vamping,’ ….”
—Shannon Miller, A.V. Club, Juy 2019
Example sentences from the Web for vamp
Peter began to wonder if he had decided wisely in vamping the old suit.The Honorable Peter Stirling and What People Thought of Him|Paul Leicester Ford
If he was so determined, for what earthly reason did he pass his valuable time in vamping up old plays and writing new ones?The Valet's Tragedy and Other Stories|Andrew Lang
It was likely only her way of vamping a man, anyway, and a mighty tantalizing one at that.The City of Fire|Grace Livingston Hill
I have sent you a sermon metamorphosed from an obscure publication by vamping, transposition, etc.Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Vol. I (of 2)|Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Now, I must candidly confess that I do not know what ‘vamping’ is.Miscellanies|Oscar Wilde