Printable Version
Pronunciation: guh-zêmp Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transtive

Meaning: 1. To sell a house to a higher bidder after accepting a lower bid from someone else or to raise the price just before signing the contract. 2. To trump or preempt in any endeavor by questionable means.

Notes: This ostensibly Yiddish word has a surprisingly normal family. The present participle, gazumping, may be used as an adjective and action noun: "Norman is known for his gazumping more than any other real estate agent in town." The person who gazumps is known, unsurprisingly, as a gazumper.

In Play: Laws in the US prevent real estate gazumping, but elsewhere in the English-speaking world it still sometimes rears its amusing if ugly head: "If you're buying a house in that neighborhood, sign the contract as soon as possible, before you are gazumped." Anyone may use this word in its second sense, however, to unfairly trump or preempt someone: "I had the committee convinced we should pave the parking lot, but the boss gazumped my suggestion with a proposal to increase bonuses this year."

Word History: Someone has suggested that this word may have been borrowed from a Yiddish verb gazumpn "to overcharge", but I have not been able to verify the existence of such a word. Gazump first popped up in the 1920s in England and was used in the sense of swindling someone by overcharging. However, the word was not widely used until the real estate boom in the 1970s. London in the 1970s was a place and time of rapidly rising real estate prices—perfect conditions for gazumping by double selling houses and apartments. It was at that time that the word picked up the meaning usually associated with it these days. (Thank you, Andrew McCarthy-Carstairs, for recommending this fascinating British Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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