Printable Version
Pronunciation: umf Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Energy, vigor, power, strength, punch. 2. Sexual attractiveness, sex appeal, sensuality, voluptuousness. 3. A deep grunting or thudding sound.

Notes: This word is often misspelled umf, but pronounced the same as oomph. This word may be used as a verb, meaning only "to produce a grunting or thudding sound". However, it comes with an adjective, oomphy with the senses of "strong" or "sexy".

In Play: The original meaning of today's Good Word refers to strength in any of its uses: "I always add chili sauce to my mac and cheese because it gives the dish more oomph." Today it may also be used in reference to girls and women: "Gilda Lilly was the only oomph girl in my home town of New Monia, Pennsylvania."

Word History: Most etymologists have given up on the origins of this word. I vaguely recall from my comic-book-reading days as a kid that it was a word used to imitate the expression of someone being punched in the stomach. So, the origin would be onomatopoetic. That would explain the third meaning above and, maybe, the first one, too. Ann Sheridan became the first 'oomph girl' in 1939. Walter Winchell had seen her in a sexy bit role and, since all writers like to coin words, wrote in his column, ''She's got an umphy quality.'' Maybe Winchell was thinking "sensuously powerful". Bob Taplinger, head of publicity at Warner Brothers Studios, changed the spelling to oomph and gave the world the oomph girl at an oomph dinner for Warner Brothers' movie stars.

Dr. Goodword,

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