Intermediate+ Word of the Day: pump

pump (noun, verb) /pʌmp/ LISTEN

Pumping gas

A pump is a device used to raise, push, or compress gases or fluids. As a verb, it means ‘to raise or push with such a device’ or ‘to put something into something as if by using a pump,’ and also ‘to move with an up-and-down or back-and-forth motion.’ Pump also means ‘to come out in squirts’ and, informally, ‘to question someone persistently.’

Example sentences

  • It's a good idea to carry a pump when you're biking, in case you get a flat tire.
  • Eugene pumped the water out of the flooded basement.
  • The investors pumped money into the business venture, but it still failed.
  • Harriet pumped the lever, but nothing happened.
  • Oil is pumping from the broken pipe.
  • Our kids pumped us for information about our surprise vacation, but we wouldn't tell them anything.

Words often used with pump

pump up: inflate. Example: “Those tires look a bit flat. You’d better pump them up before you go out.”

pump iron: lift weights. Example: “Look at that guy’s muscles; he must spend ages pumping iron every day.”

In pop culture

Check out the song “Pump It” by the Black Eyed Peas. When they say “Pump it,” they’re referring to increasing the volume of the radio. (You’ll also hear them saying “louder” and “turn up the radio.”)

Additional information

Be pumped is a slang expression that means ‘to be happy or enthusiastic.’ Example: “Everyone on the team is really pumped about the new project.”

Did you know?

A pump is also a type of shoe. However, it’s different on either side of the pond (the pond is a humorous name for the Atlantic Ocean). In the US, a pump is a high-heeled woman’s shoe, but in the UK those are called court shoes. There, a pump is a flat shoe that has no fastener. Some are even rubber-soled (the sole is the bottom of the shoe) and worn for sports. So, you would wear pumps to work in the US, but in the UK, you could wear pumps for playing tennis.

Other forms

pumpable (adjective), pumper (noun)


Pump first appeared in English in the early 15th century, as the Middle English pumpe. It probably came from the Middle Dutch pompe (pipe) or Middle German pumpe (pump). The verb appeared in the early 16th century. Pump was first used as a name for a low shoe with no fastener in the mid-17th century.

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