gamin, n. and adj.
Brit. /ˈɡamɪn/, /ɡaˈmã/, U.S. /ˈɡæmən/
Frequency (in current use):
Origin: A borrowing from French. Etymon: French gamin.
Etymology: < French gamin (1805; 1803 in the more general meaning ‘young boy’; 1765 denoting a glassmaker’s assistant), further etymology uncertain.
A suggestion that the French word is a borrowing (with remodelling after words in -in -ine suffix4) < German regional (Alemannic) Gammel uproar, row (or a related word in the same family) is very uncertain.
N.E.D. (1898) gives only the pronunciation (gamæṅ) /ɡamæ̃/.
A neglected boy who has been left to run about the streets; a street urchin, a guttersnipe; (more generally) a streetwise or impudent child. Also in extended use.
Originally in French and French-speaking contexts.
1832 Leicester Chron. 16 June The coach..was being drawn by a mob of gamins along the quay.
1840 Thackeray Paris Sketch Bk. I. 12 There are the little gamins mocking him.
1864 F. W. Robinson Mattie x. 25 One Kent Street gamin out on business and dodging the policeman behind a Patent Safety.
1873 C. M. Yonge Pillars of House (1880) I. vi. 134 ‘Our little gamin has the most of the Good Samaritan in him,’ said Mr. Audley.
1907 ‘N. Blanchan’ Birds Every Child should Know viii. 108 How wonderfully that saucy little gamin, the English sparrow, has adjusted himself to this new land!
1927 Amer. Mercury July 291/1 The diapered young saint..approached a crowd of gamins playing in the gutter.
1977 N. Shepherd Living Mountain viii. 57 A voice by my side asked: ‘Is this the way to Ben MacDhui?’ and looking down I saw what at first glance I took to be a street gamin of eleven.
2006 New Yorker 25 Sept. 106/1, I would have grown up in unquestioned Orthodoxy, tough little cocksure fisticuffian gamin.
Characteristic of a gamin; = gaminesque adj.
1837 New Monthly Mag. July 416 The gamin tribe..exists between ten and fifteen years of age.
1883 Cent. Mag. Feb. 576/1 The reproduction on canvas of the small street Arab of New York..preserving all their delightful gamin characteristics.
1925 D. H. Lawrence Refl. Death Porcupine 68 The gamin exultance: ‘Yah! I got myself out all right!’
1927 H. V. Morton In Search of Eng. vi. 129 You wrestle with a gamin desire to turn round in the direction of the tower and put out your tongue.
1984 K. Hulme Bone People (1985) vii. 283 A sparrow of a woman, but without a sparrow’s gamin cheerfulness.
1999 P. Curtis Sculpture 1900–1945 vii. 230 Broad and gamin smiles corroborate the effect of spontaneity made permanent.