vamp

Definitions

Media Studies

  • noun in the early days of Hollywood, a seductive and glamorous female film star

Slang

  • verb (to behave as) a seductress. The word is usually employed only semi-seriously to denote an individual (usually, but not invariably, female) affecting a languid, mysterious and predatory air. The term arose in 1918, inspired by the vampire legend as interpreted by such film stars as Theda Bara.

Origin & History of “vamp”

English has two distinct words vamp. The now dated slang term for a ‘seductive woman’ (20th c.) is short for vampire. The other vamp, ‘extemporize on the piano’, was originally a noun meaning the ‘part of a stocking that covers the foot and ankle’ (13th c.). It was borrowed from Anglo-Norman *vaumpé, a reduced form of Old French avantpié. This was a compound noun formed from avant ‘in front’ and pié ‘foot’. From it in the 16th century was derived a verb vamp, meaning ‘provide a stocking with a new vamp’, and this evolved semantically via ‘patch up, repair’ to, in the 18th century, ‘extemporize’.
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