When you wear gumshoes, you're pulling on waterproof galoshes over your regular footwear. If you are a gumshoe, on the other hand, you're a private detective, investigating a case.

The "detective" meaning of this word comes from the "galoshes" definition. In fact, during the late 19th century, gumshoes or gums were any type of rubber-soled shoes. Around the turn of the 20th century, to gumshoe meant "to sneak around," and by 1906, gumshoe became a common nickname for plainclothes detectives (or "private eyes"), famous for moving stealthily in their quiet rubber-soled shoes.

Definitions of gumshoe
  1. noun
    a waterproof overshoe that protects shoes from water or snow
    synonyms: arctic, galosh, golosh, rubber
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    type of:
    footwear that protects your shoes from water or snow or cold
  2. noun
    someone who is a detective
    synonyms: dick, hawkshaw
    see moresee less
    type of:
    detective, investigator, police detective, tec
    a police officer who investigates crimes
Word Family

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