Meaning of gumshoe in English:



informal North American
  • A detective.

    ‘he'd been intrigued enough to put a gumshoe on the case’
    • ‘He wasn't the gumshoe, the private eye, the detective of the forties in the black and white noir.’
    • ‘As he slowly recovers, he imagines scenes from his first novel, The Singing Detective, with himself as the lead character, a gumshoe who croons on the side.’
    • ‘In a 1940s-style apartment befitting a film noir gumshoe, a Montreal private eye shows off a collection of futuristic gizmos spread over his kitchen table.’
    • ‘Unlike their urban brethren in, say, Chicago or Miami (who live above dry cleaning establishments in crummy neighborhoods and whose lungs would buckle if they had to breathe pure mountain air), Seattle gumshoes perch in aeries that look out on spectacular vistas.’
    • ‘So the gumshoes tried to prove he was homosexual but were caught as they tried to follow him into Congress.’
    • ‘The real-life gumshoe's most prized ability is to remain un-noticed.’
    • ‘It was hired to get hold of the evidence that was needed to justify a judgment already made, like a seedy gumshoe.’
    • ‘Curious to know more about the popular eatery that appears to be packing Taipei adventure seekers in, we sent one of our resident gumshoes over to case the joint.’
    • ‘First, an online gumshoe would go to the company that hosts the forum where a message appears.’
    • ‘Though the guzzling gumshoes of the 30's and 40's evolved from those eloquent pipe-smoking dandies, they have as much in common as rotgut rye and Earl Grey tea.’
    • ‘Instead, they ended up as quasi-independent gumshoes who are picked by the president (and can be fired by him as well) and who report to Congress and the heads of their agencies.’
    • ‘Today, instead of sending hired gumshoes after cheating husbands and wives, we can turn our homes into high-tech surveillance staging grounds.’
    • ‘If little living things can thrive here in hot acid baths, perhaps the universe offers many more likely suspects for gumshoes working on the case of missing alien life.’
    • ‘Many of these gumshoes had shoulder holsters of the horizontal variety.’
    • ‘As far back as 1992, the artist himself began scouring around like a gumshoe to assemble the many authentic, '40s-era objects included in Durant.’
    • ‘Winston, who fancies himself a bit of a gumshoe, is determined to figure out which one of them wrote the note, and persuades Don to visit all of them, searching for clues in the process.’
    • ‘He then answers his own question with a vicious sideways slash that drops the bloody-nosed gumshoe to the ground while the entire audience winces in sympathetic pain.’
    • ‘He was the new gumshoe - and Hollywood wasn't quite ready for him.’
    • ‘The literary gumshoe had tackled and solved another hard case.’
    • ‘He dreams one day of teaching others the secret wisdom of the gumshoe.’


Mid 19th century (in the sense ‘galoshes or soft-soled shoes’, suggesting stealth): the current sense dates from the early 20th century.