It’s not easy to formulate a definition that matches the brevity of this useful little word. It means to unfairly acquire a property by bidding more than an offer from somebody else that has already been accepted by the seller. It’s used mainly in British or Australian English.
Some dictionaries suggest it comes from the Yiddish gezumph, to overcharge or cheat. This is supported by the word’s first meaning in English back in the 1920s, to swindle, but others are less sure. These days it is always applied to house purchase.
It takes up to three months in most parts of the UK to exchange formal contracts on the sale of a house. So there’s plenty of time for the gazumper to persuade the seller to accept his higher offer and unceremoniously dump the previous buyer who thought he had a firm agreement. Of course, it takes two to gazump — honest householders stick to their word. But at times when prices are rising rapidly or demand is high, cupidity is easily excited by a substantially improved offer. The term can also be applied to a form of sting in which the person who has agreed to buy is persuaded to increase their offer because of a real or fictitious claim that a better one has been made by somebody else.
When the housing market is depressed, a stranger term appears, to gazunder, in which buyers arbitrarily reduce the offered price, usually near the date of exchange of contracts when there is little chance of the seller finding another purchaser. This appeared in the late 1980s, and is a rather curious blend of gazump and under. It has no connection with the colloquial use of gazunder for a chamber pot, so called because it usually “goes under” the bed.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added pieces
Vape; Bridegroom; Lilly-low; The Language Myth by Vyvyan Evans; Boot and trunk; Zoilism; Fish-faced; Poach; Immensikoff; Habiliments; The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker; Agister; The Word at War; Not so green as you’re cabbage-looking; Peely-wally; Draw a line in the sand; Porphyrogeniture.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!