Friday, March 07, 2014


John in Glen Arbor asked about the word revamp. It means to give a new and improved form, structure, or appearance to something. The re- prefix means back or again, and in this case, it signifies restoration.

Vamp is the interesting element. Originally (1225) it meant a short stocking that covers the foot and ankle. Then it transferred to the part of a boot or shoe that covers the top of the foot.

1688   R. Holme Acad. Armory iii. 14/1 Of a Shooe:..the Vamp, is all the piece that covers the top of the foot.
1706   Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6) ,   Vamps or Vampays, an odd kind of short Hose or Stockings that cover'd the Feet, and came up only to the Ancle, just above the Shooe.
1706   Phillips's New World of Words (ed. 6) ,   Vamp, the Upper Leather of a Shoe.  [Oxford English Dictionary]

It came from the Old French avanpié, which broke down into avan(t) before + pié foot.

Two other words share the same spelling: vamp, a patchwork, and vamp, a woman who exploits men. The latter has nothing to do with shoemakers. Rather, it’s an abbreviation of vampire.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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