from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A social visit or friendly interchange, especially between whalers or seafarers.
  • n. A herd of whales or a social congregation of whalers, especially at sea. See Synonyms at flock1.
  • intransitive v. To hold a visit, especially while at sea.
  • transitive v. To visit with.
  • transitive v. To spend (time) talking or visiting.
  • n. Slang A person's leg.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A person's leg.
  • n. A collective noun used to refer to a group of whales; a pod.
  • n. A social gathering of whalers or other ships.
  • v. To make a social visit on another ship at sea.
  • n. Alternative spelling of gom. A silly, foolish person.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A herd, or school, of whales.
  • n. A visit between whalers at sea; a holding of social intercourse between those on different vessels at sea, or (Local U. S.) between persons ashore.
  • n. A visit between whalers at sea; a holding of social intercourse between those on different vessels at sea, or (Local U. S.) between persons ashore.
  • n. a leg.
  • intransitive v. To gather in a gam; -- said of whales.
  • intransitive v. To engage in a gam, or (Local, U. S.) in social intercourse anywhere.
  • transitive v. To have a gam with; to pay a visit to, esp. among whalers at sea.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To herd together or form a school, as whales; crowd together and swim in the same direction.
  • To make a call, exchange visits, have a chat, etc., as fishermen or fishing-vessels.
  • n. A herd or school of whales.
  • n. Hence A social visit between fishermen; a chat, call, or other exchange of courtesies, as when vessels meet and speak each other, exchange visits, give and take letters aboard, etc.
  • n. A tusk or large tooth.
  • n. A leg.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a herd of whales


Perhaps short for gammon2 or variant of game1.
Probably from Polari (theatrical argot), from Italian gamba, from Late Latin, hoof; see gambol.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Variant form of gamb. (Wiktionary)
From the Irish gám. (Wiktionary)



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  • A curious choice as a collective for an order of gamless mammals!

    January 11, 2012

  • I like that this word is both "a school of whales" and "a visit between whalers."

    The latter:
    "We met another ship, the Gallopan out of New Bedford, and so embarked upon a gam—a meeting of ships, a bit of fun—and that was my first and best gam, and went on for three or four days till I began to think that we were out here on this ocean for no other reason than to drink rum, eat Wilson Pride's salty pork dumplings and play cards of an evening."
    Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch, p 91 of the Doubleday hardcover edition

    January 11, 2012

  • This visiting between the crews of ships at sea is called, among whalemen, "gamming."

    - Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, ch. 25

    September 9, 2008