1. the portion of a shoe or boot upper that covers the instep and toes.
  2. something patched up or pieced together.
  3. Jazz. an accompaniment, usually improvised, consisting of a succession of simple chords.

verb (used with object)

  1. to furnish with a vamp, especially to repair (a shoe or boot) with a new vamp.
  2. to patch up; repair.
  3. to give (something) a new appearance by adding a patch or piece.
  4. to concoct or invent (often followed by up): He vamped up a few ugly rumors to discredit his enemies.
  5. Jazz. to improvise (an accompaniment or the like).

verb (used without object)

  1. Jazz. to improvise an accompaniment, tune, etc.


  1. a seductive woman who exploits men by use of her sexual charms


  1. to exploit (a man) in the fashion of a vamp


  1. something patched up to make it look new
  2. the reworking of a theme, story, etc
  3. an improvised accompaniment, consisting largely of chords
  4. the front part of the upper of a shoe


  1. (tr often foll by up) to give a vamp to; make a renovation of
  2. to improvise (an accompaniment) to (a tune)

“extemporize on a piano,” 1789, originally a noun meaning “part of a stocking that covers the foot and ankle” (early 13c.), from Anglo-French *vaumpé, from Old French avantpié, from avant “in front” + pié “foot.” Sense evolved to “provide a stocking with a new vamp” (1590s), to “patch up, repair” (cf. revamp) to “extemporize.” Related: Vamped; vamping.


“seductive woman,” 1911, short for vampire. First attested use is earlier than the release of the Fox film “A Fool There Was” (January 1915), with sultry Theda Bara in the role of The Vampire. But the movie was based on a play of that name that had been a Broadway hit (title and concept from a Kipling poem, “The Vampire”), and the word may ultimately trace to Bara’s role. At any rate, Bara (real name Theodosia Goodman) remains the classic vamp.

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care)
But the fool, he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I.)

[Kipling, “The Vampire”]

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