From Middle English okome, from Old English ācumba (“oakum”, literally “that which has been combed out, off-combings”), a derivative of ācemban (“to comb out”), from Proto-Germanic *uz- + *kambijaną (“to comb”), from Proto-Indo-European *uds-, *ūd- (“out”) + *ǵombʰ-, *ǵembʰ- (“tooth, nail; to pierce, gnaw through”). More at out, comb.
oakum (countable and uncountable, plural oakums)
- A material, consisting of tarred fibres, used to caulk or pack joints in plumbing, masonry, and wooden shipbuilding.
- The coarse portion separated from flax or hemp in hackling.
- 1983, Peter Ackroyd, The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde:
- My eyesight began to fail, from the strain of picking oakum in my cell.
fibrous caulking material