views updated May 09 2018

Tom male personal forename.
Tom and Jerry names of the two chief characters in Egan's Life in London, 1821, and its continuation, 1828; whence in various allusive and attributive uses, especially as name of a compound alcoholic drink, a kind of highly-spiced punch.

Tom and Jerry are also the names of the cat and mouse cartoon characters (created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera) who first appeared in Puss Gets the Boot (1939); in their constant and violent battles, the large black-and-white cat is in the end outwitted by the adroit mouse.
Tom, Dick, and Harry collectively referring to ordinary people in general; the phrase in this form is recorded from the mid 18th century, but Shakespeare in 1 Henry IV (1597) has ‘Tom, Dick, and Francis’ in a similar sense.
Tom o'Bedlam a madman, a deranged person discharged from Bedlam and licensed to beg; in Shakespeare's King Lear (1605–6), the banished Edgar disguises himself as the mad ‘Poor Tom’.
Tom Thumb the hero of an old children's story, the son of a ploughman in the time of King Arthur who was only as tall as his father's thumb; the story of his life was popular as a chapbook publication, and was the subject of Fielding's mock-heroic Tom Thumb, a Tragedy (1730).
Tom Tiddler's ground the name of a children's game. One of the players is Tom Tiddler, his territory being marked by a line drawn on the ground; over this the other players run, crying ‘We're on Tom Tiddler's ground, picking up gold and silver’. They are chased by Tom Tiddler, the first, or sometimes the last, caught taking his place.


views updated Jun 27 2018

tom / täm/ • n. 1. the male of various animals, esp. a turkey or domestic cat.2. (Tom) inf. short for Uncle Tom.• v. (Tom) (Tommed, Tom·ming) [intr.] inf. , derog. (of a black person) behave in an excessively obedient or servile way.


views updated May 29 2018

Tom familiar abbrev. of the pers. name Thomas, used (i) as the name of certain large bells (XVII), and long guns (XIX, Long Tom); (ii) in designations originating in quasi-proper names as tom-fool †half-witted man (XVI), buffoon (XVII), stupid person (XVIII);
hence tomfoolery (XIX); tom-noddy puffin (XVIII), foolish person (XIX); (iii) as the colloq. designation of a male cat, originating in ‘The Life and Adventures of a Cat’ (1760) in which the hero, a male cat, is called Tom the Cat. Hence dim. Tommy (-Y6) spec. short for Tommy Atkins familiar form of Thomas Atkins, name of a typical private soldier in the British army arising out of its use in specimen forms of description in official regulations from 1815. Also tomboy †bold boy or woman; wild romping girl XVI; tomtit TITMOUSE (XVIII).