(Anglo-Saxon) acumba; prefix er-, (Gothic) us-, original meaning, out) + cemban to comb, camb comb. See Comb.
1. The material obtained by untwisting and picking into loose fiber old hemp ropes; -- used for calking the seams of ships, stopping leaks, etc.2. The coarse portion separated from flax or hemp in nackling. Knight. White oakum, that made from untarred rope.
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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”) + Proto-Indo-European *ǵombʰ-, *ǵembʰ- (“tooth, nail; to pierce, gnaw through”). More at out, comb.
oakum (uncountable) 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. (Can we find and add a quotation of Knight to this entry?)
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