gum up(redirected from gum the works up)
gum something upand gum the works up
Fig. to make something inoperable; to ruin someone's plans. Please, Bill, be careful and don't gum up the works. Tom sure gummed up the whole plan.
gum up somethingalso
to cause something to stop working well Don't send any attachments or pictures, because they tend to gum up my computer.Related vocabulary: gum up the works
Etymology: based on the idea of getting gum (a sticky substance) in a machine
Ruin or bungle something, as in The front office has gummed up the sales campaign thoroughly. This idiom is also put as gum up the works, as in John's changes in procedures have gummed up the works in the shipping department. [Slang; c. 1900]
1. To cover with a sticky substance: Gum up the back of the paper so it will stick to the frame. Gum the poster up so it won't fall down.
2. To become inactive or inoperable because of interference with moving parts: The cash register gummed up while it was in the attic, and now we can't open it.
3. To cause complications or inefficiency in something: These new regulations have gummed our procedures up, and we can't get anything done on time. The extra layer of bureaucracy gummed up the department's ability to process claims quickly.