imitative of the sound of a hard hit, first recorded 1922 (from 1917 as the sound of an artillery shell bursting). Middle English had a verb bammen "to hit or strike" (late 14c.). A literary work from c. 1450 represents the sound of repeated impact with Lus, bus! las, das!, and Middle English had lushe "a stroke, blow" (c. 1400); lushen "to strike, knock, beat" (c. 1300). Bam also was an old slang shortening of bamboozle (18c.).
updated on March 28, 2017