Printable Version
Pronunciation: têmp Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: (Transitive) To knock or tip over, overturn; (intransitive) To fall over.

Notes: This word, according to most dictionaries that carry it, is supposed to be limited to the southern US states, originating in black dialects. I'm from North Carolina and I've never heard or read it there, so it must reside in the dialects of states farther south. It is a lexical orphan, wherever it is used.

In Play: This word seems a prisoner of the Deep South, Alabama, Mississippi, maybe Louisiana and Texas: "At the party Harvey Wallbanger put a lampshade on his head and stumbled around so much he tumped over the lamp he had taken his 'hat' from." It may be used intransitively, too: "Harvey continued to stumble around until he himself tumped over and fell on the couch."

Word History: Today's Good Word seems related to thump or tumble, but none of my etymological sources know where either of these words comes from. However, Sanskrit had a verb tumpati "pushes", which came from PIE (s)teu-/(s)tou- "push, hit" with a -p suffix plus nasalization, both common in PIE languages. Since [t] became [th] in Germanic languages, English thump certainly is a descendant of the same combination. Since in the rural US South the [th} sound is often reduced to [t], especially in the old black dialects, that is probably tump's immediate origin. We find the PIE word suffixed with -p but without the nasalization ([m]) in Greek tuptein "to hit" and, with the Fickle S, in stupos "stick, cudgel" and Latin stupere "to be stunned", and with both, in English stumble. English stump and stub, as in 'stump/stub your toe', could have come from the same source. (Today's Good Word was suggested by Anna Jung, who was "legit dying here" in Alabama finding so little about it in dictionaries.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!