What does 'tump' mean and why do Texans say it?

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(NEXSTAR) — Pretend you accidentally knock your drink over. What would you say happened to it? If you’re from Texas, or just from the south overall, you might say it “tumped” over.

In general, the word is used when something falls over, spills over, or is knocked over. You can tump someone over or be tumped over by someone else. It’s a useful word — but is it even a word?

And moreover, why do Texans say this?

While “tump” isn’t only found in Texas, you’ll definitely hear it there. Several Texas news outlets have attempted to trace the word’s origin, including Texas Monthly, which pointed to a now-26-year-old post on a message board called Word Wizard (the website is now gone, sadly). According to Texas Monthly’s John Nova Lomax, that lost-to-time post explained that “tump” was a word meant to mimic the “thump” of something falling and hitting the ground.

A common etymological theory is that the word is a combination of the words “tipped” and “dumped” — both of which are frequently followed by the word “over,” as “tumped” often is. In other words, what’s known as a portmanteau, as explained by Texas Standard in 2017.

Again, the verbal phenomenon isn’t signature to only Texas. Many southern outlets, including Oklahoma’s The Oklahoman and Alabama’s AL.com, have noted the trend. Nevertheless, Texans online appear to proudly own the word.

“If you used the word ‘tumped’ you’re: A) from Texas B) not from Texas and possibly just had a stroke. See a doctor ASAP,” joked the popular Texas Humor Twitter account in 2014.

Musings on the word can be seen in connection with Texas Reddit, including this giant thread of Texas slang words.

In a 2020 Reddit thread, one new Texan asked how long until they could convincingly say “Yeehaw,” to which someone posed a counter-challenge: “The real test is when you can properly use ‘tumped over’ in a sentence.”

We may just never know where tump came from. What’s more, researching tump can be more difficult than it used to be since a certain former president’s last name takes up considerable search engine real estate now.

Finally, if anyone ever laughs at you for using tump, just know this: the word’s even made it into the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. So tump away, Texas!

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