What is the correct place to use the word tumbleweed? Can we use it as a metaphor for a person who always irritates us?

  • General reference
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 8:07
  • Have a look at our own very own tumbleweed badge. Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 8:14
  • 2
    And the answer is no, you cannot use it for an annoying person unless they display tumbleweed traits
    – mplungjan
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 8:23
  • I question whether this is GR. I had never heard the term as referring to anything other than the plant. Of the dictionaries listed under the GR meta link, none listed any other (easily found) meaning, except the Urban Dictionary. Is this (primarily) a US term? If so, I would also question whether 'regional' terms should be closed on GR grounds (but I don't know whether there is a policy on that point?).
    – TrevorD
    Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 11:49
  • This is not GR. If there were a derogatory meaning to the word tumbleweed that you could use for an irritating person, it would likely not be found in dictionaries. Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 13:28

4 Answers 4


Yes, tumbleweeds' traits can, and have been, applied to people:

"I'm just a tumbling tumbleweed!" - lyrics to a song written by Bob Nolan, an actor, poet and western music songwriter in the 1930's. It attributes the plant's characteristic trait of breaking off and rolling along the plains with the wind to a cowboy's lifestyle.

Edit: The question on whether an annoying person can be called a "tumbleweed" is more of a judgment call. It would depend on whether the person is annoying because they are shiftless and always on the move and at the whim of the "wind" or other external force, not because of their own motivation.


You can use pretty much any word metaphorically. However, tumbleweed is not particularly irritating, so using it to mean an irritating person is going to create confusion. Hearing it, many people are more likely to think you mean a person without a purpose, who goes in whatever direction the wind takes him.


From past usage, when a person is called (a) tumbleweed, it means that they are pretty useless or without function and not generally the irritating description being suggested. Tumbleweed has no real function, and therefore is seen as unnecessary.

I think this sense goes pretty well with general reference definition #2 in the comment section under the question.

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Apr 14, 2022 at 17:48

It is used in such following situations:

A roaming party, where the sole intention is to roam, whilst partying. Thus giving the effect of a bush party that moves - Screw the bush party, let's tumbleweed.

Man im all out of tumbleweed you have a bag i can buy

Something to say during an uncomfortable silence or awkward pause in conversation. the conversation is so dead that a tumbleweed could be blowing through the people you are hanging out with like a desert - Silence "Tumbleweed..." Laughter

Tumbleweed moment where everyone fall silent not knowing how to react - tears or laughter.

  • 1
    While interesting, I'm only familiar with the 3rd example. Can you provide citations for the others? (FYI - not my downvote) Commented Aug 12, 2013 at 13:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.