[OED:] Etymology: A humorous formation, suggested perhaps by bump n.1 or bump v.1, and words in -tious, like fractious. (Not in Craig 1847, nor in any earlier Dict.)

bumptious {adjective} = Irritatingly self-assertive

1. How does 'bump' (as either the noun or verb) relate to the meaning of 'bumptious'? Please help me dig deeper than the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. But what are some right ways of interpreting the etymology to make it feel reasonable and intuitive?

2. What was humorous? Etymonline also doesn't explain the humour.


1 Answer 1


Bumptious is used in the sense of conceited. There is a connection to the word bump in the expression "puffed up with conceit" where puffed up refers to bump.

Puffed up (and puffy) -as an adjective- has a similar sense to bumptious as well.

This connection is also mentioned in one of the earliest dictionaries I could find. (Glossary of Northamptonshire Words and Phrases, Volume 1 By Anne Elizabeth Baker - 1854). Another form of the word is bumshus.

enter image description here

An earlier dictionary mentions it as a word from Norfolk and Suffolk dialects. (A General Dictionary of Provincialisms By William Holloway - 1839):

enter image description here

Another dictionary suggests that it might have emerged from or gained usage through college jargon (as college humor) in Cambridge. (A Collection of College Words and Customs By Benjamin Homer Hall - 1856):

enter image description here

Here is the earliest description of bumptious from a Cantab in the context of chess. (from The New Monthly Magazine, Volume 3; Volume 39 - 1833):

In sitting down to play, take notice how far your adversary troubles himself about arranging the board and men, or whether he obtrudes all the preliminary settlement upon yourself. If the latter, and if he makes you set a good part of his own men for him, you may be sure he reckons himself something too good for you, and stands high in his own esteem. At Cambridge we called such a man bumptious. It attends him in all his actions through life.—" L'âme n'a pas de secret que la conduite ne révèle. L'amour-propre est le plus grand de tous les flatteurs. "

Your Answer

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