I was reading a book written in the UK and a character stated that speaking to her sister made her "feel Humpty". I am not sure what she was feeling, as the rest of the dialogue gave no clue. Can anyone help clarify this?

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    It's not an idiomatic usage. My guess would be it's a malapropism for feeling uppity (disgruntled, and willing to give voice to one's dissatisfaction), with no particular allusion to Lewis Carroll's Humpty-Dumpty. Or perhaps (another malapropism) she meant she feels dumpy / frumpy (her sister is thinner / more elegant than her). Apr 15, 2016 at 16:39
  • @FumbleFingers It rhymes with dump, down in the dumps. People do create their own ad hoc idioms to express their ideas, and suit their moods. This one seems fairly obvious, though it could be connected to get, or take the hump which is a fairly well used idiom in Britain, meaning that the person concerned has taken offence at something. He's taken the hump because I complained about his body odour
    – WS2
    Apr 15, 2016 at 17:03
  • I've always read "humpty" as meaning something along the lines of "huffy" -- kind of riled up. Certainly might be wrong, but the definition seemed to fit in the dozen or so places I've seen the term.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 15, 2016 at 17:21
  • @HotLicks Yes. Like taking the hump.
    – WS2
    Apr 15, 2016 at 17:25
  • @WS2: Looks like that's another one of those oddball (regional?) variations. I've never heard anyone say he's taken the hump. That's a link to the one and only instance in Google Books, whereas there are an estimated 335 instances of the one I know - he's got the hump. But I don't see how you can say This one seems fairly obvious for OP's cited usage. It's a complete one-off with no context, no equivalents in GB, and no "standard" meaning. Apr 15, 2016 at 17:44

5 Answers 5


'Getting the hump' and 'humpty' are common Cockney or London expressions for being annoyed or disgruntled. My mother's family were Cockneys.


My father (From Birmingham England) used the term 'feeling humpty' for feeling unwell, which figures, as in the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty has a great fall and can't be put back together again.

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    Hi, Jo O, and welcome to the stack. Please take the tour and learn more about how things work here. Your answer is largely anectodal, but we're looking for established usage - preferably with citations.
    – Davo
    Jul 27, 2021 at 14:03
  • Hi Jo, some of us are happy to learn first-hand facts about the language that won't necessarily have found their way into a book. Whether we fit in here is another question.
    – TimR
    Aug 25, 2023 at 12:05

I used this expression this week (I come from Liverpool) and a fellow Liverpudlian looked totally bemused. My grandmother used this expression instead of 'no good','unwell' etc. Something broken can be humpty and you can feel humpty. My family have always used the expression. My Grandmother's father was a cockney so maybe she picked it up from him.


Jonathon Green, Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, second edition (2005) has the following relevant entry for humpty:

humpty adj.2 {1990s+} irritated, tetchy.

Green suggests that this sense of humpty derives from a much older slang sense of the noun hump:

hump n.1 {late 19C+} a fit of bad-humour, a sulk; thus GET THE HUMP v.; GIVE SOMEONE THE HUMP v. {abbr[eviation of] S[tandard] E[nglish] phr[ase] hump the back, to sulk}

To similar effect are these entries in Tony Thorne, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1990):

hump n 1 the hump a feeling of annoyance, resentment or depression. To 'have the hump' or 'get the hump' has meant to be bad-tempered or to take offence since the 18th century. It comes from the notion of a hunchback's burden. [Cited example:] '"I've got the 'ump today!" he told us cheerfully.' (Security guard, Evening Standard, 12 June 1989).


humpty adj British 1 having the hump, annoyed, resentful. [Usage example:] 'He's a bit humpty this morning.' ... Both senses of the word ["annoyed, resentful" and "horny or sexually aroused"] were current in London working-class usage in the late 1980s. The 'h' is usually silent.

It therefore appears that the term humpty has been in slang use in parts of England since at least the late 1980s in the sense of "bad-humored, sulky, annoyed, or resentful." And Thorne asserts that it derives from "the notion of a hunchback's burden."


From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty at Origins

"...According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "humpty dumpty" referred to a drink of brandy boiled with ale in the seventeenth century.[8] The riddle probably exploited, for misdirection, the fact that "humpty dumpty" was also eighteenth-century reduplicative slang for a short and clumsy person.[11] The riddle may depend upon the assumption that a clumsy person falling off a wall might not be irreparably damaged, whereas an egg would be. ..." [my emphasis]

Your meaning could be either short or clumsy depending how well each fits the context of the dialogue.

Taking the idea of reduplicative slang a little further, and as is noted above in the comments, possibly empty.

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