Well it is summer time and I have to lose some weight so I have chosen the cardiovascular activity to do that jumping rope. While digging on some information I have asked myself a few questions:

Why do they call the jump rope skipping rope in England? Do they call it skipping rope or jump rope in the States as there are World Rope Skipping Federation (WRSF) and The United States Amateur Jump Rope Federation (USAJRF)? What is the etymology of "skipping rope" as you are jumping not skipping? What is most common to use nowadays as I have heard both? See this NGram.

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    Evidently, here in Canada we have the Canadian Rope Skipping Federation. The very first sentence in their "What is Rope Skipping" section explains that skipping rope is British and jump rope is American. Then, ironicaly, they use jump rope throughout the rest of the page. ropeskippingcanada.com/index.php/what-is-rope-skipping
    – Kaz
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 2:33
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    By the way, here is something to chew on: Americans by and large tend to be fans and supporters of power sports that require exertion of muscle over short periods, rather than endurance sports. Track and field stuff doesn't get much coverage on American television, for instance. Most young people could probably not name their country's current best miler or 10K runner. Jumping is explosive exercise; skipping is endurance. Jumping is a powerful word; skipping is "sissy".
    – Kaz
    Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 2:58

9 Answers 9


Here in America, jump rope is the only noun we use. At my gym we warm up by jumping rope so I own my own jump rope of just the right length and thickness. As an adult wanting to exercise, I jump rope (doing single unders and double unders) at my gym.

Young girls at play might jump rope or skip rope or even play jump rope. Skip rope implies (at least to me) a lazy, fun activity one can do while daydreaming, while even young girls might jump rope with a sense of competition. But even girls who skip rope do so with a jump rope.

Before I read this question I don't think I'd ever heard the term skipping rope used as a noun to mean the rope.

This is an article on using a jump rope as part of an athletic training regimen that is written in American English with an attempt to include British English terms as alternates. I can't speak to the British, but the American seems natural and correct to me.

  • That's great and all, but the question is about British English. Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 11:12
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    @MattЭллен, the question includes "Do they call it skipping rope or jump rope in the States"
    – Old Pro
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 11:15
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    US: People warm up by jumping rope with a jump rope. UK: People warm up by skipping with a skipping rope. We don't need to say what we use for skipping because it's always a [skipping] rope.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 11:18
  • My mistake, Old Pro. The tags threw me. Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 11:19
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    I had never heard of a skipping rope either.
    – JLG
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 11:51

I didn't know Americans called a skipping rope something different. I'd be very surprised if it's ever been called anything else in British English (I don't have access to the OED at the moment).

One meaning of skip is "jump". CDs can skip momentarily, meaning that the read head has jumped from where it should be.

However, skipping is also that sort of running, jumping, playful walk that children like to do. And it's possible to do that sort of skipping on-the-spot with a skipping rope — you don't simply have to jump up and down as you use it.

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    British English it is always a skipping rope. It is a rope used while skipping - which is the act of jumping over a rope being spun around you. Makes sense to me. Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 8:25
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    General note: There seems to be some confusion for American English users. In the UK skipping rope is a noun, a rope used for skipping. The verb is skipping, and if clarification is required it's skipping with a rope or using a skipping rope.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 13:45

Well it is summer time and I have to lose some weight so I have chosen the cardiovascular activity to do that jumping rope. While digging on some information I have asked myself a few questions:

Why do they call the jump rope skipping rope in England ? Do they call it skipping rope or jump rope in the States as there are World Rope Skipping Federation (WRSF) and The United States Amateur Jump Rope Federation (USAJRF). What is the etymology of skipping rope as you are jumping not skipping ? What is most common to use nowadays as I have heard both ?

First of all, this is relevant to more than just England. In England and the rest of the UK, it is known as a skipping rope.

The only times that I ever heard anyone say "jump rope", was on American television programmes. Nobody uses the words "jump rope", in the UK. This seems to be an Americanism.

This page makes it clear: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/skipping-rope?q=skipping+rope


The way I always understood it growing up as a USA-sian, "skipping rope" is just one particular way of using a jump rope. In particular, its generally done solo with the user employing a skipping cadence.

"Jump rope" can refer to the rope itself, or to the activity of using a jump rope. If you are hopping up when it comes around, rather than using a skipping gait, you are jumping rope, not skipping rope.

Also there is double-dutch jump rope (usually shortened to just "double-dutch"), where two jump ropes are employed by dedicated swingers, typcially with some kind of chant added in. This is serious business. Good double-dutch teams are really impressive atheletes.


I imagine some of the hits for jump rope in your Ngram may refer to the noun form.

The jump rope is the rope used for skipping rope. Put another way, you might say:

I need to lose some weight, so I'm going to start skipping rope. Time to buy a new jump rope.

Which term is most common? In most of the US, I believe jumping rope is more common, particularly when the term is used competitively or for serious exercise. (I have a neice who jumped competitively in high school; I will try to interview her today and report my findings if I learn differently.)

EDIT: I couldn't get hold of my niece, but her dad told me that her team was named the Skippers, no doubt a pun, not just on jumping rope/skipping rope, but also because the team was based in a coastal town with a relatively large seafaring population.

  • Thanks JR :) This sounds fun. +1 for your efforts mate ;-) Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 13:56
  • @J.R. It surely sounds funny. However, this made me remember that when I was a kid I used to have a doll called "Skipper", supposedly the younger sister of the more glamourous Barbie doll. I don't know whether that was its name everywhere or just an Italian choice. And no rope or boat was provided with the doll...
    – Paola
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 17:43

Skipping rope is defined as follows http://www.thefreedictionary.com/skipping-rope

skipping-rope n (Group Games / Games, other than specified) Brit a cord, usually having handles at each end, that is held in the hands and swung round and down so that the holder or others can jump over it

I've added a term to this n-gram to include jumping rope.

I've heard jump rope as the item used as well as the game, so that could weigh heavily since the usage is both a noun and verb. Skipping rope seems to be used the same way however.

From http://www.skip-hop.co.uk/jump-rope-c76.html

Jump Rope is simply the term used in America and some other parts of the world used for the actual rope you jump when you are skipping . The term is now used to describe the activity as well. So particularly in the states you might jump rope using a jump rope!. The term is also used more now in the UK particularly because of the exchange of skills and equipment between the UK and the United States.

The use of the term skipping rope includes the activity as well in this example

Perhaps the usage of the terms viewed separately in American and British English will help as seen in these n-grams of the American usage here (where I added in jump roping just for fun) and the British usage here.

According to Wikipedia, the tool is called a jump rope or skipping rope, used for the game of skipping. As you can read in the article, there are many ways of jumping/skipping rope, and I grew up skipping in place over the rope in the USA as it was easier to keep going with less energy for competitions of duration rather than number of jumps.

Online Etymology Dictionary says about skip:

skip (v.) c.1300, "to spring lightly," also "to jump over," probably from O.N. skopa "to skip, run," from P.Gmc. *skupanan (cf. M.Swed. skuppa, dialectal Swed. skopa "to skip, leap"). Meaning "omit intervening parts" first recorded late 14c. Meaning "fail to attend" is from 1905. The noun is attested from mid-15c. The custom of skipping rope has been traced to 17c.; it was commonly done by boys as well as girls until late 19c. Related: Skipped; skipping.

Notice that skipping rope has been traced to 17c.

Look here for a more recent history of the International Rope Skipping Federation (FISAC-IRSF)


Here is a guess at the "skipping" etymology. This is probably because skipping (which we can take to be light, or small jumping) is all that is necessary to use the rope as it is intended. Only a small amount of clearance is required for the rope to pass under the feet. It is not necessary to jump, and doing so will only reduce your endurance. People who are skilled at skipping rope do not jump very high. This is something beginners do, to mitigate their bad timing which causes the rope to catch their feet.

Skip also means to get over something by jumping. While you can skip intransitively, you can also skip objects: for instance, skip every other stair. (And of course skip also means to bypass something in general. Skip a meeting, skip breakfast, ...)

Skip, a verb which takes a direct object, expresses the idea of getting over/past the rope.

By contrast, "jumping rope" (the verb phrase) is basically ungrammatical (i.e. accepted as an idiom) because "jump", in the sense of "leap", is a verb which does not take an object. You can jump, jump off something, jump into/over something, but you can't jump something.

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    There are similar examples of using jump idiomatically, such as jump the turnstile, jump the line (i.e. "jump over" the rest of the people in the line).
    – dj18
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 19:00
  • Ah yes, jump the queue, "queue jumper", etc. Good, +1.
    – Kaz
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 20:49

To throw some more oddness into the mix - as an Aus English speaker - I've heard both but by far and away, it's a skipping rope in Aus.

I do, however, have memories of participating in Jump Rope For Heart (organised by the BHF in the UK, and the Heart Foundation in Aus) as a little tacker at school, so I wouldn't be overly suprised to see the term 'jump rope' bleeding through at some stage to describe the activity, however, it doesn't appear to be the case yet. If you go through the BHF Jump Rope For Heart page, it refers to the tools as skipping ropes throughout, and seems to call the activity skipping, but the event a 'Jump', for example:

When the children have mastered the basic skipping skills a Jump Off (a sponsored skip) is held, which can involve one class or the whole school, teachers and parents!

  • I remember doing the "Jump Rope for Heart" thing in Scotland (20 or so years ago) and being confused why they called it "jump rope" when it was just skipping.
    – neil
    Commented May 1, 2012 at 13:39

I think that the title reflects the action. Especially if two others are holding the rope or in some cases two counter rotating ropes. When skipping you do not jump, raising your whole body,unless you only want to do it for a short time. Instead as the rope approaches your feet you lift your feet, or foot if your are hopping, let the rope pass and then quickly put your feet down again. In effect you have skipped, i.e. missed the rope. The upper body above the hips has hardly moved. In this way minimum energy is used and the game can go on for a long time. Skipping, as in sort of running, is so called because it is running with every other step skipped, or missed. Marchers do the same thing once if they are out of step and want to get back into step synchronism.

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