I’m referring to the similar definitions of these four nouns – something raised and rounded. Why do these four rhyming words have similar meanings?

I have not found very specific sources for these words on the Online Etymology Dictionary and Wiktionary. Hump is “probably from Dutch homp.” Rump is “from a Scandinavian source,” “from Old Norse rumpr” ultimately from Proto-Germanic “rumpo.” Lump is “perhaps from a Scandinavian source” and finally, Bump is “perhaps from Scandinavian,” “probably of North Germanic origin.”

  1. Could these words come from the same root? Other than the fact that they all might come from northern Europe, the only hint I have in this direction is the following from Wiktionary, tracing the origin of Hump through Dutch, Middle Low German, Old Saxon and Proto-Germanic, to Proto-Indo-European *kumb-, *kumbʰ- (“curved”). Could this PIE root, which is not given in these online sources for any of the other three words, be a common root to all four words?

  2. I find myself looking at other –ump words and “seeing” a curved or rounded line: jump (a curved trajectory), grump (a downturned mouth), pump (the action of the pump handle), clump (a rounded clod of earth, not sharp), etc. Am I just seeing this because the words sound similar, or is there something more to my tendency? For example, the Online Etymology Dictionary suggests the origin of jump is "perhaps onomatopoeic (cf. bump)" although this view is not echoed on Wiktionary. Is it possible that these words do all share a common root and are simply onomatopoeic variations of each other?

  3. Are there other pairs or groups of words like these in English? (Wham! Bam! Ka-blam!) Does this phenomenon have a name?

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    See english.stackexchange.com/a/94599/16191 for my answer to a similar question. This is generally called "sound symbolism". Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 0:22
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    It is definitely not isolated. This is a coherent rime. See here for quite a lot more on the subject. Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 0:34
  • Not to mention lump, tump, and thump (okay, so you get the swelling bruise after the thump, but it's in that general area). And mumps are "sticky-up" too. Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 0:37

3 Answers 3


This is a rime; that is, it's the vowel nucleus plus coda of a monosyllable. And many rimes have phonosemantic coherence. As do assonances, that is, initial consonant clusters.

This particular one has a 3-Dimensional sense — an "ump" is something with three dimensions, roughly the same size in all three. There are 15 such simplex words in English:

lump clump dump plump hump slump jump rump
bump crumple stump rumple sump tump mump

Some of the assonances in these words are also phonosemantically coherent. KL- means 'Together', PL- means '2-Dimensional Thick', and ST- means '1-Dimensional Vertical Rigid'. So plump means an ump with wide padding, clump means an ump formed by putting things together, and — my favorite — stump means an ump that used to be a long vertical rigid thing.

See here for much, much more about phonosemantics.

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    Fascinating and thanks for the link. I can't wait to read more.
    – JAM
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 1:11
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    You listed rumple twice. Was one of them supposed to be crumple?
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 1:30
  • I like this but it seems to me "ump" objects while 3-D do not have similar extent in all 3 -- they tend to be half-spheres (roughly) so that two of the 3 dimensions are equal but they have a base that abruptly stops.
    – releseabe
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 11:06
  • @releseabe: I did say "roughly the same in all three [dimensions]". The dimensions are often skewed because we live in a 1G field and things have to be held, manipulated, and set down. Spheres roll, but umps by and large don't. Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 14:34

I don't know whether these words have the same root but it's not an isolated phenomenon - think of how many 'wet' words have sp or sh

splish, splash, sploosh, gush, splatter, spatter, spray, spurt, shower, spew, sperm, spume, squirt, sprinkle

I don't know if these have etymological connections either and I'm afraid it's too late at night for me to start looking them up!

P.S. tump also means 'hillock' or 'mound' and there is a Welsh word twmpath - this from Wikipedia:

Twmpath is a Welsh word literally meaning a hump or tump, once applied to the mound or village green upon which the musicians sat and played for the community to dance. Twmpath dawns were organised by Urdd Gobaith Cymru in the late 1950s and 1960s, a form of barn dance, for the entertainment of young people, mainly from rural areas.[1] These events remained popular until the rise of discos in the 1970s. Twmpath is used today to mean a Welsh version of the barn dance or céilidh.

  • So I wonder if 'tump' comes from Welsh?
    – JAM
    Commented Jan 4, 2013 at 2:43
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    This site has a discussion of 'tump', including the quote below merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tump Tump is not a combination word. The Oxford English Dictionary's earliest use of the word is in 1589. It's almost certainly related to twmpath, the Welsh work for hillock. That appeared in a Welsh-English dictionaries from at least 1802. In the 1950s in The Rhondda , in South Wales, tump was in common use as a hillock or mound, or to make a mound "tump the earth".
    – Mynamite
    Commented Jan 6, 2013 at 23:11

This is not a case of fortuitous convergence. Virtually every word with "ump" in it has a meaning that is harsh, derogatory or negative (in varying degrees). Plumb, Thump, Trump, Dump/Dumpster, Chump, Clump, Crumple, Bump, Frump, Grump, Mumps, Lump, Stump, Sump, Slump, Rump, Strumpet. It is no wonder the villains at the baseball park and elsewhere are called "Umpires".

Even softer "ump" words have a feeling about them that is disquieting or intrusive on a well-ordered day (e.g)(Jump, Hump, Pump, Trumpet, Rumple). There is not a lullaby among them and most fairly cry out for attention.

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