Idiom of the Week: “Being Stumped”


Firstly sorry for being two days late for this week’s idiom of the week…life took over for a while. All is back to normal now; well hopefully!!

This week’s idiom is “Being Stumped”.

“I’m Stumped” Image from My Husband Ate all My Ice Cream


The meaning of “Being Stumped” is being ‘stuck’ – unable to proceed, often regarding being confounded by some intellectual puzzle. I have sometimes heard it

It has believed that American authorities have supposed that this derives from the development of the road system. When these roads were being built trees were sawn down; to no more that 15 inches tall – resulting in tree stumps. All was well with the machines that were used; but when the rain was heavy the machines would get stuck into the mud and become ‘stumped’ to the same height of the trees.

Other people have suggested that it might be from cricket, in which a batsman is out if the wicket keeper removes the stumps with the ball when the batsman is out of his ground.

It is more likely that the term derives from ploughs sticking when they hit tree-stumps.

The USA origin is certainly correct though. All of the early citations of the phrase originate from there; for example, Seba Smith’s Letters of Major Jack Downing, 1833:

“My Good Old Friend, – I’m stumped. I jest got a letter from the Gineral.”

The term is pre-dated by the term ‘stumper’, which was US slang for a difficult poser. This was cited in an 1807 edition of the New York magazine Salmagundi:

“They happened to run their heads full butt against a new reading. Now this was a stumper.”

[Definiation from The Free Dictionary]