Saturday, August 15, 2009


A while back, Betsy from My Five Men wrote this post about all the rain they've had in the Midwest this year. She ended her entry with a question that I've meant to research ever since then; "didn't they used to call them [umbrellas] bumbershoots?" I was familiar with the term but not with its origins.
Merriam Webster defines the word like this:
  • Main Entry: bum·ber·shoot
  • Pronunciation: \ˈbəm-bər-ˌshüt\
  • Function: noun
  • Etymology: bumber- (alteration of umbr- in umbrella) + -shoot (alteration of -chute in parachute)
  • Date: circa 1896

According to this article most people think bumbershoot is an British term for umbrella but the author makes a compelling argument that the origin of this curious word is American rather than British. He says that the word isn't British, since it isn't know in Britain at all. He speculates that people associate it with the English because it was used in a song lyric from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which was set in England. The song was written by two Americans for the Disney film.

But even before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, L. Frank Baum used the word in 1912 in his book, Sky Island.

“This umbrella has been in our family years, an’ years, an’ years. But it was tucked away up in our attic an’ no one ever used it ’cause it wasn’t pretty.” “Don’t blame ’em much,” remarked Cap’n Bill, gazing at it curiously. “It’s a pretty old-lookin’ bumbershoot.”

So, now you know!


  1. I can honestly say that I have never heard of a bumbershoot. I did watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang quite a few times with my daughters and do not remember the word in the movie. But then again maybe I thought it was a British phrase. Do you remember Bedknobs and Broomsticks, another classic.
    I am looking at your sidebar, my husband use to always ask my kids, "What is the first thing you say to yourself when you get up in the morning?" I never knew it was from Winnie the Pooh, interesting.
    I am begining to feel a little more like myself lately. I like being creative, no matter how big or small the creation.

  2. Hey...I'm glad you researched this, because I never did! You know, I would have guessed that bumbershoot was a British word, just sounds British, doesn't it?

    Wow...I haven't seen Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in years! I bet my boys would enjoy it~!

  3. So that's what it is. I was thinking it might be some sort of strange bird or flying device. Close, but no cigar (not that I want one anyway ;) ).

  4. Thank you for those facts! The scientist in me is alwasy interetsed in cold facts.;) Combined with Betsy's post, this must be the most thorough writing on the subject of umbrellas.;))
    Have a great Sunday and happy lawn mowing.;)) xo

  5. Interesting. I used the bumbershoot word before Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I don't know where I heard it first. Hmmm. This photo is so colorful.

  6. How interesting! I have always thought the word typically British, but I suppose it could be American (although a good number of Americans originated in Britain anyway, right?)

    What was Sky Island about? Curioser and curioser!


    P.S. The icky copse poem popped into my head when I looked up the definition of the word. (I have been watching old "Poirot" episodes.)

  7. funny - I always thought it was british in origin too. :) i love saying the word though, it makes me giggle.

  8. Great post, very interesting! I never heard the word Bumbershoot before.
    Nice word, but I couldn't see Rihanna singing " can stand under my Bumbershoot"

  9. Hi Stevie
    I would have believed the word "bumbershoot" was British also, so it was interesting to find out it was an American word. Word origins are always fascintaing!

    X0 Pat

  10. PS I love how you found the postcard of Julia Child in the tub with Paul! I adored the movie!

  11. Well I'll be...I thought it was a British thing too:)

  12. I know this is several years old, but the word came up on a site I am on and it caused a few people to giggle. . .it seems most do think it was British in origin, however growing up in Ohio, I was always told that it was a Pennsylvania Dutch word, so I never looked it up before.


I'm glad you stopped by and I look forward to your comments. As Dr. Fraser Crane would say, "Hello, I'm listening."