World Wide Words logo

Jumper

Q From Helen Schupp: I’m curious about different meanings of the word jumper as an article of clothing. In the US, this refers to a type of dress with a pinafore-style top worn with a blouse or shirt; when my Australian daughter-in-law uses it, she means what I, an American English speaker, call a sweater or a sweatshirt.

A The British usage also describes a sweater or pullover, that is, a knitted garment with long sleeves for the upper part of the body, though my impression is that pullover is rather old-fashioned, with sweater now much more common. Jumper seems to have appeared about the middle of the nineteenth century, originally for what the Oxford English Dictionary describes as “A kind of loose outer jacket or shirt reaching to the hips”, in other words what I would call a fisherman’s smock. The origin has nothing to do with the verb to jump, but comes from the dialect jump or jup, meaning a man’s short coat or a woman’s under-bodice or tunic. This may derive in turn from the French juppe, a petticoat (now in modern French, jupe, “skirt”), which ultimately derived from the Arabic jubba, a loose outer garment.

The word has evolved differently in Britain and the US; British usage has moved towards a garment that is specifically woollen, the US towards any upper-body garment for women. The OED refers to a catalogue of 1908 which talks about a loose-fitting blouse worn over a skirt, from which Americans later derived jumper suit for a jumper and skirt combination; I’ve found a plate in a Sears, Roebuck catalogue of 1916 that uses jumper frock to describe a pinafore dress worn over a blouse or shirt, which seems to be the original term, later shortened to jumper.

Page created 6 Feb. 1999

Support World Wide Words and keep this site alive.

Donate by selecting your currency and clicking the button.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select a site and click Go!

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved. See the copyright page for notes about linking to and reusing this page. For help in viewing the site, see the technical FAQ. Your comments, corrections and suggestions are always welcome.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–2014. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-jum1.htm
Last modified: 6 February 1999.