[ stuhm-per ]
/ ˈstʌm pər /
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a person or thing that stumps.
an extremely difficult question, task, or problem.
a person who makes stump speeches.
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Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of stumper

First recorded in 1725–35; stump + -er1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does stumper mean?

A stumper is a question that’s incredibly difficult to answer—one that stumps you.

As a verb, stump can mean to confuse, puzzle, or perplex completely, as in The last question on the test really stumped me. 

When you are stumped in this way, you are usually at a loss—you don’t know the right answer and you might not even have a guess.

This sense of the word usually refers to questions or riddles, but it can also refer to a problem whose solution is unknown.

Unrelatedly, the word stumper can also refer to a person who campaigns for a politician candidate.

The word stump can refer to a platform for making speeches. This use isn’t common, but this sense of the word is commonly used in a figurative way to refer to the place where political campaign speeches are made, especially in the phrase on the stump, as in The senator went out on the stump to try to win re-election. Stump can also be used as a verb meaning to campaign, as in He’s stumping in Iowa today or He has endorsed the senator and will be stumping for her.

The term stump speech most often refers to a speech made on a campaign tour. It most commonly refers to a speech made by the politician who’s campaigning, but it can also refer to a speech made in support of that politician—a stumper.

Stumpers are known for making stump speeches, but they can also do other things to stump for the candidate they’re supporting, such as giving interviews or making appearances.

Example: My nephew came up with a riddle that’s a real stumper—it took me a week to figure it out!

Where does stumper come from?

The first records of the word stumper come from the 1700s, but it wasn’t used to refer to a hard question until around the early 1800s. Its use to refer to a campaigner is first recorded in the 1860s.

To stump someone is to make it so that they can’t think of a single answer or solution, and that’s what a stumper does. A stumper might be a puzzle or just a complicated situation that may not even be possible to solve.

When it refers to a campaign supporter, the word stumper is often used in a negative way. Calling someone a stumper may be intended to be dismissive of them or their message.

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What are some synonyms for stumper?

What are some words that share a root or word element with stumper

What are some words that often get used in discussing stumper?

How is stumper used in real life?

Stumper is very informal. It’s sometimes used sarcastically to refer to a question that’s very easy. When it refers to a campaign supporter, it can be used dismissively.


Try using stumper!

Is stumper used correctly in the following sentence?

The candidate has several stumpers who serve as her surrogates—they’re on the media circuit trying to get out her message.

How to use stumper in a sentence