Tag Archives: rambunctious

Rambunctious, Rumbustious, and Ramgumptious


I decided to take a look at the origins of rambunctious this morning, but along the way I was distracted by rumbustious and ramgumptious. I hope you’ll forgive me.

Rambunctious (pronunciation here) describes unruly or boisterous behaviour and was used in print from about 1830 in North America. It may have been an adaptation of the British English word rumbustious which had the same meaning and appeared there in the late 1700s as a compounding of robust and boisterous. The OED suggests it may have links to bumptious too.

Whatever the truth, it sounds bumpy and unruly and has stuck in both American and British English ever since. It is the perfect word to describe the lambs in the fields on my daily walk which delight in skipping, butting, and climbing on top of their patient mothers, and yet always stand still when I try to capture their antics in a photo or video.

Rambunctious lambs, not rams (pardon the pun)

Rumbustious isn’t a word we use commonly today. It dates to the late 1700s and includes the prefix rum which was used in a slang sense of good or fine – something I will recall the next time I sip a glass of rum.

Several other words of the same type were coined around the same time, none of which are in use now and yet might be worth revival. A rambumptious person was conceited and self-assertive, a rambuskious one was rough, but the one I love is ramgumptious which combines rambunctious with gumption (which I wrote about back in 2009) to tell us the person is shrewd but also bold and rash – what an amazing combination of personal characteristics.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and rambunctious wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. In other writing news this week – my next word book inspired by this blog, has just been sent off for proof copies. “Words The Sea Gave Us” will be launching later this year. Watch this space!


Rambunctious Ramblings


This week’s word, rambunctious, is thanks to my son. I’d actually forgotten how much I love this word and have used it frequently since he slipped it into our chat on a recent walk. I’m so proud I’ve spawned another word lover and book-geek. Well two actually, I’ll have to get his sibling to nominate a word soon.

It means, in case you don’t already know, to be out of control in a high energy playful way. For some unknown reason most of its synonyms start with R as well – raucous, riotous, rowdy, rollocking, riproarious, rumbustious etc. I’d add rascally although that’s not a strict match. I suspect there’s a poem in that list somewhere.

First used in a Boston newspaper report in 1830, rambunctious probably grew from similar words like rumbustious but no dictionary is definitive on this one. I’m fond of Collins (my first print dictionary) and they think the ram part comes from Icelandic – it’s an intensifying prefix – and the rest came from bumptious, so I’ll go with that.

Who knew we could sling ram in front of a word to make it more intense? I adore that idea. I must read a ramnovel with a slice of ramchocolate ramcake later.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and ramwordfooling,

Grace (@wordfoolery)