Meaning Behind The Words: Other Terms Used For Umbrellas

We’re not sure whether you’ve noticed, but our team love umbrellas. We simply can’t get enough of them and surprisingly, we all have our own little names for them. Although this is something that is common from region to region, it’s important for us all to understand the actual meaning behind them and how they came to become part of our ever-evolving vocabulary.

Funny umbrellas
Funny umbrellas

We take a look at some of the common names used for umbrellas, how many have you heard of?

This may be one word that you’re not as familiar with, as it was thought to originate in the United States. Although surprisingly, many Americans assume that the word is British slang. As you can probably imagine, it is used as quite a playful term for umbrella and apparently dates back to the late 1890s.

It’s not entirely clear how the word came to be, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make some assumptions. It sounds like the “bumber” part of the word is a derivative of “umbr” and the “shoot” is similar to the “-chute” part of the word in a parachute which does make a little bit of sense!

A Gamp is essentially a large umbrella, but this word is thought to have made its debut in 1855. The word derives from Charles Dicken’s Martin Chuzzlewit novel (1843-44) which featured a character called Sarah Gamp who often carried a large cotton umbrella. Her companion, which endured many adventures was described as: “in colour like a faded leaf, except where a circular patch of a lively blue had been dexterously let in at the top”.

From this, people began calling the umbrella a Gamp! Although the word isn’t commonly used now, it still remains featured in most dictionaries.

The origin of brolly is an alteration of (um)brell(a) dating back to around 1870-1875. This word is one that we commonly use today, with many brands even marketing the product as this. Although the term stems from the extracted ‘brell’, this is thought to have changed over time as language develops.

“Brelly” has slowly become “brolly”, likely as a result of accents and regional differences. Regional accents are known to have been significantly different around this time and were a lot sterner — something which has watered down with increased travel opportunities and media influence. So much so, that the North/South regional differences were intense enough to cause word change.

It’s clear that nicknames for the umbrella have changed over time — we’ve lost old ones and gained new ones, but that’s all part of linguistic development. However, the questions we want answered is why haven’t we started calling our windproof umbrellas a Hagrid or our ladies umbrellas a Poppins? Now that would be awesome.

Superstitions We All Still Believe

For generations, we’ve believed countless superstitions that have shifted the narrative of how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis. Many of these have been passed down from our ancestors and although some are more ridiculous than others, our wariness towards them remains unshaken.

Here at Fulton Umbrellas, we have collated a list of some of the most common superstitions that many of us have grown up to believe. In this article, we take a look at what they actually mean and where they came from!

Popular superstitions
Popular superstitions

One of the most popular superstitions in our office was of course the thought of opening an umbrella indoors resulting in bad luck. Legend has it that the superstition comes from ancient Egypt where the first brolly originated from. Stemming from the Latin root word ‘umbra’, which means shade or shadow, umbrellas were used to protect the most noble figures in society from the bright sun rays.

With this in mind, many Egyptians believed that opening an umbrella indoors, away from the sun, would be disrespectful and anger the sun gods. From this, the sun god would then take out his anger on everyone in the home that the umbrella had been opened!


Broken mirror
Broken mirror

Everyone’s heard of the superstition that if you break a mirror, you’ll end up with seven years bad luck. But where did it come from?

This superstition is said to date back thousands of years. Some say that it originates from when humans first used the water to see their reflections. It was around this time when people believed that the image in the water was actually their soul. They thought that any disruption to the water (and their reflection) would mean that harm would come to them as well.

Another origin of the mirror superstition stems from ancient myths. One tale suggests that mirrors are a force of magic, with the ability to see into the future. It was thought that if the actual mirror was smashed or destroyed, the powers would be terminated and the person whose reflection was last in the mirror would experience a future of misfortune…
But where did the seven years’ time frame come from? This part of the superstition was added to by the Romans. It was believed by them that life renewed itself after seven years. They believed that if a poorly person looked into a mirror, their image would break the mirror and bad luck would continue until their life was renewed.


Salt over the shoulder
Many of us have heard of the superstitions to do with salt. Spilling salt is bad luck but throwing it over your left shoulder can reverse it. But, what is it about salt that makes it bad luck?

This superstition was present in the famous da Vinci painting of The Last Supper! In the painting, you can see that Judas has knocked over the salt with his elbow, representing his betrayal of Jesus. The superstition may also come from the value of the commodity in ancient times. It used to be a very expensive product, and even used as currency in some civilizations. Therefore, spilling salt was considered very foolish!

There is another religious connotation that lies with throwing the salt over the left side to reverse the luck. This is because Christians believe that the devil is behind your left shoulder, therefore you are essentially throwing it into his face and blinding him.

Avoid walking beneath a ladder
Avoid walking beneath a ladder

Walking under ladders
Even now many of us would avoid walking beneath a ladder! And, it’s not just because of the health and safety risks, a lot of people think that it will bring them bad luck. Where did this superstition originate from?

Similar to the other age-old superstitions, this one also stems from ancient Egypt. Have you noticed that a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle shape? It was this shape that Egyptians regarded as sacred, take their pyramids for example. To walk through a triangle was therefore said to insult the gods!

Crossing knives
When you’re getting the cutlery out of the drawer to set the table, you might have heard your grandma tell you not to cross the knives. It’s bad luck she might say! But where does this superstition come from?

It is thought that it comes from the cross shape that is created when two knives are placed on top of each other. This is then said to invite crossed and misfortune into your own life. Some people even some believe that crossing knives on a table will lead to an argument. It can be avoided though, quickly uncross the knives to break the curse.

So, what superstitions do you believe? Do you think there is any truth to these old tales?