The meaning of trump

Not long now before the president-elect of America becomes president, and already a raft of plays on the word ‘trump’ and associated spin-offs is entering daily discourse.

But what about the existing meanings? playing-cards

There’s ‘trump’ – as in trump card, the strongest card in the pack, or any card in the pack chosen as trumps.

To trump someone or something (as in cards) is to take a decisive or advantageous action.

Trump can also mean to outdo or surpass.  (‘Her desire for them to visit her mother after lunch on Saturday, always trumped his desire for a quiet afternoon of TV sport.’)

To trump up is to concoct (a charge) so as to deceive or implicate someone.

Trumpery is foolish talk, or a worthless article.

A trump can also mean a fine or reliable person.

‘Trumps’ is any of the suit of cards that is selected as the lead suit for a game. To come up trumps (or turn up trumps) is to bring about a happy, and often unexpected, conclusion to events.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrump’ is used sometimes to mean a trumpet, or the sound that comes from one. It can also mean to proclaim something with a flourish (with or without a trumpet fanfare).

The origins of the word ‘trump’ are probably from the word for trumpet, like Middle English – trumpe / trompe (Spanish ‘trompa’ and Italian ‘tromba’), and is linked to the Latin ‘tuba’ for pipe.

‘Trumpery’ however seems to come via a different route –from the French (via Latin) tromperie (nonsense / deceit).


So, quite a mixed bag of meanings!

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