A few people have asked me where the word dumpling comes from. There are a couple of ideas. One friend’s theory – though inaccurate – is that they’re called dumplings because they’re dumped in stuff. Probably a bowl of stew or soup, or a pot to boil.

Another friend thinks the word dumpling is a bastardisation of the word lump. This seems a little closer to the mark. The word’s origin is uncertain, but seems to have popped up around 1600, long after the food. Etymonline suggests the word dumpling might have evolved from a Low German word: dump ‘lump’. Well, as they’re such cute little lumps, it seems to make sense to call them dumplings.

So no one really seems to know where the word came from, nor do they know exactly what a dumpling is.

If you’re sick of arguing about what a dumpling is, here are some other culinary border disputes to consider. What’s the difference between:

  • muffin + cupcake
  • casserole + stew
  • bread + bun

Do these thoughts make you cranky? Let me leave you with a curious dumpling poem.

The apple dumplings and a king

“Very astonishing indeed! strange thing!”
(Turning the dumpling round, rejoined the king),
“‘Tis most extraordinary, then, all this is;
It beats Penetti’s conjuring all to pieces;
Strange I should never of a dumpling dream!
But, goody, tell me where, where, where’s the seam?”
“Sire, there’s no seam,” quoth she; “I never knew
That folks did apple-dumplings sew.”
“No!” cried the staring monarch with a grin;
“How, how the devil got the apple in?”

Dr John Wolcot


One response »

  1. noblecaboose says:

    Dumpling as adorable lumps. I like that. Sounds a lot better than ‘soup tumor,’ that’s for sure.

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