Down in the dumps

Down in the dumps is an idiom that has been in use for quite some time. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase, or phrasal verbs that have a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. These figures of speech often use descriptive imagery, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often colloquialisms or descriptors that are spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase or expression that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom or other parts of speech is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions that native speakers understand such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, chin up, eye to eye, barking up the wrong tree, bite the bullet, beat a dead horse, hit the nail on the head, kicked the bucket, blow off steam, jump on the bandwagon, piece of cake, hit the sack, and raining cats and dogs, as they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker. It is possible to memorize a list of idioms, but it may be easier to pay attention to the use of idioms in everyday speech, where peculiar imagery will tell you that the expressions should not be taken literally. We will examine the meaning of the idiomatic phrase down in the dumps, where it may have come from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Down in the dumps describes being depressed, miserable, melancholy, or unhappy. Someone who is down in the dumps feels deflated, sad, and a bit hopeless. The idiom down in the dumps has been in use since at least the 1700s. The word dump, in this case, does not mean a place where one discards unwanted items or trash; it means melancholy or a dazed state of mind. This definition of the word dump has been in use since the 1500s, and is derived from the Middle Dutch word domp, meaning a mist.


The model and tennis coach, 27, looked down in the dumps as he stepped out in south-east London on Monday after being forced to spend Christmas apart from his TV presenter girlfriend, 40, due to her bail conditions. (The Daily Mail)

Having your heart set on happiness could leave you down in the dumps – at least in the western world, research suggests. (The Guardian)

But for today, if you’re down in the dumps — even with a World Series parade fresh in mind, even after anticipating Rendon might leave, even with the reporting of pitchers and catchers just nine weeks away — it doesn’t mean you’re crazy. (The Washington Post)

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