Where Did the Term “Stumped” When We’re Stuck On a Problem Come From and What Does it Mean?

We have all been stumped at one time or another, whether by a private or professional circumstance or perhaps by a mathematical or legal problem.

Stumped, as in unable to proceed, comes from the first crude highways built by the early settlers in North America.

It was the law that when trees were felled the stumps had to be at least fifteen inches high.

That was fine until it rained and the ground turned muddy.

The wheels on the wagons using the road would often sink until the axles got caught on tree stumps.

The wagons couldn’t move forward because they had been “stumped.”

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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