In the Name of Trump

It can be interesting to learn the origins of public figures’ names.

For example, knowing that Secretary of State John Kerry’s family name was chosen by his paternal grandfather Fritz Kohn can save us from making assumptions based on his Irish-sounding name.

But Vice President Joe Biden’s name really is of Irish origin, right? No, his ancestry is Irish on his mother’s side, yes, but English on his father’s, except that his middle name Robinette (his father’s mother’s maiden name) is a clue to French Canadian ancestry.

How about Donald Trump? “In Trump’s 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, he incorrectly states that Frederick Trump was of Swedish origin, an assertion that Fred Trump had made for many years. Trump later acknowledged his German ancestry…” (Wikipedia.)

It sure doesn’t sound Swedish to me! I had guessed that his last name might have been shortened from some longer Eastern European one, but not so. According to Wikipedia:

Trump’s mother was a Scottish immigrant, born on the Isle of Lewis, off the west coast of Scotland, and Trump’s paternal grandparents were German immigrants. His grandfather, Frederick Trump (né Friedrich Drumpf), immigrated to the United States in 1885, and became a naturalized United States citizen in 1892. Frederick married Donald’s grandmother, Elizabeth Christ … at Kallstadt, then Kingdom of Bavaria….

So, as in Kerry’s and many other cases, a name was changed in the US: Drumpf (the u would be short, as in “put”) to Trump (after seven years in this country). Probably a good choice: the real estate mogul Donald Drumpf, Drumpf Tower, Drumpf for President—those just don’t have such a convincing ring to them.

So what is the origin of the name Trump to which Donald’s grandfather chose to Anglicize the ancestral Drumpf?

According to, the name Trump is

English (Devon): metonymic occupational name for a trumpeter, from Middle English trumpe ‘trumpet’. German (Bavaria): metonymic occupational name for a drummer, from Middle High German trumpe ‘drum’.

The Internet Surname Database accepts the trumpeter or drummer meaning but gives the name a French origin:

This early English medieval surname is derived from the pre 8th century Olde French ‘Trompeor’, and as such was introduced by the Norman invaders of England in 1066. It is a metonymic or job descriptive name either for a trumpeter or a maker of trumpets, and is recorded in the modern forms of Trump and Trumper.

Another form of the name, according to Coat of Arms Store, is Trumbo, and

The surname of TROMBO was derived from the Old French word ‘trompeor’ a name given to one who played the trumpet. The name was brought into England from France in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066.

And here (to the left) is the Trumbo coat of arms. trumbo-coat-of-arms-trumbo-family-crest-3

At any rate, the name of Trump, with its variants, has its origin in the trumpet—a fitting association for a man who is so skilled at broadcasting his own name and fame (see also here). Since our word drum came from the same root in the 16th century, we could get a drum and trumpet duo going just from the name of Trump.

The root tromper in French also means “deceive”—not a meaning that Mr. Trump would probably wish to broadcast. Sources suggest that this meaning may have arisen, in the 14th century, from the idea of “playing the trumpet at someone” to draw them to a huckster’s wares or otherwise lead them astray—sort of like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, perhaps?

The English word trump has several meanings of interest, as we find from the Online Etymological Dictionary

as a verb:
1) “surpass, beat,” 1580s
2) “fabricate, devise,” 1690s

as a noun:
1) “playing card of a suit ranking above others,” 1520s, alteration of triumph (n.), which also was the name of a card game
2) “trumpet,” c. 1300
3) “elephant’s snout,” 1560s

If you want an association of this rich word family with its prominent bearer today, you can’t miss with any choice.

Mr. Trump’s supporters could emphasize the “winning suit” meaning and its derivation from the idea of triumph.

Or a rival could choose to apply to Mr. Trump’s political persona the expressive derivative trumpery , originally “deceit, trickery” but now (Oxford) “1) Attractive articles of little value or use; 2) Practices or beliefs that are superficially or visually appealing but have little real value or worth.”

As in: “That’s enough Trumpery for one campaign!”

About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
This entry was posted in President & candidates and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In the Name of Trump

  1. Pingback: PA Republicans Trumped; can they get out of it? | politicswestchesterview

  2. Pingback: What’s in a presidential name? | politicswestchesterview

  3. That’s interesting. As a musician. I already imagined the trumpeter or the drummer. But these are soo English.
    I was wondering if the Germanic derivations of Drumpf had something to do with the process of wine making. But how to find a medieval glossary of wine making. Is there a byproduct, container or process in medieval winemaking that drumpf might refer to?
    Or maybe this clan got their start in the vineyard business by tending the vines in some way or making barrels, jars or bottles to hold it.
    What words were used for the waste product from the process of wine making?
    As some sources do not have a set spelling for this laborer whatever they were contributing to the process.

  4. I have been looking but just can’t find any connection of Drumpf to wine-making. From what I’ve been able to find, the current meaning of Trumpf, “trump” (as in cards), probably comes from the Latin (and earlier) root of “triumph.” The “trumpet” and “deceit” meanings seem to be from a common, probably Germanic origin based on the trumpet’s sound, since street hustlers would sound a trumpet to attract their soon-to-be-deceived clientele. Please let me know of any wine-connected links!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.