AskDefine | Define jumbo

Dictionary Definition

jumbo adj : of great mass; huge and bulky; "a jumbo jet"; "jumbo shrimp" [syn: elephantine, gargantuan, giant]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. especially large or powerful


  1. An especially large or powerful person, animal or thing
  2. A popular name for an elephant

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Extensive Definition

Jumbo The Elephant (1861 - September 15, 1885) was a very large African bush elephant, born 1861 in French Sudan, imported to a Paris zoo, transferred to the London Zoo in 1865, and sold in 1882 to P. T. Barnum, for the circus. The giant elephant's name has spawned the common word "jumbo" as meaning large in size. Jumbo has long been the official mascot of Tufts University.


The elephant Jumbo was born in 1861 in the French Sudan, whence he was imported to France and kept in the old Zoo Jardin des Plantes, near the railway station Gare d'Austerlitz in Paris. In 1865 he was transferred to the London Zoo, where he became famous for giving rides to visitors. Children rode on Jumbo's back during his stay at the London Zoo. The London zookeepers gave Jumbo his name; it is likely a variation of one of two Swahili words: jambo (which means "hello") or jumbe (which means "chief").
Jumbo was sold in 1882 to P. T. Barnum, owner of "The Greatest Show on Earth" (the Barnum & Bailey Circus), for (US) $10,000. When Barnum had offered to buy Jumbo, 100,000 school children wrote to Queen Victoria begging her not to sell him.
Jumbo's height, estimated to be 3.25 metres (11 ft) in the London Zoo, was claimed to be approximately 4 metres (13 ft) by the time of his death. Jumbo died at a train marshalling yard in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, where he was crushed by a locomotive. A life-size statue of the elephant in St. Thomas commemorates the tragedy. Many metallic objects were found in the elephant's stomach, including pennies, nickels, dimes, keys, and rivets. Barnum afterwards told the story that Jumbo died saving a young circus elephant, Tom Thumb, from being hit by the locomotive, but other witnesses did not support this..
Jumbo's skeleton was donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, New York, USA. The elephant's heart was sold to Cornell University. Jumbo's hide was stuffed by William J. Critchley and Carl Akeley, both of Ward's Natural Science, and the mounted specimen traveled with Barnum's circus for a number of years. In 1889, Barnum donated the stuffed Jumbo to Tufts University, where it was displayed until destroyed by a fire in 1975, coincidentally a fate that befell many of Barnum's exhibits during his own lifetime. The great elephant's ashes are kept in a 14-ounce Peter Pan Crunchy Peanut Butter jar in the office of the Tufts athletic director. A statue of "Jumbo" was purchased from an amusement park and placed on the Tufts campus after the fire, but this statue depicts an Asian elephant, not an African elephant. Jumbo became the university's mascot, and remains such to this day.
Jumbo was used on at least one Victorian trade card (1890) to advertise Fletcher's Castoria. The text read "Jumbo Feeds Baby Castoria. From peasant nurse to high born lady, All mothers know what's good for baby. While Jumbo, too, though not a lady, Follows suit and feeds the great baby." An image of the card is shown on Barnum is quoted on the back of the card praising the benefits of the company's ointment Centaur Liniment.
As a result of Barnum's publicity the word "jumbo" is now synonymous with "large" or "huge": a large hot dog sausage may be called a "jumbo hot dog"; the Boeing 747 is known as the "Jumbo Jet".

See also


  • Chambers, Paul Jumbo: The Greatest Elephant in the World, Andre Deutsch, 2007. ISBN 978-0-233-00222-4
Harding, Les Elephant Story: Jumbo and P.T. Barnum Under the Big Top. McFarland, 2000. ISBN 0-7864-0632-1

External links

jumbo in Danish: Jumbo
jumbo in German: Jumbo (Elefant)
jumbo in Modern Greek (1453-): Τζάμπο (ελέφαντας)
jumbo in Spanish: Jumbo (elefante)
jumbo in Western Frisian: Jumbo
jumbo in Dutch: Jumbo (olifant)
jumbo in Japanese: ジャンボ
jumbo in Finnish: Jumbo
jumbo in Swedish: Jumbo
jumbo in Turkish: Jumbo (fil)
jumbo in Chinese: 大象金寶

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