Why is a Tumbler Called a Tumbler? 5 Weird & Wonderful Theories

Tumblers: The Party Cup of the 17th Century?

You might not think about it often, but tumblers and coffee mugs are a big part of our daily lives. We rely on them to keep our drinks hot or cold, prevent spills, and reduce waste from disposable cups.

But have you ever wondered why they're called tumblers? The truth is, the history of tumblers is filled with weird anecdotes, and the jury is still out on why exactly they're called tumblers. Here are some possible explanations that caught our attention:

In This Guide

The Humorous History of Drinkware Names

Drinking vessels have some hazy (and downright humorous) history, and some of these anecdotes are guaranteed to tickle your funny bone:

from Viking Raids to Mug Shots...

Take coffee mugs for example, where one theory credits their name to Viking origins. Some claim it was adopted in Scandinavian countries around the year 1560, after Viking clan invasions brought their native Norwegian tongue to local languages.

"Mug" may well be derived from the Norwegian word “mugge” - a sturdy, short drinking container or pitcher for hot drinks. Based on that assumption, it’s a wonder modern coffee mugs don’t have horns, right?

Another theory is that between the 16th and 17th centuries, when earthenware cups with handles were gaining popularity, the name “mug” was given based on the way these cups resembled a prisoner sitting for a mug shot!

When it comes to tumblers however, where that weird name came from is even more perplexing...

The Origin Story of Tumblers

Tracing back to the exact time when tumblers got their name is a bit like a game of telephone - everyone has their own interpretation, and it's tough to nail down which version is true.

Some claim it's because the cup was designed to spill (what - why?!), while others say it was intended to prevent spillage by righting itself if it accidentally toppled over.

Luckily, modern-day tumblers have evolved to take spillage out of the equation with lids and other user-friendly features, but somehow the weird name still stuck! 

Here’s our 5 favorite theories on how the tumbler name came about:



Some say it comes from the word "tumble", first recorded in English in the early 14th Century, from the Germanic word for acrobat, “tummelen” (to turn or dance). It's possible that early tumblers were named after acrobats because of their round, bottom-heavy shape, which allowed them to roll around without falling over. 



Supporting the above theory, it’s fairly likely that these self-correcting metal cups with a weighted anti-tip base were clearly designed for travel!

Around the 17th Century when long journeys by coach and train became more accessible, this made tumblers the ideal solution for portable, spill-free drinkware on the go.



Others say that sailors used tumblers with rounded, weighted bottoms on ships, which allowed their cups to roll with the waves and automatically right themselves if they got knocked over.

This smart design helped stop their drinks spilling in rough seas - but it stuck around, as sailors are a superstitious bunch: They believed that the rounded bottoms had magical properties that kept their drinks from spilling!


the Party Cup of the 17th Century?

And then there's the 17th Century theory that tumblers were celebration cups used at feasts, with a rounded or pointed bottom - much like a Medieval drinking horn.

Legend has it that if you set it down without draining the contents, it would tumble over and spill your beverage, forcing you to finish every last drop. So, basically, it was a sneaky way to get everyone to drink more. Crafty, those Medieval folks!


Getting into Glassware

As glass production became more widespread and it became more common as a material for drinking vessels, the rounded base of the tumbler helped protect the glass from breaking.

Imagine how important this was back in the day when glass was rare and expensive. A tumbler was not only a practical solution to keeping your drink safe from spills but also an elegant and valuable drinking vessel.

The Evolution of the Tumbler

All in all, the origins of the tumbler may be shrouded in mystery, but what we do know is that they've come a long way since those early days.

Fast forward to today, and the term "tumbler" has taken on a whole new meaning.

Now it refers to a type of tall, insulated drinkware that's perfect for keeping your drinks at just the right temperature and preventing spills. And if you're looking for the best tumbler around, you need look no further than Greens Steel. 

So, why choose a Greens Steel BEAST Tumbler or Coffee Cup? For starters, they're made of high-quality stainless steel that's both durable and stylish. Plus, they're vacuum insulated, which means they can keep your drinks cold or hot for hours. They’re perfect for a day at the beach, a long hike, or just sitting at your desk.

BEAST Tumbler

Stainless Steel Double Insulated Coffee Tumbler with Lid and Straw

★★★★★ 70,000+ Amazon Reviews


So why choose a Greens Steel BEAST Tumbler or Coffee Cup? For starters, they're made of high-quality stainless steel that's both durable and stylish. Plus, they're vacuum insulated, which means they can keep your drinks cold or hot for hours. They’re perfect for a day at the beach, a long hike, or just sitting at your desk.

Greens Steel Reusable Coffee Cup

Stainless Steel Insulated Coffee Mug with Lid and Built-In Handle

★★★★★ 800+ Amazon Reviews


The Benefits of Using a Tumbler

Reduces Waste from Disposable Cups

Americans use over 58 billion disposable cups each year, which contributes to a massive amount of waste. Using a tumbler can help reduce your carbon footprint and protect the environment.

Protect Against Spills

Tumblers also protect against spills, which is especially helpful if you're on the go or have kids. Plus, they can help keep your drinks at the right temperature for longer, which is the best way to guarantee a delicious coffee, tea, smoothie or more, right to the last sip. 

Elevates Your Experience

Greens Steel BEAST Tumblers and Coffee Mugs excel in all of these areas. They're made of stainless steel and are vacuum insulated, making them perfect for keeping your drinks at the right temperature. Plus, they're durable and easy to clean, making them a great investment for anyone who loves their coffee.

Wherever the name actually came from, there's no denying that tumblers took the world by storm and have stood the test of time. 

While the exact origin of the name is still up for debate, the history and evolution of tumblers is clear. They've come a long way since the 16th century, and today they're an essential part of our daily lives.

If you haven't found a trusty tumbler to call your favorite yet, now’s the perfect time to do so! Check out Greens Steel BEAST Tumblers or Insulated Coffee Mugs, and see for yourself how they can make your coffee or tea experience one for the history books!

Until next time,
Jenn | Greens Steel

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