Appalachia courting/love Folklore

Jump the Broom


jump the broom, jump the broomstick verb phrase To get married, usu without benefit of clergy. This expression has a long history in southern use, often signifying a mock ceremony symbolizing marriage, esp as part of the script of a serenade or charivari. See also broomstick marriage.
1939 Hall Coll. Big Creek NC They would tote a man on a rail. Meanwhile they made the bride jump the broom. (Zilphie Sutton) ibid. Newport TN Catons Grove TN they never made us jump no brooms, but they made us bring out the cakes and everything. (Rhoda McMillion) 1944 Laughlin Word-list Buncombe Co 25 jump over the broomstick = to get married (in some sections: common-law marriage). 1960 Hall Smoky Mt Folks 65 jump the broom = to get married, referring to an old protection against witches, by which a bride who jumps over a broomstick as she enters her new home protects herself. 1967 DARE = joking way of saying that people got married (Maryville TN). 1995 Montgomery Coll. = to elope and get married, often without the benefit of clergy. In Cades Cove there was no ceremony, formal or informal, of acting this out; the term was used only figuratively (Shields).
[from a folk tradition in several European cultures, esp Wales; cf CUD jump over the besom “Live together without being married:; DARE cheifly South, South Midland, Texas]

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Do you still hear the phrase jump the broom? Doesn’t seem like I hear it as much as I used to.



Come cook with me!

Location: John C. Campbell Folk School – Brasstown, NC
Date: Sunday, June 23 – Saturday, June 29, 2019
Instructors: Carolyn Anderson, Tipper Pressley

Experience the traditional Appalachian method of cooking, putting up, and preserving the bounty from nature’s garden. Receive hands-on training to make and process a variety of jellies, jams, and pickles for winter eating. You’ll also learn the importance of dessert in Appalachian culture and discover how to easily make the fanciest of traditional cakes. Completing this week of cultural foods, a day of bread making will produce biscuits and cornbread. All levels welcome.

Along with all that goodness Carolyn and I have planned a couple of field trips to allow students to see how local folks produce food for their families. The Folk School offers scholarships you can go here to find out more about them. For the rest of the class details go here.

Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    February 16, 2019 at 8:16 am

    Tipper Truman and I have heard Jumpting the Broom But can’t remember the meaning . We would suggest it came across from Ireland With the settlers .An engagement party until the circuit rider came by and properly married them

  • Reply
    February 15, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    I’ve only known about jumping the broom as it being a part of African American wedding ceremonies, but don’t know all of what it means to them . I thought maybe something to do with jumping out of the old into the new life they were beginning together…… .

  • Reply
    February 15, 2019 at 1:29 pm

    I did some research on this while living in SW Georgia, where at times ‘jumping the broom’ was a neccesity.. Preachers were Circuit Riders, and may not visit a community but a half-dozen times a year, and the courthouses were too far away for a couple to go to find a judge. They would jump the broom, physically or figuratively until the preacher came by to marry them properly. One of the strange circumstances is that doing wo was OK with their family and neighbors, which is usually not the case today.

  • Reply
    harry adams
    February 15, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Amazingly I was listening to a Brenda Lee album yesterday and one of the songs was “Let’s jump the broomstick” an otherwise not remarkable song, but I thought at the time I had not heard that expression in a long time. Of course the songs were from 1956-1980. Only us oldsters remember Brenda Lee.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 15, 2019 at 9:51 am

    I don’t hear it much. I think I’ve only heard it from folks older then me, like my parents and grand parents.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 15, 2019 at 9:23 am

    Don’t know when I have heard that expression. It may be on its way to passing out of use.

    In the early days of the Republic county courts approved individuals to ‘solemnize marriages’. They were to report the marriages they conducted but there could be long delays between the marriage and reporting. For some unknown proportion there probably never was an ‘official’ record created.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 15, 2019 at 9:15 am

    This was heard often in Pennsylvania. My thoughts are it came from the Amish.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    February 15, 2019 at 7:15 am

    I have heard this all my life. Love the lire behind it

  • Leave a Reply