noun, plural jum·bos.
- a very large person, animal, or thing.
- jumbo jet.
- U.S. Nautical.
- a forestaysail having a boom (jumbo boom) along its foot, used especially on schooners.
- a sail used in place of a course on a square-rigged ship, having the form of an isosceles triangle set apex downward.
- a narrow triangular sail set point downward in place of a foresail on a topsail schooner.
- very large: the jumbo box of cereal.
noun plural -bos
- a very large person or thing
- (as modifier)a jumbo box of detergent
- See jumbo jet
“very large, unusually large for its type,” 1882, a reference to Jumbo, name of the London Zoo’s huge elephant (acquired from France, said to have been captured as a baby in Abyssinia in 1861), sold February 1882 to U.S. circus showman P.T. Barnum amid great excitement in America and great outcry in England, both fanned by Barnum. The name is perhaps from slang jumbo “clumsy, unwieldy fellow” (1823), which itself is possibly from a word for “elephant” in a West African language (cf. Kongo nzamba).
“I tell you conscientiously that no idea of the immensity of the animal can be formed. It is a fact that he is simply beyond comparison. The largest elephants I ever saw are mere dwarfs by the side of Jumbo.” [P.T. Barnum, interview, “Philadelphia Press,” April 22, 1882]
As a product size, by 1886 (cigars). Jumbo jet attested by 1964.