I heard a seemingly unusual usage of jump in the movie Michael Clayton:

Michael Clayton: I need a loan. I need 80 grand.

Marty: I thought you were done with all that.

Michael: It's not the cards. It's the restaurant.

Marty: 80,000?

Michael: I'm sorry to jump you like this. I've been trying to meet you alone for two weeks.

Apparently jump here means to surprise or to trouble the other person on short notice. I can't find this usage in dictionaries. Though I was able to find definitions possibly related to this usage in Merriam Webster:

to act, move, or begin before (something, such as a signal)

  • jump the green light

to leave hastily or in violation of contract

  • jump town without paying their bills

What does jump mean exactly in the movie?

  • Since jump is transitive in the sense that Jason describes, we can say get jumped. Why is he all bloody? --He got jumped.
    – TimR
    Jul 3, 2018 at 11:37

1 Answer 1


As per The Free Dictionary, jump is being used (figuratively) as slang for ambush:

v. tr.

3 Slang To spring upon in sudden attack; assault or ambush: Muggers jumped him in the park.

In other words, Michael is apologizing for springing the request for money on him suddenly and unexpectedly, as somebody would do if they were ambushing and robbing someone.

You can't find it in regular dictionaries because it's slang that hasn't yet become used often enough.

  • Interestingly, I am actually quite familiar with this usage. In the past I have filed a police report about being jumped by bullies in school... So the line in the movie is a figurative usage of a figurative usage?
    – Eddie Kal
    Jul 2, 2018 at 22:59
  • 1
    @L.Moneta Yes, it's a figurative use of a slang term. ;) (The line could as easily have been, "I'm sorry to ambush you like this . . .") Jul 2, 2018 at 23:01
  • "You can't find it in regular dictionaries": you definitely can; it's "3a" under transitive verb in the Merriam-Webster link in the question. The sense of "to attack" is hundreds of years old according to the Online Etymology Dictionary; it is informal but it's well-established.
    – Miles
    Jul 3, 2018 at 4:24
  • 1
    @Miles Jumped on him is semantically different than jumped him. It doesn't have the same sense as the slang phrase. Jul 3, 2018 at 4:28
  • @JasonBassford You're looking at the intransitive example, I think. The transitive usage doesn't have "on". Here's an example from a book written in 1890. Collins and Oxford dictionaries both have "jumped him" examples. The assertion that this is "new slang" that isn't in dictionaries is baseless.
    – Miles
    Jul 4, 2018 at 2:08

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