What Does A Lump in My Throat Mean?

Lump In Throat Meaning

Definition: To experience a tight feeling in the throat, usually as a result of intense sadness or as a precursor to crying.

Origin of Having a Lump in Your Throat

People commonly use this idiom as a way to explain that they feel like crying, but they are trying to hold back their tears and emotions.

This expression appeared in the 1800s as a result of the physical sensation of muscles in the throat constricting during feelings of high emotions, especially sadness.

It is important to note that this lump is not a visible one. Therefore, this expression does sometimes appear in an unrelated, literal manner, where it describes a tumor or other growth in or on the neck. This meaning is completely separate from the figurative one.

Examples of Having a Lump in Your Throat

what does a lump in your throat meanThis example shows two women discussing some bad news.

Bella: I heard that our co-worker Tommy was in a bad accident.

Hannah: It’s true. He’s in the hospital, and the doctors aren’t sure whether or not he’ll survive. Even if he does survive, there’s no way to know if he’ll ever fully recover.

Bella: How awful. I’ve been trying to focus on work, but it’s hard when I’ve got a lump in my throat and feel like bursting into tears at any moment. I hope we hear good news about Tommy soon.

lump in your throat idiomThe following example shows two college students in their music class.

Hanh: I like the new assignment our professor gave us. It will be fun to try to choose which song provokes the strongest emotional reaction in me. Do you know which one causes the biggest emotional response for you?

Zhongyi: Yeah. Puff the Magic Dragon.

Hanh: Isn’t that children’s song?

Zhongyi: It doesn’t matter. The lyrics are very depressing. I get a lump in my throat every time I hear that song.

More Examples

This excerpt is from an article about a famous golfer.

  • Palmer said he got a lump in his throat and tears in his eyes during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” –New York Times

The second example is from an article about underachievement.

  • But that first day, walking toward the Tahoe as his parents prepared to leave, Travis felt a lump in his throat. –The Atlantic


The phrase to have a lump in one’s throat means to feel very sad, and like one is about to cry.