- jeu (n.)
- a French word for "play, game" occurring in some phrases borrowed into English, from Latin jocum "jest, joke, play, sport" (see joke (n.)).
- jeune fille (n.)
- French, literally "young girl."
- Jew (n.)
- late 12c. (in plural, giwis), from Anglo-French iuw, Old French giu, from Latin Iudaeum (nominative Iudaeus), from Greek Ioudaios, from Aramaic jehudhai (Hebrew y'hudi) "Jew," from Y'hudah "Judah," literally "celebrated," name of Jacob's fourth son and of the tribe descended from him. Replaced Old English Iudeas "the Jews." Originally, "Hebrew of the kingdom of Judah."
Jews' harp "simple mouth harp" is from 1580s, earlier Jews' trump (1540s); the connection with Jewishness is obscure. Jew-baiting first recorded 1853, in reference to German Judenhetze. In uneducated times, inexplicable ancient artifacts were credited to Jews, based on the biblical chronology of history: such as Jews' money (1570s) "Roman coins found in England." In Greece, after Christianity had erased the memory of classical glory, ruins of pagan temples were called "Jews' castles," and in Cornwall, Jews' houses was the name for the remains of ancient tin-smelting works.
- jew (v.)
- "to cheat, to drive a hard bargain," 1824, from Jew (n.) (compare gyp, welsh, etc.). The campaign to eliminate it in early 20c. was so successful that people began to avoid the noun and adjective, too, and started using Hebrew instead.
Now I'll say 'a Jew' and just the word Jew sounds like a dirty word and people don't know whether to laugh or not. [Lenny Bruce (1925-1966)]
- jewel (n.)
- late 13c., "article of value used for adornment," from Anglo-French juel, Old French jouel "ornament, jewel" (12c.), perhaps from Medieval Latin jocale, from Latin jocus "pastime, sport," in Vulgar Latin "that which causes joy" (see joke (n.)). Another theory traces it to Latin gaudium, also with a notion of "rejoice" (see joy).
Sense of "precious stone" developed early 14c. Meaning "beloved person, admired woman" is late 14c. Colloquial family jewels "testicles" is from 1920s, but jewel as "testicle" dates to late 15c.
- jeweler (n.)
- also jeweller, late 14c. (mid-14c. as a surname, Alice la Jueler), from Anglo-French jueler, from Old French juelier (Modern French joaillier), from joel (see jewel).
- jewellery (n.)
- see jewelry.
- jewelry (n.)
- late 14c., juelrye "precious ornaments, jewel work," from Old French juelerye, from jouel (see jewel). In modern use it can be analyzed as jewel + -ery or jeweler + -y (1). Also jewellery.
The longer is the commercial & popular form, the shorter the rhetorical & poetic. [Fowler]
- Jewess (n.)
- late 14c. (late 13c. as a surname), from Old French jüiesse, fem. of jüif (see Jew).
- jewfish (n.)
- 1670s, from Jew (n.) + fish (n.).
- Jewish (adj.)
- 1540s, from Jew + -ish. Old English had Iudeisc; early Middle English used Judewish, Judeish (late 12c.). Figurative use in reference to extortionate money-lending attested by c.1600.
- Jewry (n.)
- c.1200, Jeuerie "ghetto, the Jewish district in a town," from Anglo-French Juerie, Old French Juierie (13c.; Modern French Juiverie); see Jew + -ery. Early 14c. as "Jews collectively;" mid-14c. as "the land of the Jews, Judea."
- jezebel (n.)
- "impudent woman," 1550s, after Jezebel, the wicked Tyrean princess who married Ahab, king of Israel (Kings xxi:5-23), from Hebrew Izebhel, "a name of uncertain origin and meaning" [Klein].
- jib (n.)
- "foresail of a ship," 1660s, gibb, of uncertain origin, perhaps related to gibbet, from notion of a sail "hanging" from a masthead [Barnhart, OED]. Or perhaps from jib (v.) "shift a sail or boom" (1690s), from Dutch gijben, apparently related to gijk "boom or spar of a sailing ship." Said to indicate a ship's character to an observant sailor as a strange vessel approaches at sea; also nautical slang for "face," hence cut of (one's) jib "personal appearance" (1821).
- jibber-jabber (v.)
- 1728, "to talk gibberish," reduplication of jabber (q.v.). Related: Jibber-jabbering. As a noun, from 1813. also gibber-gabber. Compare gibble-gabble "idle talk, chatter" (c.1600).
- jibe (v.)
- "agree, fit," 1813, of unknown origin, perhaps a figurative extension of earlier jib, gybe (v.) "shift a sail or boom" (see jib). OED, however, suggests a phonetic variant of chime, as if meaning "to chime in with, to be in harmony." Related: Jibed; jibes; jibing.
- jibe (n.)
- "a taunt," alternative spelling of gibe.
- jiff (n.)
- 1797, short for jiffy.
- jiffy (n.)
- c.1780, "a moment, an instant," colloquial, origin unknown; said to be originally thieves' slang for "lightning."
- jig (n.)
- "lively dance," 1560s, perhaps related to Middle French giguer "to dance," or to the source of German Geige "violin." Meaning "piece of sport, trick" is 1590s, now mainly in phrase the jig is up (first attested 1777 as the jig is over). As a verb from 1580s.
- jigaboo (n.)
- insulting name for "a black person," 1909, perhaps from jig (q.v.), which had been applied insultingly to persons since late 18c., and ending from bugaboo.
- jigger (n.)
- "1.5-ounce shot glass," 1836, American English, in early use also of the drink itself, from jigger "illicit distillery" (1824), of unknown origin; or else perhaps from jigger, a 1756 alteration of chigger "tiny mite or flea." As a name for various appliances, the word is attested by 1825, from jig.
- jiggle (v.)
- 1836, from jig (q.v.) + -le, frequentative suffix. Related: Jiggled; jiggling. As a noun, from 1840.
- jigsaw (n.)
- also jig-saw, "vertical reciprocating saw," 1855, American English, from jig with its notion of "rapid up-and-down motion" + saw (n.1). Jigsaw puzzle first recorded 1906; originally one with pieces cut by a jigsaw.
- jihad (n.)
- 1869, from Arabic, usually translated as "holy war," literally "struggle, contest, effort," from infinitive of jahada "he waged war, he applied himself to." Used in English since c.1880 for any sort of doctrinal crusade.
- fem. proper name, variant of Gill, familiar shortening of Jillian, Gillian, the common Middle English pronunciation of Juliana (see Gillian). As a familiar, almost generic, name for a girl, from mid-15c. (paired with Jack).
- jillion (n.)
- by 1939, arbitrary coinage, modeled on million, etc.
- jilt (v.)
- "to deceive (especially after holding out hopes), cheat, trick," 1660s, from the same source as jilt (n.). Related: Jilted; jilting.
- jilt (n.)
- 1670s, "loose, unchaste woman; harlot;" also "woman who gives hope then dashes it," perhaps ultimately from Middle English gille "lass, wench," a familiar or contemptuous term for a woman or girl (mid-15c.), originally a shortened form of woman's name Gillian (see Jill).
- Jim Crow
- "black person," 1838, American English, originally the name of a black minstrel character in a popular song-and-dance act by T.D. Rice (1808-1860) that debuted 1828 and attained national popularity by 1832:
Wheel about, an' turn about, an' do jis so;
Where and how Rice got it, or wrote it, is a mystery. Even before that, crow (n.) had been a derogatory term for a black man. Association with segregation dates from 1842, in reference to a railroad car for blacks. Modern use as a type of racial discrimination is from 1943. In mid-19c., Jim Crow also could be a reference to someone's change of (political) principles (from the "jump" in the song).
Eb'ry time I wheel about, I jump Jim Crow.
- jim-dandy (n.)
- "remarkable person or thing," 1844, perhaps from an old song, "Dandy Jim of Caroline" (1840s).
- exclamation of surprise, 1803, a disguised oath, perhaps for Jesu Domine "Jesus Lord." Extended form jiminy cricket is attested from 1848 and suggests Jesus Christ (compare also Jiminy Christmas, 1890).
- jimmies (n.)
- bits of candy as ice cream topping, by 1963, American English.
- jimmy (n.)
- "burglar's crowbar," 1848, variant of jemmy, name for a type of crowbar much used by burglars, special use of Jemmy, familiar form of proper name James (also see jack).
- jimmy (v.)
- 1893, from jimmy (n.). Related: Jimmied; jimmying.
- jimson weed (n.)
- also jimsonweed, 1812, American English, shortening of Jamestown-weed (1680s), from Jamestown, Virginia colony, where it was discovered by Europeans (1676), when British soldiers mistook it for an edible plant and subsequently hallucinated for 11 days.
- jingle (v.)
- late 14c., gingeln, of imitative origin (compare Dutch jengelen, German klingeln). Related: Jingled; jingling.
- jingle (n.)
- 1590s, from jingle (v.). Meaning "song in an advertisement" first attested 1930, from earlier sense of "catchy array of words in prose or verse" (1640s).
- jingo (n.)
- "mindless, gung-ho patriot," 1878, picked up from the refrain of a music hall song written by G.W. Hunt, and sung by "Gilbert H. MacDermott" (1845-1901), supporting aggressive British policy toward Russia at a time of international tension. ("We don't want to fight, But by Jingo! if we do, We've got the ships, we've got the men, We've got the money too.")
Hunt's patriotic song of 1878, with a swinging tune ... became at Macdermott's instigation the watchword of the popular supporters of England's bellicose policy. The "Daily News" on 11 March 1878 first dubbed the latter 'Jingoes' in derision .... ["Dictionary of National Biography," London, 1912]
As an asseveration, it was in colloquial use since 1690s, and is apparently yet another euphemism for Jesus, influenced by conjurer's gibberish presto-jingo (1660s). The frequent suggestion that it somehow derives from Basque Jinko "god" is "not impossible," but "as yet unsupported by evidence" [OED].
- jingoism (n.)
- 1878, from jingo + -ism. Related: Jingoist; jingoistic.
- jink (v.)
- "to wheel or fling about in dancing," 1715, Scottish, of unknown origin. As a noun, 1786, "act of eluding," probably from the verb in the sense "elude" (1774). For high jinks, see hijinks.
- jinn (n.)
- 1680s, djen, from Arabic jinn, collective plural, "demons, spirits, angels." The proper singular is jinni. Compare genie.
- jinx (n.)
- 1911, American English, originally baseball slang; perhaps ultimately from jyng "a charm, a spell" (17c.), originally "wryneck," a bird used in witchcraft and divination, from Latin iynx "wryneck," from Greek iynx.
Most mysterious of all in the psychics of baseball is the "jinx," that peculiar "hoodoo" which affects, at times, a man, at other times a whole team. Let a man begin to think that there is a "jinx" about, and he is done for for the time being. ["Technical World Magazine," 1911]
The verb is 1912 in American English, from the noun. Related: Jinxed; jinxing.
- jirgah (n.)
- Afghan council of elders, 1843, from Persian jarga "ring of men."
- jism (n.)
- "seminal fluid, cum," 1899; earlier "energy, strength" (1842), of uncertain origin; see jazz.
- jitney (n.)
- "bus which carries passengers for a fare," 1915, short for jitney bus (1906), American English, from gitney, said to be slang for any small coin, especially "a nickel," because the buses' fare typically was a nickel, the coin name perhaps via New Orleans from French jeton "coin-sized metal disk, slug, counter," from Old French jeter "to calculate," literally "to throw" (see jet (v.)).
"I'll give a nickel for a kiss,"
The origin and signification of the word was much discussed when the buses first appeared. Some reports say the slang word for "nickel" comes from the bus; most say the reverse, but there does not seem to be much record of jitney in a coin sense before the buses came along (a writer in "The Hub," August 1915, claims to have heard and used it as a small boy in San Francisco, and reported hearsay that "It has been in use there since the days of '49." In some sources it is said to be a St. Louis word, but most credit it to the U.S. West, especially California, though others trace it to "southern negroes, especially in Memphis" ["The Pacific," Feb. 7, 1915].
Said Cholly to a pretty miss.
"Skiddo," she cried, "you stingy cuss,"
"You're looking for a jitney buss."
["Jitney Jingle," 1915]
- jitter (v.)
- "to move agitatedly," 1931, American English; see jitters. Related: Jittered; jittering.
- jitterbug (n.)
- popular type of fast swing dance, 1938, American English, from "Jitter Bug," title of a song recorded by Cab Calloway in 1934. Probably the literal sense is "one who has the jitters" (see jitters; for second element see bug (n.) in the slang "person obsessed with" sense). Another sense current about this time was "swing music enthusiast." As a verb from 1938.
- jitters (n.)
- "extreme nervousness," 1925, American English, perhaps an alteration of dialectal chitter "tremble, shiver," from Middle English chittern "to twitter, chatter."
- jittery (adj.)
- 1931, American English, from jitter + -y (2). Related: Jitteriness.