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Q From John Saffer: What is the origin of the word hippy?

A Hippie (the more common spelling) is first recorded in print in the early 1950s. It derives from the older hip, dating from around the turn of the century, which itself may be a variant form of hep (though hip is recorded earlier than hep by a few years). There are several theories about the origin of the word, including one from the opium smokers’ “on the hip” (as they reclined while smoking), through the West African Wolof language word hipicat meaning “one who has his eyes wide open” (hence also hepcat), to a variant form of the drillmaster’s “hep, two, three, four” which was supposedly taken over into jazz as a way of giving the beat.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 26 Sep. 1998
Last updated: 12 Aug. 2000

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-hip1.htm
Last modified: 12 August 2000.