Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Where did the phrase "I've got dibs" come from?

This phrase has become quite popular in the past 10 years. For example, a person, instead of calling shotgun calls "dibs" on the front seat. Another example, is when a person sees someone they like at social function - bar or otherwise - and tells a group of friends that they have "dibs."

There is, however, no clear indication where this phrase originated. Random House's Maven's Word of the Day says that the term was first used in the early 19th century to refer to money, or a share. The Maven says this inspired the "first claim" sense we know today.

Michael Quinion of World Wide Words offers another possibility. He points to an old British childhood game called dibs (also known as jacks, fivestones, or knucklebones). However, Quinion doesn't see a connection between the game and the phrase's current meaning.

The Word Detective notes that the phrase first came into writing in 1932. The Detective also touches on the childhood game previously mentioned (here called "dibstones"). The game was played like jacks, but with sheep knuckle bones. (Really.)

There are lots of wonderful British schoolyard slang synonyms for dibs: baggsy, squits, foggy, jigs, bollars, chaps, chucks. "I've got chucks!" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, though.

Yahoo knows.

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