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[jaz] /dʒæz/
music originating in New Orleans around the beginning of the 20th century and subsequently developing through various increasingly complex styles, generally marked by intricate, propulsive rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, improvisatory, virtuosic solos, melodic freedom, and a harmonic idiom ranging from simple diatonicism through chromaticism to atonality.
a style of dance music, popular especially in the 1920s, arranged for a large band and marked by some of the features of jazz.
dancing or a dance performed to such music, as with violent bodily motions and gestures.
Slang. liveliness; spirit; excitement.
Slang. insincere, exaggerated, or pretentious talk:
Don't give me any of that jazz about your great job!
Slang. similar or related but unspecified things, activities, etc.:
He goes for fishing and all that jazz.
of, relating to, or characteristic of jazz.
verb (used with object)
to play (music) in the manner of jazz.
  1. to excite or enliven.
  2. to accelerate.
Slang: Vulgar. to copulate with.
verb (used without object)
to dance to jazz music.
to play or perform jazz music.
Informal. to act or proceed with great energy or liveliness.
Slang: Vulgar. to copulate.
Verb phrases
jazz up, Informal.
  1. to add liveliness, vigor, or excitement to.
  2. to add ornamentation, color, or extra features to, in order to increase appeal or interest; embellish.
  3. to accelerate.
Origin of jazz
1905-10, Americanism; 1915-20 for def 5; origin uncertain
Related forms
jazzer, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for jazz
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Someone told me they're called 'jazz Louie and his half-breed bunch.'

    Alice Adams Booth Tarkington
  • "At ease with that jazz," said Lane, and a sheathed finger snapped out.

    Mutineer Robert J. Shea
  • Against the scene a jazz band flung a whine and a stumble of tinny sounds.

    Erik Dorn

    Ben Hecht
  • And over all the American jazz music boomed and whanged its syncopation.

    Gigolo Edna Ferber
  • It means in music to prefer Beethoven not only to jazz but to Brahms.

British Dictionary definitions for jazz


  1. a kind of music of African-American origin, characterized by syncopated rhythms, solo and group improvisation, and a variety of harmonic idioms and instrumental techniques. It exists in a number of styles Compare blues See also bebop, bop1 (sense 1), Dixieland, free (sense 7), hard bop, harmolodics, mainstream (sense 2), modern jazz, New Orleans jazz, swing (sense 28), trad
  2. (as modifier): a jazz band
  3. (in combination): a jazzman
(informal) enthusiasm or liveliness
(slang) rigmarole; paraphernalia: legal papers and all that jazz
(African-American, slang, obsolete) sexual intercourse
(South African, slang) a dance
(intransitive) to play or dance to jazz music
(African-American, slang, obsolete) to have sexual intercourse with (a person)
Derived Forms
jazzer, noun
Word Origin
C20: of unknown origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for jazz

by 1912, American English, first attested in baseball slang; as a type of music, attested from 1913. Probably ultimately from Creole patois jass "strenuous activity," especially "sexual intercourse" but also used of Congo dances, from jasm (1860) "energy, drive," of African origin (cf. Mandingo jasi, Temne yas), also the source of slang jism.

If the truth were known about the origin of the word 'Jazz' it would never be mentioned in polite society. ["Étude," Sept. 1924]
All that jazz "et cetera" first recorded 1939.


"to speed or liven up," 1917, from jazz (n.). Related: jazzed; jazzing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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jazz in Culture

jazz definition

A form of American music that grew out of African-Americans' musical traditions at the beginning of the twentieth century. Jazz is generally considered a major contribution of the United States to the world of music. It quickly became a form of dance music, incorporating a “big beat” and solos by individual musicians. For many years, all jazz was improvised and taught orally, and even today jazz solos are often improvised. Over the years, the small groups of the original jazz players evolved into the “Big Bands” (led, for example, by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Glenn Miller), and finally into concert ensembles. Other famous jazz musicians include Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Ella Fitzgerald.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for jazz



: a jazz trumpet/ jazz riffs


  1. : This place needs more jazz and pizzazz
  2. A kind of popular, often improvised, and emotive instrumental music originating among Southern black people in the late 19th century and still evolving as an American and a world style (1900s+ Jazz musicians)
  3. Empty talk; nonsense; lies; baloney, bullshit, jive: You mean her most eloquent pledges were jazz? (1918+)
  4. Ornamentation; embellishment, esp when merely superficial: a clean design, without a lot of jazz (1960s+)


  1. To do the sex act with or to; fuck: I jazzed her, too/ what he's going to do to a guy he finds out's been jazzing his wife (late 1800s+ Black)
  2. To increase the tempo, animation, or excitement of something; JAZZ something UP: Come on, jazz yourself, we're late (1875+ Black)
  3. To arrange or play in a jazz style: They jazzed the National Anthem
  4. : Stop your jazzing and merely adduce the data

[origin unknown; jass was an earlier spelling]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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