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[jit-nee] /ˈdʒɪt ni/
noun, plural jitneys.
a small bus or car following a regular route along which it picks up and discharges passengers, originally charging each passenger five cents.
Older Slang. a nickel; five-cent piece.
verb (used with or without object), jitneyed, jitneying.
to carry or ride in a jitney.
Origin of jitney
1900-05, Americanism; of obscure origin; French jeton jetton is a phonetically implausible source Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for jitney


noun (US, rare)
a small bus that carries passengers for a low price, originally five cents
(slang) a nickel; five cents
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 jitney

"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,"
Said Cholly to a pretty miss.
"Skiddo," she cried, "you stingy cuss,"
"You're looking for a jitney buss."

["Jitney Jingle," 1915]
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].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for jitney



Cheap: a jitney dance hall (1916+)


: cracked down today on illegal jitney service


  1. A nickel (1903+)
  2. (also jitney bus) A small bus used as public transportation •Formerly, jitneys were cars operating for low fare in more or less unregulated competition with taxis, buses, and streetcars (1914+)
  3. ny car, esp a small or cheap one (1917+)

[origin unknown; perhaps fr Yiddish]

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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