[ dibz ]
/ dɪbz /
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noun Informal.
money in small amounts.
rights; claims: I have dibs on the car when Jimmy brings it back.
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Origin of dibs

1720–30; shortening of earlier dibstones a children's game; see dib
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does dibs mean?

When you call dibs on something, you claim it, especially in advance (before other people can claim it or get to it).

To call dibs, you usually actually say (or shout) dibs, especially while mentioning the thing you’re claiming, as in Dibs on the last slice of pizza! If you’ve got dibs, you consider yourself to have the right to the thing that you’ve made a claim to. Dibs is very informal and is mostly used by kids. It’s especially seen in the phrases call dibs, have dibs, got dibs, and first dibs.

Less commonly, dibs is used as a slang term for small amounts of money or as another name for the game of jacks.

Example: There’s only one cupcake left, but I already called dibs on it.

Where does dibs come from?

The first records of the word dibs come from the early 1700s. It probably comes from a shortening of the word dibstones. Originally, dibs referred to the children’s game called jacks (or a version of it), in which small objects are thrown and then picked up between bounces of a ball. The name of the game of jacks is a shortening of jackstones and early versions of both jacks and dibs were played with pebbles or the knucklebones of animals, such as those of a sheep. (Jacks is sometimes called knucklebones because earlier versions used such bones.)

Today, you’re most likely to hear dibs shouted by kids who are staking their claim to the last of something (like the last mozzarella stick) before other people (their siblings or friends) can take it. Along with giving you the right to the last of something, dibs can also give you the right to the first choice of something, as in I’ve got dibs on first pick for movie night on Friday. For this reason, dibs is often seen in the phrase first dibs, meaning “first choice.”

Dibs is very similar to the common practice among kids of calling shotgun to claim the right to ride in the front seat of a car, or calling fives upon getting up from a seat to “save” that seat for the next five minutes. (You could call dibs on shotgun, but this is slightly unconventional and your rights to shotgun may be disputed.) To kids, all such claims are seen as a binding social contract that must be respected.

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What are some synonyms for dibs?

What are some words that often get used in discussing dibs?


How is dibs used in real life?

Dibs is most commonly used by kids, but it’s sometimes also used by adults as a joke.



Try using dibs!

Is dibs used correctly in the following sentence?

I can’t wait till those brownies are done—dibs on a corner piece!

How to use dibs in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for dibs

/ (dɪbz) /

pl n
another word for jacks
a slang word for money
(foll by on) informal rights (to) or claims (on): used mainly by children

Word Origin for dibs

C18: shortened from dibstones children's game played with knucklebones or pebbles, probably from dib to tap, dip, variant of dab 1
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

Other Idioms and Phrases with dibs


see have dibs on.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.