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jack-in-the-box

or jack-in-a-box

[jak-in-thuh-boks]
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noun, plural jack-in-the-box·es.
  1. a toy consisting of a box from which an enclosed figure springs up when the lid is opened.
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Origin of jack-in-the-box

First recorded in 1545–55
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for jack-in-the-box

jack-in-the-box

noun plural jack-in-the-boxes or jacks-in-the-box
  1. a toy consisting of a figure on a compressed spring in a box, which springs out when the lid is opened
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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

Word Origin and History for jack-in-the-box

n.

1560s, originally a name for a sharp or cheat, "who deceived tradesmen by substituting empty boxes for others full of money" [Robert Nares, "A Glossary of Words, Phrases, Names, and Allusions," London, 1905]. As a type of toy, it is attested from 1702.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper