or jack-in-a-box


noun, plural jack-in-the-box·es.

a toy consisting of a box from which an enclosed figure springs up when the lid is opened.

Origin of jack-in-the-box

First recorded in 1545–55
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for jack-in-the-box

Contemporary Examples of jack-in-the-box

  • The jack-in-the-box has popped, just as we expected it to, but it still made us gasp.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Amanda Bynes Wigs Out

    Kevin Fallon

    May 24, 2013

Historical Examples of jack-in-the-box

British Dictionary definitions for jack-in-the-box


noun plural jack-in-the-boxes or jacks-in-the-box

a toy consisting of a figure on a compressed spring in a box, which springs out when the lid is opened
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

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper