Origin of jazz

1905–10, Americanism; 1915–20 for def 5; origin uncertain
Related formsjazz·er, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for jazz

Contemporary Examples of jazz

  • Ragtime, blues, country, jazz, soul, and rock and roll were all pioneered or inspired by black artists.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Cultural Crimes of Iggy Azalea

    Amy Zimmerman

    December 29, 2014

  • For the last three decades, he has garnered justifiable praise as one of best pianists in jazz.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Best Albums of 2014

    Ted Gioia

    December 13, 2014

  • I think posterity will enshrine this body of work among the classics of 21st century jazz.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Best Albums of 2014

    Ted Gioia

    December 13, 2014

  • “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)” brings the rock chameleon into jazz territory, backed up by a horn-heavy jazz big band.

    The Daily Beast logo
    David Bowie Goes Big Band in New Music Video

    Alex Chancey, The Daily Beast Video

    November 14, 2014

  • Do you see yourself setting a standard for classical chops in jazz?

    The Daily Beast logo
    Herbie Hancock Holds Forth

    David Yaffe

    November 8, 2014

Historical Examples of jazz

  • 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.


    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.


    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 stylesCompare blues See also bebop, bop 1 (def. 1), Dixieland, free (def. 7), hard bop, harmolodics, mainstream (def. 2), modern jazz, New Orleans jazz, swing (def. 28), trad
  2. (as modifier)a jazz band
  3. (in combination)a jazzman
informal enthusiasm or liveliness
slang rigmarole; paraphernalialegal papers and all that jazz
African-American slang, obsolete sexual intercourse
Southern African slang a dance


(intr) to play or dance to jazz music
African-American slang, obsolete to have sexual intercourse with (a person)
Derived Formsjazzer, noun

Word Origin for jazz

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

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

Culture definitions for jazz


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.