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

British Dictionary definitions for jazz up

jazz up

verb (tr, adverb) informal

to imbue (a piece of music) with jazz qualities, esp by improvisation or a quicker tempo
to make more lively, gaudy, or appealing



  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 up



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 up


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.

Idioms and Phrases with jazz up

jazz up


Enliven, make more interesting, as in They jazzed up the living room with a new rug, or They decided to include a comedy act to jazz up the program.


Modify so as to increase its performance, as in Peter wanted to jazz up his motorbike with a stronger engine. Both usages are colloquialisms from the mid-1900s. Also see juice up.

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