[ speek-ee-zee ]
/ ˈspikˌi zi /

noun, plural speak·eas·ies.

a saloon or nightclub selling alcoholic beverages illegally, especially during Prohibition.

Origin of speakeasy

An Americanism dating back to 1885–90; speak + easy

Word story

Speakeasies are usually and correctly associated with American Prohibition (1920–33), but the word actually goes back to the late 1880s in the United States, and back even further in Australia (the 1830s). Speakeasies are so named not because the customers were quiet, shy, or taciturn, but because no one wanted to attract the attention of unsympathetic neighbors, the local police, or the revenuers by talking too loudly.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for speakeasies

British Dictionary definitions for speakeasies


/ (ˈspiːkˌiːzɪ) /

noun plural -easies

US a place where alcoholic drink was sold illicitly during Prohibition

Word Origin for speakeasy

C19: from speak + easy (in the sense: gently, quietly)
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 speakeasies



"unlicensed saloon," 1889 (in New York "Voice"), from speak + easy; so called from the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police and neighbors. The word gained wide currency in U.S. during Prohibition (1920-1932). In early 19c. Irish and British dialect, a speak softly shop meant "smuggler's den."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper