in a jiffy
or in a jiff [in uh jif-ee] or [in uh jif]
What does in a jiffy mean?
Before we did everything in a hot second, we did them in a jiffy, an informal expression for “in a very short time.”
Where does in a jiffy come from?
The expression in a jiffy was in use as early as 1780. It is a colloquial English expression for “in a short amount of time.”
The origins of jiffy are unknown, though there are theories. One suggestion is that it comes from British thieves’ slang for “lightning,” hence very fast. An early instance appears in 1780 edition of Town and Country Magazine: “Most of the limbs of the law do every thing in a jiffy…”
Jiffy was shortened to jiff as early as 1791. Jiffy is much more common, however, at least as far as Google Books is concerned.
In the late 18th or early 19th centuries, scientist Gilbert Newton Lewis defined a jiffy as the amount of time it takes light to travel one centimeter in a vacuum, about 33.4 picoseconds. That’s one trillionth of a second. Quite the jiffy.
In the UK, a Jiffy bag, sometimes just called a Jiffy, is a trademark name for a type of padded envelope around since the 1950s. Jiffy Lube, meanwhile, is an American company that has been promising speedy oil changes, hence the name, since 1971.
Who uses in a jiffy?
In a jiffy and in a jiff are both casual, friendly ways to say or write “right away” or “quickly,” e.g., I’ll do the dishes in a jiffy, sweetheart.
Me: *wants the day off*
Work: *asks for a cover*
Me: “be there in a jiff”
— A War (@uh_leese) October 4, 2018
A popular “Sanic Hegehog” meme features its poorly drawn Sonic the Hedgehog spoof of the video game character captioned with in a jiffy. It’s (a very dry humor) play on the character’s need for speed.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of in a jiffy like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of in a jiffy that will help our users expand their word mastery.