Where does jagoff come from?
Jagoff appears to come from jack-off, a term for a contemptible person, originally someone seen as masturbating (jacking off) excessively and being very self-absorbed. Another theory, though, connects jag to another term for “poke,” which can be an annoying action.
It’s recorded as early as 1931 for “someone who steals petty items” and in 1938 for an “idiot” more generally. Jagoff is frequently used in and associated with Pittsburghese—local Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania dialect—as well as western Pennsylvania more broadly.
Jagoff was in the spotlight in July 2016 when it was used by entrepreneur and Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban to describe presidential candidate Donald Trump: “Leadership is not yelling and screaming and intimidating. You know what we call a person like that in Pittsburgh? A jagoff!”
That wasn’t the first time Trump was the target of jagoff. In December 2015, John Fetterman, mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, called the future president a jagoff.
Examples of jagoff
Who uses jagoff?
While its origin, jack-off, is considered profane, jagoff isn’t, though it may be often mistaken as obscene among the unfamiliar. It’s still a term of abuse and can be offensive, and it sees plenty of use among Pennsylvanians when they are frustrated by those annoying people in their lives.
One day my road rage is going to get the better of me and I’m going to ram someone. Hope “they were driving like a total jagoff” is an acceptable reason to tell the cops.
— Danielle (@daniellee_89) October 12, 2018
Happy Columbus was a murderous jagoff day!
— Team Candy corn 👻 🎃 (@ouchathorn) October 8, 2018
Because it’s a proud regionalism, many western Pennsylvanians embrace jagoff as a more playful insult, an ultimately loving tease.
— love, Pittsburgh (@lovePGHshop) October 13, 2018
Jagoff has also seen its use in politics as well as in popular culture, like in the rock band Zebrahead’s 1998 song “Jag Off.”
The Pittsburgh Band called Tom Brady a jagoff in a comedy song after the 2015 Deflategate, when his team, the Patriots, were widely seen as cheating.
Jag off has also been used in movies, most notably by Michael Keaton, a native Pennsylvanian.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of jagoff 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 jagoff that will help our users expand their word mastery.