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Q From John Saffer: What is the origin of the word hippy?

A Hippie (the more common spelling) is first recorded in print in the early 1950s. It derives from the older hip, dating from around the turn of the century, which itself may be a variant form of hep (though hip is recorded earlier than hep by a few years). There are several theories about the origin of the word, including one from the opium smokers’ “on the hip” (as they reclined while smoking), through the West African Wolof language word hipicat meaning “one who has his eyes wide open” (hence also hepcat), to a variant form of the drillmaster’s “hep, two, three, four” which was supposedly taken over into jazz as a way of giving the beat.

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Page created 26 Sep 1998; Last updated 12 Aug 2000