from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Music A style of music, native to America, characterized by a strong but flexible rhythmic understructure with solo and ensemble improvisations on basic tunes and chord patterns and, more recently, a highly sophisticated harmonic idiom.
  • n. Music Big band dance music.
  • n. Slang Animation; enthusiasm.
  • n. Slang Nonsense.
  • n. Slang Miscellaneous, unspecified things: brought the food and all the jazz to go with it.
  • transitive v. Music To play in a jazz style.
  • transitive v. Slang To exaggerate or lie to: Don't jazz me.
  • transitive v. Slang To give great pleasure to; excite: The surprise party jazzed the guest of honor.
  • transitive v. Slang To cause to accelerate.
  • intransitive v. Slang To exaggerate or lie.
  • jazz up Slang To make more interesting; enliven: jazzed up the living area with beaded curtains.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A musical art form rooted in West African cultural and musical expression and in the African American blues tradition, with diverse influences over time, commonly characterized by blue notes, syncopation, swing, call and response, polyrhythms and improvisation.
  • n. Energy, excitement, excitability. Very lively.
  • n. The (in)tangible substance that goes into the makeup of a thing.
  • n. Unspecified thing(s).
  • n. Of excellent quality, the genuine article.
  • n. Nonsense.
  • v. To play jazz music.
  • v. To dance to the tunes of jazz music.
  • v. To enliven, brighten up, make more colourful or exciting; excite
  • v. To complicate.
  • v. To have sex with.
  • v. To destroy.
  • v. To distract/pester.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A type of music that originated in New Orleans around 1900 and developed through increasingly complex styles, but generally featuring intricate rhythms, improvisation, prominent solo segments, and great freedom in harmonic idiom played frequently in a polyphonic style, on various instruments including horn, saxophone, piano and percussion, but rarely stringed instruments.
  • n. empty or insincere or exaggerated talk.
  • n. A style of dance music popular in the 1920s; similar to New Orleans jazz but played by large bands.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. have sexual intercourse with
  • n. a style of dance music popular in the 1920s; similar to New Orleans jazz but played by large bands
  • v. play something in the style of jazz
  • n. empty rhetoric or insincere or exaggerated talk
  • n. a genre of popular music that originated in New Orleans around 1900 and developed through increasingly complex styles


Origin unknown.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Etymology uncertain. A detailed account is available in the Wikipedia article. (Wiktionary)


  • One view is that jazz could have found its way to Illinois in the person of Bert Kelly, a banjo player who moved from San Francisco to form a jazz ensemble in the Windy City.7 It appears that the word jazz was only subsequently adopted by Dixieland bands from New Orleans, by artists in Harlem, and throughout the United States.v

    The English Is Coming!

  • Could the word jazz already have been used in 1914 with reference to New Orleans music?

    The English Is Coming!

  • John Edward Hasse and Bob Blumenthal tell us that the term "jazz" originated in New Orleans around the beginning of the 20th century, and that the art form spread when early practitioners left home to perform around the world.

    Anthology by Committee

  • Over time, the word jazz in New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival has taken on a new meaning.

    It's Time for New Orleans Jazz Fest

  • Among other things, Payton insists that the word jazz is racist and that deeply embedded societal oppression of black Americans necessitates a reclassification of the music. Front Page

  • While he admits that "the word jazz is like kryptonite" to many potential listeners, he also believes that "it represents tolerance." Front Page

  • "People don't realize how wide and how broad the word jazz is," Watson said. Front Page

  • Mehari, like many of his contemporaries, insists that the word jazz is inherently restrictive. Front Page

  • By "spirit of jazz" I mean the complete opposite of how people usually use the term jazz as in "jazz it up" (that is, decorate it up).

    higher ed marketing

  • Into the word jazz, whether we like it or not, are plugged long, heavy-duty cables connecting to issues of race, the individual and the group in a democracy, the role of the arts in a commercial culture, the relationship of so-called ‘high art’ to so-called ‘popular art,’ the question of whether there is such a thing as progress in the arts, and on and on page ix.

    The English Is Coming!


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