from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A strenuous dance performed to quick-tempo swing or jazz music and consisting of various two-step patterns embellished with twirls and sometimes acrobatic maneuvers.
  • noun One who performs this dance.
  • intransitive verb To perform this dance.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun a fast and vigorous American dance that was popular in the 1940s, having few standardized steps and personalized with various twirls, twists, and acrobatic moves; it was performed often to the accompaniment of swing or boogie-woogie tunes.
  • intransitive verb to do the jitterbug.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A nervous or jittery person.
  • noun A jazz musician or aficionado.
  • noun An uptempo jazz or swing dance which embellishes on the two-step pattern and frequently incorporates acrobatic style swing steps.
  • verb To dance the jitterbug.

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

  • noun a jerky American dance that was popular in the 1940s
  • verb do the jitterbug


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

[From jitterbug, heavy drinker who suffers from the jitters, from jitter.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From jitter + bug, after the 1934 Cab Calloway song Jitter Bug.


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  • The term "jitterbug" comes from an early 20th century slang used to describe alcoholics who suffered from the "jitters" (delirium tremens). During the early 1900s, the term became associated with swing dancers who danced without any control or knowledge of the dance. This term was famously associated with swing era dancers by band leader Cab Calloway because, as he put it, "They look like a bunch of jitterbugs out there on the floor" due to their fast often bouncy movements on the dance floor. In popular culture it became generalized to mean a swing dancer (e.g., you were a jitterbug), a type of swing dance (e.g., you danced the jitterbug), or the act of swing dancing (e.g., you were jitterbugging).


    February 24, 2008

  • See comments under Jitter Sauce.

    March 10, 2011