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

  • n. 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.
  • n. One who performs this dance.
  • intransitive v. To perform this dance.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. 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 v. to do the jitterbug.

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

  • n. a jerky American dance that was popular in the 1940s
  • v. do the jitterbug


From jitterbug, heavy drinker who suffers from the jitters, from jitter.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From jitter + bug, after the 1934 Cab Calloway song Jitter Bug. (Wiktionary)



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  • See comments under Jitter Sauce.

    March 10, 2011

  • 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