jack of all trades

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English[edit]

Wikipedia

Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

1610s, from sense Jack (man (generic term)). Originally a term of praise (competent in many endeavors), today generally used disparagingly, with emphasis on (implied or stated) “master of none”, as in later longer form jack of all trades, master of none.

First attested in Essayes and characters of a prison and prisoners, by Geffray Minshull, published 1618 (written 1612), p. 50, as Jack-of-all-trades.

Noun[edit]

jack of all trades (plural jacks of all trades)

  1. (idiomatic) One competent in many endeavors, especially one who excels in none of them.
    • 1618, Geffray Minshull, Essayes and characters of a prison and prisoners, p. 50:
      Now for the most part your porter is either some broken cittizen, who hath plaid Jack-of-all-trades, some pander, broker, or hangman, that hath plaid the knaue with all men, and for the more certainty his embleme is a red beard, to which facke hath made his nose cousin german.
    • 1861, Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, ch. 25:
      "I am my own engineer, and my own carpenter, and my own plumber, and my own gardener, and my own Jack of all Trades," said Wemmick.
    • 1912, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Where There's A Will, Ch. 5:
      A fellow can always get some sort of a job—I was coming up here to see if they needed an extra clerk or a waiter, or chauffeur, or anything that meant a roof and something to eat—but I suppose they don't need a jack-of-all-trades.

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References[edit]

  • Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings, Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996)
  • Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988)
  • Re: Jack”, ESC, The Phrase Finder, April 13, 2000