It is supposed to have come into English through black children hearing the Yiddish expression used by Jewish storekeepers in the South.
- Copacetic is an unusual English language word in that it is one of the few words of unknown origin that is not considered slang in contemporary usage. Its use is found almost exclusively in North America. Its most likely origin comes from African American slang in the late 19th century. The earliest known usage given in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1919:
- 1919 I. BACHELLER Man for Ages iv. 69 ‘As to looks I'd call him, as ye might say, real copasetic.’ Mrs. Lukins expressed this opinion solemnly... Its last word stood for nothing more than an indefinite depth of meaning.
Alternatively, copacetic may have originated from Chinook Jargon, a trade language used in the Pacific Northwest to communicate between tribes, and European traders. The preposition "kopa" is very common in the language, and "Kopasetty" may have been used to mean "doing just fine". This theory is mentioned in an online Chinook Dictionary.
This is blatantly an Americanism, and should be labelled appropriately as such or at least as specifically US.
- This may very well be from an American dialect, but would better be described as simply obscure rather than "Americanism." (The only ones I've known to use it are Velocity Girl as an album title -- I am American and I had to look this up, thought it might be archaic or something, and guessed / imagined it to be related in some way to "copious"). --18.104.22.168 17:59, 3 March 2008 (UTC)
- It was much more common back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I haven’t heard it much since then. —Stephen 02:31, 4 March 2008 (UTC)
- Nard Jones in Seattle (1972) mentions copacete as Chinook Jargon. He was from Seattle and rather old by then, and seems to have had more than a smattering of Chinook Jargon. He discusses at some length people roughly a generation older than him who were fluent. I myself moved to Seattle in 1977 and I would say that "copacetic" was and remains pretty current here. Pretty sure I'd rarely, if ever, heard it before coming here (though I'm pretty sure Gary Trudeau's Doonsebury has used it, and I might have seen it there before moving here). So, whatever its origins, it may be mostly a regionalism. - Jmabel 03:44, 20 August 2008 (UTC)
The writer of The Disco Blog uses it annoyingly frequently and she appears to be American software developer. Disco Blog
It is mentioned in the song Dirty Frank by Pearl Jam, from their first album Ten. The song tells the story, in a humorous way, of a bus driver that is a cannibal. It is mentioned in this verse: Keeps it clean, keeps it copaseptic// The little boys and girls, their heads are all collected. The way it is used here implies a meaning similar to copiously clean, aseptic or antiseptic.
It is used in the Grateful Dead song "West LA Fadeaway" ca. 1982, in a phrase discussing the narrator's job fencing stolen goods for the mob: "the pay was pathetic/it's a shame those boys couldn't be more copacetic."
The "best known and most highly paid African-American entertainer in the first half of the twentieth century" (active from 1900-1943) is mentioned as having disseminated or popularized the word, "via his repeated use of it in vaudeville and radio appearances" as mentioned in the Bill Robinson Wikipedia page. Qidsquid (talk) 00:36, 21 October 2017 (UTC)
I used to hear this term frequently in my youth in the 1960's, always from someone in the medical profession. It was especially prevalent among young doctors and nurses of my acquaintance; they seemed to be exercising a recently learned slang term of their profession. I haven't heard it recently, though, so maybe it has died out there.
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The blues/jazz/swing musician, Cab Calloway, included it (spelled ”kopasetic”) in the 1944 edition of his HIPSTER’S DICTIONARY (subtitled LANGUAGE OF JIVE). He defines it as “absolutely okay, the tops.” I heard it often while growing up white middle class suburban in Alabama in the 1950s and 1960s. Valerie voigt (talk) 20:45, 16 April 2018 (UTC)Valerie Voigt
My grandfather was an immigrant from the Azores, became a successful Insurance Broker. This was one of his favorite words. To him, it did not mean "Everything is OK or fine." He said it meant literally "Everything is as it should be." Sometimes things are fine. Other times, things are all messed up, but there is a reason. But things are always, "As they should be, for whatever reason." When someone asks "How are things?" And you answer, "Copacetic." What they likely hear is that everything is fine. But in the event that things are all screwed up and for a reason, you don't have to explain and just suffice with the answer "Copacetic. (Things are as they should be)" 22.214.171.124 20:30, 10 May 2016 (UTC) My recollection is that the term was (re)popularized in the 50s (or perhaps the late 40s) by the beatnik/jazz community, and was becoming probably a bit passe by the early 60s (which is when you started hearing it on TV shows parodying the beatnik era).Danhicks 15:54, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
- It is hard to track fashion trends in words in the various groups that may use the term and still keep an entry usable. At present I don't think we can define a term as dated because "hip" or trendy people somewhere don't use it anymore. DCDuring TALK 18:08, 16 January 2009 (UTC)
I hear it all the time. I'm a doctor and it's 2009. Live in NE US.
My wife and I were discussing the word. It is 2009, I am 73 and grew up with the word in Georgia. My wife's father used the word as she was growing up in New England. She feels he used it when he was a submarine sailor during WW II. In both cases we feel the meaning was " all is O.K."
FWIW I haven't heard the word at all in all my 25 years in Houston, TX, but my wife is from Minnesota and they use it up there, not "all the time", but enough that everyone in Minneapolis seemed to know it (I had never heard it before I met her, and I didn't even believe it was a word, so she made a point by using it excessively with locals who not one of them said "huh?" like a Texan would if you used that word. 126.96.36.199 20:43, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
The Thriller writer James Lee Burke uses it in many of this books, particularly the character Detective Dave Robicheaux and his ex-partner Clete Purcel.eg. Swan Peak. The novels are often based around the New Orleans area and other parts of the Deep South. According to the book blurb the author lives in Montana and Louisiana. BookwormUK, 22.1.10
Hello, the "Webster's IIIrd Int. Dic." says
(3/3, p. 502) : "origin unknown (slang) : very satisfactory , fine and dandy . ex: "his smile told him that everything was ~" (Robert Bloch) ". In french , we have an equivalent (used mainly in cars, tanks, planes and boats) : "ça baigne dans l'huile" or shorter "ça baigne" = (it runs smoothly, as if it were) soaked with oil. T.y. Arapaima 07:39, 26 January 2010 (UTC)
- We have also "au poil" ("to the bristle") , whose origin I do not see clearly, but of very frequent (if not very elegant) use (not to be mistaken for "à poil" = stark nude) - and "aux petits oignons" ("with small onions") ...T.y. Arapaima 08:02, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
hear it in the US military frequently. In a Joe Cool, discussion sense. Not official chatter.
Co + Peace
I always assumed it derived from co + pace, some variant of the root word for "peace" and pacific. Rather shocked to find that is not known to be the case.
Google Translate from (Parisian) French gives "coup esètique" --> "esÃƒÂ¨tique shot", which gives "aesthetic blow" if we change e-grave to e, with a note "Showing translation for coup esthetique". In context, we can then read something similar to "final cut", say "top shelf!". I'm happy with the purported Cajun origin, though I challenge the translation "capable of being coped with successfully; able to cope with anything and everything": this is simply not there IMHO, unless as an expansion of "best you can get". 188.8.131.52 07:57, 13 January 2016 (UTC)