Unknown. Many theories exist, all of which lack supporting evidence:
- That the term originated among African Americans in the Southern US in the early 20th century or late 19th century—perhaps specifically in the jargon of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (who certainly popularized it, in any case).
- That it derives from Cajun French coup esètique / coupersètique (“capable of being coped with successfully; able to cope with anything and everything”). It is old French slang for "final cut", meaning the point beyond which something can no longer be changed. Associated with the blade of the guillotine.
- That it derives from a word *copasetti used by Italian speakers in New York.
- That it derives from Chinook Jargon copasenee (“everything is satisfactory”) — if the Chinook Jargon term is not itself derived from English.
The common suggestion that the term derives from Hebrew הכל בסדר (hakól b'séder, “everything is in order”) has been rejected, as has the fanciful suggestion that it derives from criminals' observation that they could go about their business because "the cop is on the settee".
- (US) Fine, excellent, OK.
1919, Irving Bacheller, A Man for the Ages: A Story of the Builders of Democracy, New York, N.Y.: Grosset & Dunlap, OCLC 648098, pages 69 and 287:
- ["]... an' as to looks I'd call him, as ye might say, real copasetic." Mrs. Lukins expressed this opinion solemnly and with a slight cough. Its last word stood for nothing more than an indefinite depth of meaning. [...] There was one other word in her lexicon which was in the nature of a jewel to be used only on special occasions. It was the word "copasetic".
2014 July 5, Sam Borden, “For bellicose Brazil, payback carries heavy price: Loss of Neymar [International New York Times version: Brazil and referee share some blame for Neymar's injury: Spaniard's failure to curb early pattern of fouls is seen as major factor (7 July 2014, p. 13)]”, in The New York Times:
- Colombia and Brazil were supposed to be more copacetic.
- ^ “copacetic” in Dictionary.com Unabridged, v1.0.1, Lexico Publishing Group, 2006.
- ^ Mark Knowles, Tap Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing (ISBN 0786412674), page 239
- this theory is mentioned by David L Gold, Studies in Etymology and Etiology, pages 60-61; he views it with skepticism
- ^ Donald L. Martin makes this suggestion, which can be found in e.g. Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (2005)
- ^ David L Gold writes of the suggestion that the English term derives from Chinook Jargon: "If that explanation is right, we expect the English word to have first been used somewhere from Alaska to Oregon (the area where Chinook Jargon was spoken). No evidence available to me, however, points in that direction. Might the Chinook Jargon word actually be a reflex of American English copacetic (in whatever spelling)?"
- ^ David L Gold, Studies in Etymology and Etiology, pages 60-61