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Stephen Goranson says "there is good reason to think that Irving Bacheller invented the word [with spelling "copasetic"] for a fictional character with a private vocabulary in his best-selling and later-serialized 1919 book about Abraham Lincoln in Illinois, A Man for the Ages, and its currency increased by use in the 1920 song "At the New Jump Steady Ball".[1] Alternatively, it has been speculated that it may have originated among African Americans in the Southern US in the late 19th or early 20th century, perhaps specifically in the jargon of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who certainly helped popularize it in any case.[2] Many hypotheses about its origin (etymon) exist, all lacking supporting evidence:[3]



copacetic (comparative more copacetic, superlative most copacetic)

  1. (US, slang) Fine, excellent, OK, in excellent order.
    • 1919, Irving Bacheller, A Man for the Ages: A Story of the Builders of Democracy[1], 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".
    • 1976, “I Can’t Wait to Get Off Work (and See My Baby on Montgomery Avenue)”, performed by Tom Waits:
      Count the cash, clean the oven, dump the trash, oh your loving is a rare and a copacetic gift.
    • 1987, “West L.A. Fadeaway”, performed by Grateful Dead:
      It’s a shame those boys couldn’t be more copacetic.
    • 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.



  1. ^ Copasetic Language Log, March 3, 2017
  2. ^ Mark Knowles, Tap Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing →ISBN, page 239
  3. ^ copacetic”, in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.
  4. 4.0 4.1 this theory is mentioned by David L Gold, Studies in Etymology and Etiology, pages 60-61; he views it with skepticism
  5. ^ Donald L. Martin makes this suggestion, which can be found in e.g. Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (2005)
  6. ^ 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)?"
  7. ^ David L Gold, Studies in Etymology and Etiology, pages 60-61