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Perhaps from Middle English jollen (to stagger, knock, batter), itself perhaps a variant of Middle English chollen (to strike, juggle, do tricks).



jolt (third-person singular simple present jolts, present participle jolting, simple past and past participle jolted)

  1. (transitive) To push or shake abruptly and roughly.
    The bus jolted its passengers at every turn.
  2. (transitive) To knock sharply
  3. (transitive) To shock (someone) into taking action or being alert
    I jolted her out of complacency.
  4. (transitive) To shock emotionally.
    Her untimely death jolted us all.
  5. (intransitive) To shake; to move with a series of jerks.
    The car jolted along the stony path.

Derived terms[edit]



jolt (plural jolts)

  1. An act of jolting.
  2. A surprise or shock.
  3. (slang) A long prison sentence.[1]
    • 1949, American Journal of Correction[1], page 24:
      Just sit down and look around for a while. Notice your cell, John. Take a good look at it, because it is going to be your home for the next ten years. Sure! You have just gotten a ten-year "jolt," John; so settle down and be a good prisoner.
    • 1958, Nelson Algren, A Walk on the Wild Side, page 312:
      But blow wise to this, buddy, blow wise to this: Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own. Never let nobody talk you into shaking another man's jolt. And never you cop another man's plea. I've tried 'em all and I know. They don't work.
    • 1994, Eric Cummins, The Rise and Fall of California's Radical Prison Movement[2], page 30:
      After three "jolts" in prison, three separate periods of incarceration, Braly decided to try his hand at writing.
    • 1998, H. Bruce Franklin, editor, Prison Writing in 20th-Century America[3]:
      "How long did she do after I left the joint" / "About a year or so. They wanted to parole her. [] " Mae wrinkled her forehead. “It's hard to figure out, sometimes.” Again she frowned heavily. “I don't give a damn myself—I'm a thief, and nothing they can ever do will hurt me. But Mrs. Loring, now, she was different. That jolt did hurt her bad. [] "
  4. (slang) A narcotic injection.

Coordinate terms[edit]

  • (prison sentence): bit



  1. ^ Eric Partridge (1949), “jolt”, in A Dictionary of the Underworld, London: Macmillan Co., page 371