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Fanciful extension of up +‎ -ity/-ety, an extended form of -y; compare biggity and hippity (and possibly also persnickety, pernickety).[1][2] First attested around 1880 in Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris to describe Jack Sparrer (Jack Sparrow), who tattled on Br'er Rabbit (see quotations below). Compare uppish.


  • IPA(key): /ˈʌpəti/
  • (file)


uppity (comparative uppitier, superlative uppitiest)

  1. Presumptuous, above oneself, self-important; arrogant, snobbish, haughty.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:arrogant
    • 1881, Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings; the Folk-lore of the Old Plantation[1]:
      "Hit wuz wunner dese yer uppity little Jack Sparrers, I speck," said the old man; "dey wuz allers bodder'n' longer udder fokes's bizness
  2. Exceeding one's station or position, assuming prerogatives to which one is not entitled.
    • 1936 June 30, Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, →OCLC; republished New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, 1944, →OCLC, part IV, page 562:
      And the Yankees are very upset because so many uppity darkies have been killed recently.
    • 1993, David Weber, On Basilisk Station, Paperback edition (Sci-Fi), →ISBN, page 141:
      The Association was openly committed to "restoring the historical balance of power intended by our Founders" between the nobility and the uppity commoners []

Usage notes[edit]

  • This term has historically been used in America to describe black people who were considered to be acting above "their place", and is considered by some to have racist connotations when applied to people of color; sometimes arrogant or presumptuous, invoking the same idea, are used as codewords for it.[3][4][5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ uppity”, in Dictionary.com Unabridged, Dictionary.com, LLC, 1995–present.
  2. ^ uppity”, in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–present.
  3. ^ Dionne Wright Poulton, It’s Not Always Racist ... but Sometimes It Is (2014), page 107
  4. ^ John Ridley, How Bad Is 'Uppity'?, November 16, 2008, NPR
    Elspeth Reeve, Yep, 'Uppity Is Racist, November 22, 2011, The Atlantic
  5. ^ C. S. Parker, M. Q. Sawyer, C. Towler, A BLACK MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE?: The Role of Racism and Patriotism in the 2008 Presidential Election, in the Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, vol. 6, issue 1 (2009)
    A Reyes, "Racist!": Metapragmatic regimentation of racist discourse by Asian American youth, in Discourse & Society (2011)