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Posted by on Nov 14, 2015 in TellMeWhy |

Where Did the Word Quiz Come From?

Where Did the Word Quiz Come From?

Where Did the Word Quiz Come From? The first attested use of the word is from 1781 and means an odd person. This sense survives today in the word quizzical. It was also used in the term quizzing glass, a common accoutrement of British Regency dandies.

It later acquired a meaning of to make fun of, or to mock. How it acquired its current meaning of a test is unknown, but that sense did not appear until 1867 and then it was in the United States.

The Oxford English Dictionary attests the use of the verb quiz to mean “to question or interrogate”, with a reference from 1843: “She com back an’ quiesed us”, which could be a clue to its origin. Quiz as a test could be a corruption of the Latin qui es, meaning “Who are you?”

The American Heritage Dictionary says it may be from the English dialect verb quiset, meaning “to question”. In any case it is probably from the same root as question and inquisitive.

The word quiz is an invented word. There is a well-known myth about the word quiz that says that in 1791 a Dublin theater owner named James Daly made a bet that he could introduce a word into the language within twenty-four hours. He then went out and hired a group of street urchins to write the word “quiz”, which was a nonsense word, on walls around the city of Dublin.

Within a day, the word was common currency and had acquired a meaning (since no one knew what it meant, everyone thought it was some sort of test) and Daly had some extra cash in his pocket.

However, there is no evidence to support the story, and the term was already in use before the alleged bet in 1791. People first used quiz to mean “puzzle.” Today, to quiz means “to ask questions.” When you have a quiz in school that means you have to give answers to questions.

Content for this question contributed by Michelle Canzoni, resident of Walton Hills, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, USA