What Are "Dibs"?

Everyone wants dibs (such as “I’ve got dibs on that last piece of pizza!”) but do we know what they are or why we call them? Chances are you first started calling dibs back when you were a kid on the playground. Coincidentally, the playground is exactly where the phrase is believed to have originated.

Written references to a game called “dibstones” date back to the 17th century. The children’s game was similar to what we call “jacks” today, only back then, sheep’s knuckles or pebbles were used instead of little pointy metal gizmos.

When a player captured a stone, he called out “dibs!” which meant he now laid claim to that game piece. The word was eventually adopted by children outside of the game, but with the same meaning. Interestingly enough, the use of “dibs” fell out of favor with British children (and was replaced by a host of other phrases, including “bags it!” and “baggsy!”) around the same time kids in the U.S. started calling their own dibs.

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September 4, 2012 - 6:14am
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