Jingoism Defined

A propos of nothing, the word ‘jingoism’ popped into my head this morning. I’ve heard it but didn’t know what it meant exactly. So I looked it up. Basically, it means ‘extreme nationalism with an aggressive foreign policy.’ That kind of fits with how I’ve heard it used, but this is one of those words that you just wonder where it came from. It doesn’t sound like its meaning. The etymology is more interesting.

It gets its militaristic meaning because it was the policy of the Jingos. But who are/were they? They were Conservative supporters of British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli’s policy in the Near East during the period 1877–78. Ah. So why on earth would you call them Jingos? Well, they got that name from the chorus of a 1878 song sung in pubs and music halls:

We don’t want to fight but by Jingo if we do,
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too,
We’ve fought the Bear before, and while we’re Britons true,
The Russians shall not have Constantinople.

Are we getting there? I think so. But what does “by Jingo” mean? It is a minced oath for “by Jesus.” To me ‘jingo’ doesn’t sound like ‘Jesus’ very much beyond the beginning j. Where does ‘jingo’ come from? It originated around 1660 as a conjurer’s call: “Hey jingo appear! Come forth!” The opposite was “Hey presto hasten away!” Eventually it was taken into general use.

As an aside, the two words “jingo” and “presto” were used by stage magicians. We’re still familiar with the latter. The other stage magician phrase we may remember is “hocus pocus” which probably originated in the Latin Mass, hoc est (enim) corpus (meum), “this is my body”.

Because of their jingoism, they employed a lot of hocus pocus and presto! We have a war!

Print This Post Print This Post


  • JINGOISM! ramble ramble etymology ramble. MAGIC! ;)

  • So, would you say you’re a prestoist?

  • Aaahh, so THAT’s where it came from. By jingo!!! I’m a ‘voila’ man myself.

Join the Discussion

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>