Word of the Day


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a type of music that developed in the late 19th century in which there is a strong lively beat and the players often improvise

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The first recorded  use of the noun jazz was in 1912, with the verb following soon after. Its origin is uncertain: it may come from the noun ‘jism’, meaning energy or strength. The first recorded use of the term in reference to a type of popular music based on ragtime and blues came in the Chicago Sunday Tribune in 1915.


Lovers of jazz this week celebrated International Jazz Day with concerts and events around the world. International Jazz Day was established by UNESCO in 2011 “to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe”. Jazz forms part of many compounds relating to the art form.  Jazz hands is a gesture traditionally used in musical theatre in which the hands are waved with the palms facing forward to show enthusiasm or excitement. If you refer to something as jazzy in the non-musical sense, you mean that it is bright, colourful and attractive, while if you jazz something up you make it more lively and interesting. The phrase and all that jazz is used to refer to all the things related to the subject you are talking about without listing them in detail.


“Life is a lot like jazz … it’s best when you improvise.”
(George Gershwin)

“The spirit of jazz is the spirit of openness.”
(Herbie Hancock)

Related words

blues, funk, soul, swing

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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