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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What is the Origin of the Word "Oops?"

I found another word for which I wanted to discover the origin. It's a word I tend to use a lot, hopefully not in dangerous situations. The word is "oops." Because "oops" begins with a double letter and is relatively short, I've always suspected it of being an acronym.

Starting at the Online Etymology Dictionary, I discovered that the word has been traced back to 1933, not as an acronym, but as its own word. That site traces a common variant, "whoops," to 1925. The (British) Phrase Finder cites that usage as 'Whoopsie Daisy!', in the New Yorker, in September 1925.

This phrase has been traced back to "upsa daesy" in Leeds in 1862, "up a-dazy" in Jonathan Swift's The Journal To Stella (1711), and ultimately "upaday."

I suspect that there is more in play here. The origin of the verb "whoop," according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, involves the similar-sounding French houper, "to call out," which is essentially the purpose of the term "oops." Could this be the true origin of "oops?" Qualified experts (and other interested parties) should feel free to comment on the issue below.

New Fact: "Oops" is derived from the exclamation "whoopsie daisy!" and perhaps ultimately the French houper.

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