86 (term)

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Eighty-six, eighty-sixed, 86, 86ed, or 86'd is American English slang for canceling something, killing someone, getting rid of something (by burying it), ejecting someone, or refusing service.


According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, "86" is a slang term that is used in the American popular culture as a transitive verb in the food service industry as a term to describe an item no longer being available on the menu. The dictionary suggests the term may be associated with the word "nix" ("no" or a more general prohibition).[1] "Nix" (German slang for "nothing") is related to the word "Niks", which means "nothing" in the Dutch language.

The term is part of restaurant slang, heard among restaurant workers in the 1930s,[2] where 86 meant "we're all out of it." Walter Winchell published examples of similar restaurant slang in his newspaper column in 1933, which he presented as part of a "glossary of soda-fountain lingo".[3]


Several possible origins of the term 86 have been suggested, all dated before the 1950s.

Looking north at Chumley's, 86 Bedford St, West Village
  • 86 Bedford Street: Author Jef Klein theorizes that the bar Chumley's at 86 Bedford Street in the West Village of Lower Manhattan was the source. Klein's 2006 book The History and Stories of the Best Bars of New York claims that the police would call Chumley's bar during prohibition before making a raid and tell the bartender to "86" his customers, meaning that they should exit out the 86 Bedford Street door, while the police would come to the Pamela Court entrance.[4]
  • Documented 1944 use: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first verifiable use of 86 in the sense of "refuse service to" dates to a 1944 book about John Barrymore, a movie star of the 1920s famous for his acting and infamous for his drinking: "There was a bar in the Belasco building ... but Barrymore was known in that cubby as an 'eighty-six'. An 'eighty-six', in the patois of western dispensers, means: 'Don't serve him.'"[5]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The song "86" by Green Day is a reference to this term.[6]
  • The term was used in the movie Fury to describe the tank's radio to be damaged and out of service.
  • Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay frequently used the term on his show Kitchen Nightmares as a way of requesting that items on a menu be eliminated. One owner on the show constantly did this whenever there was a problem with a menu item.
  • TV Series The X-Files: In the episode "Vienen", referring his dismissal from FBI, Fox Mulder says “I’m 86’d.” to John Dogget.
  • TV Series The Golden Girls: "Blanche and the Younger Man" (1985), Blanche, "waiter, 86 the watercress, I'll have ..."
  • TV Series Friends: "The One Where Ross and Rachel... You Know" (1996), Phoebe Buffay, [proving to Monica that she can be a waitress], "Give me two number 1's. 86 of bacon. One Adam and Eve on a raft and wreck em. Lalalalalala!"
  • TV Series Castle: In the episode "Last Call", Pickup Pete was 86ed from the bar The Old Haunt after molesting one of the waitresses.
  • TV Series Castle Rock: In season 2 episode "Ties that Bind", a character refers to suicide by saying that someone "86'd [themselves] in this lake."
  • Term was used in the movie Parkland to describe destroying the evidence the FBI had of Oswald in their office.
  • Las Vegas gangster term used to mean kill someone. Bury the body 8 miles out and 6 feet under (in the desert).
  • In the musical Little Shop of Horrors, during the song musical number "Feed Me (Git It)", Audrey II says to Seymour between the lyrics "There must be someone you can 86 real quiet like and get me some lunch," referring to getting rid of Orin Scrivello (offing him.)
  • In the satirical TV series Get Smart, 86 was Maxwell Smart's agent number.
  • In The Walking Dead, Martinez uses the expression "the one who 86'd those military guys" to designate a person who killed many people at the same time (Season 4, Episode 7, at 10 mins).
  • In the song "The Remedy" by Puscifer the lyrics "...Trolls receive 86's".
  • In the film Cars, a racer by the name of Chick Hicks was assigned the number of 86. This also ties in with his persona of turning to cheating by pulling PIT maneuvers and crashing other racers (i.e. 86ing them) in order to win races.
  • In the film Princess Diaries, Mia ask Joseph “Can we 86 the flags?” In reference to the Genovian flags posted atop the limousine.
  • In the song "Cliches" by Jimmy Buffet;

She never did make her debut He never made it to class She's eighty-sixed from the Chart Room He's twenty nine and pushin' thirty real fast

  • In the game "Summertime Saga" by Dark Cookie;
  • In the game "Borderlands 3" said by Zane Flint character during combat: "Eighty six those PRICKS!"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Eighty-six - Definition of eighty-six by Merriam-Webster". merriam-webster.com.
  2. ^ "What does '86'd' or '86 It' Mean in Restaurant Jargon?". Culinary Lore. March 8, 2015. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  3. ^ "linguistlist.org: Soda Jerk Slang & Coney Island Chicken (Winchell, 1933)". linguistlist.org.
  4. ^ Klein, Jef (2006). The History and Stories of the Best Bars of New York. Turner Publishing Company.
  5. ^ "snopes.com: Etymology of 86". snopes.com.
  6. ^ Case, Wesley (May 3, 2013). "A brief guide to Green Day". The Baltimore Sun. Tribune Publishing. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved February 23, 2016.

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