86 (term)

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Eighty-six, eighty-sixed, 86, 86ed, or 86'd is American English slang for 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" 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]
  • Electrical Protection: According to IEEE Std. C37.2-2008 and previous versions of this standard which was originally published by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers [AIEE] as AIEE No. 26 in 1928, Device Number 86 is a lockout relay, which is a "device that trips and maintains the associated equipment or devices as inoperative until it is reset by an operator, either locally or remotely." In lay terms, an 86 device "locks out" a piece of electrical equipment, which is to say that it turns the equipment off so that it cannot restart until the appropriate person investigates the problem and then resets the 86 device.

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.

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