copacetic

adjective
co·​pa·​cet·​ic | \ ˌkō-pə-ˈse-tik How to pronounce copacetic (audio) \
variants: or less commonly copasetic or copesetic

Definition of copacetic

: very satisfactory And his smile told him that everything was copacetic.— Robert Bloch

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Theories about the origin of copacetic abound, but the facts about the word’s history are scant: it appears to have arisen in African-American slang in the southern U.S., possibly as early as the 1880s, with earliest known evidence of it in print dating only to 1919. Beyond that, we have only speculation. One theory is that the term is descended from Hebrew kol be sedher (or kol b’seder or chol b’seder), meaning “everything is in order.” That theory is problematic for a number of reasons, among them that in order for a Hebrew expression to have been adopted into English at that time it would have passed through Yiddish, and there is no evidence of the phrase in Yiddish dictionaries. Other theories trace copacetic to Creole coupèstique (“able to be coped with”), Italian cappo sotto (literally “head under,” figuratively “okay”), or Chinook jargon copacete (“everything’s all right”), but no evidence to substantiate any of these has been found. Another theory credits the coining of the word to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who used the word frequently and believed himself to be the coiner. Anecdotal recollections of the word’s use, however, predate his lifetime.

Examples of copacetic in a Sentence

don't worry, because I assure you that everything's copacetic
Recent Examples on the Web This plate is copacetic, Hardin said, since Arkansans know the actual prez isn’t driving around our small, wonderful state. Frank Fellone, Arkansas Online, 14 May 2022 The signals from Trump suggest that McCarthy remains copacetic with the Mar-a-Lago circuit. Philip Elliott, Time, 28 Apr. 2022 All is copacetic until one of the Italians shows up with a beautiful realtor from Connecticut, and one of the Irish makes a crude pass at her. Tom Nolan, WSJ, 22 Apr. 2022 Venus is in your 6th House of Routine and Health, adding a touch of ease to the daily grind, but that copacetic energy will be shaken up when Venus makes a rough square to Uranus in your expansion sector. Tarot Astrologers, chicagotribune.com, 19 Mar. 2022 Though Ferriera did not comment on the behind-the-scenes rumors, Kat’s actions in episode six did not seem to convince fans that everything is copacetic behind the scenes…. Elizabeth Logan, Glamour, 14 Feb. 2022 The most likely path for the Heat will be to keep the roster copacetic until later in the season, when there will be enough space under the tax for maneuverability. Ira Winderman, sun-sentinel.com, 7 Oct. 2021 My days, like everyone else’s in 2021, can quickly swing from perfectly copacetic calm to something on the edge of calamity. Jason Gay, WSJ, 1 Oct. 2021 Ordway, who retired Thursday as a full-time host at WEEI, conjured a brilliant formula that was perfectly copacetic with the cynical nature of the Boston sports fan. BostonGlobe.com, 28 Aug. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'copacetic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of copacetic

1919, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for copacetic

of obscure origin

Note: Copacetic (with many variant spellings) is probably better known for competing theories of its origin than for any record of unconscious everyday use in American English. The first written occurrence of the word thus far detected (as copasetic) is in A Man for the Ages (New York, 1919), a novel about the young Abraham Lincoln in rural Illinois by the journalist and fiction writer Irving Bacheller (1859-1950), born in northern New York state. In the book the word is used twice by a character named Mrs. Lukins, noted for her idiosyncratic speech. Bacheller emphasizes that this word and coralapus are her peculiar property: "For a long time the word 'coralapus' had been a prized possession of Mrs. Lukins …There was one other word in her lexicon which was in the nature of a jewel to be used only on special occasions. It was the word 'copasetic.' The best society of Salem Hill understood perfectly that it signaled an unusual depth of meaning" (pp. 286-87). While coralapus passes into oblivion after the novel, it is only the beginning for copasetic—though it is far from certain that Bacheller coined the word. Copasetic next appears in 1920, in the lyrics of a song, "At the New Jump Steady Ball," by the African American songwriters Tom Delaney (1889-1963) and Sidney Easton (1886-1971): "Copasetic was the password for all, At the new jump steady ball [a speakeasy]"; a performance of the song was the first issued recording by the singer Ethel Waters, in March, 1921 (see post and link to the song by Stephen Goranson at the website Language Log, March 3, 2017). This attestation begins a long association of the word with African American speech. It was used by the tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1877-1949) in radio broadcasts during the 1930's; Robinson claimed to have coined the word in an exchange of letters with the lexicographer Charles Earle Funke (see Funke's article "Bill Robinson's 'Copesetic'," American Speech, vol. 28 [1953], pp. 230-31, citing an earlier column by Funke and Frank Vizetelly in The Literary Digest, vol. 120, no. 20 [November 16, 1935], p. 3). Funke's American Speech article apparently inaugurates the tradition of searching outside English for the origin of copacetic. He cites a report by a correspondent from Milwaukee that the word comes from Louisiana French coupe-sètique; the correspondent even proffers its use in a couplet from "a charming old Acadian poem." Unfortunately, outside of this claim, such a word is not known to exist in any variety of French. The same absence of support vitiates other suggested sources, as Chinook Jargon copasenee (not actually attested in Chinook Jargon) and the putative Italian word copasetti produced by the novelist John O'Hara in a letter of December, 1934 (Selected Letters of John O'Hara, New York, 1978, p. 100). Most prominent in recent decades has been the hypothesis that copacetic is borrowed from Israeli Hebrew hakol beseder "all is in order" (in a transliteration from pointed spelling ha-kōl bĕ-sēdher), a calque on expressions in European languages (German "alles in Ordnung," Polish "wszystko w porządku," Russian "vsë v porjadke"). This etymology is thoroughly debunked by David Gold in "American English slang copacetic 'fine, all right' has no Hebrew, Yiddish, or other Jewish connection," Studies in Etymology and Etiology (Universidad de Alicante, 2009), pp. 57-76. The notion that an Israeli Hebrew expression not attested before the early 20th century—when a very small minority of the world's Jews, mostly in Palestine, actively spoke Hebrew—could be the source of copacetic is beyond improbable. Until more evidence appears the origin of copacetic remains obscure.

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The first known use of copacetic was in 1919

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Last Updated

22 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Copacetic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/copacetic. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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