Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Eighty-Six


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is eighty-six. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Eighty-six is an informal word that means “to eject, dismiss, or remove someone.” It is usually used in the context of banning or refusing to serve a customer, but it can also refer to rejecting, discontinuing, or removing something in general.

// The teenagers were eighty-sixed by the manager after they attempted to start a food fight in the restaurant.

EIGHTY-SIX in Context

“There are occasional scuffles and a dozen or so ne’er-do-wells who have been permanently eighty-sixed. But, ultimately, the Last Stop is a home away from home, a playful, nonhierarchical joint you roll into for a $3.50 pint of Bud Light and an easy conversation with the dude sitting next to you.” — Ryan Miller, Seven Days (Vermont), 23 Mar. 2022

Did You Know?

If you work in a restaurant or bar, you might eighty-six (or “eliminate”) a menu item when you run out of it, or you might eighty-six (or “cut off”) a customer who should no longer be served. Eighty-six is still used in this specific context, but it has also entered the general language. These days, you don’t have to be a worker in a restaurant or bar to eighty-six something—you just have to have something to get rid of or discard. There are many popular but unsubstantiated theories about the origin of eighty-six. The explanation judged most probable according to Merriam-Webster’s research is that the word was created as a rhyming slang word for nix, which means “to veto” or “to reject.”

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