English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What does the word stand mean in this phrase?

share|improve this question
up vote 4 down vote accepted

From NOAD:

one-night stand noun 1 informal (also one-nighter) a sexual relationship lasting only one night. • a person with whom one has such a relationship. 2 a single performance of a play or show in a particular place.

The etymology is from the "play or show" meaning and the word probably comes from "stand" used in the military sense, as a confrontation:

• an act of holding one's ground against or halting to resist an opposing force : Custer's legendary last stand

share|improve this answer
so, stand=fighting and sex is like a fighting? Yes. I see. – lovespring May 7 '11 at 13:46
@snooze: It is if you do it right. :) – Robusto May 7 '11 at 13:48
I thought it was from travelling shows/circuses and towns that were only worth a single night. so after a one night stand they were gone in the morning – mgb May 7 '11 at 15:10
Steven King's The Stand – mplungjan May 7 '11 at 16:16
@Martin Beckett: See the part where I say 'The etymology is from the "play or show" meaning'. – Robusto May 7 '11 at 16:20

The OED says s.v. "stand":

e. Theatr. Each of the halts made on a tour to give performances; the place at which a halt is made; the performance itself; transf., esp. in one-night stand n. at one-night adj. Special uses.

So the "stand" is the stopping place on a theatrical tour. The one-night stand is a place where the show is performed for only one night. Nothing to do with fighting.

share|improve this answer
I have to say, your answer is more clear. But I have marked my answer. – lovespring May 8 '11 at 4:49
@lovespring: You can un-accept the original answer and mark this one, if you so wish. – coleopterist Aug 2 '12 at 3:57
"One-night stand" was at one time a common phrase among performers for such a one-day performance stop. The term was appropriated to a sexual context, comparing it to such a performance. (I don't know if performers still use the term or if it is now so totally associated with sex that it would be misunderstood.) – Jay Aug 2 '12 at 6:21

The participants in a 'one-night stand' usually not know each other and have no intention or expectation of a relationship to come out of it.

'Stand' here is also used to describe the relationship, if any, as 'The relationship only stands for one night'.

share|improve this answer
I was always under the impression that the "stand" is equivalent to being "stood up" for any further activity. – Neil Fein May 7 '11 at 16:57
It is possible that the "stand" is understood to have one of those meanings, but I have never understood it so, and it pretty clearly wasn't in the origin. – Colin Fine May 8 '11 at 0:36

protected by RegDwigнt Aug 2 '12 at 3:39

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.