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The Online Etymology Dictionary said it was unknown. However, it also says that one of the meanings of dis, as in disrespect, was originally:

short for disconnected in the telephone sense and used figuratively in slang to mean "weak in the head"

I'm curious if ditzy may have come from dis.
Any thoughts on the matter?

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5  
I think it's more likely a corruption of the word dizzy –  Matt Эллен Oct 30 '11 at 11:15

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

From Dr. William Long:

.9. Ditzy (1973). It is hard to believe that this word is of such recent origin. It means "eccentrically silly, giddy, or insane," according to the Collegiate. The OED calls it ditsy and points to dicty, a word first appearing in 1926, as the progenitor of ditsy. But dicty means "conceited, high-class, snobbish." Though the OED says that the origin is unknown, it seems to have emerged in Black English, as reflected in this 1944 quotation: "These (sic) are only a few dozen words and phrases that are uniquely Negro...such as 'dicty' which means trying to put on airs and act upper class without having the basis for doing so."

Thus, I have a hard time seeing how ditzy/ditsy might have been derived from dicty. In any case, once ditzy appeared on the scene in the late 1970s, it meant either "fussy"/"intricate" or, more frequently, "(Esp. of a woman) stupid, scatterbrained; cute." Even though we were in the middle of the feminist revolution at that time, the word ditzy seemed to take on a meaning associating it exclusively with women. From a Time movie review in 1981: "Bob Newhart plays the President of the United States. Madeline Kahn is his ditso wife. Gilda Radner is their ditsy daughter." Perhaps receding images of Goldie Hawn also helped to give it an anit-feminist life of its own. Or, perhaps when men felt threatened by the gradual incursions of feminist thought into the workplace, they retaliated by coining the term ditzy.


Here's the OED's 1976 earliest citation from Texas Monthly:

After a day of shopping for school clothes or a prom dress, mother used to steer us to places like Neiman-Marcus' Zodiac Room (for Pot Luck Specials), Sakowitz's Sky Terrace (shrimp salad and cheese straws), Foley's Azalea Terrace (turkey mornay), or Frost Brothers' Tastesetter (margarita pie). Besides menus of "ditzy ladies' things," these places had loads of cozy charm, an an occasional fashion show, and cheerful service.

Here's an antecedent from 1974's Myra & Gore by John Mitzel:

 And there she goes again, the ditzy queen, ...

Here's another from a 1974 New York Theatre Critics' Reviews:

The cast is headed by some grand old names — Alice Faye, who contributes a star's aura and a still splendid voice to the ditzy role of Professor Kenyon — the academic villain of the piece;

Finally, here's an antecedent for the OED's alternate spelling ditsy, from 1973's They've Shot the President's Daughter! by Edward Stewart:

I just couldn't keep my eyes off him, Fran, and I still can't believe he's interested in ditsy little me! But is he ever— oh boy! I practically had to pry him loose with a crowbar after the third "goodnight"! Anyway, wish me luck!

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Likely 1972 appearance of ditzy. Travels with Aunt was a '72 film. –  Callithumpian Jan 18 '12 at 0:18
    
@Callithumpian: Could well be. Although there's lots of ditzy/dizzy OCR errors... –  Hugo Jan 18 '12 at 7:43

The OED says origin unknown; perhaps corruption of 'dicty'. Dicty means snobbish, pretentious, self-important, ‘stuck-up’; having or characterized by aspirations to gentility or elegance; flashy, showy.

First recorded use is in the 'Texas Monthly' in 1976.

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I don't get how 'snobbish' and 'pretentious' can lead to 'stupid, scatterbrained'. –  Mark Oct 30 '11 at 12:02
    
One of the meanings of ‘ditzy’ is ‘fussy, intricate’. It’s not a big step to that from ‘flashy, showy'. But, as the OED says, 'perhaps'. – Barrie England just now –  Barrie England Oct 30 '11 at 12:17
    
Sounds more like 'glitzy' to me. –  Mark Oct 30 '11 at 12:19

The OED says for ditsy (the word can be spelled both ways) :

(Esp. of a woman) stupid, scatterbrained; cute.

On the web, we can find a definition of ditzy in the Merriam Webster, in the Urban Dictionary and plenty of others.

Etymonline says "unknown origin" and Dictionary.com says it could be a combination of dotty an dizzy.

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I think it came from DIDS.. Damsel in Distress~

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Do you have a citation from an authority? This site strongly prefers answers which provided referenced explanations. –  choster Feb 25 at 13:41

It's possible the origin is similar to the recent PWNED term- an initial misspelling of "owned" that took on a life of its own. The 70's- where no spell check was available, this type of misprint wasn't uncommon. Seems the meaning is identical to "dizzy" when used in a sexist sense; "dizzy" is very close I spelling to "ditzy"- Just a theory

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