Also seen as "noobie", "n00b", etc.

Etymonline gives an origin by 1969, possibly in the military. Is there a more definite origin anywhere? I know it is was also common on the Usenet, but of course any such use must have been post-1979 when Usenet was invented.

I know that the suffix "-bie" (as in freebie, etc.) is not uncommon, but I'm looking for specific usages of that suffix with the word "new".

  • 1
    OED says the parallel with freebie is just one possibility for an "uncertain" etymology. It might be "perhaps alteration of new boy n. (after -y suffix.)" Jan 20, 2013 at 3:01
  • A question to this question, is whether or not we should include newie as a form of newbie. I decided before when looking at this that the only complete answer would include answer it for both that form and also restricted to newbie alone. Newie seemed to be at least 19th C. It doesn't help that both Newbie and Newie are proper nouns that turn up as such in searches.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 20, 2013 at 11:01
  • @JonHanna That question could be part of a good answer, but I am asking specifically about "newbie". Jan 27, 2013 at 17:24
  • Could it be related to "wannabe" which seems to be early 80s in origin?
    – Stuart F
    Jan 23 at 10:00

8 Answers 8


Per comment, OED says "origin uncertain". Personally, my money's on it being a variant of...

newie - Chiefly U.S. and Austral. A person who is new to a place, situation, etc.; a newcomer; a novice.

1856 B. H. Hall Coll. College Words (rev. ed.) , Newy, at Princeton College, a fresh arrival.
1917 Truth (Sydney) 1 Apr. 6/7 Two newies had a rough-up at Rozelle.
1961 A. Berkman Singers' Gloss. Show Business Jargon 61 Newies (Var.), novices; neophytes.

Regardless of whether it was formed by b-insertion there (as with free = freebie), OED seems quite happy to say newbie is slang (orig. U.S. Mil.)., attested from the early 70s.

  • Of course, it didn't really catch on for decades. If it had been current in 1980, I'd probably have Huey Lewis and the Newbies in my record library! Jan 20, 2013 at 3:29
  • 1
    So if you do a "yewi" (Astrl U-turn) at the "Uni" (Astrl University) does it mean you must be a newie?
    – WS2
    Jan 25, 2020 at 9:21

Its etymology is uncertain. It may derive from "newie", which is attested in U.S. and Australian sources of the 1850s and means a neophyte in a place or situation; alternatively, it may derive from the British public school slang "new boy" or "new blood", which is attributed to the same era and was applied to a schoolboy in his first term.


There was an episode of Highway Patrol that aired 4/14/58 where a delivery driver describes a waitress to Dan Matthews as a “newbie”. So it’s at least that old.


I can confirm the terms specific military usage going back at least to 1942, when the SeaBees were formed. In the US Navy if you are a member of the Construction Battalions you are referred to as a ‘SeaBee’. When someone is first transferred into the unit (enlisted or officer) they are referred to as being ‘NewBees’. Even experienced personnel who are transferred in from the fleet (sea going Navy) are referred to as NewBees. “The new Chief master at arms is a NewBee and needs to learn how things are done in the battalions.”


There was a reading club/program for american kids back in the 50's and 60's which involved a "noble order of bookworms". Acronyms like RADAR, NASA, and LASER were new and trendy back then, so noob could have easily come into being from the club name. There's not enough evidence available online to say that that actually happened at the time.

  • 3
    -1 : An interesting theory, but in absence of any evidence linking this to newcomers, the connection seems too thin to constitute a useful answer.
    – Lynn
    Jan 20, 2013 at 5:41
  • @Lynn: Doesn't really fit as a comment either. If you'd rather not have the information at all, I can delete it. OTOH, someone w access to full text newspapers from the 50's mght be able to look up club related news, and determine if the acronym existed back then. Jan 20, 2013 at 14:04
  • This club seems to have been limited to the environs of Kanawha County, WV. Jan 27, 2013 at 17:28
  • @Wayfaring Stranger: I agree with Lynn that it's "too thin" to post as an answer - but it is an interesting aside, so I think it would be a perfectly good comment. Jan 27, 2013 at 17:55

Old thread but, I think I remember something with Gee Bee air racing and how a new bee is the one to watch out for (keep an eye on) because they are inexperienced and the most likely to crash.


I first saw this word in 1988 on the Usenet newsgroup talk.bizarre, where it was explained to me that "newbie" was a recent coinage and a diminutive way to write "new-b", denoting in a pejorative way people who had recently joined the newsgroup, i.e., those who were "new to bizarre". The spelling "noob" was an alternative form. It was used heavily on that newsgroup but nowhere else that I encountered until years later. It seems possible and even likely to me that this was an independent reinvention of the word and the one that stuck.

  • There's a book about the Vietnam era that uses the term "newbie" in reported conversation. Not published until 1987. Cannon fodder: growing up for Vietnam by Phillip Coleman
    – Xanne
    Jul 1, 2017 at 6:41
  • Especially given the date of publication, it does seem plausible that talk.bizarre picked up the term from this book. I still think it got onto the Web from Usenet and it got onto Usenet from talk.bizarre.
    – andru
    Jul 7, 2017 at 1:31
  • I think it's more likely it got onto the web in multiple independent places from people who were already using the term in other contexts.
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 25, 2020 at 8:22
  • It's also possible it was invented multiple times, as it's a fairly obvious coinage from "new".
    – Stuart F
    Jan 23 at 9:59

new-be if bracketed that way is formally identical to Greek neo-phyton, insofar as the reconstruction of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *bʰuH- holds in either case.

The origin of phyton "child, growth", which should not concern us beyond the basic fact, might reflect PIE *bʰuH-tó (Wodtko et al., Lexikon der indogermanischen Nomina), maybe deverbal from phuo "to grow" (Wiktionary). The fact that Semitic בַּת, بِنْت etc. "daughter" or Sanskrit पुत्री for example are not related to this reconstructed root goes without saying.

Of course, the first question one has to ask pertains to attestation. Douglas Harper dates newbie "by 1969".

Second, word formation might offer a clue about stratification. Harper speaks of an ostensible diminutive suffix, which I have to guess has to be -y-, as Harper's refers further to noob and indicates Military Jargon. This is a bummer because troops are drafted from wherever. The only labial exponent that comes to mind is seen in knob, which has been compared to knave, Old Norse knapi, Dutch knaab, German Knabe etc. Other hypochorisms with -b- that couldn't be secondary (freebie) don't exist to my knowledge.

Third, comparative evidence from languages more closely related than Greek might help. Save for the existential paradigm to be, the cognates from this root seem to cover a lot of ground (op. cit.):

  • booth, through Old Norse

  • Old English būr "dwelling, house, store", Dutch bur "farmer", burlap "loin cloth".

  • Old Norse búi "dweller, inhabitant; neighbour; (law) a neighbour acting as a juror", nábúi "neighbour", whence Scottish Gaellic nàbaidh (Wiktionary).

  • beam, German Baum "tree", ...

  • et cetera

German Neubauer, is common as surname, same idea as Newman, Neugebauer, or toponymic New York. Is that it?

The labialization expected from English is enough to explain newie after assimilation from *neuvui. Whereas "b-insertion" (@FF) is not an actual thing (eg. Louis doesn't become lube).

However, since I'd bet that knave is akin to kind, gentle, genius, German Kind "child" etc., which derive from PIE *ǵenh₁- ~ *ǵn̥h₁-, it may be notable that laryngeals are theorized to have had a labial feature (Frederik Hartmann 2021, The phonetic value of the Proto-Indo-European laryngeal. In: Indo-European Linguistics).

In this case, fortition towards excrescent *-b might be a possibility.

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