"Night, folks; I'm off to kip."

1British a sleep or nap:
      I might have a little kip
[mass noun] :
      he was trying to get some kip

verb (kips, kipping, kipped)
[no object] British
         he can kip on her sofa

Oxford Dictionaries has it as:

mid 18th century (in the sense 'brothel'): perhaps related to Danish kippe 'hovel, tavern'

Any further etymological info?


3 Answers 3


There is some more detail on World Wide Words.

The Irish usage as brothel is first recorded in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield:

... to assist at tattering a kip as the phrase was, when we had a mind for a frolic.

The phrase tattering a kip meaning "wrecking a brothel".

The word then came to be used for lodging-houses and finally to refer to the act of sleeping itself.

In Partridge's Dictionary of Common Slang there's also mention of Danish kippe and a possible link to Romany kipsi 'a basket' and kitchema 'an inn' and a possible nautical origin of kip meaning 'hammock'. However, unfortunately I cannot reproduce the complete entry here.

  • 3
    I cannot speak for Romani, but kippe (as a noun) is beyond vanishingly rare in Danish. It’s a marginally common verb, meaning ‘tilt’ or ‘lop’ (or ‘dip’ as in ‘dipping the flag’), but according to the dictionary, the noun and the verb are unrelated. The noun is allegedly the same as kipe ‘basket for carrying grain’. Supposedly, the shift from ‘basket’ to ‘hovel’ was helped along by Middle Low German kiffe ‘hut’, whence it was used in compounds to refer specifically to a real dive or a brothel, which is when English presumably borrowed (?) it. Quite a shaky etymology overall, I’d say. Dec 31, 2013 at 3:01
  • @JanusBahsJacquet I am about to write a question asking for the origins of kip, I believe it could be a Chinese loanword, may I copy and paste your comment on my question. It will make my case more convincing :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 18, 2014 at 11:23
  • @Mari-Lou Go ahead! May 18, 2014 at 11:58

I can tell you in Scotland the word kip also means bed. The derogatory phrase "Still in his kip" means still in bed (not still asleep), when the person should have been up and about already.


Wikipedia suggests that kip is derived from kipper a smoked herring fish.

The English philologist and ethnographer Walter William Skeat derives the word from the Old English kippian, to spawn. The origin of the word has various parallels, such as Icelandic kippa which means "to pull, snatch" and the German word kippen which means "to tilt, to incline". Similarly, the English kipe denotes a basket used to catch fish. Another theory traces the word kipper to the kip, or small beak, that male salmon develop during the breeding season.

Salmon Kype

The salmon spend about one to five years (depending on the species) in the open ocean, where they gradually become sexually mature. The adult salmon then return primarily to their natal streams to spawn. Atlantic salmon spend between one and four years at sea. (When a fish returns after just one year's sea feeding, it is called a grilse in Canada, Britain and Ireland.) Prior to spawning, depending on the species, salmon undergo changes. They may grow a hump, develop canine teeth, develop a kype (a pronounced curvature of the jaws in male salmon). All will change from the silvery blue of a fresh-run fish from the sea to a darker colour.

  • 1
    in Dutch a kip is a chicken. (this adds nothing to the actual question, I just thought it funny)
    – kip
    Nov 13, 2014 at 8:53
  • @kip So should I call you a chick or a rooster? :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 13, 2014 at 8:56
  • I like the word kip am many things at once. But if given the choice between the two then I'll choose rooster 9 times outta 10. :) ☺
    – kip
    Nov 13, 2014 at 8:57

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