Even the Merriam-Webster dictionary acknowledges both ducky and jake as acceptable terms meaning fine or satisfactory and it dates the word ducky back to 1897 and jake to 1914. Does anyone know how either of these words--ducky or jake--came to mean fine or satisfactory?

  • Must be AmE, I've never heard either of these words used with this meaning.
    – Mynamite
    Apr 6, 2014 at 16:01
  • I don't think most AmE speakers know these nowadays either, but I always thought "ducky" was more BrE, but Jake might be AmE. I have heard them in songs from the twenties and thirties, but nothing I can remember. Apr 6, 2014 at 23:17
  • 1
    @JamesMcLeod in BrE ducky is a noun and is used like dear or pumpkin, e.g. "Is everything alright, ducky?". It doesn't mean satisfactory (in BrE). Apr 7, 2014 at 10:10
  • I certainly know about ducky for satisfactory, although it feels very old-fashioned. Apr 13, 2014 at 0:02

3 Answers 3


Etymonline offers very little information on these words:

ducky — "excellent," slang from 1897 (often ironical), perhaps from duckie as a term of endearment (early 19c.). Probably not related to much earlier slang noun meaning "a woman's breast" ["...whose pritty duckys I trust shortly to kysse," Henry VIII, c.1536 letter to Anne Boleyn, who, contrary to rumor, did not have three of them].

"Ducky" has more modern synonyms in "peachy" and "hunky-dory":

Everything's just peachy.

(Note: Matt's comment about BrE usage seems to match the term of endearment mentioned as a possible origin.)

jake — Slang meaning "excellent, fine" is from 1914, American English, of unknown origin.

I've not actually heard "jake" used in this manner.

Sadly, there doesn't seem to be much other information easily available. The etymology of specific words is not always fully understood.

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    Jake was short for "Jamaican ginger", an alcoholic product which was "legal" during US Prohibition (1920-1933). However, in 1930 an adulterated version of the "spice" caused thousands (if not millions) of cases of paralysis. The term "jake leg", eg, came to mean the hobbling walk of someone who had been injured by the product. Obviously, any use of "jake" to mean "excellent" would have been tossed out the window. It may have snuck back over the years, but is not a popular term.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 21, 2016 at 2:25
  • "everything will be jake" is used in the film "The Sting" (1973) set in 1936 Chicago
    – xealits
    May 15, 2019 at 23:19

I have heard "Jake" used in old mob movies / books "Is everything Jake with that thing I sent you to do" or "Has dat thing ben taken care of?" "Yeah Boss, it's Jake." or "You and me - we Jake?" "Yeah, we're Jake."



colloquial or familiar abbreviation of the masc. proper name Jacob (q.v.). As the typical name of a rustic lout, from 1854. (Jakey still is the typical name for "an Amishman" among the non-Amish of Pennsylvania Dutch country). Slang meaning "excellent, fine" is from 1914, American English, of unknown origin.

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