I'm Jonesing for a little Ganja, mon... I'm jonesing for a little soul food, brother...

(verb) jonesed; jonesing; joneses
to have a strong desire or craving for something

(Merriam Webster)

Where did "I'm jonesing" come from?


7 Answers 7


The New Oxford American Dictionary has “Origin 1960’s: said to come from Jones Alley, in Manhattan, associated with drug addicts.”

Some online sources dispute the claim and attribute it to Great Jones Street.

  • damn you're way more liberal with your upvotes than me Jun 20, 2015 at 9:43
  • Yes. And I may add that according to Names of New York, Great Jones Street, two blocks away from Jones Alley, used to be "Jones Street" but they added "Great" to distinguish it. Page 8: "...but Jones was an eighteenth-century politician whose namesake street got its "Great" to distinguish it from a shorter Jones Street nearby; much later, an alley adjacent to Great Jones Street that was frequented by junkies birthed the therm "Jonesing."
    – moonshot
    Jul 27, 2021 at 14:21

Etymonline suggests that it rose from a use of Jones as slang for heroin:

The slang sense "intense desire, addiction" probably arose from earlier use of Jones as a synonym for "heroin," presumably from the proper name, but the connection, if any, is obscure.

  • 2
    To supplement this great answer, there is evidence that the use of "Jones" as a slang term heroin is short for "Harry Jones", which is itself most likely derived from the similarity between the words Harry and heroin.
    – HaL
    Mar 23, 2011 at 18:49
  • 1
    William Safire discusses the term here: nytimes.com/2003/05/11/magazine/…
    – The Raven
    Mar 23, 2011 at 21:19
  • Green's Dictionary of Slang has "a drug addiction, especially to heroin", and the earliest reference is 1965. Mar 23, 2011 at 21:51

Slang dictionary coverage of 'jones'

J.E. Lighter, Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1997) traces the slang term jones as a noun to 1962 and as a verb to 1974:

jones n. {fr. Jones, common family name; semantic devel. unkn.} Orig. Black E. 1. Narc. a. a drug addiction, esp. to heroin. [First three cited instances:] 1962 Maurer & Vogel Narc. Add. (ed. 2) 308: Jones. A drug habit. 1965 C. Brown Manchild 272 {ref. to N.Y.C., 1950's}: Yeah, baby, that's the way it is. I've got a jones. 1965 in Sanchez Word Sorcerers 192: I mean, I don't have a long jones. ... b. symptoms of heroin withdrawal.—also constr. in pl. [Cited instances from 1965 (again from Claude Brown's Manchild in the Promised Land) forward omitted.] c. a heroin addict.—usu. used in joc. direct address, (hence) one who is psychologically addicted, as to gambling. [Cited instances from 1965 (from Maurer & Vogal) forward omitted.] d. heroin. [Cited instances from 1968–1970 forward omitted.] e. a feeling of drug-induced euphoria.—constr. with on. [Cited instance from 1972 omitted.} 2. any sort of habit, habitual craving, or fixation, usu. regarded as perverse or consuming; YEN. [Cited instances from 1970 forward omitted.] 3.a. Esp. Black E. the penis; in phr[ase] get {one's} jones off (of a man) to experience an orgasm.—usu. considered vulgar {Prob. the orig. sense.} [First cited instance:] 1966 in IUFA Folk Speech: Folk Speech, Negro: Jones The male's sex organ. ... b. Black E. copulation. 1965: in Baraka Tales 10: "Oooooo, that was some good box."..."Yeh? You mean you got a little Jones huh?" 4. Black E. a black person. [Cited instances from 1971 forward omitted.] 5. a thing; JOHNSON 1.d. ["a thingamajig"] [Cited instance from 1986 omitted.]

jones v. 1. Narc. to experience drug withdrawal symptoms; (hence) to feel a strong craving; yearn. [Cited instances from 1974 forward omitted.] 2. to idle; kill time. [Cited instance from 1984–1988 omitted.]

The most striking thing about these detailed entries (besides the fact that Lighter traces the slang term back to 1962) is that Lighter thinks the sexual meaning of jones (namely, "penis") was "Prob. the orig. sense"—even though the first print instance that Lighter has for the term in that sense is from 1966. In this connection, it is perhaps worth noting that Lighter finds examples of johnson (another common last name) as a slang term for penis from sources as early as 1863.

Jonathon Green, Chambers Slang Dictionary (2008) confirms the meanings noted by Lighter and adds that drug addiction is sometimes referred to as "Mr. Jones." However, Green is cautious about identifying an exact source of the slang term in either sense:

jones n. {the common family name; its link to craving remains unexplained; note HHC Dec. 1999: 'According to our colleagues at the Online Rap Dictionary, it comes from Jones Alley in Manhattan where junkies, with their ever-present longing, used to live'} 1 {1960s+} (US drugs) (also Mr. Jones) drug addiction, esp. to heroin. ...

jones n. {? JOHNSON n. (1)} (1960s) (US black) 1 the penis ...

HHC, in the first entry from Green, is short for Hip-Hop Connection, a magazine.

Clarence Major, Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang (1994) recognizes the addiction sense of jones, but not the sexual sense of the word:

Jones n. (1950s–1980s) a fixation; a drug habit; compulsive attachment; also a job. (H[erbert] L[.] F[oster], R[ibbin',] J[ivin', and ]P[layin' the] D[ozens (1974), p. 171; T[erry] W[illiams], C[rackhouse (1992)], p. 149; E[dith] F[olb], R[unnin'] D[own] S[ome] L[ines (1980)], p. 244; J[im] H[askins & Hugh Butts], [The] P[sychology of] B[lack] L[anguage (1973)], p. 85.) S[outhern and] N[orthern] U[se.]

Likewise Major's Dictionary of Afro-American Slang (1970) has only the addiction meaning:

Jones: a fixation; a drug habit; compulsive attachment.

On the other hand, Geneva Smitherman, Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner (1994) notes both meanings:

JONES 1) A strong, overwhelming desire for anything you indulge in or acquire and never get enough of—money, sex, chocolate, gambling, clothes, etc. Originally referred to addition to heroin or cocaine. 2) Penis.

Pop-culture landmarks such as Trainspotting note the similarity of intense feeling between heroin and sex. If they are to be believed, it is not surprising that a slang term such as jones might begin by referring to one of the two and later be applied to the other (as Lighter seems to imply). Alternatively, as Green suggests, the two terms may have evolved independently of one another.

Location-based folk etymologies

I am not persuaded by the claim (evidently proposed by the Online Rap Dictionary some 37 years after the earliest instance of jones that Lighter cites) that jones originally alluded to Jones Alley in Manhattan. It's a simple, convenient explanation, but (as far as I know) it has no paper trail to back it up. Here is the complete entry for jones in the Online Rap Dictionary:

Jones noun A craving for something. It is said to come from Jones Alley in Manhattan where junkies used to live. E.g.: "Baseball Jones": needing baseball, "love Jones": a dire craving for someone, "Jonesing for some MJ": wanting some marijuana. "I got a love Jones for your body and skin tone" —Method Man & Mary J. Blige (You're all I need [1994]).

That's not much of a factual basis to hang a dictionary etymology on. I might be more inclined to take the claimed source seriously if Claude Brown, whose semi-autobiographical novel Manchild in the Promised Land (1965) is set in Harlem (above 110th Street in Manhattan) and refers to "a jones"—in the drug sense—at least four times, had mentioned Jones Alley or Great Jones Street (which are located in NoHo, the area just north of Houston Street, between Greenwich Village and the East Village) even once; but he doesn't.

Great Jones Street is relevant because a competing folk etymology noted on WordWizard cites that Manhattan street as the origin of jones in the sense of addiction. Specifically, a person named Shelley, posting on March 23, 2007, offers this squib:

In today's New York Daily News, there's a feature on a piece of real estate (a former stable on Great Jones Alley) off of Great Jones Street in Manhattan. The feature features a timeline of the development, deterioration and renaissance of the street, and includes the following:

1960s Jazz great Charles Mingus moves in next door at 5 Great Jones Street. The term 'Jonesing' enters the language as junkies and dealers come and go from the alley next door.

Shelley doesn't say whether the Daily News provided any documentation for its tendentious equation of Mingus + Great Jones Street = "jonesing"; but it almost certainly did not. Indeed, the timeline item rather cleverly avoids claiming any explicit cause-and-effect relation between the events "Mingus moves to Great Jone Street" and "People start using the term 'jonesing' for addiction"; instead, it merely reports the two events in proximity to each other and leaves it to readers like Shelley to make the connection themselves.

  • Thx for this elaborate answer. With this I suspect the connection from Penis ("3.a. Esp. Black E. [...] get {one's} jones off [...] Folk Speech, Negro: Jones The male's sex organ") to Drug Habbit (Jones) might also be through "to be horny for sth" and "to kill time" by "****ing around". As a European and non-native English speaker I have two questions: A) Could it be that in the 1960s drug addiction in the US was rather(/also) associated to Black Economy instead of (just) Great Jones Street? and B) Does "Jonesing" always have a negative/condescending meaning?
    – comonad
    Jul 3, 2021 at 16:02

"Basketball Jones" from Cheech & Chong's album "Los Cochinos."

  • 1
    Los Cochinos is from 1973, but another answer says the phrase is from the 1960s.
    – Hugo
    Jan 30, 2013 at 19:02

An irresistable craving, from the song, "Mrs. Jones" (we got a thing goin' on).

  • 1
    Do you have any evidence to support this claim?
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jan 29, 2013 at 0:49
  • "Me and Mrs. Jones" is from 1972 but another answer says the phrase is from the 1960s.
    – Hugo
    Jan 30, 2013 at 19:04

You'll find jones and jonesing in literature pertaining to prohibition times. Also relating to the followers of Rev Jones (mass suicide). So the meanings are multi-inspired and confused - as a lot of language is.

  • The term was in use decades before the so called Reverend Jones was around. Feb 10, 2018 at 19:52

"Keeping up with the Jones" meant to constantly getting more than those around you. "Jonesing" has grown to simply express the desire for more, whether it is drugs, or an object, or a person of desire. It is the expression of that desire.