In the film "The Great Gatsby," Mr. Gatsby says "Sorry, old sport, I thought you knew"; what is the meaning of old sport?

2 Answers 2


"Old sport" is just a friendly term of endearment used between equals, like buddy or the decidedly more modern dude. Using it today would likely be considered amusingly stuffy or upper-crust.

  • Yeah, I'm guessing that "old sport" is somehow related to British "public" schools and probably originally meant a school buddy.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 13:23
  • Do you have any intel as to the origins of the phrase? How old it is? I'd like to know if, in thinking about Gatsby, he's using a tired out phrase or something that still has some relevance.
    – tylerharms
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 8:45
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    "Old sport" is structurally like "old friend", in that "old" refers not literally to your friend's age, but rather to the length or strength of friendship. "Sport" with this affectionate meaning is at the very least contemporary to Fitzgerald (see, e.g., here for a reference from the year before Gatsby was published), and possibly much older, but it doesn't seem dated/worn out. Commented May 26, 2015 at 20:25
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    And in fact, that "amusingly stuffy and upper-crust" was just what F. Scott Fitzgerald was going for — Gatsby is so eager to sound rich and sophisticated that it comes out as being ridiculously formal and stilted. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 7:06
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    How do you think: can this term be used when talking to a girl? Commented Dec 29, 2017 at 17:41

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=sport&allowed_in_frame=0 sport (n.)

Original sense preserved in phrases such as in sport "in jest" (mid-15c.). Meaning "game involving physical exercise" first recorded 1520s. Sense of "stylish man" is from 1861, American English, probably because they lived by gambling and betting on races. Meaning "good fellow" is attested from 1881 (as in be a sport, 1913). Sport as a familiar form of address to a man is from 1935, Australian English.

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