What is the etymology of the adjective jammy? As in,

Thou art a jammy bugger!

I confess I've never seen the word before. When I looked it up, I found confusing etymologies: one source says it comes from the construction jamais de guerre and an ordinary dictionary source says it comes from the word jam; I wouldn't imagine the two are related. Which is it?

  • 3
    Not sure about the etymology, but "jammy" meaning "lucky" is also a very commonly used in Scotland.
    – Fraser Orr
    May 14, 2011 at 1:23
  • 2
    And also in darkest Hertfordshire. May 14, 2011 at 1:28
  • 2
    I'm fairly sure that jammy is ubiquitous throughout the UK. Though it could well have been a local word to start off with.
    – Orbling
    May 14, 2011 at 2:19
  • There's a fairly clear line from "You want jam on it", to "That was a jammy [card you turned up]", to "You jammy bugger". Jamais sounds like a folk etymology to me. Jul 14, 2011 at 13:32

3 Answers 3


Jammy is good/lucky, Jam (ie preserve) is also good (ie tasty).

There are a number of similar ones, "with jam on it" etc

  • What does 'got in a jam' mean?
    – Thursagen
    May 14, 2011 at 6:40
  • 5
    I assume thats the other meaning of jam - as in force something into a space. Which is the same meaning from the fruit's perspective!
    – mgb
    May 14, 2011 at 15:00
  • I would assume 'got in a jam' refers to the stickiness of jam as a preserve, therefore a 'sticky situation'
    – nickson104
    Jul 3, 2015 at 7:08

I believe Jammy comes from the use of Jam boys. Jam boys covered themselves in Jam to keep insects away from their employers.This originated from the British in the Far East. Jam was an expensive commodity and obviously as we all appreciate rather nice so the Jam boy got to keep it and was considered very lucky.

  • 1
    That's a big story, but I doubt that it is etymology. And I don't think that little boys with jam and flies on their skin and clothes are very happy.
    – rogermue
    Jul 3, 2015 at 7:34

The phrase used where I grew up in Wales, to describe someone having an extraordinary and possibly undeserved piece of luck, was "You jammy Arab!" which might tie in to the answer given by Stateleyhome.

  • Jammy Arab because Arabs are lucky i.e. they happened to be born in a land brimming with oil, it means like, flukey luck.
    – user367305
    Nov 15, 2019 at 19:29

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