The common phrase “the fix is in” means that the outcome of an event or process has been covertly manipulated to ensure a result that would otherwise be determined by chance or a fair test of some kind.

What is the origin of this phrase?

Note: I'm interested specifically in the origin of the entire phrase, not in the etymology of the word “fix” as used within it.

  • Hmm, it seems to be that "fix" is perfectly understandable. It's almost just a "common phrase" - not an idiom. If you check "idiom" in the dictionary, an idiom is specifically when the meaning is not deducible from the meaning of the words. So, "over the moon" ("happy") is utterly meaningless unless you know it is an idiom. But if you "fix" the outcome of a fight, that seems to be descriptive, not idiomatic?? – Fattie Aug 28 '15 at 17:34
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    I'm referring specifically to the phrase as a whole, not the use of the word “fix,” which by itself is not an idiom, as you say—but to say “the fix is in,” rather than e.g. “the outcome's been fixed,” seems idiomatic to me. – Will Aug 28 '15 at 20:55
  • Hi Will, I guess I see what you mean ... anyway the point here is to find the origin! – Fattie Aug 28 '15 at 21:25
  • Is it really a common phrase? I'd never heard or read it before today. – Will Aug 28 '15 at 22:59
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    Hi Will. It's an absolutely common phrase in English. All native speakers would know it. – Fattie Aug 28 '15 at 23:22

Fix used in the sense you are referring to dates back to the 18th century:

  • Sense of "tamper with" (a fight, a jury, etc.) is from 1790.

probably from the earlier meaning :

  • "settle, assign" evolved into "adjust, arrange" (1660s), then "repair".


Ad a set phrase the earliest usage I could find is from the '40s, but earlier usages are possible:

From: Collier's, Volume 106 Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, 1940

  • ... fifteen dollars on a fight in his life. "Well, here it is," the McCoy tough guy explained. "We're from New York and you're from New York and we seen you're okay. So we're out here for the fight. On business. The fix is in and the white boy wins.

Ngram: fix is in.

  • It is used in the sense of 'fix a crime on someone' in 1728 (Ainsworth's Dictionary) but I cannot tell from the context if that means 'nail the culprit', or 'stick the blame on'. – Hugh Aug 28 '15 at 19:11
  • BTW I'm so gladdened to see an apostrophe used correctly on '40s here, meaning you omitted the "19". (However it seems to be superfluous, as the plural "forties" has as much information as the plural "nineteen forties".) – Fattie Aug 28 '15 at 21:27

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