The earliest reference I can find in the OED to this sense of hike is from 1904.

1904 Topeka Capital 10 June 4 City Center kept the price of ice cream sodas at five cents until the State Sunday School convention struck town, and then the scale was hiked to ten cents.

We talk about a hike in stock-market value, a hike in interest rates/rents/wages etc.

It is also used as a transitive verb. But why is it hike?

  • 1
    Women have hiked up their skirts since 1925.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 27, 2016 at 20:42
  • There may be some connection between this sense and the verb "hike" in American football.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 27, 2016 at 20:48
  • @HotLicks Do you have any reference for this, or can you explain further?Seems as if the usual sources do not mention it.
    – WS2
    Apr 28, 2016 at 6:08
  • "Hike" is the term used in American football for when the "center" initially picks up the ball and either passes it to the quarterback or throws it to the kicker. It's (very crudely stated) a sudden lifting or throwing motion. The rise in popularity of the word "hike" would appear to parallel reasonably well the rise in popularity of American football.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 28, 2016 at 11:40
  • @HotLicks Someone needs to tell Etymonline and the OED.
    – WS2
    Apr 28, 2016 at 14:55

2 Answers 2


According Etymonline the meaning of "raise' is probably from the sense of "pull up", a variant of "hitch" ( from Middle English hytchen, hichen, icchen ‎, “to move, jerk, stir”).


  • Sense of "pull up" (as pants) first recorded 1873 in American English, and may be a variant of hitch; extended sense of "raise" (as wages) is 1867.
  • Does anyone ever say he hiked his trousers up?
    – WS2
    Apr 27, 2016 at 20:41
  • @WS2 - The idiomatic phrasing is "hiked up", with the words together in that order. I have heard/read phrases such as yours (and it doesn't really raise eyebrows) but it's not the usual word ordering.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 27, 2016 at 20:45

Following the football thread, I find this:

The sport of football, meanwhile, was developing its own interjections. Back in the 1890s, John Heisman — of Heisman Trophy fame — introduced the word hike to football. Originally, the center (who puts the ball into play) used one hand to flip the ball under his legs to the quarterback. To alert the center that he was ready to start, a quarterback would use a touch signal, often scratching the center's leg. When playing as a center for the University of Pennsylvania team in 1890-91, Heisman got tricked by an opposing player who scratched his leg. He flipped the ball back, and the quarterback missed the pass. Heisman's solution was to have the quarterback use the word hike to put the ball into motion so that everyone was clear when the play started. Hike was a good choice, since it can mean "to pull or raise with a sudden motion," and that's what the center does with the ball.

Soon after, as a coach, Heisman introduced the "direct snap," where the ball is "hiked" in the now-familiar way. Previously, the ball would be rolled back along the ground or snapped end over end (a "snapback"). In 1893, when Heisman was the coach at Buchtel College (now the University of Akron), he had a very tall quarterback who had trouble with the ball being rolled to him. So Heisman invented the direct snap to allow the center to toss the ball directly up to the quarterback. Every other college team followed Heisman's lead.

The author of the above piece (Ben Zimmer) did not say where he got "to pull or raise with a sudden motion", but he implies that this was a definition that was operative in the 1890s. And one can see that it's consistent with "price hike" and similar uses.

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