I'm interested in the etymology of the word "doozy". And primarily whether it is a good or bad thing?

I always understood it to mean something exceptionally bad.


Watch out for that first step. It's a doozy.

But I've just read it used in a positive sense here.

"[Kerber hits a] backhand winner from behind the baseline, that's a doozy."

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    It means it's big (for some sense of big; there are a lot), it's surprising (maybe it's surprisingly big, maybe there's some other reason), and it is memorable to experience. It could be dangerous, and there are faint echoes of dizzy involved, so it could have something to do with falling down drunk on occasion (that's what the "first step" idiom is about). But it's not necessarily bad, which is just like memorable experiences. – John Lawler Jul 5 '12 at 13:44
  • I think doozy can be used in the positive or negative – more so than, say, humdinger, which I think is more generally positive. – J.R. Jul 5 '12 at 15:11
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    Ned Ryerson's famous words. – Joris Weimar Jan 15 '17 at 20:35

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Language, doozy means,

something outstanding or unique of its kind.

it's gonna be a doozy of a black eye.


Here is what wikitionary.org has to say about the etymolgy of the word doozy also spelled duesy:

American, from daisy (the flower), also 18th century and onward English slang for something excellent. May have been influenced by Eleonora Duse, Italian actress.

The same source goes on to state:

(US) something that is extraordinary. Often used in the context of troublesome, difficult or problematic, but can be used positively as well.

Most of the test was easy, but the last question was a doozy.

  • The question starts by stating an interest in the etymology of the word "doozy", a point you might address. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jul 5 '12 at 19:20
  • @jwpat7- edited the question. Thanks for the comment. – Noah Jul 6 '12 at 2:48
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    Wiktionary seems to rely on World Wide Words:Doozy for this information. IMO, it's silly to discount the influence of Duesenberg automobiles, too. The Duesenberg name may not have been the genesis of the term doozy, but the Duesie nickname may have reinforced the meaning and made the term even more common. It's been quite a while since I read it, but I think I remember a reference to Duesenberg as a source for doozy in The Great Cars. – Caleb Jun 20 '13 at 15:02

A Zulu word meaning "close, next to, near; nearly; alongside; close shave".

We used this word in Rhodesia in the meaning "close shave" when conversing in English.

That was Duzie.
= "That was close", e.g. "He was nearly bowled out".

When comunicating with the Africans, we referred to all the Zulu meanings in the correct context of speech.


"Doozy" is often used to mean "troublesome" or "problematic," but it can also be used with a positive meaning. It means "extraordinary."

It's probably an alteration of the "daisy" flower, and started in 18th-century England as a slang word.

  • "Daisy was once English slang, from the eighteenth century on, for something that was particularly appealing or excellent." Really? Well that just leads to more questions... – Urbycoz Jul 5 '12 at 15:49
  • I guess you checked out the link. Yes, I read somewhere else that "daisy" was used in a similar sense during the American civil war. You might want to look into the influence of Eleonora Duse as well:nytimes.com/2003/08/22/books/… – Cool Elf Jul 5 '12 at 17:15

I have previously seen reference to this term being related to Duesenberg cars, which were rare and impressive vehicles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duesenberg#Etymological_note points to this possible source too. In reference to the initial question I would consider it to be neither positive nor negative. Rather it simply implies that the subject is highly significant.

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    Wikipedia says Duesenberg cars didn't go into production until 1920. But this 1917 slang dictionary includes the entry doozy: Sporty, flossy. Facetious. Used in Nebraska. See Dialect Notes. III, 543. "Where's that doozy fellow I saw you with?" "She's a trifle bit doozy." So I think the Duesenberg origin is a complete myth - though it's feasible (but unlikely, imho) that later takeup might have been influenced by that allusion. – FumbleFingers Aug 1 '14 at 14:34

It originated from the Deusenberg cars of 1913–1937. Extraordinarily large, expensive, massive luxurious vehicles. The term "deusy" was used to describe such items and things. "Look at that house man its a doozy (should be "deusy").


It does, in fact, come from the "New Duesenberg cars" It is similar to Mind the Gap. Being a taller, the full phrase is, " Careful, that last step is a Duesy"....meaning, it's higher and you can fall.

Probably why it has it's good and bad connotations. Good, because it's a fair warning, bad, because it's a step you could slightly hurt yourself from.

So, be careful on those steps, because that last one is a Deusy!

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