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Calling "dibs" is an informal convention where one declares a first claim to something to which no individual has any clearly recognized right. Such a declaration is often recognized in certain cultures, or sub-cultures, as a means to avoid arguments over relatively trivial issues.



One theory for the origin of the word comes from markings made with chalk on the back of livestock up for sale in cattle yards throughout the southern states of the USA. Each potential customer would register their unique mark with a registrar at the meet, who would record this information in a "Dealer Identification Book". These books themselves came to be known collectively as DIBS. The word dibs was created by Oliver Harvey to claim a sandwich.

Another claim for the origin of the term can be found in The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten. Rosten claims the word derives from the Yiddish phrase fin dibsy, which means to lay claim on something. Additionally, the 1967 edition of Dictionary of American Slang states that the word "dibs" comes from the verb to divvy. A third possible origin for the term can be found in Webster's Dictionary, Second Edition, dated 1937, in which the term "dibs" refers to jacks, an old children's game played with jackstones and a small ball that dates back to 1812.

Essentially, "to dib" as a verb has to do with "looking down, bending down, or delving into water".[1]

Usage and equivalent words

In Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh, "dibs" also refers to the practice of holding a shoveled-out parking space after a heavy snowfall by putting chairs, laundry baskets, or other items in the street to mark the claimed space.[2][3]

In Austria, the word "geschützt" is used, meaning "protected" (from others) or "kept" (for me).

In Brazil, the words "primeiro", "primeirinho" ("the first one" or "the little first one" in Portuguese) "meu", and "minha" ("mine" in Portuguese) are used in the same way.

In Colombia, the equivalent for dibs would be "me lo pido", which means "I ask for it".

In Denmark, the equivalent for dibs is "Helle", which means "refuge". "Shotgun" and "Dibs" are also used.

In European Francophony, the word "prems" or "preums" (shortcut of "premier" which means "first") is commonly used for that. On the contrary, some people used to say "der" (short for "dernier", meaning "last").

In Germany, the equivalent for dibs is "Erster" (meaning "first one") or "meins" (meaning "it's mine"), even though the words "shotgun" and "dibs" have found their way into use as well.[citation needed]

In Greece, the word "πρω" (pro), the first syllable of the word "πρώτος" (first), is used.

In Hungary, equivalents for dibs are "stipistop", "stip-stop" and "stipistopi". They come from the English word "stop".

In Iceland, the equivalent for dibs is "Pant", short for "Ég panta", or "I order" in English. However, the word "Dibs" is used frequently in common speech, especially amongst young men.[citation needed]

In Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, the equivalent for dibs is "choup", "chop" or simply "cup" in the countries' respective informal Melayu language. The word corresponds to the act of stamping or branding something. In calling "chop", one stakes claim by attempting to be the first to "stamp" one's name on the object.

In Iran, the equivalent for dibs is "Aval" (meaning "first").

In Ireland , begs is normally used.

In Israel, both dibs and shotgun are used as in American English. The Hebrew words "ראשון" (first) and "שלי" (mine) and the phrase "אני מזמין" (I invite) are also used to call dibs, mostly by children.

In Italy, the equivalent for dibs is "mio" or "primo", meaning "mine" and "first", respectively.

In South Korea, the equivalent for dibs is "찜" (zzim), meaning "I got that".

In Mexico, the word "pido" (I ask) or "primis" (first) is commonly used by children to the same effect.

In the Netherlands there is no direct translation, although the word "shotgun" is used by teenagers and young adults as a result of popular culture. In the Netherlands, "shotgun" is merely used to claim the front passenger's seat in a car. Dibs is gaining ground in universities in Holland due to the large number of students watching series.

In Flanders,(Belgium) there is no direct translation, but "pot!" is sometimes used in the same way. "Dibs" is gaining popularity, especially among young people.

In Nepal, the equivalent for dibs is "Mero", short for "Tyo mero ho" or "This is mine" in English. This is commonly used among young people.

In Norway the equivalent for dibs is "Fus" (a dialect not used in the West), which means "first". Sometimes the word "fritt", meaning "free", is also used in a situation where you want to claim something. "Dibs" is also used.

In Poland, the equivalent for dibs is "rezerwuję", "zaklepuję" (colloquial) or "zamawiam" (rather childish use) which means "I reserve".

In Portugal, the word "primas" is the equivalent to the word dibs. While "primeiro" is more formal than "primas", the latter is used more frequently, especially in games.

In Quebec, the equivalent for dibs would be "Shotgun". Shotgun, often shortened to "shot", is also used in other parts of Canada.

In Russian speaking countries, the equivalent is "Чур моё", which means "mind you it's mine", or more recently "Забито" (loosely translated as "claimed").

In Spain, the equivalent for dibs is "primer" (meaning "first") or "Me lo pido" (meaning "I ask for it").

In Sweden, the equivalent for dibs is "Pax", which means "peace" in Latin, although "etta vara" and "etta få", which basically means "I call first to be..." and "I call first to have..." (literally "number one to be/have"), are also commonly used. Conversely, one may dib oneself out of a chore not yet assigned by saying "etta inte jag" ("I call first not to be me"). This continues with "tvåa inte jag" ("I call second not to be me") until there is only one person remaining, to whom the chore is then assigned. "Shotgun" and "Dibs" are also used.

In the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, "bags", "tax", "shotgun" or "bagsie" – or variants including "begsie" and "bugsy" – is used for the same effect. The Australian use of "shotgun" (or "shotty" for short) as well as calling "jenga" has started to popularize in recent years. "Dibs" is also used, but to a lesser extent due to American influence. "Bagsie" ,or "bags", started out as "Bags I", according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which started giving school-related examples since 1866 . Similarly, bag or bags can be used informally as a verb, meaning claim in a phrase like "I'll bag the best seats". This is related to the expression "to bag", meaning "to put something in a bag".

See also


  1. ^ Olmert, Michael (1996). Milton's Teeth and Ovid's Umbrella: Curiouser & Curiouser Adventures in History. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 246. ISBN 0-684-80164-7. 
  2. ^ Zorn, Eric (December 15, 2005). "No one seems to have dibs on word's origins". Chicago Tribune. http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2005/12/no_one_seems_to.html. 
  3. ^ Epstein, Richard A (August 2001). "The Allocation of the Commons: Parking and Stopping on the Commons". University of Chicago School of Law. http://www.law.uchicago.edu/files/files/134.RAE_.Parking.pdf. 

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