Antedating of "Banana Republic"

Michael Quinion TheEditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Mon Nov 18 09:57:00 UTC 2002

> The OED's first use of "banana republic" is dated 1935.  ProQuest
> Historical Newspapers has this surprisingly early:
> 1912 _N.Y. Times Book Rev._ 7 Jan. 3  [O. Henry] had studied with his
> quick, searching eye the rise and fall of certain banana republics.

I think I can beat that. From "Cabbages and Kings" by O Henry (1904),
Chapter VIII: "In the consultation of this small, maritime banana
republic was a forgotten section that provided for the maintenance of
a navy"; and from Chapter XVII: "At that time we had a treaty with
about every foreign country except Belgium and that banana republic,

As it also appears in "Tom Swift And His Big Tunnel" by Victor
Appleton (1916), Chapter III: "Is there anything wrong with South
America--Peru? I know they have lots of revolutions in those
countries, but I don't believe Peru is what they call a 'banana
republic'; is it?", it looks to have been relatively well known even
at this time.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: <TheEditor at>
Web: <>

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