Indian Giver (1838)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Jul 8 18:57:09 UTC 2006

"Indian giver" was still a big expression in my NYC childhood.

  It was explained to me in a different way.  See, the settlers gave territory to the Indians, but then took it back again.  So you can still use the phrase if you choose to believe this etymology.  I just wouldn't advise it.

  Also, very importantly, you can be an Indian giver at any age.


Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Dave Wilton
Subject: Indian Giver (1838)

OED2 has 1860.

"Children And Their Concerns," by TSF, The New-York Mirror, 23 June 1838,

"Among them are distinct species of crimes and virtues. I have seen the
finger pointed at the Indian giver. (One who gives a present and demands it
back again.)"

The first OED2 cite is from 1860 in Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms.
But the term, with a slightly different and more informative gloss, also
appears in the 1848 edition of that work:

"INDIAN GIVER. When an Indian gives anything, he expects an equivalent in
return, or that the same thing may be given back to him. This term is
applied by children in New York and the vicinity to a child who, after
having given away a thing, wishes to have it back again."

--Dave Wilton
dave at

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