Hippie Etymology Lesson: Hippie Word Origins

Published October 23, 2013 by Paradise Kendra

Yes! There’s a difference between hippie, hippy, and hipster. There’s a difference in where they came from, what they mean, and even what they’ve grown to mean in our culture today.

Many people assume that with a name like Paradise, I must’ve been raised by some fantastic hippies.  And I was, but they did not give me the name Paradise.  They gave me a beautiful, classic name (so of course I rebelled and didn’t use it), not wanting to take after Frank Zappa and name his children Moon Unit and Dweezil.  Access to great freedom (and joints! :)) is no excuse to torture your children, after all!


Hipster and hippie derive from the word “hip” and the synonym hep.

The words hip and hep first surfaced in slang around the beginning of the 20th century and spread quickly, making their first appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1904.

WoodstockDuring the jive era of the late 1930s and early 1940s, African-Americans began to use the term hip to mean “sophisticated, fashionable and fully up-to-date”.  Obviously a term that has lasted since most people would still get that “hip” means it is in style, happening, or, cool.


…”aware” and “in the know”…

“La Jeune Fille a la Fleur,” a photograph by Marc Riboud, shows the young pacifist Jane Rose Kasmir planting a flower on the bayonets of guards at the Pentagon during a protest against the Vietnam War on October 21, 1967. The photograph would eventually become the symbol of the flower power movement.


By the end of the 1950s, especially in Greenwich VillageNew York City, young counterculture advocates were widely called hips because they were considered “in the know” or “cool”, as opposed to being square.

Harry Gibson added the term “the Hipster” to his Harlem stage act in 1944, and in his later autobiography, says he coined it for that purpose.


There are several more theories about the origin of the word, including one from the opium smokers’ “on the hip” (as they reclined while smoking), through the West African Wolof language word hipicat meaning “one who has his eyes wide open”.

But whatever the exact origin, hips and hippies have maintained a reputation for seeking freedom, for being unconventional, and for not conforming to the standards that other people have set.



There is growing cultural difference in the qualities and characteristics of present day “hipsters” and “hippies”.

(C) Paradise Kendra




2 comments on “Hippie Etymology Lesson: Hippie Word Origins

  • Hello everyone !
    May I suggest to add to the définitions of “Hipster” ? I’m 62 now 😦 but I grew up in London in the seventies.
    “Hipsters” also referred to trousers worn with the waistband on the hips, as opposed to the waist. I’m sure it was very popular (at least locally) and I’m pretty sure it was nationwide.
    Thanks a lot for your super site ; have a great day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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