• jackpot •
jæk-paht • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A large cash prize, especially one that has accumulated over time. 2. A huge unexpected success.
Notes: Here is a word that I like to call a "garden path" word, because it leads speakers down the garden path, thinking it means one thing when it means another. Today it has nothing to do with jacks or pots.
In Play: Jackpots are usually about money: "Horace was on the brink of bankruptcy when he won the lottery jackpot" However, the needn't be: "Horace hit the jackpot when he got a trophy wife like Barbie Dahl to marry him."
Word History: This word came from a deal in a poker game. A jackpot game was one requiring the opening ante from a player holding two jacks or better. If no one has such a hand, all players ante up over and over until someone does. The result is usually a unusually larger pot, called a jackpot. We've seen the history of jack in jack-o'-lantern. Pot was borrowed from the same word in French, though the English pronounce it differently. French apparently derived it somehow from Late Latin potus "drinking cup", a noun derived from potare "to drink". Latin inherited its word from PIE poi- "to drink", source also of Russian pit' "to drink" and Greek pinein "to drink". (Now let's thank Albert Skiles for sharing this lexical jackpot with all of us.)
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