Jive Turkey: Definition, Meaning and Origin

Last Updated on
May 29, 2023

In the colorful tapestry of English idioms, "Jive Turkey" stands out as a particularly vibrant thread. A "Jive Turkey" is generally someone who is deceptive, insincere, or both. These individuals talk big but rarely follow through on their grand promises. They are known for their propensity to exaggerate, and their actions rarely match their words.

In short:

"Jive Turkey" is an idiom used to describe an insincere or deceitful person.

What Does "Jive Turkey" Mean?

The idiom "Jive Turkey" is a colorful piece of American slang that arose in the 1970s, primarily within the African-American community. While it's not as commonly used in contemporary language, understanding its meaning and usage provides a fascinating glimpse into a vibrant era of American cultural history. 

  • Deceitful or Insincere Person: The primary meaning of "Jive Turkey" refers to a person who is deceitful or insincere. It's typically used to label someone who indulges in deceptive or exaggerated talk without having the intention or ability to follow through on their words.
  • Untrustworthy Individual: More broadly, the term can also be applied to an individual who is generally untrustworthy or unreliable. It's not limited to a single instance of dishonesty but often implies a habitual tendency towards such behavior.


Where Does "Jive Turkey" Come From?

The idiom "Jive Turkey" has its roots deeply entrenched in the vibrant culture of the 1970s in the United States, a time marked by innovative music styles, social change, and a blossoming of African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). The expression is closely tied to this era and its cultural expressions, which were widely disseminated through music, movies, and television.

Historical Example

"I can't trust him anymore; he's a jive turkey. He always makes big promises but never delivers."

—Anonymous, 1970s

10 Examples of "Jive Turkey" in Sentences

Let's examine how "Jive Turkey" is utilized within different contexts:

  • Hey, Mark! I heard you called out that jive turkey at the office today, and I have to say, good on you for standing up to him.
  • You've proven to be a Jive Turkey again, promising to help and then disappearing when the work starts.
  • Hey, I heard there's a jive turkey contest happening this weekend with lots of groovy music and dancing. Count me in. I'm ready to bust a move!
  • He was the kind of Jive Turkey who would promise the moon but not even deliver a rock.
  • Hey, John, I heard you stood up to that jive turkey at work. Good on you for not letting him push you around!
  • They accused the politician of being a Jive Turkey, given his track record of broken promises.
  • When he tried to convince us of his innocence, his explanation sounded like a jive turkey trying to dance in the light of overwhelming evidence against him.
  • I used to think he was reliable, but he turned out to be a Jive Turkey.
  • He talked a good game, but when it came to action, he was just a Jive Turkey.
  • Stop being a Jive Turkey, and be honest with me.

Examples of "Jive Turkey" in Pop Culture

"Jive Turkey" has been adopted and adapted in various forms of pop culture, such as:

  • The term was often used in the television series "Good Times," amplifying its cultural relevance.
  • In the movie "Semi-Pro," the phrase "Jive Turkey" triggers a comedic conflict in a poker game scene.
  • The funk band Ohio Players released a song called "Jive Turkey" in 1974.
  • “Jive Turkey” has been used in stand-up comedy acts, like Eddie Murphy’s performances.
  • The expression frequently features in blaxploitation films of the 1970s.
  • In "Sanford and Son," a 70s sitcom, the phrase is regularly used to comic effect.
  • The phrase was used in an SNL skit with Steve Martin and Bill Murray playing two Festrunk brothers.
  • The phrase was also referenced in the movie "Trading Places" with Eddie Murphy.

Other Ways to Say "Jive Turkey" in Sentences

There are numerous ways to convey the sentiment behind "Jive Turkey."

Some alternatives include:

  • Don’t mind him; he's a bit of a blowhard.
  • He’s a windbag, always full of big talk.
  • She’s a flimflammer, always trying to con people.
  • He's nothing but a charlatan.
  • She’s a braggart, always boasting about herself.
  • He's a notorious fraudster.
  • Don't listen to her; she's a con artist.
  • He can be quite the grandstander.
  • She's a showboat, always seeking attention.
  • He’s a humbug, never genuine in his dealings.

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Jive Turkey"

  • What is the origin of "Jive Turkey"?

The phrase "Jive Turkey" originated from 1970s American slang, particularly from African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).

  • Does "Jive Turkey" have a negative connotation?

Yes, it typically has a negative connotation, often used to describe someone who is deceitful or unreliable.

  • Is "Jive Turkey" a common idiom?

While its usage has declined since its peak in the 1970s, the phrase "Jive Turkey" is still recognized and used, particularly in American English.

  • Can "Jive Turkey" be used in a formal context?

As it is more casual slang, "Jive Turkey" is typically not used in formal contexts or professional communications.

  • Is the idiom "Jive Turkey" offensive?

The offensiveness of the term can depend on the context and the relationship between the speaker and listener. While it is not considered explicitly offensive, it is definitely disparaging.

  • What is a synonym for "Jive Turkey"?

Synonyms for "Jive Turkey" include terms like "blowhard," "flimflammer," and "windbag."

  • Has "Jive Turkey" been used in popular culture?

Yes, "Jive Turkey" has been used in various forms of pop culture, such as television series, movies, and music, particularly during the 1970s.

  • Can "Jive Turkey" be used to describe a woman?

Yes, the term "Jive Turkey" is not gender-specific and can be used to describe anyone who is deceitful or unreliable.

  • Does "Jive Turkey" imply a serious lie or a harmless exaggeration?

The idiom "Jive Turkey" can be used in both contexts, depending on the severity of the deceit or exaggeration. However, it generally denotes a pattern of dishonest behavior rather than a one-time occurrence.

  • Can "Jive Turkey" be used in a playful manner?

While "Jive Turkey" often has a negative connotation, in certain contexts among friends, it could potentially be used in a more teasing or playful manner.

Final Thoughts About "Jive Turkey"

Despite its decline in usage since its heyday in the 1970s, the idiom "Jive Turkey" remains a flavorful piece of American English vernacular. As we have seen, this idiom:

  • Refers to a deceitful or insincere person.
  • It is derived from the African-American Vernacular English (AAVE).
  • Has been utilized in various forms of popular culture.

The continued use and recognition of "Jive Turkey" demonstrate the idiom's enduring influence and its unique capacity to convey a specific kind of insincerity or dishonesty. Whether in a retro-themed script or a casual conversation among friends, "Jive Turkey" still has a place in the diverse landscape of English idioms.

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