How did the word “jeopardy” originate and What does jeopardy mean?

In the game of chess, as played in England until about the beginning of the sixteenth century, a problem which posed an even chance of winning or losing was known as a iuparti.

This was from the Old French iu parti, meaning “divided chance” or “even game.”

The term was also introduced into other games in which certain positions offered an even chance of winning or losing, and thus came into general use for any situation in which safety hung in the balance, for any position of peril or possible harm.

The initial letter, despite numerous variable spellings of the word through the centuries, seems always to have been consonantal, and so when the letter j came into general use in the seventeenth century the form changed from ieopardy, as Lord Francis Bacon wrote it, to our present jeopardy.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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