Where does the word “daredevil” come from and What does daredevil mean?

A “daredevil” is one so reckless as to be willing to dare the devil himself.

Curiously enough, though we’ve had all sorts of foolhardy, devil-may-care, harebrained madcaps throughout history, it was less than two hundred years ago that the term daredevil was pinned upon such an individual.

And, as is so disheartening to the researcher, there is now no clue as to the identity of the person so described.

The earliest literary usage is insipid: “I deemed myself a dare-devil in rhime,” said John Wolcott in Odes to Mr. Paine (1794).