Chipper

Origin of: Chipper

Chipper

With its well-established usage in English public schools, it comes as a surprise to learn that this word meaning lively and in good spirits is of American origin, from the early 19th century. There are two notions about its etymology both courtesy of the OED. One is that it may have developed from a Northern English dialect word ‘kipper’, which also means lively or frisky, but not even the OED knows where this word ‘kipper’ came from, and quite how the Americans got hold of it during the early 19th century remains a mystery. The second theory about the origin is that chipper may be imitative. Just as the word chirp is imitative of the sound a bird makes, so chipper may be imitative of the sound that a lively, frisky person makes. Really? The fact of the matter is no one knows for sure and the origin of chipper remains obscure.