eighty-six: verb [86]

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Mr Bones

Senior Member
España - Español
Hello, folks. I was doing an exercise about expressions on the Internet and I came across this question with its answer:

The people at the next table have had way too much to drink and are starting to fight. A big guy who works at the bar throws them out and tells them they can NEVER return. What just happened?

Answer:The bouncer eighty-sixed them.

Could you explain me where It comes from and who uses it? It sounds really odd to me. Is it current English?

Thank you. Bones.
Please, correct my mistakes.
  • cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    Hi Mr Bones--

    It's slang:

    To refuse to serve (an unwelcome customer) at a bar or restaurant.
    a. To throw out; eject.
    b. To throw away; discard.


    Senior Member
    As to etymology, how about "origin unknown""

    The ultimate origin of eighty-six is unknown. The most widely accepted theory is that eighty-six is rhyming slang for nix, which has various meanings like 'no', 'nothing', and 'to reject' (as in the famous, and often misquoted, headline in Variety in 1935, "Sticks Nix Hick Pix"). One problem with this theory is that rhyming slang has never been very popular in the United States.
    source: http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19961101


    Senior Member
    Chicago English
    fifty years ago when I worked in a restrauant "86" was the code for "out of an item" for instance we're out of fish= "86 the fish"
    86 also means "you are out of here" when you are kicked out of a place. The bouncer might say "that's it, you're 86'd". Last night I heard an English barmaid say about a woman "she's 86'd" meaning she was no longer welcome in the bar.
    It can also mean "throw it out" as in "86 the milk, it's sour"
    Maybe the word's orgin is derived from Chumley's bar and restaurant at 86 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, New York City

    Mr Bones

    Senior Member
    España - Español
    Thank you, Cuchu and Scotu. Very interesting explanations! I'd also like to know if this expression, which seems to be American, is known and used in other parts of the English-speaking world as well.

    Thanks, Bones.


    Senior Member
    I can't imagine that many English people would understand the expression.
    "You're barred" seems to be the preferred excuse for removing/stopping someone.


    According to Michael Quinion's World Wide Words,

    The Oxford English Dictionary suggests it may have been rhyming slang for nix, which seems plausible. Although it’s often thought of as typically American, nix actually entered the language in the latter part of the eighteenth century in Britain; it was borrowed from a version of the German nichts, nothing. But it seems that eighty-six was created as rhyming slang in the United States.


    Senior Member
    maxiogee said:
    According to Michael Quinion's World Wide Words,
    Note the conflict between the OED's rather tentative.."It seems that...." and the assertion in the source I quoted earlier.

    Rhyming slang is close to unknown in the US. This may be a rare exception, but with no more "proof" than an 'it seems' from the OED, I'm very hestitant to accept this etymology as more than a vague theory.

    The term seems to be well known is the restaurant trade. It is not common elsewhere.


    Senior Member
    British English
    I have never heard "eighty-sixed" used in English and I know loads of words!

    BE for "you are no longer welcome in this establishment" is

    "You are no longer welcome in this establishment"(!) OR "You're barred"


    English, UK
    "You are no longer welcome in this establishment"...

    Depending on the type of establishment you might hear:
    "Kindly leave, Sir" (to a man who has just set the lobsters free in a restaurant)
    "You're barred!" (to rapscallions fighting in a pub)
    "Oy, hop it!" (to young tykes throwing pebbles at the window of the corner shop)

    Eighty-six will only be understood in the UK by avid viewers of NYPD Blue.


    <Excessive quotation deleted>

    The Drunk: I appreciate your concern. It's not my intention to make you uncomfortable. Please serve me today and I'll never come in
    here again. If I do, you can 86 me.

    The Bartender: Stop XXXXXXX with me, I can 86 you anytime I want to.

    I heard this conversation from a film, can anyone tell me what does 86 mean?

    Many thanks.
    Last edited by a moderator:


    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    It's slang for a bartender kicking someone out of a bar because they have already had too much too drink. It can also refer to simply getting rid of something or someone.


    Senior Member
    American English
    Hi Bridgit,

    I believe it is American English slang. I know it means "to get rid of someone or something" or "to throw out someone or something." More recently, it is coming to mean "to fire someone": I lost my job today; they 86'd me!


    Here's the entry from Diner lingo wiki:
    I know that American diners had a long list of number codes.
    Eighty-six: "Do not sell to that customer" or "The kitchen is out of the item ordered". "To remove an item from an order or from the menu". Article 86 of the New York State Liquor Code defines the circumstances in which a bar patron should be refused alcohol or '86ed'...

    I'm extremely grateful to you for many theories.
    Last edited by a moderator:


    Senior Member
    Hello everyone
    Is the following correct?
    He eighty six me (he rejects me)
    Is this how Americans use 86?
    Is it common?
    Thank you.


    Senior Member
    No, it can be used about plans, projects, even clothing.

    "I was planning to go to Europe next summer, but with a baby on the way we've 86'd those plans."
    "Corporate 86'd the new project so we'll probably see some layoffs now."
    "86 the jacket; it makes you look fat." :)


    New Member
    86 is the standard number for the lockout relay on an electrical circuit breaker. If the 86 is set then your electrical breaker will not reset, i.e. you cannot come back in. This is probably as old as the 50 years comment from the restaurant industry, but some professional etymologist would need to research this to decide.


    New Member
    English USA
    86 is also used in gambling casinos in Nevada, at least in the northern part of the state, which is where I first heard it. Its general meaning is to eject someone from the premises for seriously unacceptable behavior (i.e. counting cards or trying to cheat or steal in some other way or winning "too much"). It is usually the management (through the cameras on the ceiling) and/or the pit boss who makes that observation and takes the action. The implication of these 86's is that they are permanent.


    Senior Member
    The Urban Dictionary is not a reliable source for facts. This origin may or may not be true. Anyone can write an entry in the Urban Dictionary. There is no editing or verification.


    Español de España
    Thanks a lot!ow I understand. TV Show "MASH":

    B.J: Freshgloves!
    Klinger: All out, sir.
    B.J.: I beg your pardon?
    Klinger: That's it for the gloves. They're torn, shot, finished, eighty-sixed.


    Senior Member
    English - American
    (Moved from another thread, so there may some repetition)

    Off the menu in AE restaurants is eighty-sixed. (86'd) This is rarely used directly to a customer (except under very casual and familiar circumstances), but might be heard from the kitchen, "The Rock Cod is/has been 86ed!" (This is how I first heard it, and asked the waitress.)

    There is quite a bit of variation in how this is written, since use of the term is almost entirely verbal.

    It also means thrown out or banned from a bar or restaurant (a person, not a food - either permanently or temporarily). "I got 86'd from Dooly's last night."

    A third meaning is destroyed or got rid of. "I didn't like the first draft, so I eighty-sixed it."

    For food-service workers the first meaning will be the most common (and probably is). For the rest of us, the second two definitions will seem more common.

    Wikipedia gives four completely different origins for this term:
    • (rhyming slang) for nix. (This is supposed to be American in origin; we don't use much rhyming slang.)
    • (military) AT-6 = classified for disposal (this sounds like eighty-six in speech, but may not pre-date the earliest uses)
    • (popular culture) From the Gore Vidal play "Visit To A Small Planet" (1955) which has a character who points and shouts "86" to destroy objects. (not old enough to be the source)
    • (military) Deriving from the F-86 SaberJet which had a marked superiority over the then-current MiG fighters. (This sounds like reverse-etymology to me.)
    (note that all definitions are given as true facts, in different locations; you can always trust Wikipedia :rolleyes:)

    My in-computer dictionary gives "Restaurant slang from the 1930s."

    Added after the move:

    It is interesting that this thread gives four more etymologies:
    • Chumley's Bar at 86 Bedford St. (This sounds like reverse-etymology to me.)
    • Article 86 of the New York State Liquor Code (when did this enter the Code, and was it always #86?)
    • Number for the lock-out setting on a circuit breaker (A bit specialized to have made it into common parlance.)
    • Maximum proof of liquor to be sold to an intoxicated customer. (This sounds like reverse-etymology to me.)

    This huge number of possible sources suggests to me that people have been wondering (and coming up with ideas) about this term for a very long time. At least seven of them are wrong. Frankly, I doubt all of them.
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