No, not “gazebo”: it’s a slang term from the early part of the last century meaning ‘guy, fellow’ or (according to Howard N. Rose’s 1934 A Thesaurus of Slang) ‘a friend or companion.’ Jack London in Valley of the Moon (1913) uses it thus: “By the sixth round the wise gazabos was offerin’ two to one against me.” I came across it in a poem by Edwin Honig, “The Gazabos.” The poem is a bit long to quote in full here, but it can be found online (a page with a large number of poems; search on “gazabos” or scroll to about two-thirds down). Here is the beginning:

I saw them dancing,
the gazabos, apes of joy, swains of
their pocket mirrors, to each a world:
a dancing, a gallumphing, a guzzling
of themselves.

They yapped, they cooed,
they flapped their feet and winked grimaces
into grins. They rapped their knuckles on
their teeth and bled and licked
the blood like honey.

Turning the corner
to my street, I spat on each
gazabo as they came. They loved it,
they could barely keep
from following. […]


  1. I mourn for the comments that were eaten by the original platform of this blog.

  2. kathrine says

    My great aunt, born in 1890, used to use ‘gazabo’ for a guy who was kind of an awkward, odd duck or somebody who was sketchy or louche. She was born in Norway but learned English as a child in San Francisco and the East Bay where Jack London who also used this term in one of his books, was from. I’ve heard it may have a Spanish origin in a word that I think is spelled gazapo and means a sharpie or deceitful person. I’ve always been curious about it. My mother, born in 1923 in Seattle used it too, and I wonder if it is a West Coast regional thing.

  3. I might as well quote the OED entry (from 1933):

    Etymology: Perhaps < Spanish gazapo a sly fellow; compare gazebo n.

    slang (originally and chiefly U.S.).

    A fellow, ‘guy’; often with a pejorative connotation.

    1896 G. Ade Artie v. 44 Who does I meet comin’ out o’ the house but a cheap gazabo that was with her the first time I see her.
    1910 W. M. Raine Bucky O’Connor 39 A big gazabo in a red wig held up Frost, the engineer.
    1934 B. Penton Landtakers (1935) i. i. 14 Aw, leave the old gazebo. He’s drunk.
    1953 H. Miller Plexus (1963) vii. 262 But there was one thing he seldom did, queer gazabo that he was—he seldom asked questions.

  4. See now Gazabo II.

  5. ktschwarz says

    the OED entry (from 1933)

    1933 was first publication, what you quote was revised in 1972. (I’m on a mission to give Burchfield his due credit.) The 1933 Supplement had the etymology only as “var. of gazebo”, and the definition as just “a fellow”; Burchfield added the possible Spanish source, the comment “often with a pejorative connotation”, and the two post-1933 quotations.

    When they put gazebo in the etymology, probably both the 1933 editors and Burchfield were thinking of the sense (found by PlasticPaddy in the EDD) “A show, gaping-stock; any object which attracts attention; a startling, staring ornament.” But, oops, they forgot that that sense isn’t in the OED! It only has gazebo in the building sense, so far.

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