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Give it a stab

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 14, 2008 at 09:48:

In Reply to: Give it a stab posted by Peter Mottola on February 14, 2008 at 09:48:

: "Give it a stab." I was reading a translation of Montaigne's "Of Democritus and Heraclitus" and ran across these words. Did this phrase meaning "give it a try" come into English from Montaigne's French or by some other means?

The Oxford English Dictionary describes this use of stab as colloquial, originally U.S., and gives examples using have a stab at, give it a stab, take a stab at, and the like, all in the sense of give it a try, give it a shot. Their earliest citation is an explanation of something obviously in use for some time previously.

"1895 W. C. GORE in Inlander Dec. 115 Stab, to make a blind attempt to answer a question. 1908 K. MCGAFFEY Show Girl 235, I..made a stab for the rail. 1915 WODEHOUSE Something Fresh xi. 315 ‘I do wish that this time you would endeavour..not to make a fool of yourself.’.. ‘I'll have a jolly good stab at it, governor.’ 1930 GALSWORTHY Roof vi. 96 D'you think you'll be able to travel the day after to-morrow?.. I'll have a good stab at it, as my more genial colleagues say.' . . "