Gee whiz


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Gee whiz'?

An interjection or exclamation of surprise.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Gee whiz'?

This little term derived in the USA as a euphemistic shorthand for Jesus; in other words it is a minced oath. That original meaning is largely forgotten by those who use it now, who are in any account fewer than before, as it is now sounds rather old-fashioned. The further shortening of simple gee is still widely used in the USA, although neither version was ever common elsewhere.

The first record of it appearing in print is from Cody and Arlington’s Life on the Border, 1876:

“Gee-wees!…I’ll bet one hundred dollars on that hand!”

The currently accepted spelling was used soon afterwards; for example, this piece of doggerel from the Pennsylvania newspaper The Warren Ledger, 1883:

When younger days have flown
And we are older grown,
We sit and muse –
We’ve got the blues.

Morning and night we fret,
And, cold or dry or wet.
In petulance pout –
We’ve got the gout.

We have accomplished naught,
Our fight was poorly fought –
Gee whiz,
The rheumatiz.

Trend of gee whiz in printed material over time

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Gary Martin

Writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.