Calling dibs is an informal convention to declare a specific right to something that no individual otherwise has any clearly recognized right. Such a declaration is often recognized in certain cultures, or sub-cultures, as a means to avoid arguments over relatively trivial issues.

There are many colloquialisms associated with this concept, and with specific instances of this concept. For example, an individual planning to ride as a passenger in a car may call shotgun as a means to assert the right to ride in the front passenger seat instead of the back seat.



One theory for the origin of the word comes from markings made with chalk on the back of livestock up for sale in cattle yards throughout the southern states of the USA. Each potential customer would register their unique mark with a registrar at the meet, who would record this information in a "Dibs Identification Book". These books themselves came to be known collectively as DIBS, thereby forming a backronym. This practice continues today and has been adapted to many new situations.

Another claim for the origin of the term can be found in The Joys of Yiddish, by Leo Rosten. Rosten claims the word is derived from the Yiddish phrase "fin dibsy" which means to lay claim on something. Additionally, the 1967 edition of "Dictionary of American Slang" states that the word "dibs" comes from the verb to divvy.

Essentially, 'to dib' as a verb has to do with "looking down, bending down, or delving into water".[1]


Inside North America

In Boston, Chicago and Pittsburgh, "dibs" also refers to the practice of holding a shoveled-out parking space after a heavy snowfall by putting chairs, laundry baskets, or other items in the street to mark the claimed space.[2][3]

Outside North America

In the United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia, "bags" or "bagsie" (or variants including "begsie" and "bugsy") is used to the same effect. Australian use of "shotgun" or a shortened version "shotty" is becoming more popular. "Dibs" is also used, but to a lesser extent, due to American influence. "Bagsie" or "bags" started out as "Bags I", according to the Oxford English Dictionary which gives school-related examples from 1866 onward. Similarly, bag or bags can be used informally as a verb meaning claim in a phrase like "I'll bag the best seats". This is related to "to bag" meaning "to put something in a bag".

The Scout movement has a similar phrase which is not linked to "dib", but is actually "dyb".[4] DYB is an acronym for "Do Your Best", and is used as a challenge which is responded to with DOB – Do Our Best.

In Portugal, the word "primeiro" or "primas" is the equivalent to the word dibs. The first is more popular than the second, which it is use normally in a special game.

In Mexico, the word "pido" (I ask) or "primis" (first) is commonly used by children to the same effect. In some parts of Mexico City, the word "changán" (no actual meaning) is used and it can also be used as a verb "changanear".

In Brazil, the word "primeiro", "primeirinho" ("the first one" or "the little first one" in Portuguese) or "meu", "minha" ("mine" in Portuguese) is used the same way.

In France, the word "prems" or "preums" (shortcut of "premier" which means "first") is commonly used for that. On the contrary, some people used to say "der" (shortcut of "dernier" which means "last").

In Russian speaking countries, the equivalent is "Чур моё" which means "mind you it's mine", or more recently "Забито" (loosely translated as "claimed").

In Denmark, the equivalent for dibs is "Helle" which means "refuge". "Shotgun" and "Dibs" is also used.

In Sweden, the equivalent for dibs is "Pax" which is Latin for "peace", although "etta vara" or "etta få", which basically means "I call first to be..." and "I call first to have..." (literally "number one to be/have"), also is commonly used. "Shotgun" and "Dibs" is also used.

In Norway the equivalent for dibs is "Fus" (dialect, not used in the West), which means "first". Sometimes the word "fritt", which means "free", is also used in a situation where you want to claim something. "Dibs" is also used.

In Iceland the equivalent for dibs is "Pant" which is short for "Ég panta" or in English "I order", However in common speech the word "Dibs" is commonly used especially amongst young men.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, the word "dibs" is used to call dibs. Also used is the word "Buut", from the French "But", meaning "Goal" or "Target". It is used in games of hide and seek when a hider touches base and is safe. To determine who can sit next to the driver in a car, the Dutch use the term "shotgun".[citation needed]

In Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, the equivalent for dibs is "choup" or "chop" or simple "cup" in the countries' respective informal Melayu language. The word corresponds to the action to stamp or to brand something. In calling "chop", one stakes claim by attempting to be the first to "stamp" one's name on the object.

In Hungary, the equivalent for dibs is "stipistop", "stip-stop" or "stipistopi". They come from the word "stop" which has the similar meaning as in English.

In Germany, the equivalent for dibs is "Erster" (meaning "first one"), although also both the word "shotgun" and "dibs" have found their way into use.[citation needed]

In Spain, the equivalent for dibs is "primer" (meaning "first") and "Me lo pido" (meaning "I call on it")

In Portugal, "'dibs'" is also used, as well as "'shotgun'".

In Poland, the equivalent for dibs is "rezerwuję" or "zaklepuję" (colloquial) or "zamawiam" (rather childish use) which mean "I reserve".

In Nepal the equivalent for dibs is "Mero" which is short for "Tyo mero ho" or in English "This is mine". This is commonly used with Nepali kids and the youngsters.

In Colombia, the equivalent for dibs would be "me lo pido" which roughly means "I call on it".

In Italy, the equivalent for dibs is "mio" (meaning "mine") or "primo" (meaning "first").

In Quebec, a French-speaking province of Canada, the equivalent for dibs would be "Shotgun". Shotgun is also used in other parts of Canada.

In Israel, both dibs and shotgun are used by in the full American sense as words borrowed from American English. The Hebrew words "ראשון" (first) and "שלי" (mine) are also used to call dibs, mostly by children.

See also

  • Five Second Rule


  1. ^ Olmert, Michael (1996). Milton's Teeth and Ovid's Umbrella: Curiouser & Curiouser Adventures in History. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 246. ISBN 0-684-80164-7. 
  2. ^ "No one seems to have dibs on word's origins" by Eric Zorn. Chicago Tribune December 15, 2005. (Accessed via Tribune website archive, http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2005/12/no_one_seems_to.html.) (Zorn has written several columns regarding this practice over the years.)
  3. ^ "The Allocation of the Commons: Parking and Stopping on the Commons" by Prof. Richard A. Epstein. University of Chicago School of Law, Chicago Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper No. 15. (Originally published in 2001). Available for download from: http://www.law.uchicago.edu/files/files/134.RAE_.Parking.pdf and The Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection at http://papers.ssrn.com/paper.taf?abstract_id= 282512.
  4. ^ http://www.scoutbase.org.uk/library/history/cubs/cub-law.htm

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dibs — Dibs, n. A sweet preparation or treacle of grape juice, much used in the East. Johnston. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • dibs — [dıbz] n [plural] AmE informal [Date: 1800 1900; Origin: Probably from dibstones game played with small stones , from dib to hit lightly (17 19 centuries)] the right to have, use, or do something ▪ Freshmen have first dibs on dormitory rooms …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • dibs — ☆ ☆ dibs [dibz] n. [contr. < dibstone, a knucklebone or jack in a children s game < dib (< ?) + STONE ] Slang a claim to a share of, or rights in, something wanted [I ve got first dibs on that candy bar] interj. used to announce such a… …   English World dictionary

  • Dibs — Dibs, so v.w. Dattelhonig …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • dibs — [ dıbz ] noun singular INFORMAL a right to have something …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • dibs — children s word to express a claim on something, 1932, originally U.S., apparently a contraction of dibstone a knucklebone or jack in a children s game (1690s), of unknown origin …   Etymology dictionary

  • dibs — [n] claim dueness, entitlement, preemptive declaration, privilege, request, rights; concepts 278,318,376,709 …   New thesaurus

  • dibs on — (US) A claim to • • • Main Entry: ↑dib …   Useful english dictionary

  • dibs on … — dibs on… idiom (NAmE) (BrE bags (I)…) used to claim sth as yours before sb else can claim it Main entry: ↑dibsidiom …   Useful english dictionary

  • dibs — /dɪbz / (say dibz) Colloquial –plural noun 1. → marble (def. 8). 2. a stake in a game. 3. funds or money: in the dibs. 4. winnings. –phrase 5. dibs in, taking part; included, especially in a game. 6. have dibs on, to claim as one s right. 7. play …   Australian-English dictionary

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