What is the origin of “by Jove”?

starry sky and the words "by Jove"

Have you heard of “by Jove” (or as it is sometimes incorrectly said, “by Joe”)? Today, we’re going to talk about the origins of “by Jove” so you, too, can sound all fun and old-timey.

“By Jove” is an exclamation to show surprise or express emphasis.

Example: By Jove, I think he’s got it!

“By Jove” entered our language in the late fourteenth century as a way to refer to Jupiter. At this point in time, they were not talking about the planet, but rather the Roman god, Jupiter (whom the Greeks called “Zeus”).

Jove/Jupiter was the Roman god of the sky, who had power over both gods and men. To show his wrath, he would throw thunderbolts. (You didn’t want to make him angry.)

In the fourteenth century, when the English started saying “by Jove,” it was a way to say “my god” or “good god” without blaspheming the Christian god.

Shakespeare used this expression in Love’s Labors Lost in 1588: “By Jove, I always took three threes for nine.”

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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