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What Does "and All That Jazz" Mean?

By Bethney Foster
Updated Jan 29, 2024
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The meaning of the American phrase "and all that jazz" is basically the same as the Latin phrase et cetera, commonly abbreviated "etc." and used at the end of the listing of a series to indicate that there are more related items that are not specifically listed. The phrase is often used in a dismissive manner to indicate that what follows is unimportant or silly in nature. As the origins of idioms go, it is a very modern phrase.

Rather than being an idiom or proverb, "and all that jazz" is probably better explained as a slang phrase. The word "jazz" is a common slang term. Common phrases using the word include "jazzed" and "jazz up," among many other variations.

The word "jazz" probably entered the English language from a Creole phrase that referred to sex and a type of dance. There are several theories about the etymology of the word, but the definite origins remain undetermined. "Jazz" was first used to refer to a type of music, ragtime originally, in about 1913. The phrase "and all that jazz" didn’t come into usage until about 1939.

Although probably already in use to some extent, the use of this phrase meaning to continue a series in a somewhat dismissive manner probably entered common language as a result of the 1975 musical Chicago. Based on a play written by Maurine Dallas Watkins in 1926, the musical's opening number is titled "All that Jazz" and used the phrase in the manner of meaning et cetera. The song is performed by Chita Rivera in the original cast album from the musical, but Liza Minnelli's 1975 single of the song gave the phrase even more popularity. The song begins with the lyrics "Come on, babe / Why don’t we paint the town? / And all that jazz." The phrase is repeated throughout the song's lyrics.

The use of the phrase originated in the United States, though it is now commonly used in everyday language in Britain and Canada. The phrase also lends itself to the title of a 1979 musical, an Ella Fitzgerald album, and a radio series, among other uses in literature and music. "And all that jazz" is often used, sometimes as a pun, in marketing arts and music stores, events, and festivals.

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Discussion Comments

By Inaventu — On Jul 17, 2014

After watching the "All That Jazz" routine in CHICAGO, I realized there's really two meanings to the lyrics. She's singing about all the great things about her nocturnal lifestyle, like the booze and the music and the nightly brawls, and all that jazz. But she's also celebrating all of the jazz music that's holding it all together.

When I saw the All That Jazz movie based on the life of Bob Fosse, I couldn't make the connection to the song. I found out later that Fosse directed and choreographed a production of CHICAGO in 1975 and "All That Jazz" is the big opening number.

By Cageybird — On Jul 16, 2014

I watched the movie "All That Jazz" about the choreographer Bob Fosse, and towards the end of the movie, Ben Vereen's character starts listing all of the main character's vices, like chasing women, drinking, drugs and "all that jazz". I've always thought it meant everything else that fits the category, like saying "I enjoy theater-- the lights, the costumes, the applause, and all that jazz."

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