Word of the Month: Groovy

David Zapatka

“The 59th Street Bridge Song,” known by many as the “Feelin’ Groovy” song by Simon and Garfunkel, came on the radio. I was asked if I knew the history behind the word “groovy,” which led to this month’s WOTM.

Groovy:  ˈgrü-vē  Adjective 1. marvelous, wonderful, excellent 2. hip, trendy

Origin and Etymology: “Pertaining to a groove,” from groove (n.) + -y (2). Slang sense of “first-rate, excellent,” American English, from jazz slang phrase in the groove (1932) “performing well (without grandstanding) referring to music that’s swinging, tight, funky, in the pocket.” The analogy is to the groove in a vinyl record; the musicians are so together that it’s like they’re the needle guided by the groove. As teen slang for wonderful, it dates from c. 1941, was popularized during the 1960s, and out of currency by 1980. Earlier colloquial figurative sense was “having a tendency to routine, inclined to a specialized and narrow way of life or thought” (1882).

First Used: 1850. First used with slang meaning in 1937.

“The 59th Street Bridge Song” debuted on Simon and Garfunkle’s 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. It was on the B-side of the 1967 single “At the Zoo,” and was subsequently re-issued in 1971 as an A-side single. 59th Street Bridge is the colloquial name of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge in New York City. The song’s message is immediately delivered in its opening verse, “Slow down, you move too fast.”

Recent examples on the web:

This is one of many groovy scenes recorded in Philip Norman’s new Hendrix biography, Wild Thing. — James Parker, The Atlantic, “How Jimi Hendrix’s London Years Changed Music,” 18 Sep. 2020

Though there are no specific warnings for its splashy time-warping powers, which deposit the viewer back at a point when disco was groovy and remote controls were tethered to the TV. — Lars Brandle, Billboard, “Kevin Parker’s Flashy ‘Is It True’ Music Video Is From Another Time: Watch It Now,” 7 Aug. 2020

Instead, a gang of goofy kids and their dog in a groovy van solve mysteries. — Kevin Sandler, Smithsonian Magazine, “How Scooby-Doo’s Origins Are Related to the RFK Assassination,” 13 May 2020

Though born back in 1929, Leone proved a prophet of Baby Boomer mistrust in every kind of establishment, minus any millennial hope for groovy new replacements. — Kyle Smith, National Review, “Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Opera,” 2 May 2020

Isn’t it interesting that the word groovy was supposedly out of currency by 1980, yet all these quotes are from 2020? Is it back in use? Why is this word showing up so frequently in recent news articles?

Do you think this word is making a comeback? Do you use it in your language or know others who do? Please submit your experiences, any thoughts on this month’s column, or any word you may like to share along with your insights and comments to [email protected].