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Hi,

Do you say ‘call dibs on something’ in British English or is it only used in the US?

If not, is there an equivalent to this phrase in British English?

Thank you.

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To me (BrE speaker) this expression (and variants, e.g. "first dibs on") is familiar, but I have to admit I thought it was dated childish language, like something from a British Public School circa 1950. However, dictionaries, at least some of them, agree that it is US, and also the "Ngrams" graph suggests that it is a modern usage, not a dated one, so it seems I'm entirely wrong!

When I was at school, about a thousand years ago, children used to "bagsy" items. They would say e.g. "I bagsy the front seat on the school bus!". I don't think children say this any more.

Comments  
Ann225Do you say ‘call dibs on something’ in British English or is it only used in the US?

It's not familiar in the UK.

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 GPY's reply was promoted to an answer.

This "dibs" appears in the Oxford English Dictionary under "dib", n.2 (generally plural). The first definition for "dibs" is a children's game using "pebbles or the knuckle-bones of sheep" (which latter would seem to place it firmly in the British Isles), first attested in the 1700s. The word itself is suspected to have arisen from "dibstones", the playing pieces, I imagine.

The second definition, the one under discussion here, is called "U.S. colloquial" and is first attested in 1932. They do not try to explain the sense of it as it relates to the game. They do say to compare "bags I" and the word "dubs" from marbles.

What about when you're parking?

"When you pull up next to an empty spot and signal, it's the same as calling dibs on that spot."


Thank you.

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