Etymology (Meaning of Words)/Idiomatic expression

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Question
I would like to know the origin, if any exists, of the phrase: happy go-lucky.  We speak of a
person being happy go-lucky if such person is carefree. But how does go-lucky connect with
carefree?

Thanks.

Answer
Dear Angelo:

"Happy-go-lucky" is simply a phrase that is a combination of three other English words.  The phrase took on the meaning of "ease" or "being carefree" in 1835:  Of a person or action: displaying or characterized by a cheerful lack of concern about the future; easy-going.
The phrase is a SYNONYM of "carefree," but it is NOT DERIVED from "carefree."

The material below is taken from "the Bible" of English etymology, "The Oxford English Dictionary."   In its original usage the three words in the phrase were NOT hyphenated.  In 1856, Charles Read added the hyphens and the phrase has not changed since then.

The ONLY connection between "happy-go-lucky" and "carefree" is that they have the same meaning.  One is not derived from the other.

Ted Nesbitt


Etymology:  < happy adj. + go v. + lucky adj.
B. adj.

 Of a person or action: displaying or characterized by a cheerful lack of concern about the future; easy-going.
1835   N. J. Wyeth Let. 6 Sept. (1899) 151,   I am still happy go lucky with only a broken toe and two or three upsettings in cold water.
1856   C. Reade Never too Late xv,   The first thing was to make Carter think and talk, which he did in the happy-go-lucky way of his class.
1863   C. Kingsley Water-babies vi. 241   There were never such comfortable, easy-going, happy-go-lucky people.
1880   T. McGrath Pictures from Ireland 7   Forced habits of industry not natural to the happy-go-lucky Celt.
1925   Amer. Mercury Aug. 413/2   Say what he will, he shrinks a little from the happy-go-lucky sexual codes which so many of the radicals avow.
2005   Times Lit. Suppl. 29 Apr. 36/3   What turned this happy-go-lucky child into a violent, haunted, destructive and self-destructive youth?



C. n.
Thesaurus »

1. A happy-go-lucky person or thing.In early use commonly in the names of ships; later also in the names of racehorses.
1835   London Lit. Gaz. 12 Sept. 584/2   A Dover man, named Wellard, who commanded an armed lugger of fourteen guns from Folkestone, the Happy-go-Lucky, apparently a favourite name with these characters.
1851   H. Melville Whale xxvii. 128   A happy-go-lucky; neither craven nor valiant.
1894   Times 22 Oct. 11   Happy-go-Lucky was fourth, and Gold Leaf last.
1911   J. M. Dean Rainier of Last Frontier iii. 36   They were an infernally cheerful lot, mainly happy-go-luckies recruited in the Rocky Mountain Belt, with a ‘Cockney’ and a ‘Greaser’ thrown in.
1978   Texas Monthly Dec. 195/1   A few happy-go-luckies engage in hardly any management at all, letting the beasts run nearly wild within their boundary fences to multiply or die.
2008   Courier Mail (Brisbane) (Nexis) 6 Dec. 10   The build-up to the Cronulla riots, a series of events that left a black mark against Australia's reputation as a nation of happy-go-luckys who believe in a fair go for all.



Categories »

2. Happy-go-lucky quality or character. Now rare.
1878   Cornhill Mag. Apr. 391   The current had been flowing more evenly—everything had conspired to make the happy-go-lucky of his life more smooth than before.
1893   S. Pope in Times 9 June 8   There had been a good deal of ‘happy-go-lucky’ in the manner in which the election was conducted.
a1905   L. Wallace Autobiogr. (1906) I. xvi. 155   Every man reading who can remember the happy-go-lucky of his own lusty youth can imagine it.

Etymology (Meaning of Words)

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Ted Nesbitt

Expertise

I have an interest in the meanings of words and phrases, as well as how and when they became part of the English language. I enjoy researching idioms, colloquialisms, dialects, and obscurities of all kinds. I prefer short questions on a particular subject, and I will not accept lengthy research projects or term papers. NOTE: ALLEXPERTS CLAIMS THAT I TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LATIN AND FROM LATIN TO ENGLISH. I DO NOT. ALLEXPERTS REFUSES TO DELETE THE LATIN-TO-ENGLISH SERVICE -- ONE THAT I DO NOT PROVIDE. TRUST ME ON THIS: ALLEXPERTS IS WRONG. I DO NOT TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LANGUAGE. LOOK FOR A LANGUAGE EXPERT INSTEAD. ETYMOLOGY AND TRANSLATING SERVICES ARE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT. ALLEXPERTS SHOULD KNOW THAT. ALLEXPERTS DOES NOT KNOW THAT. I HAVE TRIED FOR MANY YEARS TO GET THEM TO CHANGE. THEY WILL NOT. SORRY, BUT I DO NOT TRANSLATE FROM ENGLISH TO LATIN.

Experience

I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public
college. My master's thesis concerns William Faulkner's tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.
I have been a member of the grammar and writing section of Allexperts
for more than a year.



Education/Credentials
Masters degrees in English, philosophy, and library science.

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