Naked as a jaybird

  • Naked as a jaybird is an idiom with an uncertain origin. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom naked as a jaybird, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


    Naked as a jaybird is an idiom that simply describes someone who is completely nude, naked, or unclothed. The expression naked as a jaybird was coined in the United States as early as the mid-1800s, though its popularity rose from the 1920s onward. The early iteration usually seen in the mid-1800s is naked as a fledgling jaybird. In the 1800s, the terms naked as a fledgling robin and naked as a fledgling were popular. At some point, the word “fledgling” was dropped from the idiom. The term naked as a jaybird soared in popularity in the United States over the latter two-thirds of the twentieth century, and it may be because the slang term, j-bird, came into use. J-bird is an abbreviation of the word jailbird, meaning someone who is an inmate in a jail. When new inmates are processed in jails, they are stripped naked and disinfected before they receive new prisoner uniforms. Whether the idiom naked as a jaybird comes from the original idiom, naked as a fledgling, or the alternative source, naked as a j-bird, or a combination of both, is unknown.



     They all were wearing masks over their faces, but other than that, everyone was naked as a jaybird. (Daily Reflector)

    The artist sits on a hobbyhorse, naked as a jaybird, sporting an Afro as big as a Buick. (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

    “I’m sitting there showering,” Massa recalled on the radio Monday, “naked as a jaybird and here comes Rahm Emanuel not even with a towel wrapped around his tush, poking his finger in my chest, yelling at me because I wasn’t going to vote for the president’s budget.”  (New York Magazine)

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