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What Is First Dibs?

First dibs, or sometimes just dibs, is a phrase used when a person wants to declare ownership or express interest in something. By calling first dibs, or by being offered first dibs, the person gains an advantage over other people. He effectively gets the right of first refusal. A person who gets a first dibs privilege may be given the opportunity to choose first among several different options – or he can also decide to pass on the opportunity. The enviable situation that a first dibs opportunity gives is the privilege to actually accept or deny ownership of something without having to worry about any competition.

The exact origins of the phrase “first dibs” is not immediately known. There are some people who claim that it could refer to a very old children’s game that has parallelisms to jacks and uses special counters that are called dibstones. These dibstones are divided among all of the players, with some players getting more than others based on the rules of the game. The supposition is that children may have shortened the name “dibstones” to “dibs” to make it easier to say. The exact phrase “first dibs” first appeared in its fully formed form in American literature produced during the turn of the 20th century.

There are some people who also claim that the phrase “first dibs” has its origins on a slang word used to refer to money. During the 1800s, the word “dibs” was used informally to describe a basic unit of currency.

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