hep

Definition

Slang

  • adjective aware, in touch with the latest (cultural) trends. An Americanism from the jargon of jazz musicians in the early part of the 20th century, hep was adopted by the white intellectuals of the beat generation in the mid-1950s and slightly later by teenagers. The word metamorphosed into hip (although the two terms co-existed in the early 1960s), which itself prompted the coinage of hippy. The precise dates and derivation of hep are somewhat obscure, although it almost certainly originates in a shout of exhortation or encouragement: either the noise used by riders, ploughmen, etc. to horses, or (perhaps more likely, given the importance of marching bands in the early history of jazz) that used by parade leaders, drill sergeants, etc. to keep time. To ‘get hep’ or ‘be hep’ signifies to be working in harmony or in step.
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