We all know the meaning of the word tip. And we probably also know the term that the English and Germans use, ‘tip’ and ‘trinkgeld’ respectively. Many stories circulate about the origin of these words used and their meaning .

In many statements it is mainly drinking money. Then, for example, a son used to play cards in a pub and his father would say ‘here boy some drinking money, then you can have a drink while gambling’. Okay, it’s a bit exaggerated. But it could just be.

The word Tip

The origin of the word tip, according to etymologists, lies in the Latin word ‘via’. We know that word from the street names in Italy . It means ‘way’. The French adopted it as ‘voie’, which means ‘journey’ in addition to ‘road’. Later, the Dutch used this for their own translations, up to the current word tip.

It is remarkable that the origin lies with the Latin word ‘via’. Many Italian words resemble Latin. But Italians use the word “mancia” when tipping. And that in turn is derived from the French word ‘manche’, which means sleeve. As with all kinds of stories about the word tip, there is also a nice story about it (see additional information).

The word Tip in writing

Before we pick up the stories, we first look at the word tip in old books. And according to the word drinking money, because that occurs in many stories about the history of tips. As mentioned, there were already Dutch / Dutch translations from the French ‘voie’, such as ‘voye’ and ‘voy’ in the 14th century. At the end of the 16th century, both ‘voye’ and ‘foye’ were used and shortly thereafter ‘foij’.

With that last word we understand that the word tip is the next step. The earliest appearance of that word in writing can be found in some poems by Joannes Six by Chandelier from 1650. Much more interesting, however, is Carolus Tuinman ‘s book ‘Origin and interpretation of proverbs’ from 1726.

In his book he already refers to the Rotterdam tip as being punched in a fist fight. But above all, he provides an extensive explanation of the word tip in relation to drinking. After all, in his ‘have a goodbye drink and drink the tip’ he refers to the good journey and to drinking money.

Drinking money

In that journey we see the meaning of the French word ‘voie’. And then the stories come. The tip would come from a farewell meal, drink, or gift before someone embarked on a journey. After that, that mainly became a goodbye drink on the good journey. And finally, money that someone received when making a trip. So drinking money. Later it was no longer about the journey, but just money to drink.

One story is that it was given to a courier or messenger. When he had placed an order, he received a small amount. With a comment such as, ‘here dude, you have something to have a drink on the way’.


As mentioned, there are many stories about giving tips. They should explain the origin of the word or usage, or at least provide an amusing anecdote. Like the story about the London innkeeper .

Sometime at the end of the 18th century he put a pot on the bar, according to the ‘legend’. He had engraved the text ‘To Insure Promptness’ on the jar. People who wanted to be served faster had to throw in some change. The initials of the text form the common word TIP in England.

It’s bullshit of course. However, the story of the jar with the text is To Insure Promptness as the origin of the word TIP is persistent. According to the Oxford etymological dictionary, the word TIP, in the sense of our tip, comes from the slums of London. There, scammers, beggars and petty thieves already gave each other tips (advice) against payment long ago. A written description of this can be found in a text from 1610.

Own sake

Coming back to the tip jar in England for a moment. In Paris around 1900 the tradition arose to place a pot in cafes and restaurants. The French throw change in it if they are satisfied with the service or the quality of the food consumed. However, tipping in the form of drinking money had already existed in France for a long time. There it is called ‘pourboires’ (for drinking). In the 16th century, the French gave it to subordinates, with the message ‘drink one to my health’. Out of your own interest.

It was that self-interested idea and paternalism around tipping that sparked resistance much later with the introduction of tipping in the United States of America. Tipping came over there from Europe. For a long time, many people in America criticized tipping. Around 1900 there was even an association against tipping with over 100,000 members. But while Europe was already introducing minimum income, American workers could use the extra money to supplement their income.

Tipping therefore continued to exist in the United States. In some states it was even required by law for certain services. But the discussion around tipping continues to stir. One time it is about abolition, another time about the percentage. Less than five years ago, even Las Vegas casinos were discussing eliminating tipping.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *