The origin of pizzazz is unknown. It dates to 1930s U.S. slang. The earliest known use is from the March 1937 edition of Harper’s Bazaar:
Pizazz, to quote the editor of the Harvard Lampoon, is an indefinable dynamic quality, the je ne sais quoi of function; as for instance, adding Scotch puts pizazz into a drink. Certain clothes have it, too...There’s pizazz in this rust evening coat.
Earlier use in the Harvard Lampoon seems likely, but has not been found.
There is an earlier use of pizzazz, in a different sense. From the 7 December 1913 Mansfield [Ohio] News:
Brother Russell declared, bo, that his crowd had already framed it up with some of the big guys in the music world to put the kibosh on this line of junk, and that it was only a question of time before they would have such pieces as “When I Get You Alone Tonight” completely on the pizzazz.
What relation this musical slang usage has with the more modern one is uncertain.
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton