The exact origin of this word meaning an overwhelming yen or craving is unknown. It obviously refers to the name Jones, but exactly how it arose and developed is uncertain. 

The first known use of jones in this context is the 1962 edition of Maurer and Vogel’s Narcotics and Narcotic Addiction which glosses jones as “a drug habit.” Three years later, Claude Brown’s 1965 Manchild In the Promised Land uses it in that sense and also to mean the symptoms of heroin withdrawal:

My jones is on me; it’s on me something terrible. I feel so sick.

By 1970, it had generalized into any desire or yearning. From Clarence Major’s Dictionary of Afro-American Slang from that year:

Jones: a fixation...; compulsive attachment.

The verb meaning to suffer from heroin withdrawal is recorded in 1971, and by 1984 it was being used more generally to mean to crave or intensely desire.

Some sources relate the origin to Great Jones Alley in New York City, which at one point was a place where junkies would gather to shoot up, but no evidence linking the term to the alley has been proffered. The term may also relate to the phrase keeping up with the Joneses, in that both relate to a desire for more, but again, this is mere speculation.


Green’s Dictionary of Slang, 2019. s. v. jones, n.1, jones, v.

Historical Dictionary of American Slang, vol. 2. Random House, 1997.

Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989. s. v. Jones, n.

Oxford English Dictionary, third edition, March 2005. s. v. Jones, v.

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