This verb meaning to steal a vehicle and its contents, and later to commandeer an airplane, is of uncertain origin. It got its start as underworld slang for a thug or hold-up man. It dates to at least 1920 when Ernest Hemingway used it in the short story The Ash Heel’s Tendon (published in 1985 in the New York Times Magazine):

This of course was an exorbitant price for a single bump-off job, but as he explained, “You take it or leave it. I ain’t no working stiff. Get some cheap hyjack if you want a sloppy job.

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