Where the Term “The Real McCoy” Came From


Click Here for Sources and to Learn More Interesting Prohibition Related Facts

Text Version

The term “The Real McCoy” originated in the prohibition era.  Captain William S. McCoy was a rum runner who coordinated most rum transported by ship during prohibition.  He was known for never watering down his imports; thus, his product was “The Real McCoy”.

Share the Knowledge! FacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmailFacebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Enjoy this article? Join over 50,000 Subscribers getting our FREE Daily Knowledge and Weekly Wrap newsletters:

Subscribe Me To:  | 


  • No, it didn’t. The term well predates prohibition, with the first citing in 1881.

    Some people associate the term with Elijah McCoy’s oil drip cup, but there’s no proof of that either.

  • Incidentally, this is the second time that I’ve seen you give an “I found out the origin of a word or term!” that’s easily disproven, the other time being the word “loo”. Before you post these, you really should get into the habit of checking a dictionary for the earliest citation. I like the OED (because I have free access as a member of the NY public library), but if you can’t access that http://www.etymonline.com is a good one. What they say about the phrase “the real McCoy”, btw, is that it became popularized during Prohibition.

  • Edit: Sorry, just checked the OED, the first citation they have is from 1856 (I thought the 1880s was a bit late, because although it’s associated with Elijah McCoy it really does predate his invention!) I’m going to go fix Wikipedia now.

  • Elijah McCoy is where the phrase comes from. His inventions were often copied with lesser quality. So as people became aware of the clones they would ask ” and make sure it’s the real McCoy” when ordering a product that McCoy invented