View OED entry

party animal noun earlier than 1982

Hugooooo provided verifiable evidence from 1977.

When the OED added its entry for party animal, meaning ‘an exuberant reveler’, in 2005, the earliest quotation we were able to include was from 1982, but we knew that the term could almost certainly be traced earlier. As our entry notes, the slang lexicographer Jonathan Lighter has recorded hearing the term in a Saturday Night Live episode which aired in  1978: ‘Here is the party animal himself—Bill Murray.’ There is also a record of the similar term party hound being used in 1973. Yet, the first verifiable evidence we had at hand was from an interview with the playwright Israel Horovitz:

1982 New York Times 2 July c8/5   If this movie stops one couple from getting a divorce because it’s the groovy, party-animal thing to do, it’s worth everything.

Can you help us uncover party animal‘s earlier history? Records of spoken language such as television and film sources may hold the key, including any leads on establishing the original air date for the usage on Saturday Night Live.


Posted by OED_Editor on 20 December 2012 20.22
Comments: 15

  • hugo_oed

    From a 1981 snippet of a book called Serenade by Adrienne Marceau (Simon & Schuster, Limited, page 84):

    He used to stay up all night, sleep till noon, date a different girl practically every night, drink like a fish — a real party animal. He was really like a dog that had been tied up in the backyard all his life suddenly set free. But it caught up with him.

  • hugo_oed

    Bill Murray 1978

    Here’s a transcript of a sketch called Weekend Update from Saturday Night Live’s season 3, episode 15 that first aired on March 25th, 1978 (confirmed at IMDb):

    Jane Curtin: … And now, with this week’s movie news, here is the Party Animal himself — Bill Murray.

    Bill Murray: Thank you, Jane. [ he holds up his Oscar board ] Well, the Oscars are coming up, April 3rd, and here are my predictions, everybody. …

    … Let me throw it back to a future Oscar winner, and a girl who’s at least a half a party animal herself — Jane Curtin. Get out of here, Jane, you’re terrific! 

    Jane Curtin: Thank you, Bill! 

    • hugo_oed

      Bill Murray, Saturday Night Live, 1977

      And whilst we have the SNL transcripts handy, here’s party animal from a Weekend Update sketch of season 3, episode 1 that first aired September 24th, 1977:

      Bill Murray: Thank you, Jane. Hello, everybody. And I mean that. Now, get out of here! I love you! I hope everyone had a primo summer. Yours Truly, the Party Animal, went totally insane for three months! 

      (There’s another from Bill Murray in Weekend Update from season 3, episode 19 that aired on May 13th, 1978.)

    • OED_Editor

       Thanks for this, Hugo. If nothing earlier is found, then we will update our entry to reflect this information.

      • hugo_oed

        I also submitted another larger comment — twice — with 1977 evidence, but it said something about moderation. Please can you check your Disqus comment moderation queue?

    • hugo_oed

      Whilst we have the SNL transcripts handy, we can look for more. I found many more from SNL, most from Bill Murray, usually on the Weekend Update sketch.

      March 19th, 1977, Bill Murray, Season 2: Episode 16, The New Guy sketch:

      [Fade in on recently-hired cast member Bill Murray who sits at a desk, addressing the camera.]

      Bill Murray: Hello, I’m Bill Murray. You can call me “Billy” but, around here, everybody just calls me “The New Guy.”


      Last Friday, I went to a party with Danny. There was a pretty girl there I wanted to impress and, uh, I’m a party animal. I was very funny. Danny said nothing. He was saving it. She said to me, “You’re so funny! I wish I had a tape recorder.” Well, I wish she had, too, you know? Saturday night, after the show, when she went home with Dan, I could’ve played the tape back for her. 

      May 14th, 1977, Bill Murray, Season 2: Episode 21, Baba Wawa At Large sketch:

      Richard Burton [played by Bill Murray]: They HATE me! They DESPISE me! And just because I’m a PARTY ANIMAL!! I like to PARTY! PARTY! PARTY! And they DON’T!!

      September 24th, 1977, Bill Murray, Season 3: Episode 1, Weekend Update sketch:

      Bill Murray: Thank you, Jane. Hello, everybody. And I mean that. Now, get out of here! I love you! I hope everyone had a primo summer. Yours Truly, the Party Animal, went totally insane for three months! 

      May 13th, 1978, Bill Murray, Season 3: Episode 19, Weekend Update sketch:

      Bill Murray: Thank you, Jane. Well, just like all the other critics in this country, I gave my Oscar predictions the week before the Academy Awards. But unlike all those other critics, tonight I’m here to ‘fess up on just how badly I did. Uh, pretty damn badly, I’m afraid. Other than Diane Keaton’s nod for Best Actress, the party animal here completely struck out. 

      March 15th, 1980, Bill Murray, Season 5: Episode 14, Weekend Update sketch:

      Bill Murray: Well, it’s Day 132 of the hostages’ captivity in Iran […] I gotta say: Ayatollah, if you wanna go, if you wanna get loony – I know you, you’re a nut – if you wanna go, you know, go festive. Let loose the party animal within you, okay? Go completely nuts! [ puts lampshade on Ayatollah dummy ] Now, get out of here, you crazy Komeiniac! Get outta here! Jane? 

      And finally, the earliest is in plural and by John Belushi although Bill Murray was also in the sketch.

      February 20th, 1977, John Belushi, Season 2: Mardi Gras Special, The Wild Bees Motorcycle Club sketch:

      Jake the Snake [played by John Belushi]: [ blows smoke at Rhonda’s face ] You know what your gonna do?! You’re comin’ back to California with me! Come back to your block house! Listen! I’m an ANIMAL!! I call party animals, animals from parties! anything will do! We’ll shave your head and chain you to the roof and wipe our feet on ‘ya! And then we’ll make ‘ya pick up after us! Whattaya say?! you wanna come?! [ thrusts her to the ground ] 

  • Bryn_OED

    For `Party Hound’, the Southeast Missourian newspaper [16th December 1964, p16] has, in a politician’s profile:

    “… `Mr Sam’ is rated a delightful character, socially.  He’s no cocktail party hound but in recent years he has been getting around more than he used to”

    It is not explicit, though, that the journalist meant `exuberant reveler’; rather than `committed party-goer’ or `party pest’

    Similarly, the St Joseph Gazette newspaper [30th October 1932, p18], in an article on protecting the rights of artists’ models, has the ambiguous passage:

    “Furthermore, they are trying to protect themselves against `fresh guys’, the party hounds, the men who pretend to be artists ….and the other human birds of prey against whom models must be constantly on guard”

  • Bryn_OED

    For `Party Hound’, the Pittsburgh Press newspaper [13th February 1939, p14] has a usage that is much more in line with an `exuberant reveler’:

    “What’s all this we hear about Franchot Tone being the party hound of the now disrupted marital team of Crawford and Tone ?”, going on to note Joan Crawford’s allegations that Tone “insisted on nightly tours of the spots where the lights burn brightest”

  • Bryn_OED

    For `Party Hound’, the Prescott Evening Courier newspaper [30th May 1930, p2] has an article about the film of a stage farce:

    “… the story is strictly modernized according to the ideas of the party hound of 1929, for, if you remember, Letty was an inveterate party hound”,6899770&dq=party-hound&hl=en

  • Bryn_OED

    For `Party Hound’, an earlier article on the film of the stage farce “So Long, Letty” appears in the Sunday Morning Star newspaper [29th December 1929, p8]:

    “The plot deals with a mixup of husbands and wives … the party-hound, Withers, going over into the next door cottage with the party-hound, Charlotte Greenwood, while Bert Roach, who likes his wives domesticated, goes with Patsy Ruth”

  • Bryn_OED

    Another example of the alternative `Party Hound’ – from the Leader-Post newspaper [24th July 1945, p7]:

    “Sobered, raucous party hounds have been known to apologize with the trite fragment of a dulled conscience, `We were having a little party, I hope we didn’t disturb you’ …”,2836184&dq=party-hounds&hl=en

  • Annie

    Not much help to you I imagine but I remember hearing that in college and that was between 1957 and 1961

  • Andrew Martz

    I associate the term Party Animal with the 1978, National Lampoon film, Animal House. John Belushi, the lead actor, also appeared regularly on Saturday Night Live.

    Belushi’s character in the film embodied the Party Animal archetype, if there is such a thing.

    I am uncertain if the term itself was used in the film.

    • hugo_oed

      I can’t find it in the subtitles.

  • Bryn_OED

    GoogleBooks offers these examples of “Party Animals”, which it attributes to:
    Minot, S. & Wilson, R. (1972) “Three Stances of Modern Fiction: a critical anthology of the short story”, Cambridge, Mass., Winthrop Publishers – pages 378, 380 and 417
    The Library of Congress catalogue confirms that publication date, so it might be worth a look.