The term disc jockey (a person who introduces and plays recorded popular music on the radio) was first added to the OED in the 1972 Supplement. At the time, our first example came from the American entertainment trade magazine Variety, in August 1941. Our researchers have since found a slightly earlier example in the same publication:
Disc jockey solves vacation. Turning a program over to the public while the emcee is vacationing is big stuff from a listener’s angle, WEBR is finding.
1941 Variety 23 July, p. 34
However, there is a persistent suggestion (found online as well as in print sources) that this term was coined by the American newspaper columnist Walter Winchell in 1935. OED researchers have investigated, but have not found any evidence supporting the story. The earliest association between Winchell and the word disc jockey uncovered by our researchers appears in a publication from almost 50 years after the purported coinage, in 1984 (promoting, perhaps not coincidentally, the 50th anniversary of the radio station WNEW, and asserting that the term had first been applied to one of its DJs, Mark Block). That, combined with the fact that Variety had previously (in 1940) printed the phrase record jockey, makes the magazine a much more likely candidate as the popularizer of the term. Still, before putting the matter to rest, we wanted to make an appeal: can you find any evidence of the term disc jockey being used before 1941?
Posted by OED_Editor on 21 February 2013 13.06