Origin of the word lobbyist?


For those of you interested in word origin and/or politics, check this out from USAToday:

The Willard Hotel
Washington, D.C.

Call this the birthplace of special interests. “President Grant was not a big fan of the White House, and he liked to get out and have a cigar in the evening,” Fawcett says. “He would go to the lobby of the Willard Hotel almost every night for a cigar and drink. People would wait in the lobby until he got there and then talk to him informally about what it was they needed. They became known as lobbyists.”

4 Responses to “Origin of the word lobbyist?”

  1. Joe Says:

    That is the kind of useless information I live for!

  2. JimBob Says:


    The word lobbyist did NOT originate during the Grant Administration.

    Having recently read British author Charles Mackay’s Life and Liberty in America (1857), this struck me as incorrect. In fact, the word had already been coined. On page 103ff, Mackay lists several “Americanisms” including, “To lobby, to use private influence for the passing of bills through the Legislature.” On page 314, he notes that, “ ‘lobbying,’ in most, if not all the states, [is] a recognized art and science among the prominent outsiders of political life.” Of course, this is a verb, not a noun. However, since those who practice an art are referred to as “artists” and those who practice a science are “scientists”, it stands to reason that those who practice the art and science of lobbying would already have been referred to as “lobbyists”.

    According to http://www.worldwidewords.org, the noun had already appeared in print in The Lafayette County Hearld of Shullsburg, WI in 1857. This website also debunks the popular story that the term originated during the Grant Administration.

  3. john Says:

    The term pre dates the Grant administration by over a hundred years and is not American in origin. it stems from the practice of people waiting in the lobbies of Westminster Palace in London to speak with or plead cases with members of parliament. There was at one time a coffeehouse in the lobby of the House of Lords called Wagram’s, it was the practice of those seeking influence to wait there for the MPs to emerge from session.

  4. Todd Says:

    Grant’s definition has more to do with the rampant bribery that went on during and before his administration and was begun during the Lincoln administration. Lincoln’s whig/republican party is responsible for the large centralized, beaurucratic government we have today and it’s policies of tariffs, corporate subsidies and high taxation. Something the founding fathers were seeking to avoid when they left Great Britain. The rampant corruption and lobbying that goes on today in America dates back to then. There is a great book titled, “The Real Lincoln”, it will debunk all myths about Abe Lincoln which are mostly products of government, public education.

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