Nowadays, the word "jury" is most well known as a noun that refers to a group of people deciding a legal verdict. However, another, use for "jury" is as an adjective. The term "jury-rigged" has nautical origins and began to appear around the 1780s.
A Temporary Fix
In sailing, a "jury mast" referred to a makeshift mast erected on a sailing ship, usually after the original was lost or damaged. A "jury-rigged" ship came to describe a ship, then eventually any structure or device, with a jury mast or other temporary fixes. An Old French word, "ajurie," that means "help or relief" is possibly the source for this use of "jury" as an adjective. "Jury-rigged" is often confused with the phrases "jerry-built" or "jerry-rigged," which are often inappropriately used in its place. "Jerry-built" refers to a house built using less-than-satisfactory materials and dates from the middle of the 1800s. It may be a contraction of "Jericho" or the name of a building firm in Liverpool that was known for its shoddy work.
- Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds: Ingenious Tales of Words and Their Origins; Michael Quinion
- The Unexpected Evolution of Language; Justin Cord Hayes
- Chambers's English Dictionary; James Donald
- Washington State University: Jerry-Built/Jury-Rigged
- Common Errors in English Usage; Paul Brians
Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies.