The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Hob or Nob

Source:  William Hone, The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information. London: Thomas Tegg, 1832. December 26

Convivial Sayings: Hob, or Nob?

Grose mentions the question, “Will you hob, or nob, with me ?“ as signifying a request or challenge to drink a glass of wine with the proposer; if the party challenged answered nob, they were to chuse whether white or red.” In Shakspeare,’s Twelfth_Night, a character speaking of a duelhist says, “His incensement at this moment is so implacable, that satisfaction can be done but by pangs of death, and sepulchre: hob, nob, is his word; giv’t or tak’t.” Mr. Monck Mason, in a note on this passage, asks, “Is not this the original of our hob-nob, or challenge to drink a glass of wine at dinner?” Mr. Brand observes, “In Anglo-Saxon, habban is to have, and næbban to wont. May it not therefore be explained in this sense, as signifying, ‘Do you choose a glass of wine, or would you rather let it alone?“ This appears to be the only reasonable account of the origin of this term of request or challenge.



This term signifies a challenge to a person to pour out all the wine in the bottle into his glass, the challenger undertaking to drink it, should it prove more than the glass would hold. It is also a term commonly said to one who hesitates to empty a bottle that is nearly out. We are told of it as being a college expression; intimating a threat, in the way of pleasantry, to black the person’s face with a burnt cork, should he flinch or fail to empty the bottle. Possibly it may have been derived from the German “buzzen,” sordes auferre, q. d. “Off with the Lees at bottom.” (Citing Brand)

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