Green’s Dictionary of Slang

heebie-jeebies n.

also hebe-jebes, heebeegeebees, heebee-jeebies, heebies, heebyjeebies
[? ety. unknown, although the heebie-jeebie, a dance popular c.1926, was alleged to have taken its name f. the incantations of an Indian witch-doctor before making a human sacrifice; more likely a nonce coinage by the US cartoonist Billy Derbeck and first noted in his strip Barney Google in the New York American on 26 Oct. 1923]

1. (orig. US) unpleasant fantasies, nameless terrors, anything the mind can conjure up to produce nerves and fear.

B. Derbeck Barney Google 26 Oct. [cartoon strip] You dumb ox — Why don't you get that stupid look offa your pan — you gimme the heeby jeebys!
[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 344: I’m going to walk up . . . I’ve got the heebyjeebies tonight.
[US] in J.F. Dobie Rainbow in Morning (1965) 85: She gives me the hebe-jebes.
[US]S.J. Perelman in Marschall That Old Gang o’ Mine (1984) 18: She nearly got the heebies doing it.
[US]J. Lait Gangster Girl 88: The touch o’ his hands gives me the heebie jeebies.
[US]J. Dixon Free To Love 147: Gee, Kit, you’d give a man the heebies.
[UK]M. Panter-Downes ‘It’s the Reaction’ in Wartime Stories (1999) 134: Go off down to the country [...] and for God’s sake relax. If you don’t, you’re for the ministry of heebie-jeebies – in plain English, darling, a breakdown.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 181: There was a conspiracy [...] to give all Windy City musicians the heebies until they were ready to be bugged.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 259: Hey, mister, you got heebie jeebies, go in toilet.
[US]S. Sterling ‘The Kiss and Tell Murders’ Popular Detective May [Internet] Brrr. They give me the heebies. This whole country does.
[UK]B. Kops Hamlet of Stepney Green Act I: I’ve got more than cold feet – I’ve got the screaming willies and the heeby-jeebies multiplied together.
[UK]M. Benson At Still Point (1971) 148: Guy gives me the heebie-jeebies.
[US]L. Bangs in Psychotic Reactions (1988) 74: No way to regiment the heebie jeebies or make ’em walk a straight line.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 23: The Exec got the heebies whenever the Precinct Commander had a skin rash.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 198: If you’re going to succumb to the heebie-jeebies [...] For heaven’s sake, put your clothes on first.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 125: Heebie-jeebie shakes.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 23 July 15: She sometimes finds herself on stage [...] and gets the heebies.
[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 155: Ope it’s not too strong; makes me a bit para sometimes if it is. Get the bloody heebee-jeebies, a do.
[UK]I. Rankin Falls 353: [It] gave me the heebies: suits of armour and dusty old billiard rooms.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 59: The Colonel’s gardener [...] got the heebie-jeebies and shot poor Francis Boggs dead.
[UK]N. Bradley ‘Blind Old Kate’ [Internet] The thought of the poor old moggie trying to claw his way out of the bag [...] fills me with the heebie-jeebies.
[US]J. Stahl OG Dad 87: Screams calm to coos as I talked her through the late night heebie-jeebies.

2. a hangover, delirium tremens.

[US]Maines & Grant Wise-crack Dict. 9/2: Heebie-jeebies, alcoholic shimmy.
[US]J.L. Kuethe ‘Johns Hopkins Jargon’ in AS VII:5 333: hebe jebes — the creeps; the blues; the feeling caused by a ‘hangover.’.
[US]M. Prenner ‘Drunk in Sl.’ in AS XVI:1 Jan. 70/1: has the heeby-jeebies.
[US]A. James America’s Homosexual Underground 174: I was advised to hit him a day afterward – when he had recovered from his heebie-jeebies and before he went into his weekend stupor.
[UK]D. Farson Never a Normal Man 4: The horror comes with the ‘coming-down’, those nights of the heebie-jeebies.

3. the physical and mental symptoms that accompany heroin or cocaine withdrawal.

[UK]I. Welsh Filth 265: He had the heebeegeebees big-time.
[UK](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 76: Ah hud the heebie-jeebies a wee bit. [...] It’s a bit fuckin rough when it [i.e. heroin] leaves yir system.