Dear Rickiiiiiie, ONE-NIGHT STAND
is defined as follows: 1) theatrical: a) a single performance by a touring theatrical company, each of the stops made on a tour of performances. b) a small rural town which would only support a single performance, the place at which the stops are made. c) the performance itself. 2) sexual: a) a sexual relationship lasting only one night. b) a person with which one has such a relationship.
The ONE-NIGHT STAND
, meaning a single performance or encounter, comes from the days of touring theater companies, who would perform for just one night in a town because that town was likely to provide only enough audience for a single night. By the mid-twentieth century it had been transferred not only to other one-time performances of various kinds but also, in colloquial usage, to a single sexual encounter that was unlikely to be repeated by the same couple and which therefore implied some promiscuity.
The word STAND
had been used since the 16th century to mean the action or an act of standing or coming to a position of rest; stop, a pause, halt – often said as ‘make a stand.’. And in the 19th and 20th centuries it became a word for a stop on a theatrical tour, either alone or in the phrase ‘one-night stand.’ And it wasn’t until 1937 that the ONE-NIGHT STAND made its appearance in print as a sexual encounter.
<1596 “This is the pent-house under which Lorenzo desired us to make a STAND.”—Merchant of Venice, II, vi>
<1880 “This coming week . . . is to be what they call ‘ONE-NIGHT STANDS.’”—in OED 2>
<1883 “ONE-NIGHT STANDS are not going to be subject, if they can help it, to the experiments of one troupe of queer fakirs after another.”—‘OED Supplement’>
<1895 “Denver was the second STAND of the week.”—‘N.Y. Dramatic News,’ 19 October, page 11/1>
<1896 “Her managers, only depend on the ONE-NIGHT ‘STANDS’ to recoup their losses in the larger towns. ONE-NIGHT STAND audiences are not critical.”—‘Peterson Magazine N.S.’ VI. page 272/2>
<1899 “The primitive yokels of a ONE-NIGHT STAND could not attune themselves to the views of one who was troubled with ideals.”—‘Fables in Slang’ by George Ade> [[theatrical]]
<1931 “STAND, n., a town or city where a show stops to give performances.”—‘American Speech,’ VI. page 336>
<1937 “He always has a ONE-NIGHT STAND, don’t he, not a short time?”—“You’re in the Racket Too” by James Curtis>
<1940 “She was . . . strictly a ONE-NIGHT-STAND type.”—‘High Sierra’ by W. R. Burnett, page 224>
<1945 “I was wondering . . . whether you got it from a ONE-NIGHT STAND or from love. Because you seem bitter.”—‘Gallery’ by J. H. Burns>
<1955 “He has held . . . [homosexual partners] briefly for ‘ONE-NIGHT STANDS’ or has participated in longer affairs.”—‘Must You Conform?’ by Lindner, page 48>
<1962 “Jennie has a bedroom all to herself, except for a ONE-NIGHT STAND every week or two.”—‘Stairway’ by T. Jones, page 10>
<1967 “A plump young waitress with a strong perfume, who looked nonetheless a goddess of a bucket for a ONE-NIGHT STAND.”—‘The Armies of the Night’ by Norman Mailer, page 98>
<1970 “I could forgive my husband if I caught him stepping out on me (I mean a ONE-NIGHT STAND, not a serious affair of any duration).”—‘N.Y. Post,’ 23 March, page 36>
<1995 “Scorned lovers confront the ONE-NIGHT STANDS that slept with them and then dumped them.”—‘The Jerry Springer Show’ (syndicated TV series)> [[high quality TV at its best (<:)]]
(Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, A Dictionary of the Underworld
by Partridge, Oxford English Dictionary
Ken G – August 13, 2005