Learn English – Origin of “on the QT”


I was watching the movie L.A. Confidential last night, and was reminded of the phrase "on the QT", which Danny DeVito's character says several times.

Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush…

I was wondering if anyone can shed any light on the origin and meaning of this phrase.

Best Answer

Apparently Q.T. is derived from quiet and originated in the 19th century, although its provenance is not certain.

From phrases.org.uk:

The slang term 'qt' is a shortened form of 'quiet'. There's no definitive source for the phrase 'on the q.t.', although it appears to be of 19th century British origin - not, as is often supposed, American. The longer phrase 'on the quiet' is also not especially old, but is first recorded somewhat before 'on the qt', in Otago: Goldfields & Resources, 1862: