What is Real McCoy?

When a thing is of genuine quality or real, it is generally referred to as the Real McCoy. What is the origin of the phrase?

There are many theories about it. But mostly are of unconfirmed nature.

First mention is a 1856 reference to whisky in the Scottish National Dictionary—”A drappie [drop] o’ the real MacKay”.


By 1870, two whiskey distillers by the name of McKay adopted the slogan “Real McKay” for their products. As the word travelled to America, it morphed into “Real McCoy”.

According to other accounts, the phrase originated in the United States during prohibition days in 1920. Florida based rum runner Bill McCoy brought a rum laden ship from Carribbean to New York and anchored it a few miles from the port where the prohibition laws didn’t apply. Customer believed it to be top notch because there were hardly any chances of adulteration.

Till now we have talked about the origin of the phrase in relation to the whiskey or rum. There are other stories that are connected to the

In 1872, inventor Elijah McCoy patented a self-regulating machine. It could lubricate the parts of the steam engine without human intervention enabling the train to run without stopping for lubrication. The success of the invention spawned many poor quality imitations which led railroad personnel to refer to McCoy’s machines as “the real McCoy.”

Elijah McCoy

So which story is the one which is a “REAL MCCOY” ?

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