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J 

10th letter of the English alphabet, pronounced "jay," as in "kay" for -k-, but formerly written out as jy, rhyming with -i- and corresponding to French ji.

One of the most stable English letters (it has almost always the same sound), it is a latecomer to the alphabet and originally had no sound value. The letter itself began as a scribal modification of Roman -i- in continental Medieval Latin. The scribes added a "hook" to small -i-, especially in the final position in a word or roman numeral, to distinguish it from the strokes of other letters. The dot on the -i- (and thus the -j-) and the capitalization of the pronoun I are other solutions to the same problems.

In English, -j- was used as a roman numeral throughout Middle English, but the letter -y- was used to spell words ending an "i" sound, so -j- was not needed to represent a sound. Instead, it was introduced into English c. 1600-1640 to take up the consonantal sound that had evolved from the Roman i- since Late Latin times. In Italian, g- was used to represent this, but in other languages j- took the job. This usage is attested earliest in Spanish, where it was in place before 1600.

No word beginning with J is of Old English derivation. [OED]

English dictionaries did not distinguish words beginning in -i- and -j- until 19c., and -j- formerly was skipped when letters were used to express serial order.

In Latin texts printed in modern times, -j- often is used to represent Latin -i- before -a-, -e-, -o-, -u- in the same syllable, which in Latin was sounded as the consonant in Modern English you, yam, etc., but the custom has been controversial among Latinists:

The character J, j, which represents the letter sound in some school-books, is an invention of the seventeenth century, and is not found in MSS., nor in the best texts of the Latin authors. [Lewis]

In English words from Hebrew, -j- represents yodh, which was equivalent to English consonantal y (hence hallelujah) but many of the Hebrew names later were conformed in sound to the modern -j- (compare Jesus).

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jab (n.)
1825, "a thrust or poke with the point of something," from jab (v.). Meaning "a punch with the fist" is from 1889. Sense of "injection with a hypodermic needle," once beloved by newspaper headline writers, is from 1914.
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jab (v.)
1813, "to thrust or strike with a point," a Scottish variant of job "to strike, pierce, thrust," from Middle English jobben "to jab, thrust, peck" (c. 1500), a word of unknown origin, perhaps imitative. Related: Jabbed; jabbing.
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jabber (v.)
"talk rapidly and indistinctly," 1650s, spelling variant of Middle English jablen (c. 1400), also javeren, jaberen, chaveren, jawin; probably ultimately echoic. Related: Jabbered; jabbering. The noun, "rapid, unintelligible talk" is 1727, from the verb. Related: Jabberment (Milton).
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Jabberwocky 

1871, nonsense word (perhaps based on jabber) coined by Lewis Carroll, for the poem of the same name, which he published in "Through the Looking-Glass." The poem is about a fabulous beast called the Jabberwock.

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jabot (n.)
1823, "frill of a men's shirt," from French jabot "gizzard (of a bird), frill on a shirt front" (16c.), a word of unknown origin. Klein suggests a connection with gaver "to cram, gorge," and thus ultimately with English jaw (n.). Of women's clothing from 1869.
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jabroni (n.)

c. 2000, professional wrestling slang for one whose main purpose is to make the better-known wrestlers of the organization look good; he or she does this by losing to them. More commonly known as a jobber, in a specialized sense of that word (though some enthusiasts claim there is a difference), and perhaps a mock-Italianized form of that word (but compare jaboney "naive person; immigrant; hoodlum," a word of unknown origin, in American English use c. 1990).

Jobber — A performer who regularly loses on television and doesn't receive much if any push. A comparable term for such a performer is jabroni, which is a favorite catch-phrase of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. To soften the blow of such labels, some wrestling promotions refer to jobbers as enhancement talent. Carpenter was the phrase used by earlier generations. ["The Professional Wrestlers' Instructional and Workout Guide," 2005]
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jacaranda (n.)
tropical American tree, 1753, from Portuguese jacarandá, from Tupi yacaranda.
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j'accuse 
French, literally "I accuse," a phrase made famous by Emile Zola in a public letter (published Jan. 13, 1898) attacking the irregularities of the Dreyfus trial.
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jacinth (n.)
c. 1200, a blue gem (occasionally a red one), from Old French jacinte, iacinte "hyacinth; jacinth," or directly from Late Latin iacintus (see hyacinth). In modern use, a reddish-orange gem. The word is hyacinth with the h- lost and the initial -i- made consonantal.
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