Etymology of Lobbying

In a report carried by the BBC, an OED lexicographer has shown that “lobbying” finds its roots in the gathering of Members of Parliament and peers in the hallways (“lobbies”) of the UK Houses of Parliament before and after parliamentary debates.

One now-debunked story held that the term originated at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, where it was supposedly used by Ulysses S. Grant to describe the political wheelers and dealers who frequented the hotel’s lobby to access Grant—who was often there to enjoy a cigar and brandy—and then try to buy the president drinks in an attempt to influence his political decisions. However, the OED cites numerous documented uses of the word well before Grant’s administration, including in Pennsylvania (1808).

The term “lobbying” also appeared in print as early as 1820:

Other letters from Washington affirm, that members of the Senate, when the compromise question was to be taken in the House, were not only “lobbying about the Representatives’ Chamber” but also active in endeavoring to intimidate certain weak representatives by insulting threats to dissolve the Union.

—April 1, 1820

Dictionary definitions:

  • ‘Lobbying’ (also ‘lobby’) is a form of advocacy with the intention of influencing decisions made by the government by individuals or more usually by lobby groups; it includes all attempts to influence legislators and officials, whether by other legislators, constituents, or organized groups.
  • A ‘lobbyist’ is a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest or a member of a lobby.

Source: Wikipedia