The 1st World Scout Jamboree was held in 1920, and was hosted by the United Kingdom. Since then, there have been twenty three other World Scout Jamborees, hosted in various countries, generally every four years. The 25th World Jamboree is to be held in Korea in 2023.
The average Scout Life of a boy is a comparatively short one, and it is good for each generation of Scouts to see at least one big rally, since it enables the boy to realize his membership of a really great brotherhood, and at the same time brings him into personal acquaintance with brother Scouts of other districts and other countries.— Baden-Powell, (September 1932)
There are also national and continental jamborees held around the world with varying frequency. Many of these events will invite and attract Scouts from overseas.
With the birth of the Jamboree concept, other large gatherings are also organized by national Scout organizations, geared towards a particular group of Scouts. Examples of these large gatherings include:
The origin of the word jamboree is not well understood. It is popularly believed within the Scout Movement that the word was coined by Baden-Powell, but there is no written documentation by either Powell or Scouting publications.
This is reflected in many dictionary entries. For example, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, the etymology is "19th century, origin unknown". The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) identifies it as coming from American slang, identifying a use in the New York Herald in 1868 and in Irish writing later in the 19th century.
Baden-Powell was once asked why he chose "jamboree". He replied, "What else would you call it?" Other than a light-hearted retort, one way his response could have made sense is if the word had already had a specific meaning. However, within a half century its use outside the Scouting program was lost.
Other writers used "jamboree" in the early 20th century, prior to its use in Scouting, to refer to "a lavish or boisterous celebration or party". Poet Robert W. Service used the term in a poem published in 1912. Lucy Maud Montgomery used the term three times in 1915 in Anne of the Island, a book set in the 1880s. For example:
There was quite a bewildering succession of drives, dances, picnics and boating parties, all expressively lumped together by Phil under the head of “jamborees”.
A guess is that the word "jamboree" is derived from the Swahili for hello, Jambo!. Baden-Powell spent a considerable amount of time in the South African region in the 1880s then again in the late 1890s.
The word "jamboree" is used primarily by the Scouting program following the first Boy Scout Jamboree in 1920. Baden-Powell deliberately chose the name "jamboree" where attendees were warmly welcomed attending this first Boy Scout rally or meeting with the word "Jambo!"
The word jamboree in current English is used as a borrowed foreign word, with the ending -ree. The word jamboree is both a noun and a transitive verb, with a direct action of the root word jambo. For example, an attendee of a jambo is a jamboree.
Many, at this first "Jamboree" or "Scout gathering" did not fully capture the spirit of this then-new concept or greeting. At the first "World Jamboree" at Olympia, London, in 1920, Baden-Powell said:
"People give different meanings for this word, but from this year on, jamboree will take a specific meaning. It will be associated to the largest gathering of youth that ever took place."
Olave Baden-Powell coined the term jamborese to refer to the lingua franca used between Scouts of different languages and cultural habits, that develops when diverse Scouts meet, that fosters friendship and understanding between Scouts of the world. Sometimes the word jamborette is used to denote smaller, either local or international, gatherings.
A similarly-used word "camporee" in the Scouting program is also reflective of the older British use. "Camporee" today reflects a local or regional gathering of Scouting units for a period of camping and common activities. Similar to a camporee, a jamboree occurs less often and draws units from the entire nation or world.
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