Unknown. Various unlikely theories derive it from:
- "fucked up, got ambushed, zipped in [a body bag]" (if this is not simply a backronym)
- French fougasse (“land mine”); flame fougasses were used extensively in the Korean and Vietnam wars
- English fugacious
Derivation from an Italian word *fugazi (“fake”) is sometimes suggested, but no such word exists in Italian.
- (slang, chiefly military, especially during the Vietnam era) Fucked up; broken, damaged beyond repair.
1984, Marc Olden, Giri, page 74:
- The two of them were getting bombed on bami-bam, beer, and joints laced with opium. That made answers to questions a long time in coming. "Hey, man, what the fuck can I tell you," said Robbie finally. "All fugazi over here. All fucked up. Number ten. The worst. Don't matter what goes down in this asshole country, know what I mean? Hey, papa-san, don't believe everything you hear, okay?"
1986, Mark Baker, Nam: The Vietnam War in the Words of the Men and Women Who Fought, page 32:
- We didn't know anything was fugazi* until we got to a certain place in the South China Sea. A loudspeaker came over the air, "This is your captain speaking. Be advised that your destination is Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam."
2008, Audrey Shafer, The Mailbox, page 67:
- First time I met her. we were stuck on recon. far from the AO. deep in Indian country. the ops completely fugazi. the horn dead. and my BTO sick as skunkrot. She comes creeping by our ditch.
- (slang) Fake.
1997, Paul Attanasio (scriptwriter), Donnie Brasco:
- DONNIE (talking about a diamond): Well, you should give it to someone who don't know any better, because that's a fugazi.
- LEFTY: That's a fugazi? How do you know it's a fugazi? You haven't looked at it for two seconds.
2010, Will Friedwald, A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers, page 306:
- Some of Dean Martin's Italian songs are the real thing, others are fugazi. Even so, when he sings a genuine Italian song, he often Americanizes it: […]
- 2013, The Wolf of Wall Street:
- MARK HANNAH: No. Number one rule of Wall Street. Nobody — I don't care if you're Warren Buffet or if you're Jimmy Buffet — nobody knows if a stock is gonna go up, down, sideways or in fucking circles, least of all stock brokers, right?
- JORDAN BELFORT: Mm-hmm.
- MARK HANNAH: It's all a fugazi /fuɡɑzi/. Do you know what fugazi /fuɡɑzi/ is?
- JORDAN BELFORT: Fugazi /fuɡeɪzi/, it's a fake ...
- MARK HANNAH: Yeah, fugazi /fuɡeɪzi/, fugazi /fuɡɑzi/. It's a wahzi, it's a woozy. It's ... fairy dust. It doesn't exist, it's never landed, it is no matter, it's not on the elemental chart. It's not fucking real.