The story goes that a Dublin theatre proprietor by the name of Richard Daly made a bet that he could, within forty-eight hours, make a nonsense word known throughout the city and that the public would give a meaning to it. After the performance one evening, he gave his staff cards with the word quiz written on them and told them to write the word on walls around the city. The next day the strange word was the talk of the town and within a short time it had become part of the language.
This picturesque tale appeared as an anecdote in 1836, but the most detailed account (in F. T. Porter's Gleanings and Reminiscences, 1875) gives the date of the exploit as 1791. The word, however, was already in use by then meaning an odd or eccentric person and had been used in this sense by Fanny Burney in her diary on 24 June 1782. Quiz was also used as a name for a curious toy, something like a yo-yo and also called a bandalore which was popular around 1790. The word is nevertheless hard to account for and so is its later meaning of to question or to interrogate which emerged in the mid-19th century and gave rise to the most common use of the term today, for an entertainment based on questions and answers.