“It was I who coined the term ‘discotheque.'”
So says Roger Vadim in his 1986 memoir Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda.
The year was 1949 or so, and Vadim was living in post-war Paris. (He leads in by saying, “It was people like me and Christian Marquand, the avante-garde director Michel de Ré, Juliette Greco and the singer Annabel… who created a new style and launched the idea of basement clubs.”)
Should we take Vadim at his word? We have no reason to doubt him… but on the other hand, we can’t find anyone who confirms that he did coin the term, either.
Most sources note that Vadim claimed authorship and leave it at that. For instance, here’s Anthony Haden-Guest in The Last Party, his 1997 book about Studio 54:
The first discos were in France, and credit for coining the word “discothèque” — a play on cinémathèque — has been claimed by Brigitte Bardot’s director husband, Roger Vadim.
The online magazine Slate tackled the subject in passing in 1997, saying:
The great early discothèques were in Paris and Rome; Roger Vadim — the director husband of Brigitte Bardot — coined the word by analogy with cinémathèque.
A cinémathèque is “A small movie theater showing classic or avant-garde films.” (A normal movie theater is simply a cinema.) Cinémathèque, in turn, is a play on bibliotheca, the Latin word for library.
Which leaves us with Vadim’s original claim. Which we are, officially, buying. In the absence of other claimants to the title, we’ll take his word for it.