- "The term Thoroughbred was first used in the United States in an advertisement in a Kentucky gazette to describe a New Jersey stallion called Pilgarlick .
- January 18 - Third Pacific expedition of Capt. James Cook, with ships HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery, first view O'ahu then Kaua'i in the Hawaiian Islands, which he names the "Sandwich Islands."
- February 5 - South Carolina becomes the first state to ratify the Articles of Confederation
- February 6 - American Revolutionary War: In Paris the Treaty of Alliance and the Treaty of Amity and Commerce are signed by the United States and France signaling official recognition of the new republic.
- February 23 - American Revolutionary War: Baron von Steuben arrives at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to help to train the Continental Army
- July 10 - American Revolutionary War: Louis XVI of France declares war on the Kingdom of Great Britain.
- July 27 - American Revolution: First Battle of Ushant - British and French fleets fight to a standoff.
- France Introduced the first state-controlled brothel
- February 22 - Rembrandt Peale, artist
- April 10 - William Hazlitt - English essayist
- November 1 - Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden
- December 17 - Sir Humphry Davy - English chemist
- January 10 - Carolus Linnaeus
- May 30 - François-Marie Arouet dit Voltaire, french philosopher
- June 28 - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, philosopher