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which have so taken root that they are heard in the colloquial language of the towns and cities, and have even crept into the ephemeral literature of the Pacific States. By no writers has this peculiar idiom been so much employed as by Bret Harte and Mark Twain. In speaking of the language of the mining regions, the latter says: “The slang of Nevada is the richest and most infinitely varied and copious that ever existed anywhere in the world, perhaps, except in the mines of California in the early days. It was hard to preach a sermon without it, and be understood.” 1

The term “ Americanisms," as used in this Dictionary, will be found to include the following classes of words :

1. Archaisms, i. e. old English words, obsolete, or nearly so, in England, but retained in use in this country.

2. English words used in a different sense from what they are in England. These include many names of natural objects differently applied.

3. Words which have retained their original meaning in the United States, although not in England.

4. English provincialisms adopted into general use in America.

5. Newly coined words, which owe their origin to the productions or to the circumstances of the country.

6. Words borrowed from European languages, especially the French, Spanish, Dutch, and German.

7. Indian words.
8. Negroisms.
9. Peculiarities of pronunciation.

This fourth edition contains about one-third more matter than the preceding. In preparing it, I have to acknowledge my indebtedness to the following gentlemen, who have rendered me

1 To any one desirous to become familiar with the slang of the mining regions of Nevada and California, we would recommend a perusal of chap. 47 of Mark Twain's “Roughing It,” in which he relates the interview between Scotty Briggs and the clergyman. A notorious character named Buck Fanshaw having "passed in his checks," Scotty desired for him a funeral which "should be no slouch."

aid to the Hon. J. HAMMOND TRUMBULL, of Hartford, for lists of words, together with examples of their use, and particularly for his etymologies of Indian words; to the Hon. JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL, Professor WILLIAM EVERETT, and Mr. WILLIAM BOYD of Cambridge, for copious lists of words; to the Rev. R. MANNING CHIPMAN, of New Lisbon, Conn., for annotations on the previous edition of this work and very copious lists of words; to Messrs. CHARLES E. STRATTON of Boston, EDWARD SPENCER of Randallstown, Maryland, JOHN D. SEARS of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, G. H. CURTIS of New Orleans, Dr. F. C. CLARKE of Providence, Professor WILLIAM F. ALLEN of the University of Wisconsin, Mr. ALBERT R. COOKE of Chicago, and to Miss CHRISTINE LADD of Union Springs, New York, for lists of words and phrases.

At the end of the volume will be found an Addenda, containing words and phrases which were prepared too late for insertion in their proper places. Also a collection of Proverbs and of Similes; and the names of the States and principal cities, accompanied by their vulgar or nicknames.


November, 1877.

J. R. B.


The first edition of this Dictionary was published in New York in 1848. It met with a quick sale, and soon passed out of print. Aware of its many imperfections, I began my preparations for a new edition before it had fully left the press. From that time to the day the last sheets of this edition left my hands for the printer, now ten years, I have been more or less occupied in its preparation. Nearly three years of this period I spent in the interior of the country, in the service of the United States as Commissioner on the Mexican Boundary; but, even there, I failed not to note the peculiarities of the familiar language of the frontier, and carefully recorded the words and phrases I met with for future use. This experience enabled me to collect the singular words occurring in prairie and frontier life, as well as those common to Texas, New Mexico, and California. Most of these have come from the Spanish, and are now fairly engrafted on our language.

The other alterations and improvements made in this edition consist in the addition of a very large number of words and phrases peculiar to the United States ; so that it now contains probably twice as many as the first edition. The examples or illustrations from authors, showing the use of words, have also been greatly multiplied. This seemed desirable, as examples convey a far more correct idea of their meaning and use than a simple definition. The histories of words and their definitions have also been corrected and improved.

In the additions to this work, I have to acknowledge valuable contributions from several friends, who took an interest in the subject. To the Rev. Wm. S. MURPHY, President of the University of Missouri, I am indebted for many words and phrases peculiar to the West; to Mr. JOHN GILMARY SHEA, for New York words; to Dr. A. L. ELWIN, of Philadelphia, for the use of a manuscript vocabulary of Americanisms collected by him ; to Mr. JAMES MITCHELL, of Nantucket, for words in use in that island; to Professor Geo. C. SCHAEFFER, of Washington, for many terms of natural history, words relating to the arts, and Westernisms; and to Dr. FRANCIS LIEBER, of Columbia College, New York, for many sound remarks, of which I have availed myself in the pages of the work.

Large additions have been made to the common terms of plants, trees, and fruits of the United States, as well as of those which enter into our commerce. These, being familiar words of our language, seem as worthy of being noted and explained as others. For valuable contributions to this class of words, I am indebted to Dr. EDWARD FOREMAN, of Washington ; while Mr. Alex. J. COTHEAL, a merchant of New York, and well known in the field of Oriental literature, has kindly furnished me the common names of the trees, fruits, nuts, &c., which enter into our commerce.

In preparing the first edition of this work, I was at a loss what to include in the collection of words; and, preferring to err on the side of copiousness, admitted many words common to the colloquial language of England and this country, which have now been rejected to make way for pure Americanisms. Of the words so rejected there are nearly eight hundred. The following are examples: above-board, Adam's ale, to advocate, afeard, afore, afterclaps, bamboozle, to bark one's shins, bobtail, bogtrotter, bolt-upright, boozy, bo-peep, to bore, born days, bran new, brown study, bythe-by, to hold a candle, to catch a Tartar, caterwaul, catspaw, to chalk out, chink, chouse, chuffy, circumbendibus, clap-trap, clincher,

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clout, cool, cosey, oowlick, crambo, criss-cross, cross-grained, crotchety, crow sfeet, curmudgeon, curry favor, to cut one's acquaintance, cut and run, cut a dash, dabster, dead alive, dawdle, demi john, duds, Dick's hatband, dilly-dally, dog cheap, down in the mouth, driving at, dumpy, elbow grease, to feather one's nest, &c., &c.

A good many such words have nevertheless been retained, on the principle that a word now used only in some out-of-the-way locality in England, but quite general here, may be regarded as a peculiarity of the English language as spoken in America, i. e. an Americanism ; but, as it is often impossible to know with exactness to what extent a word is used in England, it is likely that many of these should properly have been omitted.

Many words common to the colloquial language both of England and America have been allowed to remain, because they have not yet been honored with a place in the current standard Dictionaries. Of these there are many which in the glossaries are ascribed to 6 various dialects," and which should be inserted in any general Dictionary of the English language which aims at completeness. Were such a work as the new English Dictionary projected by the Philological Society of London already in existence, the insertion of a large number of words of this class could have been dispensed with.

From what has been said, it will be seen that the present edition, while it does not wholly reject words of English origin, claims to be more strictly American than the first. At the same time, the first edition will still have a value of its own, as showing more fully how much of the colloquial language of England is retained in use in this country.

Due attention has been given to some valuable criticisms on the first edition, in a paper by the late Dr. Felix Flügel, entitled Die englische Philologie in Nordamerika," which appeared in Gersdorf's Repertorium for 1852 ; also, to criticisms which appeared in the “Western Continent” newspaper of Philadelphia,

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