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[goh-fer] /ˈgoʊ fər/
any of several ground squirrels of the genus Citellus, of the prairie regions of North America.
(initial capital letter) a native or inhabitant of Minnesota (used as a nickname).
(initial capital letter) Computers.
  1. a protocol for a menu-based system of accessing documents on the Internet.
  2. any program that implements this protocol.
verb (used without object)
  1. to mine unsystematically.
  2. to enlarge a hole, as in loose soil, with successively larger blasts.
Origin of gopher1
1785-95; earlier megopher, magopher gopher tortoise; of obscure origin; spelling copies gopher wood


[goh-fer] /ˈgoʊ fər/
noun, Slang.
1925-30; respelling of gofer by association with gopher1


or go-fer, gopher

[goh-fer] /ˈgoʊ fər/
noun, Slang.
an employee whose chief duty is running errands.
1965-70; respelling of go for (verb phrase), with -er representing both vowel reduction in for and -er1
Can be confused
gofer, gopher. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for gopher
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He is a gopher, and different from the common kind of turtle.

  • "It's my idea that the gopher isn't in here at all," announced Curley, with emphasis.

    The Pony Rider Boys in Texas

    Frank Gee Patchin
  • Why, you could have knocked me down with the kick of a gopher I was so dumfounded!

    Warrior Gap Charles King
  • Though she was bent almost double, she was as spry as a gopher.

    O Pioneers! Willa Cather
  • gopher had dined all on board but the crew, who had turned in before I did.

    Up the River Oliver Optic
  • gopher had made provision for feeding the addition to our passengers.

    Up the River Oliver Optic
  • Smith watched the antics of a gopher for a full minute before he replied.

    Stanford Stories Charles K. Field
  • The dinner was served in the cabin, and gopher had done his best, as usual.

    Down South Oliver Optic
British Dictionary definitions for gopher


Also called pocket gopher. any burrowing rodent of the family Geomyidae, of North and Central America, having a thickset body, short legs, and cheek pouches
another name for ground squirrel
any burrowing tortoise of the genus Gopherus, of SE North America
gopher snake, another name for bull snake
Word Origin
C19: shortened from earlier megopher or magopher, of obscure origin


(slang, mainly US & Canadian) an employee or assistant whose duties include menial tasks such as running errands
Word Origin
C20: originally US: alteration of go for
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gopher

1812, American English, perhaps an Englishing of Louisiana French gaufre "honeycomb, waffle," said to have been used by French settlers in reference to small mammals on analogy of the structure of their burrows, from Old French gaufre, of Frankish origin. The rodent was the nickname of people from Arkansas (1845) and later Minnesota (1872). The gopherwood tree of the Bible (used by Noah to make the ark, Gen. vi:14) is unrelated; it is from Hebrew gofer, perhaps meaning the cypress.



"errand-runner," 1956, American English coinage from go for (coffee, spare parts, etc.), with a pun on gopher.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for gopher



An employee who is expected to serve and cater to others; a low-ranking subordinate: running the robo machine and acting as a receptionist, secretary, and general go-for/ attractive go-fers for executive editor Frank Waldrop

[1967+; gofor, an underworld term for ''dupe, sucker,'' is found by the 1920s and is probably semantically related]

gopher 1


  1. A young thief or hoodlum: tough West Side gophers who wouldn't hesitate to use a gun (1893+)
  2. A safecracker (1901+ Underworld)
  3. A safe or vault (1970s+ Underworld); (1870s+)
  4. gofer

gopher 2


To hit a GOFER BALL in baseball: only about the fifth or sixth that Orosco had gophered home the eventual gamer

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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