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[maws-bak, mos-] /ˈmɔsˌbæk, ˈmɒs-/
  1. a person holding very antiquated notions; reactionary.
  2. a person living in the backwoods; rustic.
an old turtle.
Angling. a large and old fish, as a bass.
a wild bull or cow.
Origin of mossback
An Americanism dating back to 1870-75; moss + back1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for mossback
Historical Examples
  • But the asset side of our "mossback's" yearly balance sheet always made the liability side ashamed of itself.

    Skookum Chuck Fables Skookum Chuck (pseud for R.D. Cumming)
  • The mossback cannot win, because he prefers a flintlock to a Mauser.

    Chapters in Rural Progress Kenyon L. Butterfield
  • The mossback, who according to popular belief hid himself in the woods until moss grew on his back, might or might not be a tory.

  • Every "new" farmer when full grown competes with every mossback.

    Chapters in Rural Progress Kenyon L. Butterfield
  • Especially was this true in dealing with the riverman's arch-enemy, the mossback.

    The Rules of the Game Stewart Edward White
  • Fig. 239 shows a mossback's house or cabin in the lake lands of Canada.

  • He was followed to the very verge of the wood, and then the exhausted "mossback" left him to return to the house.

    A Tramp's Notebook Morley Roberts
  • Bennington gave the details in less than a minute, then added, "Thanks, mossback."

    Take the Reason Prisoner John Joseph McGuire
  • You cannot have the new farmer unless you also have the mossback.

    Chapters in Rural Progress Kenyon L. Butterfield
  • They kept the staid, mossback citizen awake in the afternoons and he did not like it.

British Dictionary definitions for mossback


noun (US & Canadian)
an old turtle, shellfish, etc, that has a growth of algae on its back
(informal) a provincial or conservative person
Derived Forms
mossbacked, adjective
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 mossback

"conservative," 1874, especially of poor whites from Carolina, originally (1872) in reference to those who hid out to avoid service in the Confederate army (and would have stayed out till the moss grew on their backs); from moss + back (n.).

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



A very conservative person; fogy: The real mossbacks will vote for the governor

[1878+; said to have been a description of a group of poor white Carolina swamp dwellers who had lived among the cypresses until the moss grew on their backs]

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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