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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. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mossback
Historical Examples
  • There is the "old" farmer, there is the "new" farmer, and there is the "mossback."

    Chapters in Rural Progress Kenyon L. Butterfield
  • The mossback cannot win, because he prefers a flintlock to a Mauser.

    Chapters in Rural Progress Kenyon L. Butterfield
  • You cannot have the new farmer unless you also have the mossback.

    Chapters in Rural Progress Kenyon L. Butterfield
  • Every "new" farmer when full grown competes with every mossback.

    Chapters in Rural Progress Kenyon L. Butterfield
  • Fig. 239 shows a mossback's house or cabin in the lake lands of Canada.

  • Especially was this true in dealing with the riverman's arch-enemy, the mossback.

    The Rules of the Game Stewart Edward White
  • Bennington gave the details in less than a minute, then added, "Thanks, mossback."

    Take the Reason Prisoner John Joseph McGuire
  • They kept the staid, mossback citizen awake in the afternoons and he did not like it.

  • The mossback was wide awake now, and he muttered something about "another of those pesky porkies."

    Forest Neighbors

    William Davenport Hulbert
  • The mossback threw a stick of stove-wood at him, and he lumbered clumsily away across the snow.

    Forest Neighbors

    William Davenport Hulbert
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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