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Astroturf

[ as-truh-turf ]
/ ˈæs trəˌtɜrf /
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Trademark.

a brand of carpetlike covering made of vinyl and nylon to resemble turf, used for athletic fields, patios, etc.

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“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does Astroturf mean?

Astroturf is a trademarked brand name for a type of artificial surface used for sports fields that’s supposed to look and feel like grass. When used this way, it’s often capitalized. The brand itself styles it as AstroTurf.

This sense of the word has come to be frequently used as a generic term for any artificial turf (in the same way that other brand names have been genericized, such as xerox). When used this way, it’s often seen in lowercase (astroturf).

Astroturf is also a slang term meaning to fake the appearance of popular support for something, such as a cause or product. The practice of doing so is called astroturfing and a person who does this can be called an astroturfer.

Example: One clue that people are trying to astroturf support for something is that a lot of posts about the topic come from new accounts with usernames that look like they were randomly generated.

Where does Astroturf come from?

The first records of the word Astroturf come from the 1960s, in reference to the brand name for artificial turf (turf is the top layer of a field or pasture, consisting of earth, grass, and roots). Astroturf was named after the stadium in Texas where it was first used—the Astrodome. (The Astrodome got its name because it’s where the Houston Astros baseball team played, and the team was named in honor of Houston being the location of the headquarters of NASA’s space program.) The first records of the slang sense of astroturf come from around 2000.

After AstroTurf made its debut in the Astrodome, it and other forms of artificial turf became popular as playing surfaces in stadiums all over the world. Some people even installed it in their yard as an alternative to a grass lawn.

Some time around 2000, the word took on a new meaning involving fake support for a cause. The link between fake grass and fake support is in the word grassroots. Grassroots refers to the common people. A grassroots movement is one that arises from the common people, as opposed to the elite and the powerful, such as the leadership of a political party. So the slang sense of astroturf is kind of a play on words. To astroturf is to fake grassroots support, hence the use of a word that refers to fake grass. Usually, the goal of astroturfing is making it look like a lot of ordinary people support a cause or like a product when, in reality, that’s not the case.

How do you fake grassroots support? One popular method is to create fake social media accounts run by bots or people paid to post in a particular way. Sometimes, real bloggers or other media personalities are paid to promote a product or political position without telling their audience they’re being paid. In other cases, companies create and fund groups intended to look like public advocacy organizations. Then there’s the perhaps more old-fashioned method of paying or otherwise arranging for people to show up in person at rallies or protests that they don’t actually care about. Hint: none of this is ethical, and in some cases and in some places it’s even illegal.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to Astroturf?

  • astroturfing (continuous tense verb, noun)
  • astroturfer (noun)

What are some words that share a root or word element with Astroturf

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing Astroturf?

How is Astroturf used in real life?

Astroturf is still often used to refer to artificial turf, whether it’s AstroTurf brand or not. When used as a slang term, it’s always used negatively in criticism of such actions, especially in relation to politics and unethical marketing.

 

 

Try using Astroturf!

Is Astroturf used correctly in the following sentence? 

The candidate’s campaign team was caught in an attempt to astroturf support for him by using Twitter bots.

Example sentences from the Web for Astroturf

British Dictionary definitions for Astroturf

Astroturf
/ (ˈæstrəʊˌtɜːf) /

noun trademark

a type of grasslike artificial surface used for playing fields and lawns

Word Origin for Astroturf

C20: from Astro(dome), the baseball stadium in Texas where it was first used + turf
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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