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bulldoze

[ bool-dohz ]
/ ˈbʊlˌdoʊz /
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verb (used with object), bull·dozed, bull·doz·ing.
to clear, level, or reshape the contours of (land) by or as if by using a bulldozer: to bulldoze a building site.
to clear away by or as if by using a bulldozer: to bulldoze trees from a site.
to coerce or intimidate, as with threats.
verb (used without object), bull·dozed, bull·doz·ing.
to use a bulldozer:to clear this rubble away we may have to bulldoze.
to advance or force one's way in the manner of a bulldozer.
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Origin of bulldoze

1875–80, Americanism; origin uncertain; the notion that it represents a verb use of bull dose, i.e., a dose fit for a bull, is probably without merit; defs. 1, 2, 4, 5 are back formations from bulldozer in the sense “tractor”
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does bulldoze mean?

To bulldoze is to clear, level, or push debris away from an area using a bulldozer—a large tractor that has a big, blade-like shovel at the front and moves around using metal tracks over wheels.

Sometimes, bulldoze can mean to clear an area in this way even if a bulldozer isn’t used.

Bulldoze can also be used figuratively, meaning to move forward or advance in an aggressive or forceful way. This can be physical, as in He just bulldozed his way to the goal by pushing through three defenders, or through an aggressive attitude, as in Instead of cooperating with his colleagues, he just bulldozes his way through tasks until he gets what he wants. This sense of the word likens such behavior to the way that a bulldozer powerfully clears everything in its path.

However, before its association with the construction vehicle, bulldoze originally meant to intimidate, such as with threats of violence. Early records of this use refer to violent attacks, especially whipping, against African Americans by white people in the Southern United States. However, the origin of these words, and how bulldozer came to be a name for a type of tractor, is ultimately unclear.

The verb doze can be used as a short way of saying bulldoze, as in We need to doze this whole area or She dozes through every obstacle that’s put in her way.

Where does bulldoze come from?

The first records of bulldozer in reference to the construction vehicle come from around 1930. But the term bulldozer has been used to refer to a person who engages in intimidation since at least the 1870s, and the verb bulldoze has also been used since around that time.

Due to an explanation in a U.S. newspaper from that time, bulldoze is often thought to come from the phrase bull-dose, as in a “dose fit for a bull,” a reference to cases in which African Americans were severely whipped by white people, especially in the Southern U.S., particularly to prevent them from voting or to coerce them to vote for a certain party or person. Another theory suggests a connection with the word bullwhip. Such people were sometimes called bulldozers. However, it’s uncertain exactly how these terms originated.

Still, the term bulldozer became a general term for a person whose intention is intimidation, and that sense of the word may have contributed to the name of the construction vehicle that’s known for clearing an area by powerfully moving everything in its path. Today, most uses of bulldozer and bulldoze, even figurative ones, are in reference to this vehicle, which can also be called an earthmover.

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British Dictionary definitions for bulldoze

bulldoze
/ (ˈbʊlˌdəʊz) /

verb (tr)
to move, demolish, flatten, etc, with a bulldozer
informal to force; pushhe bulldozed his way through the crowd
informal to intimidate or coerce

Word Origin for bulldoze

C19: probably from bull 1 + dose
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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