bulldozer

[ bool-doh-zer ]
/ ˈbʊlˌdoʊ zər /

noun

a large, powerful tractor having a vertical blade at the front end for moving earth, tree stumps, rocks, etc.
a person who intimidates or coerces.

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Origin of bulldozer

1875–80, Americanism;1925–30 in the sense “tractor”; origin uncertain. See bulldoze
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does bulldozer mean?

A bulldozer is a large tractor that has a big, blade-like shovel at the front and moves around using metal tracks over wheels.

A bulldozer is a kind of earthmover—they are typically used to move earth and clear debris from an area. They are sometimes called dozers for short.

Less commonly, bulldozer can also mean a person who intentionally tries to intimidate others. In fact, this was its original use, first recorded in the 1870s.

The verb bulldoze comes from around the same time. Today, bulldoze typically means to use a bulldozer, such as to move dirt or clear an area, or, more figuratively, to move forward or advance in an aggressive or forceful way.

However, 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.

Where does bulldozer 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.

Due to an explanation in a U.S. newspaper from that time, the verb 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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Example sentences from the Web for bulldozer

British Dictionary definitions for bulldozer

bulldozer
/ (ˈbʊlˌdəʊzə) /

noun

a powerful tractor fitted with caterpillar tracks and a blade at the front, used for moving earth, rocks, etc
informal a person who bulldozes
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