• synonyms


[boo sh-hwak, -wak]
verb (used without object)
  1. to make one's way through woods by cutting at undergrowth, branches, etc.
  2. to travel through woods.
  3. to pull a boat upstream from on board by grasping bushes, rocks, etc., on the shore.
  4. to fight as a bushwhacker or guerrilla in the bush.
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verb (used with object)
  1. to fight as a bushwhacker; ambush.
  2. to defeat, especially by surprise or in an underhanded way: They bushwhacked our high school team when they used college players.
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Origin of bushwhack

1830–40, Americanism; back formation from bushwhacker


[boo sh-hwak-er, -wak-er]
  1. a person or thing that bushwhacks.
  2. (in the American Civil War) a guerrilla, especially a Confederate.
  3. any guerrilla or outlaw.
  4. Australian Slang. an unsophisticated person; hick.
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Origin of bushwhacker

An Americanism dating back to 1800–10; bush1 + whacker
Related formsbush·whack·ing, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for bushwhacking

surprise, assault, attack, waylay

Examples from the Web for bushwhacking

Historical Examples of bushwhacking

  • Calling the citizens together, I said to them that this bushwhacking must cease.

    The Citizen-Soldier

    John Beatty

  • A bushwhacking war was waged by the outlaws for more than three years.

  • Momentarily, he slowed his pace, thinking he was ripe for a bushwhacking job.

  • He asked Lou and Becky and all the servants if he hadn't been bushwhacking.

  • But here I was disarmed, and after an hour's march seated among them bushwhacking in an old cabin on a hillside.


    Edward Eggleston

British Dictionary definitions for bushwhacking


  1. (tr) US, Canadian and Australian to ambush
  2. (intr) US, Canadian and Australian to cut or beat one's way through thick woods
  3. (intr) US, Canadian and Australian to range or move around in woods or the bush
  4. (intr) US and Canadian to fight as a guerrilla in wild or uncivilized regions
  5. (intr) NZ to work in the bush, esp at timber felling
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  1. US, Canadian and Australian a person who travels around or lives in thinly populated woodlands
  2. Australian informal an unsophisticated person; boor
  3. a Confederate guerrilla during the American Civil War
  4. US any guerrilla
  5. NZ a person who works in the bush, esp at timber felling
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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

Word Origin and History for bushwhacking



also bush-whacker, 1809, American English, literally "one who beats the bushes" (to make his way through), perhaps modeled on Dutch bosch-wachter "forest keeper;" see bush (n.) + whack (v.). In American Civil War, "irregular who took to the woods" (1862), variously regarded as patriot guerillas or as freebooters. Hence bushwhack (v.), 1837; bushwhacking (1826).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper