[hesh-uh n]
  1. a native or inhabitant of Hesse.
  2. a Hessian mercenary used by England during the American Revolution.
  3. a hireling or ruffian.
  4. (lowercase) burlap.
  5. Also called Hessian andiron. (in the U.S.) an andiron having as an upright the figure of a Hessian soldier of the Revolutionary War.

Origin of Hessian

1670–80; Hesse, Germany + -ian
Related formshalf-Hes·sian, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for hessian


  1. a coarse jute fabric similar to sacking, used for bags, upholstery, etc

Word Origin for hessian

C18: from Hesse + -ian


  1. a native or inhabitant of Hesse
    1. a Hessian soldier in any of the mercenary units of the British Army in the War of American Independence or the Napoleonic Wars
    2. USany German mercenary in the British Army during the War of American Independence
  2. mainly US a mercenary or ruffian
  1. of or relating to Hesse or its inhabitants
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 hessian


from former Landgraviate of Hessen-Kassel, western Germany; its soldiers being hired out by the ruler to fight for other countries, especially the British during the American Revolution, the name Hessians (unjustly) became synonymous with "mercenaries." Hessian fly (Cecidomyia destructor) was a destructive parasite the ravaged U.S. crops late 18c., so named 1787 in erroneous belief that it was carried into America by the Hessians.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper