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Mason-Dixon line

[mey-suh n-dik-suh n]
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noun
  1. the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland, partly surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon between 1763 and 1767, popularly considered before the end of slavery as a line of demarcation between free and slave states.
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Also Mason and Dixon line.

Origin of Mason-Dixon line

An Americanism dating back to 1770–80
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for mason-dixon line

Mason-Dixon Line

Mason and Dixon Line

noun
  1. the state boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania: surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon; popularly regarded as the dividing line between North and South, esp between the free and the slave states before the American Civil War
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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 mason-dixon line

Mason-Dixon Line

1779, named for Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, English astronomers who surveyed (1763-7) the disputed boundary between the colonial holdings of the Penns (Pennsylvania) and the Calverts (Maryland). It became the technical boundary between "free" and "slave" states after 1804, when the last slaveholding state above it (New Jersey) passed its abolition act. As the line between "the North" and "the South" in U.S. culture, it is attested by 1834.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

mason-dixon line in Culture

Mason-Dixon line

Part of the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland established by the English surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the 1760s. The line resolved disputes caused by unclear description of the boundaries in the Maryland and Pennsylvania charters.

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Note

Though the line did not actually divide North and South, it became the symbolic division between free states and slave states. Today, it still stands for the boundary between northern and southern states.

Mason-Dixon line

A boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland, laid out by two English surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, in the 1760s. Before and during the Civil War, the line was symbolic of the division between slaveholding and free states. After the war, it remained symbolic of the division between states that required racial segregation and those that did not.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.