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See more synonyms for scalawag on Thesaurus.com
  1. a scamp; rascal.
  2. U.S. History. a native white Southerner who collaborated with the occupying forces during Reconstruction, often for personal gain.
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Also scallywag; especially British, scallawag.

Origin of scalawag

An Americanism dating back to 1840–50; origin uncertain
Related formsscal·a·wag·ger·y, nounscal·a·wag·gy, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for scalawag

reprobate, varlet, miscreant, villain, rogue, scamp, caitiff, trickster, scoundrel, scapegrace, rapscallion

Examples from the Web for scalawag

Contemporary Examples of scalawag

Historical Examples of scalawag

British Dictionary definitions for scalawag


  1. a variant of scallywag
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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 scalawag


also scallawag, "disreputable fellow," 1848, American English, originally in trade union jargon, of uncertain origin; perhaps an alteration (by influence of wag "habitual joker") of Scottish scallag "farm servant, rustic," itself an alteration of Scalloway, one of the Shetland Islands, wit the reference being to little Shetland ponies (An early recorded sense of scalawag was "undersized or worthless animal," 1854). In U.S. history, used from 1862 as a derogatory term for anti-Confederate native white Southerners.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper