[ sok-dol-uh-jer ]
/ sɒkˈdɒl ə dʒər /

noun Older Slang.

something unusually large, heavy, etc.
a decisive reply, argument, etc.
a heavy, finishing blow: His right jab is a real sockdolager.



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Origin of sockdolager

1820–30, Americanism;sock2 + -dolager, of uncertain origin Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020


Where does sockdolager come from?

Sockdolager, meaning a “decisive blow or remark,” is a 19th-century American original. The origin of such silly-sounding words like sockdolager are, often, sometimes just that—a fanciful act of silliness.

However, it’s sometimes claimed (though etymologists aren’t convinced of this theory) that the word combines sock (“to strike or hit”) with doxology, “a hymn or phrase praising God.”

A form of the word sockdolager in the play Our American Cousin may have been one of the last words President Abraham Lincoln heard right before he was assassinated in 1865.

Many more amusing Americanisms await in our slideshow “These Wacky Words Originated In The USA.”

Did you know … ?

Well, it turns out Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, specifically chose the saying of the word sockdolager as his cue to shoot the president. Booth, who was an actor, knew that the biggest audience laughter always followed the word and believed the laughter would muffle his gunshot.

As slang, sockdolager has largely fallen by the wayside, so using it today generally has a folksy, old-fashioned effect. Looking for something more current instead? Consider knockout punch or finisher.

Example sentences from the Web for sockdolager

  • And then the big news broke–the Sockdolager had been found–and there was a stampede that went clear to the peaks.

    Wunpost|Dane Coolidge
  • The fight for the Sockdolager Mine was on and Wunpost led off up the canyon with a swagger.

    Wunpost|Dane Coolidge
  • She followed along behind him, and already in her thoughts she was the owner of the Sockdolager Mine.

    Wunpost|Dane Coolidge