[ten-der-foo t]

noun, plural ten·der·foots, ten·der·feet [ten-der-feet] /ˈtɛn dərˌfit/.

a raw, inexperienced person; novice.
a newcomer to the ranching and mining regions of the western U.S., unused to hardships.
one in the lowest rank of the Boy Scouts of America or Girl Scouts of America.

Origin of tenderfoot

An Americanism dating back to 1840–50; tender1 + foot
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tenderfoot

Historical Examples of tenderfoot

  • Well,” he said at last, “I might as well say it––I took you for a tenderfoot.

    Hidden Water

    Dane Coolidge

  • “Oh, well, allowances should be made for a tenderfoot,” she bantered.

    Out of the Depths

    Robert Ames Bennet

  • “You need not worry, Mr. Tenderfoot,” the girl flashed back at him.

    Out of the Depths

    Robert Ames Bennet

  • The tenderfoot staked his claim on the chance of selling it again.

  • To be a tenderfoot means to occupy the lowest grade in scouting.

    Boy Scouts Handbook

    Boy Scouts of America

British Dictionary definitions for tenderfoot


noun plural -foots or -feet

a newcomer, esp to the mines or ranches of the southwestern US
(formerly) a beginner in the Scouts or Guides
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 tenderfoot

1866, American English, originally of newcomers to ranching or mining districts, from tender (adj.) + foot (n.). The U.S. equivalent of what in Great Britain was generally called a greenhand. As a level in Boy Scouting, it is recorded from 1908.

Among the Indians, more than half of every sentence is expressed by signs. And miners illustrate their conversation by the various terms used in mining. I have always noticed how clearly these terms conveyed the idea sought. Awkwardness in comprehending this dialect easily reveals that the hearer bears the disgrace of being a "pilgrim," or a "tender-foot," as they style the new emigrant. ["A Year in Montana," "Atlantic Monthly," August 1866]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper