green·​back | \ ˈgrēn-ˌbak How to pronounce greenback (audio) \

Definition of greenback

: a legal-tender note issued by the U.S. government

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Synonyms for greenback


banknote, bill, note

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Examples of greenback in a Sentence

she threw a few greenbacks on the counter to pay for the drinks

Recent Examples on the Web

With no debit card machines working, and few people carrying the vast quantities of bolivars needed to buy goods, the greenback became the primary means of... Santiago Pérez, WSJ, "Venezuela’s ‘Two Realities’: People With Dollars and Those Without," 25 Mar. 2019 Almost every currency in the index has weakened relative to the greenback since January. The Economist, "Investors are gorging on American assets," 12 July 2018 That should be negative for the greenback, but it is being overwhelmed by concerns over the growth outlook in markets outside the U.S. Aaron Back, WSJ, "Multinationals’ Currency Woes: A Harbinger on Global Growth?," 26 Jan. 2019 Oil prices often move in the opposite direction of the dollar as barrels of oil are negotiated in greenbacks. Christopher Alessi, WSJ, "U.S. Oil Prices Little Changed Near $69 a Barrel," 22 Oct. 2018 The global cashless movement has reached Washington, where a growing number of fast-casual and other establishments are saying no to greenbacks in favor of plastic and mobile payments. Fenit Nirappil, Washington Post, "As restaurants go cashless, a backlash is building. Will D.C. intervene?," 9 July 2018 Harder hit were the company’s U.S. shareholders: When translated to American greenbacks, GSK stock didn’t fare nearly as well, returning just over 50%, or less than half of the S&P’s showing during the period. Clifton Leaf, Fortune, "GSK’s New CEO Emma Walmsley Has a Strong Start Out of the Gate," 8 June 2018 Meanwhile, gold for December delivery rose 1.1% to settle at $1267.50 a troy ounce on a weaker greenback. Jessica Menton, WSJ, "Dollar Falls to Start the Week," 24 Dec. 2018 The yuan’s descent has slammed those with sizable debt and costs denominated in the greenback, such as airlines and developers. Fortune, "China's Sliding Yuan Is Bad News for These Companies," 28 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'greenback.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of greenback

1862, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for greenback

Last Updated

26 Apr 2019

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The first known use of greenback was in 1862

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Financial Definition of greenback

What It Is

Greenback is a slang term for the U.S. dollar. This name is derived from the green color of U.S. paper currency.

How It Works

Since U.S. currency notes were first introduced in the early 1800s, their color has customarily been green. For several decades until the end of the American Civil War, the U.S. federal government was unable to fully back currency notes, and most banking authorities were unwilling to fully honor their face value. As a result, the term "greenback" began as a derogatory term that over time, evolved into common slang.  Once dollar bill denominations were centrally issued and universally acceptable as a form of payment, other vernacular terms including "buck" were introduced into common language.

Why It Matters

The term greenback is not used as frequently as it once was – particularly where the color of American currency has changed in recent years.  Although the connotation of the term is no longer derogatory as it once was, it is important to recognize the historical origins for the term "greenback."

Source: Investing Answers



English Language Learners Definition of greenback

informal : a piece of U.S. paper money

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More from Merriam-Webster on greenback

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with greenback

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for greenback

Spanish Central: Translation of greenback

Comments on greenback

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