greenback

noun green·back \ ˈgrēn-ˌbak \
|Updated on: 11 Aug 2018

Definition of greenback

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

Examples of greenback in a Sentence

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

Recent Examples of greenback from the Web

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.

First Known Use of greenback

1862

in the meaning defined above

See Words from the same year
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Financial Definition of GREENBACK

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."


GREENBACK Defined for English Language Learners

greenback

Definition of greenback for English Language Learners

  • : a piece of U.S. paper money


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