roor·​back | \ ˈru̇r-ˌbak How to pronounce roorback (audio) \

Definition of roorback

: a defamatory falsehood published for political effect

Did You Know?

If you think dirty politics are new, think again. In the midst of the 1844 presidential campaign between James K. Polk and Henry Clay, a letter was published in a newspaper in Ithaca, New York, claiming that a reputable witness (one Baron von Roorback) had, while traveling in Tennessee, come across 43 slaves owned by Polk and branded with his initials. The letter caused an uproar that threatened to derail Polk's campaign until it was discovered that the whole thing was a hoax supposedly perpetrated by the opposing party. Baron von Roorback didn't even exist. The incident proved a political boomerang; Polk won the election and the name "roorback" became a byword for political dirty tricks.

First Known Use of roorback

1855, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for roorback

from an attack on James K. Polk in 1844 purporting to quote from an invented book by a Baron von Roorback

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The first known use of roorback was in 1855

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Cite this Entry

“Roorback.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Nov. 2020.

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