saw·​bones | \ ˈsȯ-ˌbōnz How to pronounce sawbones (audio) \
plural sawbones or sawboneses

Definition of sawbones


Synonyms & Antonyms for sawbones



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Sawbones cut its first literary tooth in Charles Dickens's 1837 novel The Pickwick Papers, when Sam Weller says to Mr. Pickwick, "Don't you know what a sawbones is, sir? … I thought everybody know'd as a sawbones was a surgeon." An evocative term that calls to mind the saws that 19th-century surgeons used to perform amputations, sawbones quickly became an established member of the English language, employed by such authors as H. G. Wells, Mark Twain, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Mercifully, medical technology has improved dramatically since then (the surgical saws used in procedures today are a far cry from the primitive tools of yesteryear), but the word sawbones is still used, often in a humorous context.

Examples of sawbones in a Sentence

a real old-timer who remembers when you could expect a sawbones to make a house call
Recent Examples on the Web Under the Knife 2 continues the story of Dr. Derek Stiles, the brilliant young sawbones from the original game. Earnest Cavalli, WIRED, 1 July 2008

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

First Known Use of sawbones

1837, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of sawbones was in 1837

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Dictionary Entries Near sawbones



saw brier

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Last Updated

14 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Sawbones.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Jan. 2022.

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