wow·​ser ˈwau̇-zər How to pronounce wowser (audio)
chiefly Australia
: an obtrusively puritanical person

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Wowser is a delightful word with an interesting background, though its ultimate origin is unknown. The word first appeared in print in 1899, in the Australian journal Truth, and was instantly popular in Australia. It spread to New Zealand, where it remains in use, and then eventually arrived in England, possibly brought by the Australian troops who served there during World War I. The American writer and editor H. L. Mencken liked "wowser" and attempted to introduce it in the United States. He used the word frequently in American Mercury, the literary magazine he edited. Despite Mencken's efforts the term never truly caught on in American English, though it is used occasionally.

Examples of wowser in a Sentence

wowsers would be well-advised to avoid that steamy new show on TV
Recent Examples on the Web Now, a wowser is commonly someone who looks to crack down on enjoyment. Michelle Elias, New York Times, 27 Feb. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'wowser.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

1899, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of wowser was in 1899


Dictionary Entries Near wowser

Cite this Entry

“Wowser.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2024.

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