Trump: Jackson Was a 'Swashbuckler'
Swashbuckler (“a blustering daredevil”) swaggered its way to near the top of our lookups on May 1st, 2017, after Donald Trump used the word in an interview in reference to one of his predecessors, Andrew Jackson.
TRUMP: [Jackson] was a swashbuckler. But when his wife died, did you know he visited her grave every day? I visited her grave actually, because I was in Tennessee.
—The Washington Post (washingtonpost.com) (transcript of interview from Washington Examiner), 1 May 2017
Appearances can be deceiving, and the word does not come about as a way of describing a person who buckles their swash (although it does come from those two words). Swashbuckler comes from combining a sense of the verb swash (“to act in a blustering and bullying manner”) with the noun buckler (“a small round shield held by a handle at arm's length”). The word has been in regular English use since the middle of the 16th century.
God hath geuen man all hys creatures to serue for hys necessary vse: But too be a dronkarde, a hore hunter, a gamner, a swashebuckeler, a ruffin too waste hys money in proude apparel, or in haukinge, hunting, tennyes or in suche other vnprofitable pastimes, but onely for necessarie refreshinge of the witte after greate study or trauayle in weghty affayres, he hathe I saye not alowed thee one mite.
—James Pilkington, Aggeus and Abdias, 1562
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