Barbara asked about the origin of buck tooth, and also pointed out that buck is a versatile word. That it is.
Buck tooth comes from buck, once upon a time either a male deer or a he-goat. Someone evidently saw a resemblance between the large projecting tooth found in these animals and in some humans.
Aside from the animal, there are at least a dozen more instances of the noun buck in the Oxford English Dictionary.
- a dandy or fop
- a short vaulting-horse in a gym
- a shortened version of buckwheat
- a vat in which to steep clothes in lye
- a large basket used to catch eels
- the carcass of an animal
- the body of a cart; it had a buckboard
- a T-shaped end to a plough beam used to steer the draft animals
- a framework for resting pieces of wood while they are being cut
- a dollar (possibly from the fact that deerskin was once a trading item)
- an inanimate object signifying the identity of the current dealer in a poker game (possibly from the fact that the object was often a knife with a deer-horn handle); hence the terms to pass the buck or the buck stops here.
- boastful talk
- Buckaroo has nothing to do with deer; it is a corruption of vaquero (herdsman or cattle-driver).
- The Buckeyes were named after the horse-chestnut tree, evidently common in Ohio, and the tree was named after the supposed resemblance of its seed pod to a stag’s eye.
- Sawbuck became the slang term for a $10 bill because the ends of a buck (the framework for cutting wood) were X-shaped, and X was the Roman numeral for 10.
- Buckle isn’t connected at all. It comes from the Latin bucca (cheek). The original buckle was found on the cheek strap of a helmet.
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