Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A corrupt politician.
  • n. A member of a Chinese-American secret society of paid assassins and blackmailers.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A ruffian, especially one of a gang.
  • n. A member of one of several Chinese criminal gangs associated with illegal immigration and prostitution.
  • n. A swindler, especially a corrupt politician.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A ruffian; one who hounds, or spies upon, another; app. esp. to the members of certain alleged societies among the Chinese.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A bold, roystering rowdy; an insolent ruffian; one of a gang which commits outrages on persons or property “for fun.”
  • n. A member of a Chinese secret society, band, or gang, said to exist in California and other parts of the United States, associated for blackmailing purposes, and even for assassination, in the interest and pay of other societies or individuals.
  • Supremely happy.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a corrupt politician

Etymologies

After the Highbinders, a group of ruffians in New York City c. 1806.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From a nativist gang that flourished in New York City in the early 19th century, possibly an alteration of hide + binder (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It may be that the Chinese 'highbinder' has a discrete origin: thus Asbury _Barbary Coast_ 1933 185: 'The _boo how doy_, popularly known as hatchetmen or highbinders, received regular salaries, with extra pay for exceptional bravery in battle.'

    Archive 2007-10-01

  • The Senator is just not the highbinder you may have imagined.

    Michael Smerconish: Rick Santorum - Exposed!

  • Ah Sing in the swelling of commendable pride, at having outwitted the most notorious highbinder in Chinatown, built him a house that was quite large enough to swing a cat in, and as gorgeous inside as a joss house, and quite as dingy without, with the wisdom of Confucius done in very large characters on very red paper pasted all about the front door.

    The Conversion of Ah Lew Sing

  • After that no self-respecting highbinder could hold up his head.

    The Conversion of Ah Lew Sing

  • The highbinder, evincing not the slightest irritation at his failures, changed the method of attack.

    THE PLAGUE SHIP

  • I explained that a highbinder ranked with a professional murderer in this country, whereupon she again laughed, and, turning to General ----, in a loud voice said, "General, I have been calling the ---- a highbinder," at which the company laughed at my expense.

    As A Chinaman Saw Us Passages from his Letters to a Friend at Home

  • And twelve for Tessie, and eight for this highbinder on my knee, here!

    Poor, Dear Margaret Kirby

  • Give the good dope a chance: it'll only need a moment, or I'm no judge and you're a careless highbinder!

    The Lone Wolf A Melodrama

  • Remember, Mawruss, you got to tell him that as a partner I am a crank and a regular highbinder.

    Potash & Perlmutter Their Copartnership Ventures and Adventures

  • Takes one of these old-fashioned beer bottles with patent stoppers, fills it up with unslaked lime, pours in a little water, stops it up, drops it in a likely looking trout pool, and in one minute it explodes as good as something made by a Russian patriot; all the trout in the pool are knocked out and float on the surface, where this old highbinder gathers 'em in.

    Ma Pettengill

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  • They saw the woman that had the guitar, an' there was a company a−listenin', regular highbinders all of 'em; an' there was a long table all spread out with big candlesticks like little trees o' light, and a sight o' glass an' silver ware; an' part o' the men was young officers in uniform . . .
    --Sarah Orne Jewett, 1900, The Foreigner

    January 28, 2010