from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An infectious, usually fatal bacterial disease of cattle and sometimes of sheep, goats, and swine, caused by Clostridium chauvoei and characterized by gas-containing swellings in the musculature.
  • noun A bacterial or fungal disease of certain plants, such as the cabbage and potato, that causes the stems to turn black at the soil line.
  • noun One who cheats at cards; a cardsharp.
  • noun Chiefly British A worker who is opposed to trade unions; a scab.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A laborer who is not a member of a trade-gild or trade-union; a ‘scab.’
  • noun A disease in cattle and sheep which affects the legs; symptomatic anthrax. See anthrax.
  • noun A severe form of purpura.
  • noun One who systematically tries to gain money fraudulently in connection with races, or with cards, billiards, or other games; a rook; a swindler.
  • noun Same as black-nob.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun colloq. A notorious gambler.
  • noun engraving A disease among calves and sheep, characterized by a settling of gelatinous matter in the legs, and sometimes in the neck.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun uncountable Fatal cattle disease caused by the soil-borne bacteria Clostridium chauvoei; symptomatic anthrax
  • noun countable A person who takes the place of striking workers. A scab.
  • noun countable A person who cheats in a game, a cheater.
  • noun colloquial A notorious gambler.
  • adjective Relating to a scab worker.

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

  • verb take the place of work of someone on strike
  • noun someone who works (or provides workers) during a strike


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • BURNS -- who has stuck loyally to Council -- fiercely denounced as a "blackleg" by crowd.

    Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 103, October 29, 1892 Various

  • One of their number stood out, refusing to join the combine; whereupon the rest summoned the gang and had the "blackleg" pressed for his contumacy.

    The Press-Gang Afloat and Ashore

  • He thinks I am a kind of blackleg, not true to my principles; or rather he thinks that I am not a Christian at all, and only call myself one for the sake of the associations.

    Father Payne Benson, Arthur C. 1915

  • The most plausible ground is that of those [257] who, bringing marriage down to the level of prostitution, maintain that the prostitute is a "blackleg" who is accepting less than the "market rate of wages," i.e., marriage, for the sexual services she renders.

    Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 6 Sex in Relation to Society Havelock Ellis 1899

  • If an excited Unionist called a man a "blackleg" or "scab" in the Imperial bar he was run out -- sometimes with great difficulty, and occasionally as far as the lock-up.

    Children of the Bush Henry Lawson 1894

  • In our day he would have been called a "blackleg," and mobbed: perhaps, even in the seventeenth century, he needed protection, for the college built him

    The Charm of Oxford 1892

  • _Escroc_ as the French might call him; "blackleg" in the English vocabulary; "sport" in American phrase, Frank Lara is a man with whom no one who knows him likes to take liberties.

    The Flag of Distress A Story of the South Sea Mayne Reid 1850

  • A kind of blackleg doing the work cheaper -- nay, for nothing. "

    The Grey Wig: Stories and Novelettes Israel Zangwill 1895

  • A kind of blackleg doing the work cheaper -- nay, for nothing. "

    The Big Bow Mystery Israel Zangwill 1895

  • Now, he leans over his guitar and begins strumming the melody and summoning the vengeful lyrics: "Across the way they stretch a line/To catch the throat and break the spine/Of the dirty blackleg miner."

    Martin Carthy and Tom Robinson's notes on a revolution 2010


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  • A scab during a union strike.

    June 7, 2008