Definitions

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

  • noun The lowest sill, block, or timber supporting a building, located at or below ground level.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Specifically, the bed-piece or bottom timber of a dam placed across the stream and usually resting on rocks or in mud.
  • noun The lowest sill of a structure, resting on the ground.
  • noun A lowborn, ignorant, contemptible person.

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

  • noun The lowest sill of a structure, usually embedded in the soil; the lowest timber of a house; also, that sill or timber of a bridge which is laid at the bottom of the water. See sill.
  • noun Southern U. S. Fig.: A person of the lowest stratum of society; -- a term of opprobrium or contempt.

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

  • noun The lowest sill of a structure, usually placed in or on the ground.
  • noun figuratively A particularly low or dirty place/state; the nadir of something (see rock bottom)
  • noun dated A person of low status or humble provenance.

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

"1685, 'lowest sill of a house,' from mud + sill. The word entered U.S. political history in a speech by James M. Hammond of South Carolina, March 4, 1858, in U.S. Senate, alluding to the very mudsills of society, and the term subsequently was embraced by Northern workers in the pre-Civil War sectional rivalry." (OED, 2007)

Examples

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