[Ads-l] Antedating of Fraudster

Wed Dec 9 21:05:06 UTC 2020

The OED has 1975 for the first use of "fraudster," one who commits fraud, while Merriam-Webster has 1960 and notes that it is chiefly British.  Here is an example from Jan. 5, 1877, in the Owensboro Examiner (via Newspapers.com):  "If he goes in, he goes in as the head of a new, able, and honorable dynasty from which the loose official rabble, the scalawag politicians, the carpet-bag fraudsters and the election cheats will be driven as the wind drives the dust in its fury."  The sentence refers to Samuel Tilden, candidate for President in the disputed election of 1876, which had not yet been resolved in January 1877.

This early use would seem to imply an American origin for the term.  I also question whether it is really "chiefly British" in present usage, as it has become an increasingly standard term in American law, and usage more generally, over the past two decades or so.

John Baker

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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