The California Gold Rush didn't just inject billions of dollars worth of gold into the American economy. It added to the language, too.
The following words and phrases came into usage during the Gold Rush and are still with us today.
1. Paydirt: In the early days of the rush, 49ers began using this phrase to refer to land that was rich with gold.
At the start of the rush, the most common way to mine for gold was with a large pan. If a miner's pan ended up filled with gold, his claim was said to have "panned out".
Stake a Claim
Miners who arrived in the gold fields had to purchase claims, the borders of which they marked with wooden stakes.
During the Gold Rush, Irish miners introduced the phrase to the US, based on the Gaelic word sionnachuighim, which means "I play tricks."
While some etymologists trace the origin of bucks meaning money to date back to the 1700s, it's widely believed that the term didn’t become popular until the California Gold Rush, due in large part to its prevalence in San Francisco gambling halls like those owned by Sam Brannan.
The term was first used in 1848, by James De Mille, who wrote a book called Australian Footman. Chapter 1 was subtitled: "Showing How Low the Gold Fever May Reduce a Man."
The term evolved from the English slang word "nug" meaning lump. It was first brought to the US during the California Gold Rush by Australian miners, who first used it during their own gold rush in the 1820s.
Mathematician Archimedes is said to have exclaimed this back in the day, but it took on a new meaning during the Gold Rush as miners made big finds. The word went on to become the California state motto.
The Gold Rush was a lottery. Only a select few miners got lucky. Lucky strikes were very rare, but the phrase lucky strike was widespread.
Flash in the Pan
49ers were prone to getting excited whenever they saw something shiny in their pan. When it turned out what they thought was gold was nothing more than a wayward reflection, they used this expression. It later went on to become a metaphor for the Gold Rush itself.
Around the Horn
Originally, this common baseball term had nothing to do with sports. Instead, it was first used to describe the miners who'd arrived in San Francisco after the 18,000-mile voyage down around Cape Horn.