Tar Heel

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Alternative forms[edit]


North Carolina was associated with tar (of which it was a major producer) from the 1700s onwards,[1] and residents were (at first derisively) called "Tarboilers" since at least the 1840s; "Tar Heel" is first attested in 1863[2] in comments by Confederate soldiers which suggest it was already in common use at that time.[3] One popular theory suggests it refers to North Carolinians having tar on their heels to make them "stick", referring either to their reluctance to join the Confederacy, or to their holding ground during battles when other states' troops retreated.


Tar Heel (plural Tar Heels)

  1. (US slang) Synonym of North Carolinian.
    I'm a Tar Heel born
    I'm a Tar Heel bred
    And when I die
    I'm a Tar Heel dead.
  2. (US slang) A person associated with or supportive of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
    Michael Jordan is one of many Tar Heel basketball standouts.

Derived terms[edit]

Proper noun[edit]

Tar Heel

  1. A small town in Bladen County, North Carolina.
  2. An unincorporated community in Hickman County, Kentucky.


  1. ^ Hugh Lefler and Albert Newsome, in North Carolina: the History of a Southern State (3rd edition, 1973), say North Carolina led the world in production of naval stores of tar from about 1720 to 1870.
  2. ^ Tar Heel”, in Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary, (Please provide a date or year).
  3. ^ In January 1863, John S. Preston of South Carolina reportedly told the 60th Regiment from North Carolina "you Tar Heels have done well", while the earliest known surviving written example is from the next month, in a February 6 diary entry (link, archive) by Jackson B. A. Lowrance, who wrote in Pender County, North Carolina, "I know now what is meant by the Piney Woods of North Carolina and the idea occurs to me that it is no wonder we are called 'Tar Heels'."