From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



Etymology 1[edit]

The Helene operating as a coaster (sense 3.2) in the Kiel Canal, Germany, with a cargo of timber.
The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is known as a coaster trout or coaster (sense 4) when found in Lake Superior and Maine, USA.

From coast (edge of the land where it meets an ocean, sea, gulf, bay, or large lake) +‎ -er (suffix forming agent nouns).[1] Coast is derived from Middle English coste (rib; side of the body, flank; side of a building; face of a solid figure; coast, shore; bay, gulf; sea; concavity, hollow; boundary, limit; land; country; district, province, region; locality, place; division of the heavens; compass direction; direction; location with reference to direction, side) [and other forms],[2] from Old French coste (rib; side of an object; coast) (modern French côte (rib; coast; hill, slope)), from Latin costa (rib; side, wall),[3] from Proto-Indo-European *kost-.


coaster (plural coasters)

  1. A person who originates from or inhabits a coastal area.
    • 1936, Graham Greene, “The Cargo Ship”, in Journey Without Maps, 1st US edition, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Company, →OCLC, part 1, page 27:
      People said, "Eldridge. Of course, he's an old Coaster," and Eldridge, the middle-aged shipping agent, at the beginning of every meal would say, "Chop, as we call it on the Coast," or handing a plate of onions, "Violets, we say on the Coast."
  2. (nautical)
    1. A sailor (especially the master or pilot of a vessel) who travels only in coastal waters.
      • 1669 June (first performance), John Dryden, Tyrannick Love, or, The Royal Martyr. [], London: [] H[enry] Herringman, [], published 1670, →OCLC, Act IV, scene i, page 43:
        Thus, with ſhort Plummets Heav'ns deep will we ſound, / That vaſt Abyſs where humane Wit is drown'd! / In our ſmall Skiff we muſt not launce too far; / We here but Coaſters, not Diſcov'rers are.
      • 1881 April, “Snow Storm Gales”, in Symons’s Monthly Meteorological Magazine, volume XVI, number CLXXXIII, London: Edward Stanford, [], →OCLC, page 59:
        If you question a seaman on the subject, whether mere coaster or circumnavigator, he will tell you that in a snow-storm, because of its constant eddyings and gyrations, frequent trimming of sails is more necessary than in any other gale, and that to steer a straight and steady course under such circumstances is for the time simply impossible.
        Quoting an article entitled “Nether-Lochaber” in The Inverness Courier (17 March 1881).
    2. A merchant vessel that stays in coastal waters, especially one that travels between ports of the same country.
      Hyponym: hoy
      • 1840, R[ichard] H[enry] D[ana], Jr., chapter XXIII, in Two Years before the Mast. [] (Harper’s Family Library; no. CVI), New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers [], →OCLC, page 245:
        His father was skipper of a small coaster, from Bristol, and dying, left him, when quite young, to the care of his mother, by whose exertions he received a common-school education, passing his winters in school and his summers in the coasting trade, until his seventeenth year, when he left home to go upon foreign voyages.
      • 1960 May, R. C. Riley, “The Coastal Branches of South-East Devon: Part One”, in Trains Illustrated, London: Ian Allan Publishing, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 298:
        The single line to Exmouth Docks curves round the back of the goods yard. [] The docks can handle vessels of up to 700 tons; on the day of my visit an English coaster was discharging coal and a Dutch coaster arrived with a cargo of wood pulp from Sweden.
      • 1969, John Brunner, chapter IX, in Double, Double, London: Gateway, Hachette, published 2011, →ISBN:
        Overhead, the black flag with the white skull-and-crossbones symbolizing defiance of radio regulations fluttered limply atop the two-hundred-foot mast mounted on the converted coaster from which they operated.
  3. (Canada, US) Short for coaster trout (“the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in Lake Superior and Maine”).
  4. (US) A cow from the coastal part of Texas.
    • 2020, Michael M. Miller, XIT: A Story of Land, Cattle, and Capital in Texas and Montana, page 119:
      The ranch's rangy coasters, the only saleable cattle they then held, could not compete with cattle from a growing number of Midwest farmer-feeders or with competitors stocking the northern ranges.
    • 2021, Ernest Haycox, Karl May, Zane Grey, 50 Westerns
      But our market required a better quality than coasters and Mexican cattle, and we turned back up the country.
  5. (slang, dated) A prostitute, especially one of European descent, plying her trade in Chinese port towns.
    • 1932, [Francis] Van Wyck Mason, The Branded Spy Murders, New York, N.Y.: Grosset & Dunlap, →OCLC, page 65:
      I think you can say this much, that from these traces of callus I'd venture she was once a ballet dancer—and later got her living otherwise—as a coaster perhaps.
    • 1933, [Francis] Van Wyck Mason, The Shanghai Bund Murders, New York, N.Y.: Grosset & Dunlap, →OCLC, page 51:
      Gently again, he raised his hand to tap on the smooth white panels of the coaster’s door, but once more his interview with Ruby Braunfeld was postponed.
    • 1993, Gina Marchetti, “The Threat of Captivity: The Bitter Tea of General Yen and Shanghai Express”, in Romance and the “Yellow Peril”: Race, Sex, and Discursive Strategies in Hollywood Romance, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Calif., London: University of California Press, →ISBN, page 59:
      Once engaged to be married, Lily and Doc [in the film Shanghai Express (1932)] have been separated for more than five years because of Doc's jealous reaction to a ploy Lily had used to test his love. They meet, by chance, on the Shanghai Express. Lily has become a "coaster", a vamp who travels along the China coast looking for men to victimize, and Doc has thrown himself into his work as a British medical officer.
    • 2000, Charles Busch, Shanghai Moon: A Comic Melodrama, New York, N.Y., London: Samuel French, →ISBN:
      I have studied your astrological chart and it fills me with more concern than hatred. If you stay in China, I fear you will end up a coaster.

Etymology 2[edit]

A silver coaster (sense 2.1) for a wine bottle.
Cups, glasses, and other receptacles are placed on coasters (sense 2.2.1) to protect table surfaces from water condensation or drink spills.
Hollywood Dream – The Ride, a rollercoaster at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. Rollercoasters are informally known as coasters (sense 2.3).

From coast (to glide along without adding energy; to make a minimal effort; to slide downhill (especially, to slide on a sled upon snow or ice)) +‎ -er (suffix forming agent nouns).[1] Coast is derived from Middle English costeien (to travel along a border or coast; to go alongside (something), skirt; to accompany, follow; to travel across, traverse; to be adjacent to, to border;) [and other forms],[4] from Anglo-Norman [Term?], Old French costoier (to be at the side of) [and other forms] (modern French côtoyer (to pass alongside; (figuratively) to rub shoulders)), from Latin costicāre, from costa (rib; side, wall); see further at etymology 1.[5]

The sense 2.1 (“small stand or tray”) is from the fact that the object and the decanter or wine bottle on it “coast” or travel around a tabletop from person to person.[1] The sense 2.2.2 (“useless compact disc or DVD”) refers to the fact that the object is only useful as a drink coaster.


coaster (plural coasters)

  1. Agent noun of coast: one who coasts.
    1. (Australia, slang) An itinerant person who shirks work but still seeks food and lodging; a loafer, a sundowner.
    2. (US, winter sports) A person who uses a sled or toboggan to slide down a slope covered with ice or snow; a sledder, a tobogganist.
      • 1869–1870, Louisa M[ay] Alcott, “Polly’s Troubles”, in An Old-Fashioned Girl, Boston, Mass.: Roberts Brothers, published 1870, →OCLC, page 42:
        It was cold but still, and Polly trotted down the smooth, snow-covered mall, humming to herself, and trying not to feel homesick. The coasters were at it with all their might, and she watched them, till her longing to join the fun grew irresistible.
    3. One who succeeds while making only a minimal effort.
      • 2019, Santiago Iñiguez, In an Ideal Business, page 155:
        In Prashar's opinion, there are two types of manager: "coasters, who coast along in a job, and sprinters, who have a challenge, deal with it and then move on."
  2. Something that coasts or is used to coast.
    1. (dated) A small stand or tray, sometimes with wheels, used to pass something such as a decanter or wine bottle around a tabletop.
    2. (by extension)
      1. A small, flat or tray-like object on which a bottle, cup, glass, mug, etc., is placed to protect a table surface from drink spills, heat, or water condensation.
        Synonyms: beermat, beer mat
        Coordinate term: saucer
      2. (computing, slang) A useless compact disc or DVD, such as one that was burned incorrectly or has become corrupted.
    3. (US, informal) Short for rollercoaster.
    4. (US, winter sports) A sled or toboggan.
Derived terms[edit]
See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 coaster, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021; coaster, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ cō̆ste, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  3. ^ coast, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2021; coast, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  4. ^ cō̆steien, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  5. ^ coast, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021; coast, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]





coaster m (plural coasters)

  1. a kind of minibus