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J. Miller Marshall, Fossicking for Gold (1893)[1] (sense 1.2)

Probably from dialectal fossick (to ferret out),[2] fossuck (troublesome person), fussick (to potter over one's work), fussock (to bustle about), further origin uncertain. Compare fuss.



fossick (third-person singular simple present fossicks, present participle fossicking, simple past and past participle fossicked)

  1. (intransitive, Australia, Britain, New Zealand) To search for something; to rummage.
    • 1924 July, John Buchan, “Our Time is Narrowed”, in The Three Hostages, London: Hodder & Stoughton, published January 1926, →OCLC, page 227:
      I dined alone and sat after dinner in the smoking-room, for Odell never suggested the library, though I would have given a lot to fossick about that place.
    • 1980, Barbara Pepworth, Early Marks, Sydney, N.S.W.: Angus & Robertson, →ISBN, page 178:
      I could have built a better fire myself but I was too cold when we arrived to fossick around for twigs. I went back to the warm car and let Neil and Henry fossick. Playing the dumb broad is profitable too.
    • 2008, Tim Winton, chapter 3, in Breath, Picador, published 2008, pages 23-24:
      How strange it was to see men do something beautiful. Something pointless and elegant. There wasn't much room for beauty in the lives of our men. The only exception was the strange Yuri Orlov who carved lovely, old-world toys from stuff he fossicked up from the forest floor.
    • 2010, Marlish Glorie, chapter 7, in The Bookshop on Jacaranda Street, North Fremantle, W.A.: Fremantle Press, →ISBN, page 42:
      He began to fossick again, shifting the bars of soap around until he became aware of something moving behind him.
    • 2014 October, P. S. Wall, chapter 58, in A Gift: A Novel, [Bloomington, Ind.]: Xlibris, →ISBN, page 198:
      Back in the kitchen, and with his mother off fossicking around for place mats, he tried to start the oven a couple of more times, then stood back scraching [sic] his head.
    1. (intransitive, Australia, Britain, New Zealand specifically) To elicit information; to ferret out. [from mid 19th c.]
      • 1872 May 28, Francis Longmore, “Address in Reply to the Governor’s Speech”, in Victoria. Parliamentary Debates. Session 1872. Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, volume XIV (Comprising the Period from April 30 to September 4), Melbourne, Vic.: John Ferres, printer, →OCLC, page 389, column 1:
        [T]he honorable member went to the Railway department, and fossicked about for information, and he found, forsooth, that there had been a little rise in the salary of a son of a member of the House.
    2. (intransitive, Australia, Britain, New Zealand specifically) To search for gems, gold, etc., on the surface or in abandoned workings.
      • 1862 December, J. A. Patterson, “Mining and Miners”, in The Gold Fields of Victoria in 1862, Melbourne, Vic.: Wilson & Mackinnon, 78, Collins Street East; G[eorge] Robertson, Elizabeth Street; Sands & MacDougall, Collins Street West, →OCLC, page 317:
        The "fossicker" is one who wanders about old diggings, armed with a knife and pan, and who seldom sinks or drives, but "fossicks" or searches about the old heaps of dirt, or in the bottoms of deserted shafts and drives, keen-eyed after unobserved gold.
      • 1902, William Pember Reeves, “The Labour Question”, in State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand, volume 2, London: G. Richards, →OCLC; republished as State Experiments in Australia and New Zealand (Cambridge Library Collection), New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2011, →ISBN, page 221:
        In New South Wales the bureau has been able to dispose of a large contingent of the workless by sending them to fossick for gold on old or deserted goldfields.
      • 1994, Ron Moon, Viv Moon, et al., Outback Australia: A Lonely Planet Australia Guide, Hawthorn, Vic., Oakland, C.A.: Lonely Planet Publications, →ISBN, page 118, column 2:
        The best way to fossick on old dumps is to either sieve material from untouched areas (you'd do this on the opal fields) or drag down the sides with a rake. You can also find gemstones by closely examining the surface without necessarily disturbing it.
      • 2006, Paul Harding, Susannah Farfor, Lindsay Brown, Northern Territory & Central Australia, Hawthorn, Vic.: Lonely Planet, →ISBN, page 52:
        In order to fossick you must first obtain a fossicking permit (free). They are available from the tourist offices in Darwin and Alice Springs, or Gemtree [] in the Harts Range. Permission to fossick on freehold land and mineral leases must be obtained from the owner or leaseholder.
  2. (intransitive, Britain, dialect) To be troublesome.


  • (to search for gems, gold, etc.): noodle

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