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See also: Greenhorn



From Middle English grene horn, which is attested for “horn of a recently killed animal” and as the name of a horse. It may also have been used of young horned animals. In all cases “green” refers to the idea of “fresh, young, recent”, taken from plants and used in Middle English for all kinds of things irrespective of their colour, e.g. wounds, leather, fish, cheese (see green cheese).[1] Figurative use for people dates from the 17th century.[2] Compare semantically German Grünschnabel (literally green-beak).


greenhorn (plural greenhorns)

  1. (chiefly US) An inexperienced person; a novice, beginner or newcomer.
    • 1847, George Frederick Augustus Ruxton, Adventures in Mexico and the Rocky Mountains, page 267:
      The powers of the Canadian voyageurs and hunters in the consumption of meat strike the greenhorn with wonder and astonishment; and are only equalled by the gastronomical capabilities exhibited by Indian dogs, both following the same plan in their epicurean gorgings.
    • 2001 November 15, Bungie, Halo: Combat Evolved, v1.0, Microsoft Game Studios, Xbox, level/area: The Pillar of Autumn:
      All you greenhorns who wanted to see Covenant up close...this is gonna be your lucky day.
  2. (chiefly Massachusetts, ethnic slur, offensive) A Portuguese person.
    • 1993, Common Lives, Lesbian Lives- Issues 47-49, page 37:
      She lives in New Bedford, and her dad's not around much and her mum calls her boyfriend a Portagee, a fuckin' greenhorn,


Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ grẹ̄ne in Middle English Dictionary
  2. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2024) “greenhorn”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.