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Two animals known as mossbacks: a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina; top; sense 3.2) at the Waubay National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota, USA; and a largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides; bottom; sense 3.4).

From moss +‎ back (in senses 1 (“person with old-fashioned views; one who is very conservative or reactionary”) and 2.3 (“fish that is large and old”) probably a variant of mossyback, which is attested earlier),[1] alluding to someone or something that is so old or has remained so unmoving that it is as if moss has grown on them or it.

Sense 2.4 (“largemouth bass”) may refer to the back of the fish being a dark green colour.[1]



mossback (plural mossbacks) (chiefly US)

  1. (informal) Synonym of mossyback (a person with old-fashioned views; hence, one who is very conservative or reactionary)
    Synonyms: conservative, reactionary, retrograde, traditionalist
  2. (informal, historical) A person who stayed hidden to evade conscription (especially by the Confederate States Army) during the American Civil War (1861–1865); a mossyback.
  3. Senses relating to animals.
    1. A turtle that, because of its age, has a growth of algae on its back
    2. The common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina).
    3. (fishing) Synonym of mossyback (a fish that is large and old, especially one that has algae growing on its back)
    4. The largemouth bass or moss bass (Micropterus salmoides).

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  1. 1.0 1.1 mossback, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2020; “mossback, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

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