Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Alternative forms[edit]


"1685, 'lowest sill of a house,' from mud + sill. The word entered U.S. political history in a speech by James M. Hammond of South Carolina, March 4, 1858, in U.S. Senate, alluding to the very mudsills of society, and the term subsequently was embraced by Northern workers in the pre-Civil War sectional rivalry." (OED, 2007)


mudsill (plural mudsills)

  1. The lowest sill of a structure, usually placed in or on the ground.
  2. (figuratively) A particularly low or dirty place/state; the nadir of something (see rock bottom)
    The Pre-Historic Era was the mudsill of human development.
  3. (dated, Southern US) A person of low status or humble provenance.
    • 1861, Theodore Winthrop, Washington as a Camp, The Following Is the Oath
      We were now miserable mercenaries, serving for low pay and rough rations. Read the Southern papers and you will see us described. “Mudsills,” — that, I believe, is the technical word.
    • 1868, Carl Schurz, The Road to Peace — a Solid, Durable Peace:
      General Lee throw down his sword and surrender his invincible Southern legions to that poor little Northern mud-sill, a late tanner from Illinois!
    • 1903, Hightower Theodore Kealing, The Characteristics of the Negro People:
      Though the mudsill of the labor world, he whistles as he hoes, and no dark broodings or whispered conspirings mar the cheerful acceptance of the load he bears.


  • Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 02 Dec. 2007. [1]
  • Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 02 Dec. 2007.