nigger in the woodpile

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First attested in the 1840s.[1] This etymology is incomplete. You can help Wiktionary by elaborating on the origins of this term.


nigger in the woodpile (plural niggers in the woodpile)

  1. (offensive, ethnic slur) A hidden motive, influence or factor; a concealed (potential) snag; something suspicious.
    • 1858 December 20, "The Huntington and Whitley Case", The Legislative Sentinel, Vol. I, No. 14, page 137.
      Democra s[sic] placed no nigger in the woodpile—the imputation came with a bad grace from the gentleman from Kosciusko.

Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ "nigger, n. and adj.", Phrases, P2b, Oxford English Dictionary Online (3rd ed. 2003), OUP.