What does the word “tinhorn” mean?

mtrimble

What does the word “tinhorn” mean?

Bob and Kay Sharp

Hawkins, Texas

“Tinhorn” referred to an unscrupulous, unskilled, self-important or low-class gambler. It could also refer to a man pretending to have money or influence, or someone who was flashy; a dude or a phony.

The term originated from a game where three dice were rolled down a chute onto a flat area. The horn- or cone-shaped chute was usually made of leather, but cheaper chutes were made of tin. Since tin was considered to be of poor quality, and these gamblers masked their low-class game by wearing flashy clothes, the name “tinhorn gambler” was born.

These guys stood on the bottom rung of gambling’s social ladder.

What do you think?

Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.