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, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu