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woollyback, n.

Brit. /ˈwʊlɪbak/
Australian /ˈwʊlibæk/
New Zealand/ˈwʊlibɛæk/
Forms:  see woolly adj.   and back n.1(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: woolly adj., back n.1

 1. Chiefly U.S., Austral., and New Zealand colloq. A sheep.

1846   Amer. Agriculturist July 212/2   Mr. Cockrill thinks it a great folly to keep a large capital in Tennessee invested in ‘woolly heads’, when ‘woolly backs’ afford so much better returns of interest.
1868   New Eng. Farmer Apr. 187/2   I think we had best keep a few woolly backs, and I think we shall not find it altogether unprofitable to do so.
1875   Daily Southern Cross (Auckland, N.Z.) 30 Jan. Suppl.   He went in for cattle, and for the woolly backs to a certain extent.
1910   Pacific Monthly Aug. 150/1   I'm runnin' these woollybacks because I've got a woman an' two kids over there on Squaw Creek.
1949   Western Mail (Perth, Austral.) 17 Feb. 59/1   The six woolly-backs were walking in line as sheep sometimes do when they were struck by lightning.
1998   Jrnl. (Newcastle) (Nexis) 6 July 8   I could never get any clean grass for the cows, as the wretched woolly backs always had first bite at it.

1846—1998(Hide quotations)


 a. colloq. A person from an area traditionally associated with the rearing of sheep, esp. (in later use) stereotypically characterized as unsophisticated or provincial; spec.  (a) a native or inhabitant of Leicestershire;  (b) (frequently depreciative) a native or inhabitant of (rural) Wales.

1881   R. Read Mod. Leicester 121   The Train Bands of Leicestershire have, upon occasion, been over 3,000 strong. One of the first exploits of these Woollybacks was..to take part in the subjugation of the Principality of Wales.
1942   Apollo 35 44/2   Leicester was long connected with the wool trade, and even to-day native Leicestershire folk are nicknamed ‘woolly backs’ from the sheep raised on its broad meadows.
1972   Bull. (Entomol. Soc. Canada) Sept. 34   By birth a Leicestershire ‘woollyback’, born at Loughborough, England.
1988   Guardian 16 May 38/2   There is a tradition of rivalry between [the rugby clubs of] Barry (seen by Beddau as ‘city slickers who think they're better than they are’), and Beddau (country bumpkins, say Barry, ‘woolybacks from the valley’).
1995   J. O'Connor Red Roses & Petrol iii. 67   Every car in Dublin..out to have a look at the country dwellers, the woollybacks of the County Wickla.
1998   Independent on Sunday 8 Mar. i. 4/8   [Cardiff's] population look down on most of the rest of Wales as ‘woollybacks’.
2009   @FlyingCelery 5 Dec. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    All of the woolybacks moaning about England's World Cup draw. What's it got to do with the Welsh anyway?

1881—2009(Hide quotations)


 b. Eng. regional (Liverpool) slang (usually derogatory). Also with capital initial. A person from outside of Liverpool, esp. from the neighbouring areas of Lancashire or the Wirral Peninsula.Perhaps originating as an extension of sense 2a, but see Tony Crowley's Liverpool English Dictionary (2018) for an alternative derivation from woolly, a term dating from the 1960s for uniformed police in Liverpool (on account of their woollen uniforms).

1972   D. F. Wilson Dockers ii. 30   The men's continuing antipathy in Liverpool to the ‘woolly-backs’ and in London to the ‘carrot-crunchers’ at Tilbury.
1981   Times 16 July 4/1   Tribal tensions [in Skelmersdale, Lancashire] between ‘scousers’ (former Liverpudlians there) and ‘woolly backs’ (locals).
1993   A. Gibbons Chicken i. 3   ‘Not another Woollyback!’ he scoffed. ‘Isn't one enough? I thought I told you, Davy, this is a Scouse-only school.’
2001   ‘Gozzy’ in uk.media.tv.brookside (Usenet Newsgroup) 21 Mar.   St Helens being a part of Liverpool? No Chance, bloody woolybacks trying to up themselves. Get back to the sticks.
2011   @JCarnall 29 July in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    As a scouser it is my duty to mock woolyback land at every available opportunity!
2017   Guardian (Nexis) 29 May   Musicians [in the Wirral] can relate to feeling outcast: people across the Mersey call them Woollybacks or Plastic Scousers.

1972—2017(Hide quotations)


This is a new entry (OED Third Edition, September 2018).

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