Ask the Marshall
- Written by Marshall Trimble
- Published July 27, 2010
What does the word “tinhorn” mean?
Bob and Kay Sharp
“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.