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Posted by ESC on February 21, 2003

In Reply to: buffaloed posted by R. Berg on February 21, 2003

: : : : Why do they use the animal buffalo, in to be buffaloed or I was buffaloed.
: : : : thanks

: : : Just a guess:
: : : The bison or buffalo is not a meek animal as it is quite threatening looking; so maybe the term "buffaloed", which means "to intimidate", is from the animal's display of confidence or authority.
: : Where might I find the beginning of the use of the term buffaloed. Doing great so far!
: : Thanks again,
: : Murph

: The earliest quotation for "buffalo" as a verb (labeled U.S. slang) in the Oxford English Dictionary is dated 1904:

: N. Y. Even. Post 5 Oct. . . . All the rest (of the newspapers) were what we used to term in the Southwest 'buffaloed' by the McKinley myth--that is, silenced by the fear of incurring the resentment of a people taught to regard McKinley as a saint.

: That passage implies that "buffaloed" may have been used in spoken slang much earlier than 1904.

Here's what I found:

BUFFALO - Verb. "Orig. West. a. to intimidate or frighten, esp. by means of mere bluff; to cow. 1891 Lummis 'David' 84: The boy's a good boy, 'n' he shain't be buffalered while I'm 'round'." From the "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, A-G" by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994.

That's the meaning I am familiar with. "That little boy has his parents buffaloed."

Here's a slightly different take:

TO BUFFALO SOMEONE - "1870s, to cheat or intimidate someone." From "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976).

Neither reference gives an origin. There are several possibilities - the way a buffalo herd defends itself, how an individual buffalo bluffs its enemies, the way buffalo were hunted.