Pass the Buck (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Pass the Buck"?

The term "pass the buck" means to avoid responsibility by giving it to someone else.
Pass the Buck (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • These politicians never take responsibility for their actions. They always try to pass the buck.
  • I was on holiday when the document was sent. I'm happy to pass the buck on this one.
  • Don't pass the buck! You're the manager!
The "buck" in the phrase refers to a knife with buck-horn handle. "Pass the buck" originates from the poker tables of America in the 1850s. To mitigate the risk of cheating, the dealer of any card game would rotate around the players. The dealer at the game table would be marked with a buck-horned knife (the "buck") stuck in the table. Therefore, "to pass the buck" meant to pass the responsibility for dealing the cards. "Buck" has since become a synonym for responsibility.

Of interest, a silver dollar was later used as a marker, and this could be the origin of buck meaning dollar.

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