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What is a 'Sawbuck'?

The earliest known reference of the word sawbuck in print dates back to 1850. This American English slang term is relatively well known in a variety of countries across the world, with a focus on the USA. Within the gambling world, a sawbuck commonly refers to a $10 bet, with a double sawbuck or double saw meaning a $20 bet.

'Sawbuck' Explained

The term sawbuck is thought to have a number of different origins, with a lengthy history that is still somewhat undefined. Some suggest that the term came to mean a $10 bill due to the Roman numeral for 10, X, looking like the ends of a sawbuck. The numeral X used to appear on the $10 bills that were in circulation, leading to the connection. Some have also made connections between the term and the word sawhorse, meaning a framework for holding wood that is to be sawed.Many experts think that the term sawhorse may have been used in a similar way perhaps even before sawbuck was first seen in print. The ‘buck’ element of the word, often used in a monetary sense nowadays, was first recorded in print referencing money in 1856 - six years after the first appearance of the word sawbuck, so it’s easy to note some correlation between the origins of these two terms. The word sawbuck has also been seen in the casino world representing the number 10 in other uses, such as a slang term for the 10 playing card in the standard 52-card pack used in popular card games such as poker. Other slang names for the number 10 cards include dime, Bo Derek and Big Casino - specifically for the 10 of diamonds.