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Tar Heel

See also: Tarheel



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North Carolina was associated with tar (of which it was a major producer) from the 1700s onwards,[1] and residents were (at first derisively) called "Tarboilers" since at least the 1840s; "Tar Heel" is first attested in 1863[2] in comments by Confederate soldiers which suggest it was already in common use at that time.[3] One popular theory suggests it refers to North Carolinians having tar on their heels to make them "stick", referring either to their reluctance to join the Confederacy, or to their holding ground during battles when other states' troops retreated.


Tar Heel (plural Tar Heels)

  1. A native or resident of the American state of North Carolina.
    I'm a Tar Heel born / I'm a Tar Heel bred / And when I die / I'm a Tar Heel dead.
  2. Someone associated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for example as a student, alum, or sports team member, or as a fan.
    Michael Jordan is one of many Tar Heel basketball standouts.

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Tar Heel

  1. A small town in Bladen County in North Carolina.
  2. An unincorporated community in Hickman County, Kentucky.


  1. ^ Hugh Lefler and Albert Newsome, in North Carolina: the History of a Southern State (3rd edition, 1973), say North Carolina led the world in production of naval stores of tar from about 1720 to 1870.
  2. ^ Tar Heel” in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  3. ^ In January 1863, John S. Preston of South Carolina reportedly told the 60th Regiment from North Carolina "you Tar Heels have done well", while the earliest known surviving written example is from the next month, in a February 6 diary entry (link, archive) by Jackson B. A. Lowrance, who wrote in Pender County, North Carolina, "I know now what is meant by the Piney Woods of North Carolina and the idea occurs to me that it is no wonder we are called 'Tar Heels'."