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A toboggan
A toboggan drawn by dogs
A toboggan cap.

Alternative formsEdit


The noun is attested since 1829, the verb since 1846. Both derive from French tabaganne, which derives from an Algonquian word, probably Mi'kmaq tepaqan or Abenaki dabôgan, influenced by similar words in other Eastern Canadian Algonquian languages. The sense of "hat" is recorded since 1929 and is short for toboggan cap (1928), a cap suitable for wearing while tobogganing.[1]


  • (UK) IPA(key): /təˈbɒɡ.ən/
  • (US) IPA(key): /təˈbɑːɡ.ən/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɒɡən
  • Hyphenation: to‧bog‧gan


toboggan (plural toboggans)

  1. A long sled without runners, with the front end curled upwards, which may be pulled across snow by a cord or used to coast down hills.
    • 1877, John Russell Bartlett, Dictionary of Americanisms, second edition, enlarged:
      Toboggan has not yet found its Way into the dictionaries, and there are other ways of spelling it.
    • 1882, Louis Prosper Bender, Old and New Canada. 1753-1844: Historic Scenes and Social Pictures, Or, The Life of Joseph-Francois Perrault:
      Nothing could be more exciting and exhilarating than a slide, on sleigh or toboggan, from the lofty summit of the ice-mound or cone down to its base.
    • 1884, Henry Chadwick, The Sports and Pastimes of American Boys: A Guide and Text-book of Games of the Play-ground, the Parlor, and the Field Adapted Especially for American Youth (G. Routledge and sons), page 201:
      The “toboggan” is a light flat sleigh, used by the Canadian aborigines to bring home over the snow the spoils of the hunt.
    • 1885, A. T. Tucker (Alfred Thomas Tucker) Wise, Alpine Winter in Its Medical Aspects: With Notes on Davos Platz, Wiesen, St. Moritz, and the Maloja:
      The toboggan may be described as a flat plank turned up at one end.
    • 1887, Marjory Kennedy-Fraser, David Kennedy, David Kennedy: The Scottish Singer : Reminiscences of His Life and Work:
      A toboggan consists of two pieces of bark joined side by side and curved up at the front.
    • 1897, Charles A. Bramble, “Winter Fishing Through the Ice”, in The Sportsman's Magazine, page 430:
      Every half hour or so one or the other would steal off with snowshoes and toboggan to make the round of the holes, often returning with half a dozen fish that together weighed perhaps twelve pounds, perhaps twenty-four pounds; . . .
    • 2006, Rita Tregellas Pope, Landmark Visitors Guide Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly:
      Trenance Park has gardens, a toboggan run, miniature golf and the indoor delights of Water World with its tropical fun pool and flumes.
  2. (Canada, US) A similar sled of wood, pulled by dogs, possibly with steel runners, made to transport cargo.
    • 1847, Abraham Gesner, New Brunswick; with Notes for Emigrants: Comprehending the Early History, an Account of the Indians, Settlement, Topography, Statistics, Commerce, Timber, Manufactures, Agriculture, Fisheries, Geology, Natural History, Social and Political State, Immigrants, and Contemplated Railways of that Province:
      The old toboggan has been laid aside, and sleighs or waggons dash along the streets.
    • 1889, John G. Donkin, Trooper and Redskin in the Far North-west: Recollections of Life in the North-west Mounted Police:
      These animals are harnessed by a padded collar to a light flat sleigh, of skins stretched across a frame of thin wood, called a toboggan.
    • 2006, Cornelius Osgood, Winter:
      The steer dog next to the sleigh prevents this by immediately leading off at a sixty-degree angle from the direction the others are going, thereby compensating for the sidewise stress and keeping the toboggan in the clear until the bend has been passed.
  3. Something which, once it starts going (figuratively) downhill, is unstoppable until it reaches the bottom.
    • 1907, Joe Vila, The Sporting News, read in Gordon H. Fleming, The Unforgettable Season (2006):
      McGinnity began to hit the toboggan in 1906, after he had pitched his arm off the previous year. Last season his efforts at times were painful.
    • 1948, U.S. House of Representatives, Hearing before the Committee on Banking and Currency, on S.J. Res. 157, joint resolution to aid in protecting the Nation's economy against inflationary pressures. 80th Congress, 2nd Session July 29-August 4, 1948:
      If we were to hit the toboggan of a depression, wages would drop.
    • 1989, C.W. Peterson, Wake Up, Canada!: Reflections on Vital National Issues:
      Farming was on “the toboggan.” New settlers who had purchased land could not meet their deferred payments.
    • 2003, Jim Harrison, Off to the Side:
      The fact that I agreed showed that there was no hope of getting off the toboggan more than momentarily.
    • 2005, Richard Allan (EDT) Davison, The Art of the American Musical: Conversations with the Creators:
      We all have found out that once a show goes into rehearsal, it's a toboggan slide and there's not enough time. So we had six months of preproduction meetings.
  4. (Southern US, especially South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia) A knit cap, designed to provide warmth in cold weather.
    • 1915, William Rush Dunton, Occupation therapy:
      Suppose we wish to make a pointed cap, such as used to be known as a toboggan cap, from yarn or worsted.
    • 1992, Wallace Neal Briggs, Riverside Remembered:
      Sissy bounded back in dressed in a heavy sweater and toboggan.
    • 2005, Dave Smith, Life's Too Short to Be an Underdog...And Other Spiritual Life Lessons I Learned from My Dog:
      If you must adorn your dog with a hat, go with a toboggan-style hat. If It was good enough for Snoopy, It Is definitely good enough for your dog.
    • 2006, Frances Stegall, Grass Roots: 80 Years in Bailey Co.:
      We used an old toboggan stuffed with cotton for the ball, and it served the purpose very well.



See alsoEdit


Tobogganing, on a very long toboggan

toboggan (third-person singular simple present toboggans, present participle tobogganing, simple past and past participle tobogganed)

  1. To slide down a hill on a toboggan or other object.
    • 1887, E. Katherine (Emily Katherine) Bates, A Year in the Great Republic:
      Mr. Macaulay, the landlord, insisted upon trying to "toboggan" us down the mountain on the saddle cloth of one of the horses, an attempt that ended of course in disaster, for the surface was much too small for the three of us, and the snow too soft for the purpose.
    • 1888, Alfred Thomas Tucker Wise, Alpine winter in its medical aspects:
      The aspect of this patient was greatly changed for the better; she was able to skate, toboggan, and mount 500 feet of Maloja Pass without fatigue.
    • 1916, William John Thomas, (John) Doran, Henry Frederick Turle, Joseph Knight, Vernon Horace Rendall, Florence Hayllar, Notes and Queries:
      I froze my toes some years ago, while tobogganing, and was unaware of it until I took off my shoe and walked across the room, when the unusual noise on the boards attracted my attention.
    • 2006, Nita Hughes, The Cathar Legacy:
      The hillside, lined with a coating of wet leaves ready to toboggan her down the slope, made her grateful for a few saplings that provided handholds.
  2. (figuratively) To go downhill unstoppably until one reaches the bottom.
    • 1945, US House of Representatives, 1945 extension of the Reciprocal trade agreements act: hearings before the Committee on finance, United States Senate, Seventy-ninth Congress, first session, on H.R. 3240, an act to extend the authority of the President under section 350 of the Tariff act of 1930, as amended, and for other purposes:
      A depression in one nation can become the slide on which our civilization would toboggan into economic collapse.
    • 2006, Keith Dixon, Altered Life:
      I can't win, can I? You think I'm posh and my folks think I'm tobogganing down-market faster than the royal family.
  3. (aviation, intransitive) To fly sharply downward so as to build up speed to facilitate in-flight refueling of a faster aircraft.
    • 1961, Wings (volumes 31-33, page 11)
      Aircraft returning to refuel at about three o'clock have tobogganed down to their spats in the mud whilst early in the morning one could bounce a crowbar on the frozen ground.
    • 2005, The Mobility Forum: The Journal of the Air Mobility Command (page 21)
      How did a piston engine tanker refuel a faster jet bomber? It "tobogganed" - the refueling connection would be made high up and then the bomber and tanker flew "downhill" together enabling the tanker to pick up more speed.

See alsoEdit


Derived termsEdit


  • Douglas Harper (2001–2021) , “toboggan”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
  • “toboggan” in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Walt Wolfram, Jeffrey Reaser, Talkin' Tar Heel: How Our Voices Tell the Story of North Carolina (2014, →ISBN




toboggan m (plural toboggans)

  1. (Europe) slide (in a playground)

Further readingEdit