See also: tos, TOS, tôs, tös, tøs, and t-os



From Middle English tossen (to buffet about, agitate, toss; to sift or winnow), of uncertain origin. Perhaps from Old Norse (compare dialectal Norwegian tossa, dialectal Swedish tossa (to strew, spread)), or perhaps from an alteration of Middle English tosen (to tease, pull apart, shred; to wound, injure). Compare also Dutch tassen (to pile or heap up, stack).

The Welsh tos (a quick jerk) and tosio (to jerk, toss) are probably borrowed from the English.



toss (plural tosses)

  1. A throw, a lob, of a ball etc., with an initial upward direction, particularly with a lack of care.
  2. (cricket, soccer) The coin toss before a cricket match in order to decide who bats first, or before a football match in order to decide the direction of play.
  3. A haughty throwing up of the head.
  4. (British slang) A jot, in the phrase 'give a toss'.
    I couldn't give a toss about her.
  5. (British slang) A state of agitation; commotion.
    • 1666 June 2, Pepys, Samuel, Diary:
      This put us at the board into a Tosse.
    • 1845, Judd, Sylvester, Margaret:
      "We are all in a toss, in our neighborhood," said Mistress Pottle.
  6. (Billingsgate Fish Market slang) A measure of sprats.
    • 1834, Pasley, Sir Charles William, “That the cubic foot is the smallest measure, which ought to be used in wholesale dealings in fish or fruit”, in Observations on the expediency and practicability of simplifying and improving the measures, weights and money, used in this country, without materially altering the present standards, page 96:
      It will differ from the heaped measure of oysters, improperly called the peck, by about one-seventh part in excess, and from the toss of sprats by about one-third part in excess.

Derived termsEdit



toss (third-person singular simple present tosses, present participle tossing, simple past and past participle tossed or (obsolete) tost)

  1. To throw with an initial upward direction.
    Toss it over here!
  2. To lift with a sudden or violent motion.
    to toss the head
    • 1713, Joseph Addison, Cato, published 1712, [Act 4, scene 1]:
      He tossed his arm aloft, and proudly told me, / He would not stay.
  3. To agitate; to make restless.
  4. To subject to trials; to harass.
    • 1633, George Herbert, The Temple
      Whom devils fly, thus is he tossed of men.
  5. To flip a coin, to decide a point of contention.
    We should toss for it.
    I'll toss you for it.
  6. (informal) To discard: to toss out
    I don't need it any more; you can just toss it.
  7. To stir or mix (a salad).
    to toss a salad; a tossed salad.
  8. (British slang) To masturbate
  9. (transitive, informal) To search (a room or a cell), sometimes leaving visible disorder, as for valuables or evidence of a crime.
    "Someone tossed just his living room and bedroom." / "They probably found what they were looking for."
    • 2003, Joseph Wambaugh, Fire Lover, page 258:
      John Orr had occasion to complain in writing to the senior supervisor that his Playboy and Penthouse magazines had been stolen by deputies. And he believed that was what prompted a random search of his cell for contraband. He was stripped, handcuffed, and forced to watch as they tossed his cell.
    • 2009, Thomas Harris, Red Dragon:
      Rankin and Willingham, when they tossed his cell, they took Polaroids so they could get everything back in place.
    • 2011, Linda Howard, Kill and Tell: A Novel:
      Hayes had watched him toss a room before. He had tapped walls, gotten down on his hands and knees and studied the floor, inspected books and lamps and bric-abrac.
  10. (intransitive) To roll and tumble; to be in violent commotion.
    tossing and turning in bed, unable to sleep
  11. (intransitive) To be tossed, as a fleet on the ocean, or as a ship in heavy seas.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  12. (obsolete) To keep in play; to tumble over.
    to spend four years in tossing the rules of grammar
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Ascham to this entry?)
  13. (rowing) To peak (the oars), to lift them from the rowlocks and hold them perpendicularly, the handle resting on the bottom of the boat.
  14. (British slang) To drink in large draughts; to gulp.
    • 1597, Hall, Joseph, “Satire II”, in Satires[1], Chiswick: C. Whittingham, published 1824, page 7:
      Their modest stole, to garish looser weed, / Deck'd with love-favours their late whoredoms' meed: / And where they wont sip of the simple flood, / Now toss they bowls of Bacchus' boiling blood,
    • 1695, Congreve, William, Love for Love, act 3, scene 15:
      Why, forsooth, an you think so, you had best go to bed. For my part, I mean to toss a can, and remember my sweet-heart, afore I turn in; mayhap I may dream of her.

Derived termsEdit