Greenback

Written By:
Paul Tracy
Updated September 30, 2020

What is a Greenback?

Greenback is a slang term for the U.S. dollar. This name is derived from the green color of U.S. paper currency.

How Does a Greenback Work?

Since U.S. currency notes were first introduced in the early 1800s, their color has customarily been green. For several decades until the end of the American Civil War, the U.S. federal government was unable to fully back currency notes, and most banking authorities were unwilling to fully honor their face value. As a result, the term "greenback" began as a derogatory term that over time, evolved into common slang.  Once dollar bill denominations were centrally issued and universally acceptable as a form of payment, other vernacular terms including "buck" were introduced into common language.

Why Does a Greenback Matter?

The term greenback is not used as frequently as it once was – particularly where the color of American currency has changed in recent years.  Although the connotation of the term is no longer derogatory as it once was, it is important to recognize the historical origins for the term "greenback."