One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1US. Any of several wading birds; especially the (red) knot, Calidris canutus, in winter plumage. Now historical.
2English regional and US. The (greater) scaup, Aythya marila. Now rare.
3United States regional. A louse. Also figurative. Now archaic and historical.
4US. More fully "greyback whale". The grey whale, Eschrichtius robustus.
5English regional. More fully "greyback crow". The hooded crow, Corvus corone cornix. Compare grey crow. Now rare.
6A member of a military or police force whose uniform includes, or consists of, a grey coat; specifically (US informal) a soldier of the Confederate army in the American Civil War (1861–5). Compare greycoat, "grey". Now archaic and historical.
7US. A monetary note issued by the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Compare "blueback", "greenback". Now historical.
Early 19th century; earliest use found in Alexander Wilson (1766–1813), ornithologist and poet. From grey + back.
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