Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Sour fermented dough used as leaven in making bread.
  • n. An early settler or prospector, especially in Alaska and northwest Canada.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Describing something made from dough that was leavened with yeast and lactobacteria that produce acids giving a sour taste.
  • n. Dough, leavened with yeast and lactobacteria that produce acids giving a sour taste.
  • n. A permanent resident of the territory. Someone who has lived in the Yukon during all four seasons.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. See the extract.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a leaven of dough in which fermentation is active; used by pioneers for making bread
  • n. a settler or prospector (especially in western United States or northwest Canada and Alaska)

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Sense 2, from an association with using pieces of sourdough to leaven bread in the winter.

Examples

Comments

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  • "... the sourdoughs settled on Anvil Creek. ... When the ice on the Bering Sea melted that summer, a new group of prospectors from the states began arriving by boat. Before long over a thousand more had set up their white tents.... 

    "The sourdoughs called the new arrivals 'cheechakoes,' a combination of Native Indian words meaning 'newcomer.' The new boys brought a dangerous element to the mix: they were, for the most part, naive."
    --Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury, <i>The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race against an Epidemic</i> (NY and London: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003), 13-14

    See also comment on Klondike rush.

    January 24, 2017

  • Term applied to someone who has lived in Alaska for a long time and has learned to survive in the harsh climate. From gold rush days, when maintaining sourdough starter was an important survival skill. See cheechako.

    November 5, 2007