Gold Rush jargon Quiz

Nathan Chandler

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Gold Rush prospectors and miners developed a subculture and lingo specific to their experiences. How much do you know about Gold Rush jargon? Take this quiz and find out!

The compulsion to join the Gold Rush was called what?

Entire families were sometimes gripped by gold fever. They uprooted their lives and headed to California in a desperate (and sometimes greedy) rush to find gold.

What was a "grub stake"?

Not everyone who had gold fever went out to California. They stayed home but gave money to prospectors they hoped would strike it rich.

What did it mean to go "around the horn"?

Many people sailed from the East Coast to California using the 18,000-mile route around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America. The arduous journey killed many travelers long before they arrived.

What was another reason people used the phrase, "around the horn"?

If you'd been "around the horn," it meant that you'd encountered more than your share of difficulties in your quest for riches.

What was a "claim jumper"?

Jumping a claim meant that you were prospecting on someone else's land. It was a serious offense and often resulted in violent clashes.

It was a very good thing if a prospector's claim "panned out."

Prospectors often used large pans to sift through soil. When they saw flecks of gold in their pans, it mean that their lucky spot "panned out."

What did prospectors call an area that was loaded with gold deposits?

Striking pay dirt was a glorious moment, because it meant that the ground had enough gold to make it worth exploring.

The gold seekers who traveled to California in the middle of the 1800s were often called what?

Forty-niners were so called because so many of these people arrived in 1849.

People who were traveling to California by ship often referred to themselves as what?

The "Argonauts" term was a reference to Greek mythology, as Jason, the leader of the Argonauts sailed on a journey to find the Golden Fleece.

The area of California with the biggest gold deposits was often given which nickname?

The Mother Lode was the area rich in gold deposits, and it brought hundreds of thousands of people to the West in search of wealth.

Why would a prospector make a "coyote hole"?

A coyote hole was a shallow excavation that prospectors used to locate gold near the ground's surface.

The earliest of California's gold seekers earned which nickname?

The "forty-eighters" beat the main rush by a year, thereby earning the respect of people who straggled in later.

Where did prospectors do "placer mining"?

Placer mining happened in stream beds, where prospectors sifted through alluvial deposits in an attempt to find flakes and nuggets of gold.

Why were forty-niners leery of "kangaroo court"?

In places were law and order was still developing, a kangaroo court was a hastily (and often poorly) formed type of trial that often ended in injustice.

What did prospectors and miners do with "tailings"?

Tailings are the leftover refuse from the mining process, and this was simply piled up or discarded.

The word "nugget" was evolved from an English slang word, "nug," which meant what?

Finding a nug or lump of gold was a very good thing. A single good-sized gold nugget could fund a prospector's life for months or years.

Iron pyrite was also called which name?

Iron pyrite was (and still is) called fools' good. It has the same golden flashes but it's worth almost nothing in comparison.

Why were miners fond of "bucks"?

The word "bucks" was often used as slang for money during the Gold Rush era.

How did prospectors take possession of a "claim"?

The formal way to get access to a claim (a spot of land for prospecting) was to purchase it and then mark it so that other people didn't trespass.

Why did prospectors look forward to getting "drafts"?

Miners would take their gold to banks and exchange the metal for drafts, the local currency.

What did prospectors often yell when they finally found gold?

"Eureka" became so strongly associated with the culture that it eventually became the California state motto.

What was "hard rock" mining?

Hard rock mining meant that miners were attacking harder rock in order to get to ore deposits. Sometimes they would dig and other times they'd use explosives.

What was a "long tom"?

The long tom was a sluice that guided water through a channel that helped to separate gold from sediment.

How did miners uses "rockers"?

Rockers were like long toms, large contraptions meant to filter gold from rock, making the prospecting process much faster.

When prospectors stumbled into a substantial gold deposit, what did they call their luck?

A "lucky strike" was a big find. Hardly anyone actually was fortunate enough to find a lucky strike, but those that did inspired more people to travel West.

What was another contemporary term used to indicate a lucky strike?

The term "bonanza" was already in use before the Gold Rush, but the rush did make it a more common word in California.

Why did the word "shenanigans" become popular during the Gold Rush?

Shenanigans were "tricks," and there were many politicians playing tricks on each other (and forty-niners) as the Gold Rush crashed and burned.

Prospectors were always excited about a "flash in the pan."

Gold fever meant that men often saw flashes in their prospecting pans, but more often than not those flashes weren't gold. The flashes were frequently just the pan itself, an illusion that disappointed many, many people.

What was a goldwasher?

The goldwasher was a box designed to separate gold from sediment, a necessary step in the prospecting process.

Why did many prospectors trade "panning" for different methods?

Using a single pan to sift through stream deposits was a laborious process. Many miners graduated to large-scale operations that yielded more gold in a faster manner.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes