Definition of

Tar

  1. (noun, person) a man who serves as a sailor
  2. (noun, substance) any of various dark heavy viscid substances obtained as a residue
  3. (verb, contact) coat with tar
    tar the roads

via WordNet, Princeton University

Origin of the word Tar

  1. a viscous liquid, O.E. teoru, teru, lit. "the pitch of (certain kinds of) trees," from P.Gmc. *terwo- (cf. O.N. tjara, O.Fris. tera, M.Du. tar, Du. teer, Ger. Teer), probably a derivation of *trewo-, from PIE *drew- "tree" (cf. Skt. daru "wood;" Lith. darva "pine wood;" Gk. dory "beam, shaft of … more
  2. "sailor," 1676, probably a special use of tar (n.1), which was a staple for waterproofing aboard old ships (sailors also being jocularly called knights of the tarbrush); or possibly a shortened form of tarpaulin, which was recorded as a nickname for a sailor in 1647, from the tarpaulin garments they wore. more
  3. in tar and feather, 1769. A mob action in U.S. in Revolutionary times and several decades thereafter. Originally it had been imposed by an ordinance of Richard I (1189) as punishment in the navy for theft. Among other applications over the years was its use in 1623 by a bishop on "a party of incontinent friars and nuns" [OED], but not until 1769 was the verbal phrase att… more

via Online Etymology Dictionary, ©2001 Douglas Harper

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