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Then and Now

Where did the word “bulldozer” come from?

Around 1800, the common usage of “bull-dose” in the United States meant administering a large and efficient dose of any sort of medicine or punishment. If you “bull-dosed” someone, you gave him a severe whipping or coerced or intimidated him in some other way, such as by holding a gun to his head.

In 1886, with a slight variation in spelling, a “bulldozer” had come to mean both a large-caliber pistol and the person who wielded it.

By the late 1800s, “bulldozing” came to mean using brawny force to push over, or through, any obstacle.

The bulldozer as we know it, “a large caterpillar tractor with a plow on the front end for moving earth,” pushed its way into our vocabulary by 1930.

Technically, the word only applied to the front dozer blade, not the entire machine. Over the years people have come to associate the term “bulldozer” to the entire vehicle both blade and crawler tractor combined.

Today, bulldozer, means “a heavy, driver-operated machine for clearing and grading land, usually having continuous treads and a broad hydraulic blade in front”, or an overbearing person; a bully.