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"The 'buck' is any inanimate object, usually knife or pencil, which is thrown into a jack pot and temporarily taken by the winner of the pot. Whenever the deal reaches the holder of the 'buck', a new jack pot must be made." [J.W. Keller, "Draw Poker," 1887]The fig. sense of "shift responsibility" is first recorded 1912. Buck private is recorded by 1870s, of uncertain signification.
To cheer up; brace: Immigrant life lets people down as soon as it bucks them up (1850s+ British schools)
[all senses ultimately fr buck, ''male animal, usually horned''; the semantics are complex: for example, the first sense is said to be fr the fact that a buck deer's skin was more valuable than a female's skin; the other senses have most to do with male behavior of a butting and strutting sort]