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[wet-bak] /ˈwɛtˌbæk/
noun, Disparaging and Offensive.
a Mexican laborer who enters the U.S. illegally, as by wading the Rio Grande.
1945-50, Americanism; wet + back1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for wet-back


(US, informal, offensive) a Mexican labourer who enters the US illegally
Word Origin
C20: illegal immigrants would swim across the Rio Grande river to reach the US
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for wet-back



"illegal Mexican immigrant to the U.S.," c.1924, from wet (adj.) + back (n.); from notion of wading the Rio Grande.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for wet-back



A Mexican who enters the US illegally, esp as a migratory worker •The term may be generalizing to include all illegal immigrants: An American's as good as a wetback, who is a Mexican whom we don't know how he got here

[1929+; fr the fact that they get their backs wet in wading across the Rio Grande; the terms wet pony, wet cow, etc, were used earlier for animals brought illegally across the border]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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