In an 1869 edition of the Shelby Sentinel newspaper, the word “sockdolager” was used to describe an unusually large head of cabbage that was delivered to the newspaper office by N. D. Seearce. Individuals reading the newspaper in 1869 probably knew very well what the word “sockdolager” meant. It is an old word that is not used today. And just to be clear, “sockdolager” is not a type of cabbage. According to the etymology dictionary, the word “sockdolager” came about in 1830, it is a noun that means “a decisive blow.” A few years later, in 1838, the meaning was expanded to include “something exceptional.” An etymology dictionary gives the origin and historical changes and meanings of words. There are free online etymology dictionaries. Paper copies can be found in libraries or purchased at bookstores. There is also an online video to help properly pronounce the word “sockdolager.” In 1869, the editor of the Shelby Sentinel was saying that N. D. Seearce had grown an exceptionally large head of cabbage. Kentucky newspapers moved away from the use of the word “sockdolager” around 1910.


John T. Hearn




1. "One of the largest cabbage heads...," Shelby Sentinel, 1869-11-10, p.3.
2. Origins of the word sockdolager at World Wide Words. Accessed 2021-04-25.
3. "How to say sockdolager." YouTube. Accessed 2021-04-25.


Reinette Jones, University of Kentucky Librarian & African American Studies Academic Liaison



“Sockdolager,” Kentucky Digital Newspaper Program Exhibits, accessed March 25, 2023,

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