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lawyer n

Usu |ˈlɔɪ(j)ə(r)|; also |ˈlơjə(r), ˈlɔ-|; also (often facetiously) |ˈlaɪjə(r)|; for addit varr see quots
Pronc-spp la’yer, liar, li-yer


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  • 1891 Page Elsket 140 VA [Black], I had a some sort of a la’yer, but not much of a one.
  • 1942 in 1944 ADD PA, Lawyer. . . liar. Common in folk speech.
  • 1951 Johnson Resp. to PADS 20 DE (Joking . . names for lawyers) Li-yers.
  • 1965–70 DARE
    Qu. HH44, Joking or uncomplimentary names for lawyers
    Inf ID1, [ˈlɑjɚ]; LA8, [ˈlɑjə] [FW: Pronounced to be ambiguous with liar]; MT1, [ˈlɔjɚ]; ND5, PA163, SD1, 3, [ˈlɔɪ(j)ɚ]; TN30, Jakeleg [ˈlơ˃ujɚ]; TN66, Jakeleg [ˈlơujɚ].
  • 1991 DARE File Madison WI, The pronunciation “liar” for “lawyer” is commonly heard from clients at the Veterans Hospital here. When I first encountered it, I thought it was just being used facetiously, but after a while I realized that was just the way some people pronounced it. And after my ear had gotten attuned to it, I found, when visiting a friend in Topeka, Kansas, that people said “liar” for “lawyer” there also.


1 also lawyer bird: =bluestocking 2.

  • 1813 (1824) Wilson Amer. Ornith. 7.132, American Avocet: Recurvirostra Americana. . . from its perpetual clamour and flippancy of tongue, is called, by the inhabitants of Cape May, the Lawyer.
  • 1918 Grinnell et al. Game Birds CA 340, Together with the Black-necked Stilt, this bird is sometimes known as the “lawyer bird” because of its long bill and its oft-repeated vociferations!
  • 1923 U.S. Dept. Ag. Misc. Circular 13.48, Avocet (Recurvirostra americana). . . Blue-stocking (N.J.; La.); lawyer (N.J.); lawyer-bird (Calif.)

2 also lawyer bird: =black-necked stilt.

  • 1844 DeKay Zool. NY 2.266, It [=Himantopus nigricollis] is known under the various popular names of Tilt, Stilt, Longshanks and Lawyer. The origin of this last popular name (which is most in use), I have not been able to discover: there appears to be nothing unusual in the length of its bill.
  • 1872 Coues Key to N. Amer. Birds 247, Stilt. Longshanks. Lawyer.
  • 1916 Times–Picayune (New Orleans LA) 2 Apr mag sec 5/7, Black-necked stilt (Himantopus mexicanus). Soldat; Beccasine du Marais; Lawyer.—The extremely long and bright-red legs; the long and slender neck and bill, identify this peculiar summer resident of Louisiana.
  • 1923 U.S. Dept. Ag. Misc. Circular 13.48, Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus). . . Daddy-long-legs (Wash.), jacksnipe (Calif.), lawyer (N.Y., Tex., Calif.), lawyer-bird (Calif.)
  • 1925 (1928) Forbush Birds MA 1.384, The Black-necked Stilt is known in parts of its range as the “Lawyer” because of its vociferousness.
  • 1955 Forbush–May Birds 209, Black-Necked Stilt—Himantopus mexicanus. . . Other names: Longshanks; Lawyer Bird; Daddy-long-legs.

3 =double-crested cormorant.

  • 1917 (1923) Birds Amer. 1.97, Double-Crested Cormorant—Phalacrocorax auritus auritus. . . Other Names.—Crow Duck . . Lawyer; Nigger Goose.
  • 1946 Hausman Eastern Birds 90, Double-Crested Cormorant—Phalacrocorax auritus auritus. . . Other Names—Shag . . Lawyer.

4 =burbot.esp Michigan, Minnesota, WisconsinSee Map

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  • 1857 Hammond Wild N. Scenes 45 Upstate NY, “That . . is a species of ling; we call it in these parts a lawyer.” “A lawyer!” said I; “why, pray?” “I don’t know, . . unless it’s because he ain’t of much use, and is the slipriest fish that swims.”
  • 1884 Goode Fisheries U.S. 1.236, The Burbot [Lota maculosa] . . is the “Lawyer” of Lake Michigan, according to Earll.
  • 1911 (1913) Johnson Highways Gt. Lakes 222 cnMI, These lawyers, or bullheads as they’re called by some, are ugly lookin’ fish—too much like a lizard, and the taste is nothing extra, but the flesh is white, and there’s not many bones. One time a fellow down here at Munising went to skinning ’em and calling ’em “fresh water cod.”
  • 1936 Copeia 3.164 MN, On the night of February 12. . . a dark shadow was noted at the edge of the ice. . . Eventually this . . was seen to be . . a ball—a tangled, nearly globular mass of moving, writhing lawyers.
  • 1950 WELS ceWI (Kinds of fish not commonly eaten) 1 Inf, Lawyer; 1 Inf, Lawyers—sucker family, scaleless, eat spawn.
  • 1966–69 DARE
    Qu. P1, . . Kinds of freshwater fish . . caught around here . . good to eat
    Infs MI20, 32, MN1, Lawyer(s); MN15, Lake Superior. . . Lawyer—no backbone, an eel;
    Qu. P3, Freshwater fish that are not good to eat
    Infs MI103, MN10, WI72, Lawyers; MI14, Lawyer, or dogfish; WI78, Lawyer—look like cod—good eating, but people won’t eat ’em—throw ’em away now; MN5, Eel pout, burbot, lawyers;
    Qu. P14, . . Commercial fishing . . what do the fishermen go out after?
    Inf MN5, Lawyers—used for mink feed.
  • 1968 DARE Tape
    • WI75, The reason they call them a lawyer . . is because his heart is in his ass . . his heart is just above his bunghole.
  • 1971 WI Conserv. Bulletin 36.6.23 WI, Burbot is more commonly referred to as eelpout, lawyer, or ling.
  • 1991 Amer. Fisheries Soc. Common Names Fishes 145, Lawyer . . burbot.
lawyer B4 (Qq. P1, P3, P14)

5 =bowfin.

  • 1882 U.S. Natl. Museum Bulletin 16.94, A[mia] calva. . . Lawyer. . . A voracious fish of remarkable tenacity of life. The flesh is peculiarly soft and pasty, and is of no value for food.
  • 1896 U.S. Natl. Museum Bulletin 47.113, Amia calva. . . Mudfish; Dogfish; Bowfin; Grindle; “John A. Grindle;” Lawyer; Poisson de Marais.
  • 1946 La Monte N. Amer. Game Fishes 102, Lawyer, Lake Lawyer, Cottonfish.
  • 1983 Becker Fishes WI 251, Bowfin . . Other Common names: . . John A. Grindle, grinnel, lake lawyer, lawyer.

6 also sea lawyer: Usu the gray snapper but also the schoolmaster.

  • 1882 U.S. Natl. Museum Proc. 5.275, Lutjanus caxis. . . Black Snapper; Lawyer.
  • 1884 Goode Fisheries U.S. 1.397, Lutjanus caxis. . . known as the ‘Gray Snapper,’ and also, on account of its sly, cunning habits, the ‘Sea Lawyer.’
  • 1911 U.S. Bur. Census Fisheries 1908 316, The gray snapper or mangrove snapper (L[utianus] griseus), also known in Florida as “Lawyer,” is a most common species.
  • 1935 Caine Game Fish 130, Mangrove Snapper—Lutianus griseus . . Synonyms: Bastard Snapper . . Lawyer.
  • 1946 La Monte N. Amer. Game Fishes 59, Schoolmaster—Lutianus apodus . . Names: Caji, Sea Lawyer . . Dog Snapper.