Webster's New World College Dictionary Copyright © 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio.
a sack or bag made of gunny
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
noun Chiefly Western U.S.
A bag or sack made of gunny. Also called regionally crocus sack, croker sack, tow bag, tow sack.Regional Note: A large sack made from loosely woven, coarse material goes by a variety of names in regional American English. The most general term is burlap bag, known everywhere but used especially in the Northeast. In the Midwest and West the usual term is gunnysack, which ultimately comes from the Sanskrit word gonī, meaning “jute or hemp fiber.” In the Upper South such a sack is called a tow sack, and in Eastern North Carolina, a tow bag. (The word tow is another synonym for fabric made from jute or hemp and probably derives from an Old English word for “spinning.”) In South Carolina and adjacent parts of Georgia, it is called a crocus sack, and in the Gulf states, a croker sack, both terms deriving from the word crocus. According to Craig M. Carver, who draws on the research of Walter S. Avis, “Crocus is a coarse, loosely woven material once worn by slaves and laborers and common in colonial New England. It probably took its name from the sacks in which crocus or saffron was shipped.” Though the term crocus sack virtually disappeared from New England by the end of the 19th century, it survives in the South.