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throwaway, n. and adj.

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Origin: Formed within English, by conversion. Etymon: to throw away at throw v.1 Phrasal verbs.
 A. n.

 1. Something that has been or is worthy of being thrown away or discarded; that which may be squandered. Also: an act of throwing away, discarding, or squandering something.

1870   J. Lukin Amateur Mechanic's Workshop 104   You will find yourself buying a new lathe of better quality, and the first will be seen to have been a throw-away of money.
1911   Sat. Evening Post 22 Apr. 59 (advt.)    Hundreds of articles which you now throw away as ruined, can be made like new... Send for a book that tells how to get value out of your household throwaways.
1955   N.Y. Times 29 May vi. 15/1   Generally, the program opens with a line of girls in two or three minutes of fast-stepping, high-kicking precision dancing. This is a throwaway, designed to get late-comers settled into their seats before the real show starts.
1987   J. Shaw Closeups in Nature 16/1   One person's photographic jewels may be another person's throwaways.
2003   J. Morris in Times 14 May (Everest section) 12/2   They look like groups of gentlemanly ruffians, dressed in apparent throwaways, old army jerseys, battered trilby hats.

1870—2003(Hide quotations)

 
 2.

 a. A printed sheet, handbill, etc., not intended to be kept after it has been read; a pamphlet, leaflet, newspaper, etc., given away for free and usually discarded after reading.

1883   Sporting Times 20 Oct. 2/2   Ballad of the Throwaway.
1887   Era 3 Sept. 5/1   Splendid Printing, including..Photos., Throw-aways, &c.
1922   J. Joyce Ulysses ii. viii. [Lestrygonians] 144   A sombre Y. M. C. A. young man..placed a throwaway in a hand of Mr Bloom.
1965   Newsweek 21 June 70/2   The advertisements in the two editions of the weekly shopper's throwaway.
2001   B. Ehrenreich Nickel & Dimed (2002) iii. 125   So it's back to the car and my red-inked help-wanted ads, both in the Star Tribune and a throwaway called Employment News.

1883—2001(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Chiefly colloq. (orig. U.S.). An item designed to be discarded after use, or one having a short lifespan; spec. a disposable container.

1947   Morning Herald (Hagerstown, Maryland) 3 July 16/5   Plenty cans and throwaways for Picnics.
1953   Sun (Baltimore) 17 Feb. (B ed.) 30/7   The group of county delegates submitted a bill..which would ban the dispensing of alcoholic beverages in throw-aways.
1976   Monitor (McAllen, Texas) 29 Oct. 3 a/3   Consumers could save millions of dollars a year in lower prices if soft drinks and beer were sold in returnable containers instead of throwaways.
2012   R. Mofina They Disappeared xx. 124   They're using an untraceable cell phone, a throwaway.

1947—2012(Hide quotations)

 

 3. U.S. A person who has been abandoned; esp. a child or teenager thrown out or forced out of his or her home. Sometimes contrasted with runaway n. 1a.

1895   Lippincott's Monthly Mag. Jan. 70   When I growed into a chunk uv a boy, I knowed I wuz a throw-away.
1969   L. A. Richette Throwaway Children v. 100   I too was filled with sadness—for him and all the other throwaways who are cheated out of childhood.
1991   Urban Anthropol. 20 196   Many of the teens whose interviews reveal that they have..slept in cars, and sometimes gone to shelters or other institutional settings, are runaways or throwaways from very difficult family situations.
2001   R. B. Flowers Runaway Kids & Teenage Prostitution ii. 19   How many runaways or missing children are actually throwaways?

1895—2001(Hide quotations)

 
 

 4. A trivial or insignificant line of speech, remark, etc.; (also) a remark or comment that is delivered in a casual way, or that is understated or played-down, often for increased dramatic effect.

1960   20th Cent. Aug. 137   Each is a finely polished stylist: let no one be deceived by the easy, laconic throw-away of Ada Leverson.
1976   B. Jackson Flameout vi. 115   It was a pity that the best question was a throwaway to the other reporters: they didn't deserve it.
1990   Guardian 3 Dec. 37/2   He decorates the story with choice throwaways about the none-too-bright Ed (‘It was once said he could light up a room by leaving it’).
2003   Financial Times 6 June 17/4   The more dangerous he gets, the more you love him—even in little throwaways, as when he says to Hildy's fiancé: ‘God, you are so fascinating.’

1960—2003(Hide quotations)

 
 B. adj.
 1.

 a. Designed to be discarded after use, or to have a short lifespan, disposable; that is a throwaway (sense A. 2a).

1886   Era 21 Aug. 4/4   Special Window Bills and Throwaway Cards.
1928   Weekly Dispatch 13 May 17   You can..clean your face at intervals with those throwaway hankies you buy from any chemist.
1958   Engineering 7 Feb. 192/3   The butane comes from a throwaway cartridge.
1982   J. Hansen Gravedigger iv. 33   Two plastic-handled throwaway razors.
2014   New Scientist 11 Oct. 38/4   The kinds of throwaway products that now clog landfills: cheap toys, bottles, cellphone parts.

1886—2014(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Relating to or characterized by the (excessive) use of disposable goods, or of goods having a short lifespan.

1940   Sci. News Let. 24 Feb. 125/2   On the list of Pervel products today are..scores of other products where a ‘throwaway’ principle can apply.
1969   New Scientist 25 Sept. 648/1   We will undoubtedly have a formidable litter problem in our ‘throw away’ world..from..household equipment with built-in obsolescence.
1980   Jrnl. Royal Soc. Arts Mar. 188/1   At the same time the ‘throw away’ attitude developed in society.
2017   Daily Tel. (Nexis) 23 Dec. 31   There is a growing awareness about the environmental and societal risks of our throwaway culture.

1940—2017(Hide quotations)

 

 2. Of a price: so low as to represent very little or no profit to the seller; very low.

1887   Glasgow Herald 10 May 1/7   Throw-Away Price 3½d; would be cheap at 7½d per yard.
1924   A. J. Small Frozen Gold xiii. 288   With a modicum of luck they might even be able to record every claim they had pegged—and then get rid of them at throw-away prices.
1967   Spectator 14 July 53/3   At throwaway prices everyone can afford the latest Camp, and there will be something new coming along next month.
2011   Times of India (Nexis) 26 Nov.   He had to sell his paddy at a throw away price.

1887—2011(Hide quotations)

 
 3.

 a. Of a line or speech, remark, etc.: trivial, insignificant; (also) delivered in a casual way; understated or played-down, often for increased dramatic effect.

1942   Olean (N.Y) Times-Herald 15 Sept. 9/2   She is never given more than a throwaway line or two.
1956   Time & Tide 25 Feb. 198/3   I am an assiduous collector of those valuable ‘throw-away’ jokes which can be used to brighten up speeches.
1993   Times 31 July (Mag. section) 24/4   We are amused, surprised, outraged, or simply stunned by the perfectly crafted throw-away remarks which propel the horrible plot.
2009   L. Papadopoulos What Men say, what Women Hear i. 12   A throwaway comment from your ex-boyfriend about how he's not really into blondes turns into My hair looks bad, and if he thinks so, so will every other guy.

1942—2009(Hide quotations)

 
 

 b. Characterized by understatement; casual or understated in style or technique.

1958   M. Dickens Man Overboard vii. 102   He was more cunning than he seemed with that throw-away sixth-form voice.
1962   Times 1 May 15/1   One act, the Temperance Seven, is very good, but their technique in their half-comic, wholly loving re-creations on 1920s popular music is too throwaway, too underplayed to storm an audience's sympathies.
1972   Daily Tel. 29 June 7/7   You can carry your enthusiasm..into casual slouchy nonchalance, and the outstanding collection of Stephen Adnitt had plenty of this throwaway chic.
2014   S. Zagorski-Thomas Musicol. Record Production v. 80   Cocker's timbre gives the impression of a throwaway delivery and a world-weary lack of effort.

1958—2014(Hide quotations)

 

 4. U.S. Of a person: that has been abandoned; esp. (of a child or teenager) that has been thrown out or forced out of his or her home. Sometimes contrasted with runaway adj. 1a.

1969   L. A. Richette (title)    The throwaway children.
1973   D. Butler et al. Runaway House Handbk. iii. 39/2   More programs housing ‘throwaway’ kids would alleviate the incredible overcrowding in detention facilities and in public residential treatment facilities.
1986   Cumberland (Maryland) Evening Times 25 Sept. 21/1   We deal with the throwaway people, the people who have no family or friends.
2006   Las Cruces (New Mexico) Sun-News (Nexis) 23 Dec.   Homeless people in New Mexico include..migrant workers, runaway or throwaway teens, victims of domestic violence and veterans.

1969—2006(Hide quotations)

 

This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2018).

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