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down east, n., adv., and adj.

Forms:  also with capital initial in the second element or in both elements.(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: down adv., east adv.
Etymology: < down adv. + east adv.
The use with reference to New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada perhaps reflects an origin as a nautical usage (perhaps originally alluding to these regions as being down wind: see down wind at wind n.1 19). However, perhaps compare also down North adv.   and discussion at that entry, and also down country adv.
North American regional.
 A. n.

 1. New England (esp. eastern Maine) and the Maritime Provinces of Canada; spec. the eastern coastal parts of this region.Chiefly used within New England and the Maritime Provinces to denote coastal parts of the region located further east. The idea that nowhere do residents identify their own part of the region as ‘down east’ has formed the basis of many humorous stories and articles (cf. quot. 1906).

1817   Exeter (New Hampsh.) Watchman 7 May 3/1   We talk of the ‘Westward’, as we once did of the ‘down east’, and with just as much distinctness and discrimination.
1887   E. Ingersoll Down East Latch Strings ix. 77   Moosehead lake is the largest of the hundreds of inland seas with which ‘down east’ is provided.
1906   Pine Tree Mag. Oct. 208/2   I looked across the Bay of Fundy and felt thankful that I would not have to cross its waters to reach Down East.
1999   E. Brechlin Maine Adventure Guide 249   The real Down East does not begin until you cross over to the eastern side of the Penobscot River.

1817—1999(Hide quotations)


 2. The eastern parts of the United States or the central parts of Canada (esp. Ontario) as regarded by inhabitants of more western parts. Cf. back East n.

1849   Wisconsin Farmer, & Northwestern Cultivator Aug. 173/1   Who of our Wisconsinites does not love fruit?..from the littlest bub or sis..up to the grandparent who spent some of the happiest moments of child-hood among the fruitful orchards..of ‘Down East’.
1873   Literary World May 188/3   Mr. Hayne did not look beyond Mason and Dixon's line..when he introduced into a biographical sketch of a luckless poet..passages which cannot possibly propitiate the people of ‘Down East’.
1909   Relig. Telescope 23 June 23/3   Men who come out of the great West to enlighten the inhabitants of the far-away ‘down East’.
1976   M. Laurence Down East in C. Martin Local Colour (1994) 116   Apart from The West and The Coast, our country contained only one other habitable area..and that was Down East. This really meant Ontario. Quebec and the Maritimes existed in geography books but not in our imaginations.
2006   Globe & Mail (Toronto) (Nexis) 9 Aug. a4   The people of the northwest (who refer to southern Ontario as ‘down east’) rightly believe they have little influence at Queen's Park.

1849—2006(Hide quotations)

 B. adv.

 1. In New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada: in or towards the east along the coast; in or towards more eastern parts. More widely: in or towards the eastern coastal parts of New England (esp. eastern Maine) and the Maritime Provinces.See note at sense A. 1.

1819   Eastern Argus (Portland, Maine) 11 May   If Maine out counted Massachusetts three to one, would Massachusetts..send her Senators and Representatives ‘down east’ [and some think ‘down east’ the bottomless pit] to Bangor and Castine?
1836   T. C. Haliburton Clockmaker 1st Ser. ii. 12   If I was to tell them in Connecticut, there was such a farm as this away down east here in Nova Scotia, they wouldn't believe me.
1882   Cent. Mag. July 350/1   Antique examples of this curious craft are still to be seen creeping in and out about the little sleepy ports downeast.
1920   S. Lewis Main St. xxxv. 416   And the same thing goes for that crowd of crabs and snobs Down East.
1962   Canada Month Feb. 32/2   In Canada, a family can pack up and move from Nova Scotia to B.C. at will. Nobody forces it, though it's of course too bad if it can no longer make a livelihood Down East.
2006   T: N.Y. Times Style Mag. 21 May 144/2   I drive three hours Down East (north on the coast) along the thickly forested coast of northern Maine.

1819—2006(Hide quotations)


 2. In or towards the eastern parts of the United States (esp. New England) or eastern and central parts of Canada (esp. Ontario) from more western parts. Cf. back East adv.

1833   Voice of People (Warren, Pa.) 19 Feb.   ‘Davy Crockitt’ has issued his ‘Procklamashun’ stating that if the tariff be not reduced before the fourth of March next, he will go down East and ‘drinck upp thur rivurs, ete upp thur steem-botes’.
1889   Daily Inter Ocean (Chicago) 25 Aug. 5/1   He..looked as if he wished he could induce the blacksmiths of Chicago to go down East and squeeze out what life yet remains in the New York boom.
1941   Winnipeg Tribune 11 July 9/1   They are talking of getting a divorce and sending us down East to a boarding school.
1991   Carillon (Steinbach, Manitoba) 27 Nov. 10 c/3   Many friends, neighbors and relatives from down east joined with them and their family to mark their very special occasion.
2002   Edmonton (Alberta) Jrnl. (Nexis) 3 Nov. b8   Kidder plays an undercover cop, Corp. Marina Di Luzio, who is sent from down east to deal with white collar crime in Calgary.

1833—2002(Hide quotations)

 C. adj.

  Of, from, located in, or characteristic of New England (esp. eastern Maine) and the Maritime Provinces of Canada, esp. the eastern coastal parts of this region. Cf. Yankee adj. a.

1825   Hancock Gaz. & Penobscot Patriot (Belfast, Maine) 5 Jan.   Our ‘down east’ muse unskilled to fly Like those beneath a milder sky.
1867   O. W. Holmes Guardian Angel viii. 85   He actually had the down-east city [sc. Bangor] called after it.
1907   F. T. Bullen Call of Deep ii. 16   Our Nova Scotian cousins can lay over any Down East Yank in the matter of cold-blooded brutality.
1909   Daily Mail 29 Sept.   The grocer is a down-East Canadian. The carpenter is a son of the south of France.
1956   Western Folklore 15 258   We have heard stories of Paul and these were brought from the east, the down east provinces of Canada and the state of Maine.
1976   Toronto Star 21 Feb. a10/4   Brian Mulroney's mob shelled out a ‘Down East’ lunch of lobster and fish.
2001   S. King Dreamcatcher xix. 684   His accent was pure downeast Yankee.

1825—2001(Hide quotations)


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