The term goldbrick has followed an interesting route to come to the meaning that it carries today. Goldbrick is an idiom, which is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. We will look at the meaning of the term goldbrick, examine the evolution of its definition, and some examples of its use in sentences.
Goldbrick may refer to a brick of gold, but more often it is used as a verb to mean to avoid work, to invent excuses in order to shirk responsibility. Goldbrick is a verb, related terms are goldbricks, goldbricked, goldbricking, goldbricker. The term goldbrick originally referred to a type of swindle popular in the mid-1800s, wherein a crook painted a lead brick a gold color, going so far as to render the corners of the lead brick in gold. A victim might cut off one of these gold corners for assay and discover that it was indeed gold, and assume that the entire brick was gold. From there, the term goldbrick came to mean to swindle someone. By the turn of the twentieth century, American soldiers referred to women who lacked charms as a goldbrick. By World War I, the term goldbrick came to mean shirking work or responsibility, often by feigning illness. Note that the compound word goldbrick is properly rendered as one word with no space.
The police-lineup of men she becomes entangled with is both paradigmatic and all too convincing, from Jean-Claude Brialy’s silky goldbricker to Nino Manfredi’s amoral press agent to, unforgettably, Ugo Tognazzi’s crucifyingly pathetic film-biz has-been, tap-dancing to a heart attack on a table to amuse a producer to whom he then tries to pimp out Adriana. (The Miami New Times)
While the duo goldbricks, their platoon explores a cave containing a race of extraterrestrial tree people — stiff, burlap-clad, button-eyed extras waving their branches and acting scary. (The San Diego Reader)