Barbary Coast (bärˈbərē) [key], waterfront area of San Francisco, Calif., in the years after the 1849 gold rush. Gamblers, gangsters, prostitutes, and confidence men flourished, and the brothels, saloons, and disreputable boardinghouses made the Barbary Coast—named after the pirate coast of North Africa—notorious throughout the world.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.