The late Neoproterozoic Frog Lake pluton, in the Avalon terrane of the Cobequid Highlands, Nova Scotia, consists predominantly of hornblende gabbro. It shows petrographic similarities to water-rich mafic intrusions known as appinites that are present in some collisional orogens. This study aims to further understanding of the origin of appinitic intrusions. In the field, the main hornblende gabbro was intruded between screens of metasedimentary country rock that is of upper greenschist metamorphic grade. The contacts appear to have been pathways for magma of gabbroic, tonalitic–granodioritic, and granitic composition that carried enclaves of gabbroic lithologies. Some of these magmas had a high volatile content, resulting in abundance of hydrous mineral phases, pegmatites, and diffuse felsic segregations. These varied rocks in the contact zones experienced progressive shear resulting in syn-magmatic deformation. Low-Ti hornblende gabbros have trace-element abundances similar to subduction-related low-K mafic rocks, including some enrichment in large-ion lithophile elements and marked relative depletion in Nb and Y. High-Ti hornblende gabbros and pyroxene–mica gabbro show more alkaline characteristics, with higher amounts of Nb, Y, P2O5, and high-field-strength elements. Tonalite and granite veins are geochemically similar to volcanic-arc granite. Comparison with appinites in the literature suggests that the Frog Lake pluton represents a deeper structural level than most appinites. The Frog Lake appinites were part of the feeder system to back-arc volcanic rocks of the Jeffers Group. Comparison with other appinites also leads to the conclusion that there is not a single type of “appinitic magma”: different appinitic plutons range in composition from low-K calc-alkaline to shoshonitic. The essential characteristic is a water-rich mafic magma. Appinites occur in settings undergoing crustal-scale strike-slip shear, where the faults allow rapid rise of mafic magma to shallow crustal levels.