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A characteristic language of a particular group (as among thieves); informal language consisting of words and expressions that are not considered appropriate for formal occasions; often vituperative or vulgar; abuse with coarse language; use slang or vulgar language; fool or hoax.

Dictionary of slang terms

  • Almighty Dollar, an American expression representing the manner in which money is worshipped. Modernly introduced by Washington Irving in 1837. The idea of this phrase is, however, far older than the time of Irving. Ben Jonson’s Epistle to Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland, commences thus—
  • Alybbeg - a bedde.
  • American Tweezers - an instrument used by an hotel-sneak which nips the wards end of a key, and enables him to open a door from the opposite side to that on which it has been locked.
  • Andrew Millar - a ship of war.—Sea.
  • Andrews’ (George) Dictionary of the Slang and Cant Languages, Ancient and Modern, 12mo.London, 1809.
  • Anointed - i.e., eminent; used to express great rascality in any one; “an anointed scoundrel,” king among scoundrels.—Irish.
  • Anointing - a good beating. A case for the application of salve.
  • Anonyma - a lady of the demi-monde, or worse; a “pretty horsebreaker.” Incognita was the term at first. Product of the squeamishness of the age which tries to thrust away fact by the use of fine words.
  • Antiscriptural - oaths, foul language. Anything unfit for ordinary society conversation.
  • Any racket - a penny faggot.
  • Apartments to Let - a term used in reference to one who has a somewhat empty head. As, “He’s got apartments to let.”
  • Apostle’s Grove - the London district known as St. John’s Wood. Also called grove of the evangelist.
  • Apple-Cart - the human structure, so far as the phrases with which it is connected are concerned. As “I’ll upset your apple-cart,” “down with his apple-cart.”
  • Apple-pie Order - in exact or very nice order.
  • Apples and pears - stairs.
  • Appro - contraction of approbation, a word much in use among jewellers. Most of the extensive show of chains, watches, and trinkets in a shop window is obtained “on appro,” i.e., “on sale or return.”
  • Area Sneak - a thief who commits depredations upon kitchens and cellars.
  • Argol-bargol - to bandy words.—Scotch.
  • Artful dodger - a lodger.
  • Article - derisive term for a weak or insignificant specimen of humanity.
  • Ash’s (John, LL.D.) New and Complete Dictionary of the English Language, 2 vols. 8vo.1775.
  • Askew - a cuppe.
  • Atomy - a diminutive or deformed person. From anatomy, or atom.
  • Attack - to carve, or commence operations; “attack that beef, and oblige!”
  • Attic Salt - wit, humour, pleasantry. Partly a reference to a suggestive portion of Grecian literature, and partly a sly hit at the well-known poverty of many writers.
  • Attic - the head; “queer in the attic,” intoxicated or weak-minded. Sometimes attic is varied by “upper story.”
  • Auctioneer - to “tip him the auctioneer,” is to knock a man down. Tom Sayers’s right hand was known to pugilistic fame as the auctioneer.
  • Audit Ale - extra strong ale supposed to be drunk when the accounts are audited.—Camb. Univ.
  • Auld-Reekie - an affectionate term for the old town of Edinburgh. Derived from its dingy appearance.
  • Autem mortes - married women as chaste as a cowe.
  • Autem - a churche.
  • Avast - a sailor’s phrase for stop, shut up, go away,—apparently connected with the old Cant, bynge a waste; or from the Italian, basta, hold! enough.
  • Awake - or fly, knowing, thoroughly understanding. “I’m awake,” i.e., I know all. The phrase wide-awake carries a similar meaning in ordinary conversation, but has a more general reference.
  • Awful - a senseless expletive, used to intensify a description of anything good or bad; “what an awful fine woman!” “awfully jolly,” “awfully sorry,” &c. The phrase is not confined to any section of society.
  • Ax - to ask. Sometimes pronounced arks.
  • B Flats - bugs.—Compare f sharps.
  • B. K. S. Military officers in mufti, when out on a spree, and not wishing their profession to be known, speak of their barracks as the b. k. s.
  • B.N.C. - for Brasenose, initials of Brazen Nose College. In spite of the nose over the gate the probability is the real name was Brasinium. It is still famous for its beer.—University.
  • Baby’s pap - a cap.
  • Bacchus and Venus; or, A Select Collection of near Two Hundred of the most Witty and Diverting Songs and Catches in Love and Gallantry, with Songs in the Canting Dialect, with a Dictionary explaining all Burlesque and Canting Terms, 12mo.1738.
  • Back Jump - a back window.—Prison term.
  • Back Out - to retreat from a difficulty; reverse of go ahead. Metaphor borrowed from the stables.
  • Back Slang It - to go out the back way. Equivalent to “Sling your hook out of the back-door,” i.e., get away quickly.
  • Back-Hander - a blow on the face with the back of the hand, a back-handed tip. Also a drink out of turn, as when a greedy person delays the decanter to get a second glass. Anything done slyly or secretly is said to be done in a back-handed manner.
  • Back - to support by means of money, on the turf or otherwise.—See lay.
  • Back - “to get one’s back up,” to annoy or enrage. Probably from the action of a cat when preparing to give battle to an enemy.
  • Backer - one who places his money on a particular man or animal; a supporter of one side in a contest. The great body of betting men is divided into bookmakers and backers.
  • Backslums - the byeways and disreputable portions of a town.
  • Bacon - the body, “to save one’s bacon,” to escape.
  • Bad Egg - a scoundrel or rascal.
  • Bad Lot - a term derived from auctioneering slang, and now generally used to describe a man or woman of indifferent morals.
  • Bad Words - words not always bad of themselves but unpleasant to “ears polite,” from their vulgar associations.
  • Bad - hard, difficult. Word in use among sporting men who say, “He will be bad to beat,” when they mean that the man or horse to whom they refer will about win.
  • Bad - “to go to the bad,” to deteriorate in character, to be ruined. Virgil has an almost similar phrase, in pejus ruere, which means, by the way, to go to the worse.
  • Badger - to tease, to annoy by “chaffing.” Suggestive of drawing a badger.
  • Badminton - blood,—properly a peculiar kind of claret-cup invented at the Duke of Beaufort’s seat of that name. Badminton proper is made of claret, sugar, spice, cucumber peel, and ice, and was sometimes used by the patrons of the Prize Ring as a synonym for blood.
  • Baffaty - calico. Term used in the drapery trade.
  • Bag - to seize or steal, equivalent to “collar.”
  • Bagman - a commercial traveller. This word is used more in reference to the old style of commercial travellers than to the present.
  • Bailey’s (Nath.) Etymological English Dictionary, 2 vols. 8vo.1737.
  • Baked - seasoned, “he’s only half-baked,” i.e., soft, inexperienced.
  • Balaam - printers’ slang for matter kept in type about monstrous productions of nature, &c., to fill up spaces in newspapers that would otherwise be vacant. The term balaam-box has often been used as the name of a depository for rejected articles. Evidently from Scripture, and referring to the “speech of an ass.”
  • Bald-Faced Stag - a term of derision applied to a person with a bald head. Also, still more coarsely, “bladder-of-lard.”
  • Bale up - an Australian term equivalent to our “Shell out.” A demand for instantaneous payment.
  • Ballambangjang. The Straits of ballambangjang, though unnoticed by geographers, are frequently mentioned in sailors’ yarns as being so narrow, and the rocks on each side so crowded with trees inhabited by monkeys, that the ship’s yards cannot be squared, on account of the monkey’s tails getting jammed into, and choking up, the brace blocks.—Sea.
  • Ballast - money. A rich man is said to be well-ballasted. If not proud and over-bearing he is said to carry his ballast well.
  • Balmy - sleep; “have a dose of the balmy.”
  • Balmy - weak-minded or idiotic (not insane).
  • Bamboozle - to deceive, make fun of, or cheat a person; abbreviated to bam, which is sometimes used also as a substantive—a deception, a sham, a “sell.” Swift says bamboozle was invented by a nobleman in the reign of Charles II.; but this is very likely an error. The probability is that a nobleman then first used it in polite society. The term is derived from the Gipsies.
  • Bandannah - originally a peculiar kind of silk pocket-handkerchief, now slang used to denote all sorts of “stooks,” “wipes,” and “fogles,” and in fact the generic term for a kerchief, whether neck or pocket.
  • Banded - hungry. From the habit hungry folks have of tying themselves tight round the middle.
  • Bandy - or cripple, a sixpence, so called from this coin being generally bent or crooked; old term for flimsy or bad cloth, temp. Q. Elizabeth.
  • Bang-up Dictionary; or, the Lounger and Sportsman’s Vade-Mecum, containing a copious and correct Glossary of the Language of the Whips, illustrated by a great variety of original and curious Anecdotes, 8vo.1812.
  • Bang-up - first-rate, in the best possible style.
  • Bang - to excel or surpass; banging, great or thumping.
  • Bank - the total amount possessed by any one, “How’s the bank?” “Not very strong; about one and a buck.”
  • Bank - to put in a place of safety. “Bank the rag,” i.e., secure the note. Also “to bank” is to go shares.
  • Bantling - a child; stated in Bacchus and Venus, 1737, and by Grose, to be a cant term. This is hardly slang now-a-days, and modern etymologists give its origin as that of bands or swaddling clothes.
  • Banyan-Day - a day on which no meat is served out for rations; probably derived from the banians, a Hindoo caste, who abstain from animal food. Quite as probably from the sanitary arrangements which have in hot climates counselled the eating of banyans and other fruits in preference to meat on certain days.—Sea.
  • Bar - or barring, excepting; in common use in the betting-ring; “Two to one bar one,” i.e., two to one against any horse with the exception of one. The Irish use of barrin’ is very similar, and the words bar and barring may now be regarded as general.
  • Barber’s Cat - a half-starved sickly-looking person. Term used in connexion with an expression too coarse to print.
  • Barber’s Clerk - an overdressed shopboy who apes the manners of, and tries to pass himself off as, a gentleman; a term of reproach applied not to an artisan but to one of those who, being below, assume airs of superiority over, handicraftsmen.
  • Barge - a term used among printers (compositors) to denote a case in which there is an undue proportion of some letters and a corresponding shortness of those which are most valuable.
  • Bark - an Irish person of either sex. From this term, much in use among the London lower orders, but for which no etymology can be found, Ireland is now and then playfully called Barkshire.
  • Barker - a man employed to cry at the doors of “gaffs,” shows, and puffing shops, to entice people inside. Among touting photographers he is called a doorsman.
  • Barking-Iron - or barker, a pistol. Term used by footpads and thieves generally.
  • Barn Stormers - theatrical performers who travel the country and act in barns, selecting short and tragic pieces to suit the rustic taste.
  • Barnacles - spectacles; possibly a corruption of binoculi; but derived by some from the barnacle (Lepas Anatifera), a kind of conical shell adhering to ships’ bottoms. Hence a marine term for goggles, which they resemble in shape, and for which they are used by sailors in case of ophthalmic derangement.
  • Barnet fair - hair.
  • Barney - an unfair race of any kind: a sell or cross. Also a lark, jollification, or outing. The word barney is sometimes applied to a swindle unconnected with the sporting world.
  • Barrikin - jargon, speech, or discourse; “We can’t tumble to that barrikin,” i.e., we don’t understand what he says. “Cheese your barrikin,” shut up. Miege calls it “a sort of stuff;” Old French, baracan.
  • Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms; a Glossary of Words and Phrases colloquially used in the United States, 8vo.New York, 1859.
  • Bash - to beat, thrash; “bashing a dona,” beating a woman; originally a provincial word, applied to the practice of beating walnut trees, when in bud, with long poles, to increase their productiveness. Hence the West country proverb—
  • Baste - to beat, properly to pour gravy on roasting meat to keep it from burning, and add to its flavour. Also a sewing term.
  • Bastile - the workhouse. General name for “the Union” amongst the lower orders of the North. Formerly used to denote a prison, or “lock-up;” but its abbreviated form, steel, is now the favourite expression with the dangerous classes, some of whom have never heard of bastile, familiar as they are with “steel.”
  • Bat - pace at walking or running. As, “He went off at a good bat.”
  • Bat - to take an innings at cricket. To “carry out one’s bat” is to be last in, i.e., to be “not out.” A man’s individual score is said to be made “off his own bat.”
  • Bat - “on his own bat,” on his own account. Evident modification of the cricket term, “off his own bat,” though not connected therewith.—See hook.
  • Bats - a pair of bad boots.
  • Battells - the weekly bills at Oxford. Probably originally wooden tallies, and so a diminutive of bâton.—University.
  • Batter - wear and tear; “can’t stand the batter,” i.e., not equal to the task; “on the batter,” “on the streets,” “on the town,” or given up to roystering and debauchery.
  • Battle of the Nile - a tile—vulgar term for a hat. “Cool his battle, Bill.”
  • Batty-Fang - to beat; batty-fanging, a beating; also batter-fang. Used metaphorically as early as 1630.
  • Batty - wages, perquisites. Derived from batta, an extra pay given to soldiers while serving in India.
  • Baudye baskets bee women who goe with baskets and capcases on their armes, wherein they have laces, pinnes, nedles, whyte inkel, and round sylke gyrdels of all colours.
  • Be-Blowed - a derisive instruction never carried into effect, as, “You be-blowed.” Used similarly to the old “Go to.” See blow me.
  • Be-argered - drunk. (The word is divided here simply to convey the pronunciation.)
  • Beach-Comber - a fellow who prowls about the sea-shore to plunder wrecks, and pick up waifs and strays of any kind.—Sea.
  • Beak - originally a magistrate, judge, or policeman; now a magistrate only; “to baffle the beak,” to get remanded. Ancient Cant, beck. Saxon, beag, a necklace or gold collar—emblem of authority. Sir John Fielding was called the blind-beak in the last century. Maybe connected with the Italian becco, which means a (bird’s) beak, and also a blockhead.—See walker.
  • Beaker-Hunter - or beak-hunter, a stealer of poultry.
  • Beans - money; “a haddock of beans,” a purse of money; formerly, bean meant a guinea; French, biens, property.
  • Bear-Leader - a tutor in a private family. In the old days of the “grand tour” the term was much more in use and of course more significant than it is now.
  • Bear-up and Bearer-up .—See bonnet.
  • Bear - one who contracts to deliver or sell a certain quantity of stock in the public funds on a forthcoming day at a stated place, but who does not possess it, trusting to a decline in public securities to enable him to fulfil the agreement and realize a profit.—See bull. Both words are slang terms on the Stock Exchange, and are frequently used in the business columns of newspapers.
  • Beat - or beat-hollow, to surpass or excel; also “beat into fits,” and “beat badly.”
  • Beat - the allotted range traversed by a policeman on duty.
  • Beat - “dead-beat,” wholly worn out, done up.
  • Beater-Cases - boots. Nearly obsolete. Trotter cases is the term nowadays.
  • Beaumont and Fletcher’s Comedy of The Beggar’s Bush, 4to, 1661.
  • Beaver - old street term for a hat; goss is the modern word, beaver, except in the country, having fallen into disuse.
  • Bebee - a lady.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Beck [Beak, a magistrate], a constable.
  • Bed-Fagot - a contemptuous term for a woman; generally applied to a prostitute.—See fagot.
  • Bed-Post - “in the twinkling of a bed-post,” in a moment, or very quickly. Originally bed-staff, a stick placed vertically in the frame of a bed to keep the bedding in its place, and used sometimes as a defensive weapon.
  • Bee - “to have a bee in one’s bonnet,” i.e., to be not exactly sane; to have a craze in one particular direction. Several otherwise sensible and excellent M.P.’s are distinguished by the “bee in his bonnet” each carries.
  • Beef-Headed - stupid, fat-headed, dull.
  • Beefy - unduly thick or fat, commonly said of women’s ankles; also rich, juicy, plenteous. To take the whole pool at loo, or to have any particular run of luck at cards generally is said by players to be “very beefy.”
  • Beeline - the straightest possible line of route to a given point. When a bee is well laden, it makes a straight flight for home. Originally an Americanism, but now general.
  • Beery - intoxicated, or fuddled with beer.
  • Beeswax - poor, soft cheese. Sometimes called “sweaty-toe cheese.”
  • Beeswing - the film which forms on the sides of bottles which contain good old port wine. This breaks up into small pieces in the process of decanting, and looks like bees’ wings. Hence the term.
  • Beetle-Crusher - or squasher, a large flat foot. The expression was made popular by being once used by Leech.
  • Beetle-Sticker - an entomologist.
  • Bee’s (Jon.) Dictionary of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, the Pit, the Bon Ton, and the Varieties of Life, forming the completest and most authentic Lexicon Balatronicum hitherto offered to the notice of the Sporting World, by John Bee [i.e., John Badcock], Editor of the Fancy, Fancy Gazette, Living Picture of London, and the like of that, 12mo.1823.
  • Bee’s (Jon.) Living Picture of London for 1828, and Stranger’s Guide through the Streets of the Metropolis; showing the Frauds, the Arts, Snares, and Wiles of all descriptions of Rogues that everywhere abound, 12mo.1828.
  • Bee’s (Jon.) Sportsman’s Slang; a New Dictionary of Terms used in the Affairs of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, and the Cockpit; with those of Bon Ton and the Varieties of Life, forming a Lexicon Balatronicum et Macaronicum, &c., 12mo, plate.For the Author, 1825.
  • Beggars’ Velvet - downy particles which accumulate under furniture from the negligence of housemaids. Otherwise called sluts’-wool.
  • Belcher - a blue bird’s-eye handkerchief.—See billy.
  • Bell - a song. Tramps’ term. Simply diminutive of bellow.
  • Bellows to Mend - a person out of breath; especially a pugilist is said to be “bellows to mend” when winded. With the P.R., the word has fallen into desuetude.
  • Bellows - the lungs. Bellowser, a blow in the “wind,” or pit of the stomach, taking one’s breath away.
  • Bellowsed - or lagged, transported.
  • Belly-Timber - food, or “grub.”
  • Belly-Vengeance - small sour beer, apt to cause gastralgia.
  • Belly-chete - apron.
  • Bemuse - to fuddle one’s self with drink, “bemusing himself with beer,” &c.
  • Ben Cull - a friend, or “pal.” Expression used by thieves.
  • Ben Joltram - brown bread and skimmed milk; a Norfolk term for a ploughboy’s breakfast.
  • Ben flake - a steak.
  • Ben - a benefit.—Theatrical.
  • Bend - “that’s above my bend,” i.e., beyond my power, too expensive or too difficult for me to perform.
  • Bender - a sixpence. Probably from its liability to bend. In the days when the term was most in use sixpences were not kept in the excellent state of preservation peculiar to the currency of the present day.
  • Bender - the arm; “over the bender,” synonymous with “over the left.”—See over.
  • Bendigo - a rough fur cap worn in the midland counties, called after a noted pugilist of that name. “Hard Punchers” are caps worn by London roughs and formerly by men in training. They are a modification of the common Scotch cap, and have peaks.
  • Bene - good. Benar, better.
  • Bene - good.—Ancient Cant; benar was the comparative.—See bone. Latin.
  • Benedick - a married man. Shakspeare.
  • Benjamin - coat. Formerly termed a joseph, in allusion, perhaps, to Joseph’s coat of many colours.—See upper-benjamin.
  • Benjy - a waistcoat, diminutive of benjamin.
  • Benship - very good.
  • Beong - a shilling.—See saltee.—Lingua Franca.
  • Bess-o’-Bedlam - a lunatic vagrant.—Norfolk.
  • Best - to get the better or best of a man in any way—not necessarily to cheat—to have the best of a bargain. bested, taken in, or defrauded, in reality worsted. Bester, a low betting cheat, a fraudulent bookmaker.
  • Better - more; “how far is it to town?” “Oh, better ’n a mile.”—Saxon and Old English, now a vulgarism.
  • Betting Round - laying fairly and equally against nearly all the horses in a race so that no great risk can be run. Commonly called getting round. See book, and bookmaking.
  • Betty - a skeleton key, or picklock.—Old Prison Cant.
  • Bible-Carrier - a person who sells songs without singing them.—Seven Dials.
  • Biddy - a general name applied to Irish stallwomen and milkmaids, in the same manner that Mike is given to the labouring men. A big red-faced Irish servant girl is known as a Bridget.
  • Big House - or large house, the workhouse,—a phrase used by the very poor.
  • Big-Bird - to get the, i.e., to be hissed, as actors occasionally are by the “gods.” Big-bird is simply a metaphor for goose.—Theat. Slang.
  • Big-wig - a person in authority or office. Exchangeable with “great gun.”
  • Big - “to look big,” to assume an inflated air or manner; “to talk big,” i.e., boastingly.
  • Bilbo - a sword; abbrev. of “bilbao blade.” Spanish swords were anciently very celebrated, especially those of Toledo, Bilbao, &c.
  • Bilk - a cheat, or a swindler. Formerly in general use, now confined to the streets, where it is common, and mostly used in reference to prostitutes. Gothic, bilaican.
  • Bilk - to defraud, or obtain goods, &c., without paying for them; “to bilk the schoolmaster,” to get information or experience without paying for it.
  • Billingsgate Pheasant - a red herring or bloater. This is also called a “two-eyed steak.”
  • Billingsgate (when applied to speech), foul and coarse language. Many years since people used to visit Thames Street to hear the Billingsgate fishwomen abuse each other. The anecdote of Dr. Johnson and the Billingsgate virago is well known.
  • Billy Button - mutton.
  • Billy-Barlow - a street clown; sometimes termed a jim crow, or saltimbanco,—so called from the hero of a slang song. Billy was a real person, semi-idiotic, and though in dirt and rags, fancied himself a swell of the first water. Occasionally he came out with real witticisms. He was a well-known street character about the East-end of London, and died in Whitechapel Workhouse.
  • Billy-Cock - a soft felt hat of the Jim Crow or “wide-awake” description.
  • Billy - a policeman’s staff. Also stolen metal of any kind. Billy-hunting is buying old metal. A Billy-fencer is a marine-store dealer.
  • Billy - a silk pocket-handkerchief.—Scotch.—See wipe.
  • Bingo - brandy.—Old Cant.
  • Bingy - a term largely used in the butter trade to denote bad, ropy butter; nearly equivalent to vinnied.
  • Birch-broom - a room.
  • Bird-Cage - a four-wheeled cab.
  • Bird-lime - time.
  • Birk - a “crib,”—a house.
  • Birthday Suit - the suit in which Adam and Eve first saw each other, and “were not ashamed.”
  • Bishop - a warm drink composed of materials similar to those used in the manufacture of “flip” and “purl.”
  • Bit-Faker - or turner out, a coiner of bad money.
  • Bit-of-Stuff - overdressed man; a man with full confidence in his appearance and abilities; a young woman, who is also called a bit of muslin.
  • Bitch - tea; “a bitch party,” a tea-drinking. Probably because undergraduates consider tea only fit for old women.—Oxford.
  • Bite - a cheat; “a Yorkshire bite,” a cheating fellow from that county. The term bite is also applied to a hard bargainer.—North; also old slang—used by Pope. Swift says it originated with a nobleman in his day.
  • Bite - to cheat; “to be bitten,” to be taken in or imposed upon. Originally a Gipsy term. Cross-biter, for a cheat, continually occurs in writers of the sixteenth century. Bailey has cross-bite, a disappointment, probably the primary sense; and bite is very probably a contraction of this.
  • Bitter - diminutive of bitter beer; “to do a bitter,” to drink beer.—Originally Oxford, but now general.
  • Bittock - a distance of very undecided length. If a North countryman be asked the distance to a place, he will most probably reply, “a mile and a bittock.” The latter may be considered any distance from one hundred yards to ten miles.
  • Bivvy - or gatter, beer; “shant of bivvy,” a pot or quart of beer. In Suffolk the afternoon refreshment of reapers is called bever. It is also an old English term.
  • Biz - contraction of the word business; a phrase much used in America in writing as well as in conversation.
  • Black Diamonds - coals; talented persons of dingy or unpolished exterior; rough jewels.
  • Black Maria - the sombre van in which prisoners are conveyed from the police court to prison.
  • Black Monday - the Monday on which boys return to school after the holidays. Also a low term for the Monday on which an execution took place.
  • Black Sheep - a “bad lot,” “mauvais sujet;” sometimes “scabby sheep;” also a workman who refuses to join in a strike.
  • Black Strap - port wine; especially that which is thick and sweet.
  • Black and White - handwriting or print. “Let’s have it in black and white,” is often said with regard to an agreement when it is to the advantage of one or both that it should be written.
  • Black-a-vised - having a very dark complexion.
  • Blackberry-Swagger - a person who hawks tapes, boot-laces, &c.
  • Blackbirding - slave-catching. Term most applied nowadays to the Polynesian coolie traffic.
  • Blackguard - a low or dirty fellow; a rough or a hulking fellow, capable of any meanness or cowardice.
  • Blackguardiana; or, Dictionary of Rogues, Bawds, &c., 8vo, with portraits [by James Caulfield].1795.
  • Blackwork - undertaking. The waiters met at public dinners are often employed during the day as mutes, etc. Omnibus and cab drivers regard blackwork as a dernier ressort.
  • Bladder-of-Lard - a coarse, satirical nickname for a bald-headed person. From similarity of appearance.
  • Blade - a man—in ancient times the term for a soldier; “knowing blade,” a wide-awake, sharp, or cunning man.
  • Blast - to curse. Originally a Military expression.
  • Blaze - to leave trace purposely of one’s way in a forest or unknown path by marking trees or other objects.
  • Blazes - a low synonym for the infernal regions, and now almost for anything. “Like blazes” is a phrase of intensification applied without any reference to the original meaning. Also applied to the brilliant habiliments of flunkeys, since the episode of Sam Weller and the “swarry.”
  • Bleed - to victimize, or extract money from a person, to sponge on, to make suffer vindictively.
  • Blest - a vow; “blest if I’ll do it,” i.e., I am determined not to do it; euphemism for curst.
  • Blether - to bother, to annoy, to pester. “A blethering old nuisance” is a common expression for a garrulous old person.
  • Bleting chete - a calfe or sheepe.
  • Blew - or blow, to inform, or peach, to lose or spend money.
  • Blewed - a man who has lost or spent all his money is said to have blewed it. Also used in cases of robbery from the person, as, “He’s blewed his red ’un,” i.e., he’s been eased of his watch.
  • Blewed - got rid of, disposed of, spent.
  • Blind-Half-Hundred - the Fiftieth Regiment of Foot; so called through their great sufferings from ophthalmia when serving in Egypt.
  • Blind-Hookey - a game at cards which has no recommendation beyond the rapidity with which money can be won and lost at it; called also wilful murder.
  • Blind-Man’s-Holiday - night, darkness. Sometimes applied to the period “between the lights.”
  • Blind - a pretence, or make-believe.
  • Blink-Fencer - a person who sells spectacles.
  • Blinker - a blackened eye.—Norwich. Also a hard blow in the eye. blinkers, spectacles.
  • Bloated Aristocrat - a street term for any decently dressed person. From the persistent abuse lavished on a “bloated and parasitical aristocracy” by Hyde Park demagogues and a certain unpleasant portion of the weekly press.
  • Bloater. —See mild.
  • Blob (from blab), to talk. Beggars are of two kinds—those who screeve (introducing themselves with a fakement, or false document) and those who blob, or state their case in their own truly “unvarnished” language.
  • Block Ornaments - the small dark-coloured and sometimes stinking pieces of meat which used to be exposed on the cheap butchers’ blocks or counters; matters of interest to all the sharp-visaged women in poor neighbourhoods. Since the great rise in the price of meat there has been little necessity for butchers to make block ornaments of their odds and ends. They are bespoke beforehand.
  • Block - the head. “To block a hat,” is to knock a man’s hat down over his eyes.—See bonnet. Also a street obstruction.
  • Bloke - a man; “the bloke with the jasey,” the man with the wig, i.e., the Judge. Gipsy and Hindoo, loke. North, bloacher, any large animal.
  • Blood-Red Fancy - a particular kind of handkerchief sometimes worn by pugilists and frequenters of prize fights.—See billy and colour.
  • Blood-money - the money that used to be paid to any one who by information or evidence led to a conviction for a capital offence. Nowadays applied to all sums received by informers.
  • Blood - a fast or high-mettled man. Nearly obsolete, but much used in George the Fourth’s time.
  • Bloody Jemmy - an uncooked sheep’s head.—See sanguinary james. Also mountain pecker.
  • Bloody - an expletive used, without reference to meaning, as an adjective and an adverb, simply for intensification.
  • Blow Me - or blow me tight, a vow, a ridiculous and unmeaning ejaculation, inferring an appeal to the ejaculator; “I’m blowed if you will” is a common expression among the lower orders; “blow me up” was the term a century ago.—See Parker’s Adventures, 1781.—The expression be-blowed is now more general. Thomas Hood used to tell a story:—
  • Blow Out - or tuck in, a feast. Sometimes the expression is, “blow out your bags.” A blow out is often called a tightener.
  • Blow Up - to make a noise, or scold; formerly a cant expression used among thieves, now a recognised and respectable phrase. Blowing up, a jobation, a scolding.
  • Blow a Cloud - to smoke a cigar or pipe—a phrase used two centuries ago. Most likely in use as long as tobacco here—an almost evident conclusion.
  • Blow - to expose, or inform; “blow the gaff,” to inform against a person.
  • Blowen - originally a showy or flaunting female, now a prostitute only. In Wilts, a blowen is a blossom. Germ. blühen, to bloom. In German, also, buhlen is to court, and buhle, a sweetheart.
  • Blower - a girl; a contemptuous name in opposition to jomer.—Gipsy.
  • Blowsey - a word applied to a rough wench, or coarse woman.
  • Bludger - a low thief, who does not hesitate to use violence, literally one who will use a bludgeon.
  • Blue Billy - the handkerchief (blue ground with white spots) sometimes worn and used as a colour at prize-fights. Also, the refuse ammoniacal lime from gas factories.
  • Blue Blanket - a rough overcoat made of coarse pilot cloth.
  • Blue Bottle - a policeman. This well-known slang term for a London constable is used by Shakspeare. In Part ii. of King Henry IV., act v. scene 4, Doll Tearsheet calls the beadle, who is dragging her in, a “thin man in a censer, a blue-bottle rogue.” This may at first seem singular, but the reason is obvious. The beadles of Bridewell whose duty it was to whip the women prisoners were clad in blue.
  • Blue Butter - mercurial ointment used for the destruction of parasites.
  • Blue Devils - the apparitions supposed to be seen by habitual drunkards. Form of del. trem.
  • Blue Moon - an unlimited period. “Once in a blue moon.”
  • Blue Murders. Probably from desperate or alarming cries. A term used more to describe cries of terror or alarm than for any other purpose. As, “I heard her calling blue murders.”—morbleu.
  • Blue Ruin - gin.
  • Blue - a policeman; otherwise blue bottle. From the colour of his uniform.
  • Blue - confounded or surprised; “to look blue,” to look astonished, annoyed, or disappointed.
  • Blue - or blew, to pawn or pledge. Actually to get rid of.
  • Blue - said of talk that is smutty or indecent. Probably from the French, “Bibliothèque Bleu.” When the conversation has assumed an entirely opposite character, it is then said to be brown or Quakerish.
  • Blued - or blewed, tipsy, or drunk. Now given way to slewed.
  • Blues - a fit of despondency.—See blue devils.
  • Blues - the police. Sometimes called the Royal Regiment of Foot-guards blue.
  • Bluey - lead.—German, blei. Most likely, though, from the colour, as the term is of the very lowest slang.
  • Bluff - an excuse; also the game at cards known as euchre in America.
  • Bluff - to turn aside, stop, or excuse.
  • Blurt Out - to speak from impulse, and without reflection, to let out suddenly.—Shakspeare.
  • Board-of-Green-Cloth - a facetious synonym for a card or billiard table.
  • Boat - originally to transport; the term is now applied to penal servitude. To “get the boat,” or to “be boated,” is to be sentenced to a long term of imprisonment equivalent to transportation under the old system.
  • Bob, my pal - a gal,—vulgar pronunciation of girl.
  • Bob - a shilling. Formerly bobstick, which may have been the original. Bob-a-nob, a shilling a-head.
  • Bobbery - a squabble, tumult.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Bobbish - very well, clever, spruce. “How are you doing?” “Oh! pretty bobbish.”—Old.
  • Bodkin - any one sitting between two others in a carriage, is said “to ride bodkin.” Amongst sporting men, applied to a person who takes his turn between the sheets on alternate nights, when the hotel has twice as many visitors as it can comfortably lodge; as, for instance, during a race-week.
  • Body-Snatcher - a bailiff or runner: snatch, the trick by which the bailiff captures the delinquent. These terms are now almost obsolete, so far as the pursuits mentioned are concerned.
  • Bog-Trotter - satirical name for an Irishman.—Miege. Camden, however, speaking of the “debateable land” on the borders of England and Scotland, says, “both these dales breed notable bog-trotters.”
  • Bog - or bog-house, a privy, as distinguished from a water-closet. Originally printers’ slang, but now very common, and not applied to any particular form of cabinet d’aisance. “To bog” is to ease oneself by evacuation.
  • Bogus - an American term for anything pretending to be that which it is not—such as bogus degrees, bogus titles, &c.
  • Boilers - or brompton boilers, a name originally given to the New Kensington Museum and School of Art, in allusion to the peculiar form of the buildings, and the fact of their being mainly composed of, and covered with, sheet iron. This has been changed since the extensive alterations in the building, or rather pile of buildings, and the words are now the property of the Bethnal Green Museum.—See pepper-boxes.
  • Boko - the nose. Originally pugilistic slang, but now general.
  • Bolt - to run away, decamp, or abscond. Also to swallow without chewing. To eat greedily.
  • Bolus - an apothecary. Origin evident.
  • Bombay Ducks; in the East India Company’s army the Bombay regiments were so designated. The name is now given to a dried fish (bummelow), much eaten by natives and Europeans in Western India.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Bone-Grubber - a person who hunts dust-holes, gutters, and all likely spots for refuse bones, which he sells at the rag-shops, or to the bone-grinders. The term was also applied to a resurrectionist. Cobbett was therefore called “a bone grubber,” because he brought the remains of Tom Paine from America.
  • Bone-Picker - a footman.
  • Bone - good, excellent. , the vagabonds’ hieroglyphic for bone, or good, chalked by them on houses and street corners as a hint to succeeding beggars.—French, bon.
  • Bone - to steal or appropriate what does not belong to you. Boned, seized, apprehended.—Old.
  • Bones - to rattle the bones, to play at dice: also called St. Hugh’s bones.
  • Bones - “he made no bones of it,” he did not hesitate, i.e., undertook and finished the work without difficulty, “found no bones in the jelly.”—Ancient, vide Cotgrave.
  • Boniface - landlord of a tavern or inn.
  • Bonnet - to strike a man’s cap or hat over his eyes. Also to “bear-up” for another.
  • Bonnets so blue - Irish stew.
  • Booby-Trap - a favourite amusement of boys at school. It consists in placing a pitcher of water on the top of a door set ajar for the purpose; the person whom they wish to drench is then made to pass through the door, and receives the pitcher and its contents on his unlucky head. Books are sometimes used.
  • Booget - a travelling tinker’s baskete.
  • Book of Vagabonds. See under Liber Vagatorum.
  • Booked - caught, fixed, disposed of.—Term in Book-keeping.
  • Bookmaker’s Pocket - a breast-pocket made inside the waistcoat, for notes of large amount.
  • Books - a pack of cards. Term used by professional card-players.—See devil’s books.
  • Boom-Passenger - a sailor’s slang term for a convict on board ship. Derived from the circumstance that prisoners on board convict ships were chained to, or were made to crawl along or stand on the booms for exercise or punishment.
  • Boom - “to top one’s boom off,” to be off or start in a certain direction.—Sea.
  • Boon-Companion - a comrade in a drinking bout. Boon evidently corruption of bon.
  • Booze - drink. Ancient Cant, bowse. Booze, or suck-casa, a public-house.
  • Booze - to drink, or more properly, to use another slang term, to “lush,” viz., to drink continually, until drunk, or nearly so. The term is an old one. Harman, in Queen Elizabeth’s days, speaks of “bousing (or boozing) and belly-cheere.” Massinger also speaks of bouse. The term was good English in the fourteenth century, and came from the Dutch, buyzen, to tipple.
  • Boozing-Ken - a beer-shop, a low public-house.—Ancient.
  • Boozy - intoxicated or fuddled.
  • Borde - a shilling.
  • Bore (Pugilistic), to press a man to the ropes of the ring by superior weight. In the world of athletics to bore is to push an opponent out of his course. This is a most heinous crime among rowers, as it very often prevents a man having the full use of the tide, or compels him to foul, in which case the decision of the race is left to individual judgment, at times, of necessity, erroneous.
  • Bore - a troublesome friend or acquaintance, perhaps so called from his unvaried and pertinacious pushing; a nuisance; anything which wearies or annoys. The Gradus ad Cantabrigiam suggests the derivation of bore from the Greek Βάρος, a burden. Shakspeare uses it, King Henry VIII., i. 1—
  • Bos-Ken - a farmhouse. Ancient.—See ken.
  • Bosh-Faker - a violin player. Term principally used by itinerants.
  • Bosh - a fiddle. This is a Gipsy term, and so the exclamations “Bosh!” and “Fiddle-de-dee!” may have some remote connexion.
  • Bosh - nonsense, stupidity.—Gipsy and Persian. Also pure Turkish, bosh lakerdi, empty talk. The term was used in this country as early as 1760, and may be found in the Student, vol. ii. p. 217. It has been suggested, with what reason the reader must judge for himself, that this colloquial expression is from the German bosh, or bossch, answering to our word “swipes.”
  • Bosky - inebriated. Not much in use now.
  • Bosman - a farmer: “faking a bosman on the main toby,” robbing a farmer on the highway. Boss, a master.—American. Both terms from the Dutch, bosch-man, one who lives in the woods; otherwise Boschjeman, or Bushman.
  • Boss-Eyed - said of a person with one eye, or rather with one eye injured, a person with an obliquity of vision. In this sense sometimes varied by the term “swivel-eyed.”
  • Bostruchyzer - a small kind of comb for curling the whiskers.—Oxford University.
  • Botany Bay - Worcester Coll. Oxon., so called from its remote situation.
  • Bother - trouble or annoyance. Any one oppressed with business cares is said to be bothered. “Don’t bother,” is a common expression. Blother, an old word, signifying to chatter idly.
  • Botheration! trouble, annoyance; “botheration to it!” “confound it!” or “deuce take it!”—an exclamation when irritated.
  • Bottle of spruce - a deuce,—slang for twopence.
  • Bottom - spirit placed in a glass before aërated water is poured in. As, “a soda and a bottom of brandy,” “soda and dark bottom,” is American for soda and brown brandy.
  • Bottom - stamina in a horse or man. Power to stand fatigue; endurance to receive a good beating and still fight on. “A fellow of pluck, sound wind, and good bottom is fit to fight anything.” This was an old axiom among prize fighters. Pierce Egan was very fond of the word.
  • Botts - the colic or bellyache.—Stable Slang. Burns uses it. See Death and Dr. Hornbook.
  • Botty - conceited, swaggering.—Stable. An infant’s posteriors.—Nursery.
  • Bounce - impudence, cheek. A showy swindler, a bully.
  • Bounce - to boast, cheat, or bully.—Old Cant. Also to lie.
  • Bounceable - prone to bouncing or boasting.
  • Bouncer - a person who steals whilst bargaining with a tradesman, a swindler, or a lie of more than ordinary dimensions.
  • Bounder - a four-wheeled cab. Because of its jumping motion over the stones. Also a University term for a trap, which generally has a very rough time of it on the country roads.
  • Boung - a purse. [Friesic, pong; Wallachian, punga.] The oldest form of this word is in Ulphilas, puggs; it exists also in the Greek, πουγγὴ.
  • Bowdlerization - a term used in literary circles to signify undue strictness of treatment caused by over-modesty in editing a classic. To bowdlerize is to emasculate through squeamishness. From the name (Bowdler) of one of Shakspeare’s “purifiers.”
  • Bowl Out - to put out of the game, to remove out of one’s way, to detect.—Originally a Cricketing term, but now general.
  • Bowl the hoop - soup.
  • Bowlas - round tarts made of sugar, apple, and bread, sold in the streets, especially at the East-end of London.
  • Bowles - shoes.
  • Bowse - drink.
  • Bowsing ken - an alehouse.
  • Box the Compass - to repeat the thirty-two points of the compass either in succession or irregularly. The method used at sea to teach boys the points of the mariner’s compass.—Sea.
  • Box-Harry - a term with bagmen or commercial travellers, implying dinner and tea at one meal; also dining with “Duke Humphrey,” i.e., going without—which see.
  • Boxiana; or, Sketches of Modern Pugilism, by Pierce Egan (an account of the prize-ring), 3 vols. 8vo.1820.
  • Boy - a hump on a man’s back. In low circles it is usual to speak of a humpbacked man as two persons—“him and his boy,” and from this much coarse fun and personality are at times evolved.
  • Brace up - to pawn stolen goods.
  • Bracelets - handcuffs.
  • Brads - money. Properly a small kind of nails used by cobblers.—Compare horse nails.
  • Brain-Pan - the skull, and brain-canister, the head. Both pugilistic and exchangeable terms.
  • Bramble-Gelder - a derisive appellation for an agriculturist.—Suffolk.
  • Bran-New - quite new. Properly Brent, brand or Fire new, i.e., fresh from the anvil, or fresh with the manufacturer’s brand upon it.
  • Brandon. Poverty, Mendicity, and Crime; or, The Facts, Examinations, &c., upon which the Report was founded, presented to the House of Lords by W. A. Miles, Esq., to which is added a Dictionary of the Flash or Cant Language, known to every Thief and Beggar, edited by H. Brandon, Esq., 8vo.1839.
  • Brandy Pawnee - brandy and water.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Brandy Smash - one of the 365 American drinks, made of brandy and crushed ice.
  • Brass-Knocker - broken victuals. Used by tramps and cadgers.
  • Brass - impudence. In 1803 some artillerymen stationed at Norwich were directed to prove some brass ordnance belonging to the city. To the report delivered to the corporation was appended this note:—“N.B.—It is customary for the corporal to have the old metal when any of the pieces burst.” Answer.—“The corporation is of opinion that the corporal does not want brass.”
  • Brass - money. “Tin” is also used, and so are most forms of metal.
  • Brat - a child of either sex. Generally used in an offensive sense.
  • Brazen-Faced - impudent, shameless. From brass. Such a person is sometimes said “to have rubbed his face with a brass candlestick.”
  • Brazil - a hard red wood; “hard as Brazil,” a common expression. Quarles in his Emblems says—
  • Bread Basket - dumpling-depot, victualling-office, &c., were terms which in the old pugilistic days were given by the “Fancy” to the digestive organs. Blows in this region were called “porridge disturbers,” and other fancy names, which were supposed to rob them of their hardness—to those who did not receive them.
  • Bread-Bags - a nickname given in the army and navy to any one connected with the victualling department, as a purser or purveyor in the Commissariat.
  • Break One’s Back - a figurative expression, implying bankruptcy, or the crippling of a person’s means.
  • Break Shins - to borrow money. Probably from an older slang phrase, “kick,” to ask for drink-money.
  • Break Up - the conclusion of a performance of any kind—originally a school term.
  • Break the Ice - to make a commencement, to plunge in medias res.
  • Break-Down - a noisy dance, almost violent enough to break the floor down; a jovial, social gathering, a “flare up;” in Ireland, a wedding—American so far as the dance is concerned.
  • Breaky-Leg - strong drink; “he’s been to Bungay fair, and broke both his legs,” i.e., got drunk. In the ancient Egyptian language the determinative character in the hieroglyphic verb “to be drank,” has the significant form of the leg of a man being amputated. “Tangle Leg” is the name given to New England rum.
  • Breeched - or to have the bags off, to have plenty of money; “to be well breeched,” to be in good circumstances. Also among schoolboys to be well flogged.
  • Breeches - “to wear the breeches,” said of a wife who usurps the husband’s prerogative. Equivalent to the remark that “the grey mare is the better horse.”
  • Breeching - a flogging. Term in use among boys at several private schools.
  • Breef - probably identical with brief, a shortened card used for cheating purposes; thus described in an old book of games of about 1720—
  • Breeks - breeches.—Scotch, now common.
  • Brian o’Linn - gin.
  • Brick - a “jolly good fellow;” “a regular brick,” a staunch fellow. About the highest compliment that in one word can be paid one man. Said to be derived from an expression of Aristotle’s—τετραγωνος ἀνηρ.
  • Bridge - a cheating trick at cards, by which any particular card is cut by previously curving it by the pressure of the hand. Used in France as well as in England, and termed in the Parisian Argot faire le pont.
  • Brief - a pawnbroker’s duplicate; a raffle card, or a ticket of any kind.
  • Brim - a violent irascible woman, as inflammable and unpleasant as brimstone, from which the word is contracted.
  • Briney - the sea. A “dip in the briney” once a year is a great attraction to Cockney excursionists. A story is told of one excursionist saying to another, as they stripped in a double machine, “Why, ’Arry, what dirty feet you’ve got!” “’Ave I; well yer see I wasn’t down last year.”
  • Bring-up - or bring-to, to stop suddenly, as a team of horses or a vessel. To bring-up also means to feed, clothe, and educate a child. To bring-up by hand is to bring up a newly-born child or animal without assistance from the natural fount.
  • Brisket-Beater - a Roman Catholic.
  • Broad and Shallow - an epithet applied to the so-called “Broad Church,” in contradistinction to the “High” and “Low” Churches. See high and dry.
  • Broad-Brim - originally applied to a Quaker only, but now used in reference to all quiet, sedate, respectable old men.
  • Broad-Cooper - a person employed by brewers to negotiate with publicans.
  • Broad-Faking - playing at cards. Generally used to denote “work” of the three-card and kindred descriptions.
  • Broad-Fencer - a “k’rect card” seller at races.
  • Broads - cards. Broadsman, a card-sharper. See Broad-faking.
  • Broadway Swell - a New York term for a great dandy, Broadway being the principal promenade in the “Empire City.”
  • Broady - cloth. Evidently a corruption of broadcloth. Broady workers are men who go round selling vile shoddy stuff under the pretence that it is excellent material, which has been “got on the cross,” i.e. stolen.
  • Brolly - an umbrella. Term used at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
  • Brome’s (Rich.) Joviall Crew; or, The Merry Beggars. Presented in a Comedie at the Cockpit, in Drury Lane, in the Year (4to)1652.
  • Brosier - a bankrupt.—Cheshire. Brosier-my-dame, school term, implying a clearing of the housekeeper’s larder of provisions, in revenge for stinginess.—Eton.
  • Broth of a Boy - an Irish term for a jolly good fellow.
  • Brother-Chip - originally fellow carpenter. Almost general now as brother tradesman of any kind. Also, brother-whip, a fellow coachman; and brother-blade, of the same occupation or calling—originally a fellow-soldier.
  • Brother-Smut - a term of familiarity. “Ditto, brother smut,” tu quoque.
  • Brown Bess - the old Government regulation musket; a musket with a browned barrel; also black bess. A suggestion has been made that bess may be from the German busche, or bosche, a barrel. It is much more likely, however, that the phrase is derived from the fact that “the soldier is wedded to his weapon.”
  • Brown Bess - yes—the affirmative.
  • Brown Joe - no—the negative.
  • Brown Study - a reverie. Very common even in educated society, but hardly admissible in writing, and therefore considered a vulgarism. It is derived, by a writer in Notes and Queries, from brow study, and he cites the old German braun, or aug-braun, an eye-brow.—Ben Jonson.
  • Brown Talk - conversation of an exceedingly proper character, Quakerish. Compare blue.
  • Brown to - to understand, to comprehend.
  • Brown-papermen - low gamblers.
  • Brown - a halfpenny.—See blunt.
  • Brown - “to do brown,” to do well or completely, “doing it brown,” prolonging the frolic, or exceeding sober bounds; “done brown,” taken in, deceived, or surprised.
  • Brown’s (Rev. Hugh Stowell) Lecture on Manliness, 12mo.1857.
  • Bruiser - a fighting man, a pugilist. Shakspeare uses the word bruising in a similar sense.
  • Brum - a counterfeit coin. Nearly obsolete. Corruption of Brummagem, for meaning of which see Introductory Chapter.
  • Brush - a fox’s tail, a house-painter. Also a scrimmage.
  • Brush - or brush-off, to run away, or move on quickly.—Old Cant.
  • Brydges’ (Sir Egerton) British Bibliographer, 4 vols. 8vo.1810-14.
  • Bub - a teat, woman’s breast, plural bubbies; no doubt from bibe. See ante.
  • Bub - drink of any kind.—See grub. Middleton, the dramatist, mentions bubber, a great drinker.
  • Bubble-Company - a swindling association.
  • Bubble-and-Squeak - a dish composed of pieces of cold roast or boiled meat and greens, afterwards fried, which have thus first bubbled in the pot, and then squeaked or hissed in the pan.
  • Bubble - to over-reach, deceive, to tempt by means of false promises.—Old. (Acta Regia, ii. 248, 1726.)
  • Bubbley-Jock - a turkey, or silly boasting fellow; a prig.—Scottish. In the north of England the bird is called a bobble-cock. Both names, no doubt, from its cry, which is supposed by imaginative persons to consist of the two words exactly.
  • Buck - a gay or smart man; an unlicensed cabman; also a large marble used by schoolboys.
  • Buck - sixpence. The word is rarely used by itself, but generally denotes the sixpence attached to shillings in reference to cost, as, “three and a buck,” three shillings and sixpence. Probably a corruption of Fyebuck.
  • Bucket afloat - a coat. This is also called I’m afloat, and is generally contracted to “cool his Imer,” or “nark his bucket.” There is no necessity to particularize all contractions. With the key already given they will be evident.
  • Buckhorse - a smart blow or box on the ear; derived from the name of a celebrated “bruiser” of that name. Buckhorse was a man who either possessed or professed insensibility to pain, and who would for a small sum allow anyone to strike him with the utmost force on the side of the face.
  • Buckle-Beggar - a couple-beggar, which see.
  • Buckle-to - to bend to one’s work, to begin at once, and with great energy—from buckling-to one’s armour before a combat, or fastening on a bundle.
  • Buckle - to bend; “I can’t buckle to that.” I don’t understand it; to yield or give in to a person. Shakspeare uses the word in the latter sense, Henry IV., i. 1; and Halliwell says that “the commentators do not supply another example.”
  • Buckled - to be married. Also to be taken in custody. Both uses of the word common and exchangeable among the London lower classes.
  • Buckra - a white man. The original of this term is a “flogging man,” from the Hebrew, and the application of it to the whites by the West Indian negroes is, therefore, rather interesting. They probably first learned it from a missionary.
  • Budge - strong drink; budgy, drunk; budging-ken, a public-house; “cove of the budging-ken,” the landlord. Probably a corruption of booze. Probably also, on the lucus a non lucendo principle, because its use made one incapable of budging.
  • Budge - to move, to “make tracks.”
  • Bufe [Buffer, a man], a dogge.
  • Buff - the bare skin; “stripped to the buff.”
  • Buff - to swear to, or accuse; generally used in reference to a wrongful accusation, as, “Oh, buff it on to him.” Old word for boasting, 1582.
  • Buffer - a navy term for a boatswain’s mate, one of whose duties it is—or was—to administer the “cat.”
  • Buffer - a woman employed in a Sheffield warehouse to give the final polish to goods previously to their being plated.
  • Buffle-Head - a stupid or obtuse person.—Miege. German, buffelhaupt, buffalo-headed. Occurs in Plautus’ Comedies made English, 1694.
  • Buffs - the Third Regiment of Foot in the British army. From their facings.
  • Buffy - intoxicated.
  • Bug-Hunter - a low wretch who plunders drunken men.
  • Bug-Walk - a coarse term for a bed.
  • Buggy - a gig, or light chaise. Common term in America and in India, as well as in England.
  • Build - applied in fashionable slang to the make or style of dress, &c. “It’s a tidy build, who made it?” A tailor is sometimes called a “trousers’ builder.”
  • Bulger - large; synonymous with buster.
  • Bulky - a constable.—North.
  • Bull and cow - a row.
  • Bull the Cask - to pour hot water into an empty rum puncheon, and let it stand until it extracts the spirit from the wood. The mixture is drunk by sailors in default of something stronger.—Sea.
  • Bull-Beef - a term of contempt; “as ugly as bull-beef,” “go to the billy-fencer, and sell yourself for bull-beef.” Sometimes used to indicate full size of anything. “There was he, as big as bull-beef.”
  • Bull - a crown-piece, formerly bull’s eye. See work.
  • Bull - one who agrees to purchase stock at a future day, at a stated price, but who simply speculates for a rise in public securities to render the transaction a profitable one. Should stocks fall, the bull is then called upon to pay the difference. See bear, who is the opposite of a bull, the former selling, the latter purchasing—the one operating for a fall, the other for a rise.
  • Bull - term amongst prisoners for the meat served to them in jail. Also very frequently used instead of the word beef. The costermonger often speaks of his dinner, when he has beef, as a “bit o’ bull,” without any reference to its being either tough or tender, but he never speaks of mutton as “sheep.”
  • Bulldogs - the runners who accompany the proctor in his perambulations, and give chase to runaways.—University.
  • Bullet - to discharge from a situation. To shake the bullet at anyone, is to threaten him with “the sack,” but not to give him actual notice to leave. To get the bullet is to get notice, while to get the instant bullet is to be discharged upon the spot. The use of the term is most probably derived from a fancied connexion between it and the word discharge.
  • Bullfinch - a hunting term for a large, thick, quickset hedge, difficult alike to “top” or burst through. Probably a corruption of bull-fence, a fence made to prevent cattle straying either in or out.
  • Bullock’s horn - in pawn.
  • Bullyrag - to abuse or scold vehemently; to swindle one out of money by intimidation and sheer abuse.
  • Bulwer’s (Sir Edward Lytton) Paul Clifford.v. d.
  • Bulwer’s (Sir Edward Lytton) Pelham.v. d.
  • Bum-Bailiff - a sheriff’s-officer—a term, some say, derived from the proximity which this gentleman generally maintains to his victims. Blackstone says it is a corruption of “bound bailiff.” A bum-bailiff was generally called “bummy.”
  • Bum-Curtain - an old name for academical gowns when they were worn scant and short, especially those of the students of St. John’s College.—Camb. Univ. Any ragged or short academical gown.
  • Bum - the part on which we sit.—Shakspeare. bumbags, trousers; Gael. bun, a base or bottom; Welsh, bon, the lowest or worst part of anything.
  • Bumble-Puppy - a game played in public-houses on a large stone, placed in a slanting direction, on the lower end of which holes are excavated, and numbered like the holes in a bagatelle-table. The player rolls a stone ball, or marble, from the higher end, and according to the number of the hole it falls into the game is counted. It is undoubtedly the very ancient game of Troule-in-madame.
  • Bumble - a beadle. Adopted from Dickens’s character in Oliver Twist. This and “bumbledom” are now common.
  • Bumble - to muffle. Bumble-footed, club-footed, or awkward in the gait.
  • Bumbles - coverings for the eyes of horses that shy in harness.
  • Bumbrusher - an usher at a school.
  • Bumclink - in the Midland counties the inferior beer brewed for haymakers and harvest labourers. Derivation obvious.
  • Bummer - literally one who sits or idles about; a loafer; one who sponges upon his acquaintances. In California, men who profess to be journalists, and so obtain free dinners and drinks, are called “literary bummers.” Although the term is not much in use in this country, the profession of bumming, both literary and otherwise, is freely practised.
  • Bumper - according to Johnson from “bump,” but probably from French bon père, the fixed toast in monastic life of old, now used for “full measure.” A match at quoits, bowls, &c., may end in a “bumper game,” if the play and score be all on one side. Bumper is used in sporting and theatrical circles to denote a benefit which is one in reality as well as in name.
  • Bumptious - arrogant, self-sufficient. One on very good terms with himself is said to be bumptious.
  • Bunce - costermongers’ perquisites; the money obtained by giving light weight, &c.; costermongers’ goods sold by boys on commission. In fact anything which is clear profit or gain is said to be “all bunce.” Probably a corruption of bonus; bone, or boner, being the slang for good. Bunce, Grose gives as the cant word for money.
  • Bunch-of-Fives - the hand, or fist.
  • Bundle - “to bundle a person off,” i.e., to pack him off, send him flying.
  • Bundling - men and women sleeping together, where the divisions of the house will not permit of better or more decent accommodation, with all their clothes on. Bundling was originally courting done in bed, the lovers being tied or bundled up to prevent undue familiarities. The practice still obtains in some parts of Wales.
  • Bung - the landlord of a public-house. Much in use among sporting men.
  • Bung - to give, pass, hand over, drink, or to perform almost any action. bung up, to close up, as the eyes.—Pugilistic. “bung over the rag,” hand over the money.—Old, used by Beaumont and Fletcher, and Shakspeare. Also, to deceive one by a lie, to cram, which see.
  • Bunk - to decamp. “Bunk it!” i.e., be off.
  • Bunker - beer.
  • Bunkum - an American importation, denoting false sentiments in speaking, pretended enthusiasm, &c. The expression arose from a speech made by a North Carolina senator named Buncombe.
  • Bunter - a prostitute, a street-walking female thief.
  • Burdon’s Hotel - Whitecross Street Prison, of which the Governor was a Mr. Burdon. Almost every prison has a nickname of this kind, either from the name of the Governor, or from some local circumstance. The Queen’s Bench has also an immense number of names—spike park, &c.; and every Chief-Justice stands godfather to it.
  • Burerk - a lady, a showily-dressed woman.
  • Burra - great; as burra saib, a great man; burra khanaii, a great dinner.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Bury a Moll - to run away from a mistress.
  • Bus - business (of which it is a contraction) or action on the stage, so written, but pronounced biz.—Theatrical. See biz.
  • Bus - or buss, an abbreviation of “omnibus,” a public carriage. Also, a kiss, abbreviation of Fr. baiser. A Mr. Shillibeer started the first bus in London. A shillibeer is now a hearse and mourning coach all in one, used by the very poorest mourners and shabbiest undertakers.
  • Bushy-park - a lark.
  • Business - the action which accompanies dialogue. “His business was good.” Generally applied to byplay.—Theatrical.
  • Busk - to sell obscene songs and books at the bars and in the tap-rooms of public-houses. Sometimes it implies selling other articles. Also to “work” public-houses and certain spots as an itinerant musician or vocalist.
  • Busker - a man who sings or performs in a public-house; an itinerant.
  • Bust - or burst, to tell tales, to split, to inform. Busting, informing against accomplices when in custody.
  • Buster (burster), a small new loaf; “twopenny buster,” a twopenny loaf. “A penn’orth o’ bees-wax (cheese) and a penny buster,” a common snack at beershops. A halfpenny loaf is called a “starver.”
  • Buster - an extra size; “what a buster,” i.e., what a large one; “in for a buster,” determined on an extensive frolic or spree. Scotch, bustuous; Icelandic, bostra.
  • Bustle - money; “to draw the bustle.”
  • Busy-Sack - a carpet-bag.
  • Butcha - a Hindoo word in use among Englishmen for the young of any animal. In England we ask after the children; in India the health of the butchas is tenderly inquired for.
  • Butcher - the king in playing-cards. When card-playing in public houses was common, the kings were called butchers, the queens bitches, and the knaves jacks. The latter term is now in general use.
  • Butcher’s Mourning - a white hat with a black mourning hatband. Probably because, under any circumstances, a butcher would rather not wear a black hat. White hats and black bands have, however, become genteel ever since the late Prince Consort patronized them, though they retain a deal of the old sporting leaven.
  • Butler’s Hudibras - with Dr. Grey’s Annotations, 3 vols. 8vo.1819.
  • Butter flap - a trap, a light cart.
  • Butter-Fingered - apt to let things fall; greasy or slippery-fingered.
  • Butter - or batter, praise or flattery. To butter, to flatter, cajole. Same as “soft soap” and “soft sawder.” Soft words generally. Maybe from the old proverb, “Fine words butter no parsneps.”
  • Button - a decoy, sham purchaser, &c. At any mock or sham auction seedy specimens may be seen. Probably from the connexion of buttons with Brummagem, which is often used as a synonym for a sham.—See bonnet.
  • Buttoner - a man who entices another to play.
  • Buttons - a page,—from the rows of gilt buttons which adorn his jacket.
  • Buttons - “not to have all one’s buttons;” to be deficient in intellect. To “make buttons” means for some occult reason to look sorry and sad. “He was making buttons,” i.e., he was looking sorrowful. Perhaps because button-making is a sorry occupation.
  • Butty - a word used in the mining districts to denote a kind of overseer. Also used by the Royal Marines in the sense of comrade; a policeman’s assistant, one of the staff in a mêlée.
  • Buz-Bloke - a pickpocket who principally confines his attention to purses and loose cash. Grose gives buz-gloak, an ancient cant word. Gloak was old cant for a man. Buz-napper, a young pickpocket.
  • Buz-man - an informer; from buz, to whisper, but more generally a thief.
  • Buz-napper’s Academy - a school in which young thieves were trained. Figures were dressed up, and experienced tutors stood in various difficult attitudes for the boys to practise upon. When clever0 enough they were sent on the streets. Dickens gives full particulars of this old style of business in Oliver Twist.
  • Buz - to pick pockets; buzzing or buz-faking, robbing.
  • Buz - to share equally the last of a bottle of wine, when there is not enough for a full glass to each of the party.
  • Buzzer - a pickpocket. Grose gives buz-cove and, as above mentioned, buz-gloak.
  • By George - an exclamation similar to by jove. The term is older than is frequently imagined—vide Bacchus and Venus (p. 117), 1737. “’Fore (or by) george, I’d knock him down.” Originally in reference to Saint George, the patron saint of England, or possibly to the House of Hanover.
  • By Jingo - an oath or exclamation having no particular meaning, and no positive etymology, though it is believed by some that jingo is derived from the Basque jenco, the devil.
  • Byblow - an illegitimate child.
  • Bynge a waste [Avast, get out of the way] go you hence.
  • Ca-sa - a writ of capias ad satisfaciendam.—Legal slang.
  • Cab - to stick together, to muck, or tumble up—Devonshire.
  • Cabbage-Head - a soft-headed person.
  • Cabbage - pieces of cloth said to be purloined by tailors. Any small profits in the way of material.
  • Cabbage - to pilfer or purloin. Termed by Johnson a “cant word,” but adopted by later lexicographers as a respectable term. Said to have been first used in the above sense by Arbuthnot.
  • Cabby - popular name for the driver of a cab. This title has almost supplanted the more ancient one of jarvey.
  • Caboose - the galley or cook-house of a ship; a term used by tramps to indicate a kitchen.
  • Cackle-Tub - a pulpit.
  • Cackling chete - a coke [cock], or capon.
  • Cackling-Cove - an actor. Also called a mummery-cove.—Theatrical.
  • Cad - an omnibus conductor. Of late years the term has been generically applied to the objectionable class immortalized by Thackeray under the title of snob. A great deal of caddism is, however, perpetrated by those who profess to have the greatest horror of it—the upper classes—a fact which goes far to prove that it is impossible to fairly ascribe a distinctive feature to any grade of society.
  • Cadge - to beg in an artful, wheedling manner.—North. In Scotland to cadge is to wander, to go astray. See under codger.
  • Cadging - begging, generally with an eye to pilfering when an opportunity occurs. To be “on the cadge” is almost synonymous with “on the make.”
  • Cag - to irritate, affront, anger. Schoolboy slang.
  • Cage - a minor kind of prison. A country lock-up which contained no offices.
  • Cain and Abel - a table.
  • Cake - a “flat;” a soft or doughy person, a fool.
  • Cakey-Pannum-Fencer - or pannum-fencer, a man who sells street pastry.
  • Calaboose - a prison.—Sea slang, from the Spanish.
  • Calculate - a word much in use among the inhabitants of the Western States U.S., as “I calculate you are a stranger here.” New Englanders use the word “guess” instead of calculate, while the Virginians prefer to say “reckon.”
  • Caleb Quotem - a parish clerk; a jack of all trades. From a character in The Wags of Windsor.
  • California - or Californians, money. Term generally applied to gold only. Derivation very obvious.
  • Call-a-Go - in street “patter,” is to leave off trying to sell anything and to remove to another spot, to desist. Also to give in, yield, at any game or business. Probably from the “go” call in cribbage.
  • Call - a notice of rehearsal, or any other occasion requiring the company’s presence, posted up in a theatre. “We’re called for eleven to-morrow morning.”
  • Cambridge. Gradus ad Cantabrigiam; or, a Dictionary of Terms, Academical and Colloquial, or Cant, which are used at the University, with Illustrations, 12mo.Camb., 1803.
  • Camden-town - a brown,—vulgar term for a halfpenny.
  • Cameronians - The, the Twenty-sixth Regiment of Foot in the British Army.
  • Camister - a preacher, clergyman, or master.
  • Canary - a sovereign. From the colour. Very old slang indeed.
  • Canister-Cap - a hat.
  • Canister - the head.—Pugilistic.
  • Cannibals - the training boats for the Cambridge freshmen, i.e., “Cannot-pulls.” The term is applied both to boats and rowers.—See sloggers. Torpids is the usual term for the races in which these men and machines figure.
  • Cannikin - a small can, similar to pannikin. “And let the Cannikin clink.”
  • Cant of Togs - a gift of clothes.
  • Cant - a blow or toss; “a cant over the kisser,” a blow on the mouth; “a cant over the buttock,” a throw or toss in wrestling.
  • Cantab - a student at Cambridge.
  • Cantankerous - litigious, bad-tempered. An American corruption probably of contentious. A reviewer of an early edition of this book derives it from the Anglo-Norman contek, litigation or strife. Others have suggested “cankerous” as the origin. Bailey has conteke, contention as a Spenserian word, and there is the O.E. contekors, quarrelsome persons.
  • Canting Academy: or, Villanies Discovered, wherein are shown the Mysterious and Villanous Practices of that Wicked Crew—Hectors, Trapanners, Gilts, &c., with several new Catches and Songs; also Compleat Canting Dictionary, 12mo, frontispiece.1674.
  • Canting Dictionary; comprehending all the Terms, Antient and Modern, used in the several Tribes of Gypsies, Beggars, Shoplifters, Highwaymen, Foot-Pads, and all other Clans of Cheats and Villains, with Proverbs, Phrases, Figurative Speeches, &c., to which is added a complete Collection of Songs in the Canting Dialect, 12mo.1725.
  • Canting: A Poem, interspersed with Tales and Additional Scraps, post 8vo.1814.
  • Canvasseens - sailors’ canvas trousers.
  • Cap - a false cover to a tossing coin. The term and the instrument are both nearly obsolete. See cover-down.
  • Cap - to outdo or add to, as in capping jokes.
  • Cap - “to set her cap.” A woman is said to set her cap at a man when she makes overt love to him.
  • Cape Cod Turkey - salt fish.
  • Caper-Merchant - a dancing-master. Sometimes a hop-merchant.
  • Capers - dancing, frolicking; “to cut caper-sauce,” i.e., to dance upon nothing—be hanged. Old thieves’ talk.
  • Capper-Clawing - female encounter, where caps are torn and nails freely used. Sometimes it is pronounced clapper-claw. The word occurs in Shakspeare, Troilus and Cressida, act v. sc. 4.
  • Caravan - a railway train, especially a train expressly chartered to convey people to a prize fight.
  • Caravansera - a railway station. In pugilistic phraseology a tip for the starting point might have been given thus. “The scratch must be toed at sharp five, so the caravan will start at four from the caravansera.”
  • Carboy - a general term in most parts of the world for a very large glass or earthenware bottle.
  • Card - a character. “A queer card,” i.e., an odd fish.
  • Cardinal - a lady’s red cloak. A cloak with this name was in fashion in the year 1760. It received its title from its similarity in shape to one of the vestments of a cardinal. Also mulled red wine.
  • Cardwell’s Men - officers promoted in pursuance of the new system of non-purchase.
  • Carew. Life and Adventures of Bamfylde Moore Carew, the King of the Beggars, with Canting Dictionary, portrait, 8vo.1791.
  • Carney - soft hypocritical language. Also, to flatter, wheedle, or insinuate oneself.—Prov.
  • Carnish - meat, from the Ital. carne, flesh; a Lingua Franca importation; carnish-ken, a thieves’ eating-house; “cove of the carnish-ken,” the keeper thereof.—North Country Cant.
  • Caroon - five shillings. French, couronne; Gipsy, courna; Spanish, corona.
  • Carpet-Knight - an habitué of drawing-rooms, a “ladies’ man.”
  • Carrier-Pigeon - a swindler, one who formerly used to cheat lottery-office keepers. Now used among betting men to describe one who runs from place to place with “commissions.”
  • Carriwitchet - a hoaxing, puzzling question, not admitting of a satisfactory answer, as—“How far is it from the first of July to London Bridge?” “If a bushel of apples cost ten shillings, how long will it take for an oyster to eat its way through a barrel of soap?”
  • Carrot. “Take a carrot!” a vulgar insulting phrase.
  • Carrots - the coarse and satirical term for red hair. An epigram gives an illustration of the use of this term:—
  • Carry Corn - to bear success well and equally. It is said of a man who breaks down under a sudden access of wealth—as successful horse-racing men and unexpected legatees often do—or who becomes affected and intolerant, that “he doesn’t carry corn well.”
  • Carry me Out! an exclamation of pretended astonishment on hearing news too good to be true, or a story too marvellous to be believed. Sometimes varied by “Let me die,” i.e., I can’t survive that. Profanely1 derived from the Nunc dimittis (Luke xi. 29). The Irish say, “carry me out, and bury me decently.”
  • Carry-on - to joke a person to excess, to carry on a “spree” too far; “how we carried on, to be sure!” i.e., what fun we had. Nautical term—from carrying on sail.
  • Cart-wheel - a five-shilling piece. Generally condensed to “wheel.”
  • Carts - a pair of shoes. In Norfolk the carapace of a crab is called a crab cart; hence carts would be synonymous with crab shells, which see.
  • Casa - or case, a house, respectable or otherwise. Probably from the Italian casa.—Old Cant. The Dutch use the word kast in a vulgar sense for a house, i.e., mottekast, a brothel. Case sometimes means a water-closet, but is in general applied to a “house of accommodation.” Casa is generally pronounced carzey.
  • Cascade - to vomit.
  • Case - a bad crown-piece. Half-a-case, a counterfeit half-crown. There are two sources, either of which may have contributed this slang term. Caser is the Hebrew word for a crown; and silver coin is frequently counterfeited by coating or casing pewter or iron imitations with silver. Possibly from its being “a case” with the unfortunate owner.
  • Cask - fashionable slang for a brougham, or other private carriage. Not very general. “Pillbox” is the more usual term.
  • Cassam - cheese—not caffan, which Egan, in his edition of Grose, has ridiculously inserted.—Ancient Cant. Latin, caseus. Gael. and Irish, caise.
  • Cassan [Cassam], cheese.
  • Cast up Accounts - to vomit.—Old.
  • Cast - to assist by lightening labour. Men in small boats who want to be towed behind steamers or sailing vessels, say “Give us a cast.” Also used by waggoners and others, who sometimes vary the performance by asking, when stuck on a hill, for a pound, possibly a pound of flesh, horse or human.
  • Casters [Castor, a hat], a cloake.
  • Castle rag - a flag,—cant term for fourpence.
  • Castor - a hat. Mostly used in pugilistic circles. Indeed many hangers-on of the P.R. have considered that the term arose from the custom of casting the hat into the ring, before entering oneself. Castor was the Latin name for the animal now known as the beaver; and, strange to add, beaver was the slang for castor, or hat, many years ago, before gossamer came into fashion.
  • Cat and Kitten Sneaking - stealing pint and quart pots and small pewter spirit measures from public-houses.
  • Cat and mouse - a house.
  • Cat-faced - a vulgar and very common expression of contempt in the North of England.
  • Cat-in-the-Pan - a traitor, a turncoat—derived by some from the Greek, καταπαν, altogether; or—and more likely—from cake in pan, a pan-cake, which is frequently turned from side to side.
  • Cat-lap - a contemptuous expression for weak drink. Anything a cat will drink is very innocuous.
  • Cat - a lady’s muff; “to free a cat,” i.e., steal a muff.
  • Cat - to vomit like a cat. Perhaps from cataract; but see shoot the cat.
  • Cat —cat o’ nine tails, a whip with that number of lashes used to punish refractory sailors.—Sea. The “cat” is now a recognised term for the punishmental whip.
  • Catamaran - a disagreeable old woman.—Thackeray.
  • Cataract - once a black satin scarf arranged for the display of jewellery, much in vogue among “commercial gents.” Now quite out of date.
  • Catch-penny - any temporary contrivance to obtain money from the public; penny shows, or cheap exhibitions. Also descriptions of murders which have never taken place.
  • Catch-’em-Alive - a humane trap; also a small-tooth comb. A piece of paper smeared with a sweet sticky substance which is spread about where flies most abound, and in this sense not particularly humane. The catch-’em-alive trap for rats and other such animals is humane compared with the gin trap.
  • Catchbet - a bet made for the purpose of entrapping the unwary by means of a paltry subterfuge. See cherry colour.
  • Catchy (similar formation to touchy), inclined to take an undue advantage.
  • Caterwauling - applied derisively to inharmonious singing; also love-making, from the noise of cats similarly engaged.
  • Cateth - “the vpright Cofe cateth to the Roge” [probably a shortening or misprint of Canteth].
  • Catever - a queer, or singular affair; anything poor, or very bad. From the Lingua Franca, and Italian, cattivo, bad. Variously spelled by the lower orders.—See kertever.
  • Catgut-Scraper - a fiddler.
  • Cats and Dogs. It is said to rain cats and dogs when a shower is exceptionally heavy. Probably in ridicule of the remarkable showers which used to find their way into the papers during the “silly season.”
  • Cattle - a term of contempt applied to the mob, or to a lot of lazy, helpless servants.
  • Cat’s-meat - a coarse term for the lungs—the “lights” or lungs of animals being usually sold to feed cats.
  • Cat’s-paw - a dupe or tool. From the old story of the monkey who used the cat’s-paw to remove his roast chestnuts from the fire. A sea term, meaning light and occasional breezes occurring in calm weather.
  • Cat’s-water - “old Tom,” or gin.
  • Caucus - a private meeting held for the purpose of concerting measures, agreeing upon candidates for office before an election, &c. This is an American term, and a corruption of caulker’s meeting, being derived from an association of the shipping interest at Boston, previous to the War of Independence, who were very active in getting up opposition to England.—See Pickering’s Vocabulary.
  • Caulk - to take a surreptitious nap; sleep generally, from the ordinary meaning of the term; stopping leaks, repairing damages, so as to come out as good as new.—Sea term.
  • Caulker - a dram. The term “caulker” is usually applied to a stiff glass of grog—preferably brandy—finishing the potations of the evening. See whitewash.
  • Caulker - a too marvellous story, a lie. Choker has the same sense.
  • Caution - anything out of the common way. “He’s a caution,” is said of an obdurate or argumentative man. The phrase is also used in many ways in reference to places and things.
  • Cavaulting - a vulgar phrase equivalent to “horsing.” The Italian cavallino, signifies a rake or debauchee.—Lingua Franca, cavolta. From this comes the Americanism “cavorting,” running or riding round in a heedless or purposeless manner.
  • Cave - or cave in, to submit, shut up.—American. Metaphor taken from the sinking of an abandoned mining shaft.
  • Chaff - to gammon, joke, quiz, or praise ironically. Originally “to queer” represented our modern word “chaff.” Chaff-bone, the jaw-bone.—Yorkshire. Chaff, jesting. In Anglo-Saxon, ceaf is chaff; and ceafl, bill, beak, or jaw. In the Ancren Riwle, a.d. 1221, ceafle is used in the sense of idle discourse.
  • Chaffer - the mouth; “moisten your chaffer,” i.e., take something to drink.
  • Chal - old Romany term for a man; chie was the name for a woman.
  • Chalk farm - the arm.
  • Chalk out - or chalk down, to mark out a line of conduct or action; to make a rule or order. Phrase derived from the Workshop.
  • Chalk up - to credit, make entry in account books of indebtedness; “I can’t pay you now, but you can chalk it up,” i.e., charge me with the article in your day-book. From the old practice of chalking one’s score for drink behind the bar-doors of public-houses.
  • Chalks - “to walk one’s chalks,” to move off, or run away. An ordeal for drunkenness used on board ship, to see whether the suspected person can walk on a chalked line without overstepping it on either side.
  • Chance the Ducks - an expression signifying come what may. “I’ll do it, and chance the ducks.”
  • Chancery - a pugilistic phrase for difficulties; “to get a man’s head into chancery,” i.e., to get an opponent’s head firmly under one’s arm, where it can be pommelled with immense power, and without any possibility of immediate extrication. From the helplessness of a suitor in Chancery. This opportunity was of very rare occurrence when the combatants were at all evenly matched.
  • Change - small money. The overplus returned after paying for a thing in a round sum. Hence a slang expression used when a person receives a “settler” in the shape of either a repartee or a blow—“Take your change out of that!”
  • Chap - a fellow, a boy; “a low chap,” a low fellow—abbreviation of chapman, a huckster. Used by Byron in his Critical Remarks.
  • Chapel-of-ease. French, cabinet d’aisance, a house of office.
  • Chapel. An undergrad is expected to attend seven out of the fourteen services in chapel each week, and to let four or five be morning chapels. Occasionally a Don—the Dean as a rule—will “chapel” him, that is, order him to attend to worship his Creator twice daily. The Bible clerk “pricks the list,” i.e., marks down the names of all present.—Univ.
  • Chapel - a printers’ assembly, held for the purpose of discussing differences between employer and workmen, trade regulations, or other matters. The term is scarcely slang, but some “comps” ask its insertion in this work.
  • Characterisms - or the Modern Age Displayed; being an Attempt to Expose the Pretended Virtues of Both Sexes, 12mo (part i., Ladies; part ii., Gentlemen), E. Owen.1750.
  • Charing Cross - a horse.
  • Chariot-buzzing - picking pockets in an omnibus.
  • Charley Lancaster - a handkercher,—vulgar pronunciation of handkerchief.
  • Charley Prescott - a waistcoat.
  • Charley-pitcher - a low, cheating gambler.
  • Charley - a watchman, a beadle. Almost obsolete now.
  • Charlies - a woman’s breasts. Also called dairies and bubbies.
  • Chats - lice, or body vermin. Prov., any small things of the same kind.
  • Chatter-basket - common term for a prattling child amongst nurses.
  • Chatter-box - an incessant talker or chatterer.
  • Chattes - the gallowes.
  • Chatty - a filthy person, one whose clothes are not free from vermin; chatty doss, a lousy bed. A chatty dosser or a crummy dosser is a filthy tramp or houseless wanderer.
  • Chaunt - to sing the contents of any paper in the streets. Cant, as applied to vulgar language, may have been derived from chaunt.
  • Chaunt - “to chaunt the play,” to explain the tricks and manœuvres of thieves.
  • Chaunters - those street sellers of ballads, last copies of verses, and other broadsheets, who sang or bawled the contents of their papers. They often termed themselves paper workers. Cheap evening papers and private executions have together combined to improve these folks’ occupations off the face of the earth. See horse-chaunters.
  • Chaw over - to repeat one’s words with a view to ridicule.
  • Chaw-bacon - a rustic. Derived from the popular idea that a countryman lives entirely on bread and fat bacon. A country clown, a joskin, a yokel, a clodcrusher. These terms are all exchangeable.
  • Chaw - to chew; chaw up, to get the better of one, finish him up; chawed up, utterly done for.
  • Cheap Jacks - or johns, oratorical hucksters and patterers of hardware, who put an article up at a high price, and then cheapen it by degrees, indulging all the time in volleys of coarse wit, until it becomes to all appearance a bargain, and as such it is bought by one of the crowd. The popular idea is that the inverse method of auctioneering saves them paying for the auction licence.—See dutch auction.
  • Cheap - “doing it on the cheap,” living economically, or keeping up a showy appearance with very little means.
  • Checks - counters used in games at cards. In the Pacific States of America a man who is dead is said to have handed (or passed) in his checks. The gamblers there are responsible for many of the colloquialisms current.
  • Chee-Chee - this word is used in a rather offensive manner to denote Eurasians, or children by an English father and native mother. It takes its origin in a very common expression of half-caste females, “Chee-chee,” equivalent to our Oh, fie!—Nonsense!—For shame!—Anglo-Indian.
  • Cheek by Jowl - side by side—said often of persons in such close confabulation that their faces almost touch.
  • Cheek - impudence, assurance; cheeky, saucy or forward.
  • Cheek - share or portion; “where’s my cheek?” where is my allowance? “All to his own cheek,” all to himself.
  • Cheek - to irritate by impudence, to accuse.
  • Cheese - anything good, first-rate in quality, genuine, pleasant, or advantageous, is termed the cheese. The London Guide, 1818, says it was from some young fellows translating “c’est une autre chose” into “that is another cheese.” But the expression cheese may be found in the Gipsy vocabulary, and in the Hindostanee and Persian languages. In the last chiz means a thing—that is the thing, i.e., the cheese.
  • Cheese - or cheese it (evidently a corruption of cease), leave off, or have done; “cheese your barrikin,” hold your noise. Term very common.
  • Cheesecutter - a prominent and aquiline nose. Also a large square peak to a cap. Caps fitted with square peaks are called cheesecutter caps.
  • Cheesy - fine or showy. The opposite of “dusty.”
  • Cherry ripe - a pipe.
  • Cherry-bums - or cherubims, a nickname given to the 11th Hussars, from their crimson trousers.
  • Cherry-merry - a present of money. Cherry-merry-bamboo, a beating.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Cherubs - or still more vulgarly, cherubims, the chorister boys who chaunt in the services at the abbeys and cathedrals. Possibly because in some places their heads alone are visible.
  • Cheshire Cat - to grin like a cheshire cat, to display the teeth and gums when laughing. Formerly the phrase was “to grin like a cheshire cat eating cheese.” A hardly satisfactory explanation has been given of this phrase—that Cheshire is a county palatine, and the1 cats, when they think of it, are so tickled with the notion that they can’t help grinning.
  • Chete [see what has been previously said about this word.]
  • Chevy chase - the face.
  • Chi-ike - a hail; a good loud word of hearty praise; term used by the costermongers, who assist the sale of each other’s goods by a little friendly, although noisy, commendation.
  • Chi-ike - to hail in a rough though friendly manner; to support by means of vociferation.
  • Chicken-hearted - cowardly, fearful. With about the amount of pluck a chicken in a fright might be supposed to possess.
  • Chicken - a term applied to anything young, small, or insignificant; chicken stakes, small paltry stakes; “she’s no chicken,” said of an old maid.
  • Children’s Shoes (to make), to be made nought of.—See shoes.
  • Chill - to warm, as beer. This at first seems like reversing the order of things, but it is only a contraction of “take the chill off.”
  • Chimney-Sweep - the aperient mixture commonly called a black draught.
  • Chin-chin - a salutation, a compliment.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Chin-wag - officious impertinence.
  • Chink - or chinkers, money.—Ancient. Derivation obvious.
  • Chip of the Old Block - a child which physically or morally resembles its father. Brother chip, one of the same trade or profession. Originally brother carpenter, now general.
  • Chips - money; also a nickname for a carpenter.—Sea.
  • Chirp - to give information, to “peach.”
  • Chisel - to cheat, to take a slice off anything. Hence the old conundrum: “Why is a carpenter like a swindler?—Because he chisels a deal.”
  • Chit - a letter; corruption of a Hindoo word.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Chitterlings - the shirt frills once fashionable and worn still by ancient beaux; properly the entrails of a pig, to which they are supposed to bear some resemblance. Belgian schyterlingh.
  • Chivalry - coition. Probably a corruption from the Lingua Franca. Perhaps from chevaulcher.
  • Chive-Fencer - a street hawker of cutlery.
  • Chive - a knife; also used as a verb, to knife. In all these cases the word is pronounced as though written chiv or chivvy.
  • Chive - or chivey, a shout, a halloo, or cheer; loud tongued. Probably from chevy-chase, a boy’s game, in which the word chevy is bawled aloud. Dickens uses the word chivey in Bleak House rather freely, but there it is from the other phase of chevy-chase which follows.
  • Chivey - to chase round, or hunt about. Apparently from chevy-chase.—See above.
  • Choakee - or chokey, the black hole.—Military Anglo-Indian. Chokey is also very vulgar slang for prison.
  • Chock-Full - full till the scale comes down with a shock. Originally choke-full, and used in reference to theatres and places of amusement.
  • Choke Off - to get rid of. Bulldogs can only be made to loose their hold by choking them. Suggestively to get rid of a man by saying something to him which “sticks in his gizzard.”
  • Choker - a cravat, a neckerchief. White-choker, the white neckerchief worn by mutes at a funeral, waiters at a tavern, and gentlemen in evening costume. Clergymen and Exeter Hallites are frequently termed white-chokers.
  • Choker - or wind-stopper, a garotter.
  • Chonkeys - a kind of mincemeat, baked in a crust, and sold in the streets.
  • Choops - a corruption of choopraho, keep silence.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Chootah - small, insignificant.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Chop - in the Canton jargon of Anglo-Chinese, this word has several significations. It means an official seal, a permit, a boat load of teas. First chop signifies first quality; and chop-chop, to make haste.
  • Chop - to exchange, to “swop.” To chop and change, to be as variable as the wind.
  • Chops - properly chaps, the mouth, or cheeks; “down in the chops,” or “down in the mouth,” i.e., sad or melancholy.
  • Chouse - to cheat out of one’s share or portion. Hackluyt, chaus; Massinger, chiaus. From the Turkish, in which language it signifies an interpreter. Gifford gives a curious story as to its origin:—
  • Chout - an entertainment.—East-end of London.
  • Chovey - a shop.—Costermonger.
  • Chow-Chow - a mixture, food of any kind. Also chit-chat and gossip.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Chowdar - a fool.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Christening - erasing the name of the maker, the number, or any other mark, from a stolen watch, and inserting a fictitious one in its place.
  • Chubby - round-faced, plump. Probably from the same derivative as chub, which means literally a fish with a big head.
  • Chuck a Jolly - to bear up or bonnet, as when a costermonger praises the inferior article his mate or partner is trying to sell. See Chi-ike.
  • Chuck a Stall - to attract a person’s attention while a confederate picks his pockets, or otherwise robs him.
  • Chuck in - to challenge—from the pugilistic custom of throwing a hat into the ring; a modern version of “throwing down the gauntlet.” This term seems to have gone out of fashion with the custom which gave rise to it.
  • Chuck up - to surrender, give in—from the custom of throwing up the sponge at a prize-fight in token of yielding. This is very often corrupted into “jack up.”
  • Chuck - a schoolboy’s treat.—Westminster School. Provision for an entertainment. Hard chuck is sea biscuit.
  • Chuck - bread or meat; in fact, anything to eat. Also a particular kind of beefsteak.
  • Chuck - to throw or pitch.
  • Chuckle-head - much the same as “buffle head,” “cabbage head,” “chowder head,” “cod’s head,”—all signifying that large abnormal form of skull generally supposed to accompany stupidity and weakness of intellect; as the Scotch proverb, “muckle head and little wit.”—Originally Devonshire, but now general.
  • Chucks! Schoolboy’s signal on the master’s approach.
  • Chuff it - i.e., be off, or take it away, in answer to a street seller who is importuning you to purchase. Halliwell mentions chuff as a “term of reproach,” surly, &c.
  • Chull - make haste. An abbreviation of the Hindostanee chullo, signifying “go along.” Chull is very commonly used to accelerate the motions of a servant, driver, or palanquin-bearer.
  • Chum - an intimate acquaintance. A recognised term, but in such frequent use with slangists that it almost demands a place here. Stated to be from the Anglo-Saxon, cuma, a guest.
  • Chum - to occupy a joint lodging with another person. Latin, cum.
  • Chumming-up - an old custom amongst prisoners before the present regulations were in vogue, and before imprisonment for debt was abolished; when a fresh man was admitted to their number, rough music was made with pokers, tongs, sticks, and saucepans. For this ovation the initiated prisoner had to pay, or “fork over,” half-a-crown—or submit to a loss of coat and waistcoat.
  • Chummy - a chimney-sweep—probably connected with chimney; also a low-crowned felt hat. Sometimes, but rarely, a sweep is called a clergyman—from his colour.
  • Chump (or chunk) of wood , no good.
  • Chump - the head or face. Also one end of a loin of mutton. A half-idiotic or daft person is said to be off his chump.
  • Chunk - a thick or dumpy piece of any substance, as a chunk of bread or meat.—Kentish.
  • Church a yack (or watch), to take the works of a watch from its original case, and put them into another one, to avoid detection.—See christen.
  • Churchwarden - a long pipe, “a yard of clay;” probably so called from the dignity which seems to hedge the smoker of a churchwarden, and the responsibility attached to its use. Sometimes called an Alderman.
  • Cinder - any liquor used in connexion with soda-water, as to “take a soda with a cinder in it.” The cinder may be sherry, brandy, or any other liquor.
  • Circumbendibus - a roundabout way, a long-winded story.
  • Clack-box - a garrulous person, so called from the rattle formerly used by vagrants to make a rattling noise and attract attention.—Norfolk.
  • Claggum - boiled treacle in a hardened state, hardbake.—See cliggy.
  • Clam, or clem - to starve.—North.
  • Clap-trap - high-sounding nonsense. An ancient theatrical term for a “trap to catch a clap by way of applause from the spectators at a play.”—Bailey’s Dictionary.
  • Clap - to place; “do you think you can clap your hand on him?” i.e., find him out. Clap is also a well-known form of a contagious disease.
  • Clapper - the tongue. Said of an over-talkative person, to be hung in the middle and to sound with both ends.
  • Claret - blood.—Pugilistic. Otherwise Badminton—which see.
  • Clashy - a low fellow, a labourer.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Class - the highest quality or combination of highest qualities among athletes. “He’s not class enough,” i.e., not good enough. “There’s a deal of class about him,” i.e., a deal of quality. The term as used this way obtains to a certain extent among turfites.
  • Clawhammer coat - an American term for a tail-coat used in evening costume. Also known as a steel-pen coat.
  • Clean out - to ruin, or make bankrupt any one; to take all he has got,2 by purchase, chicane, or force. De Quincey, in his article on Richard Bentley, speaking of the lawsuit between that great scholar and Dr. Colbatch, remarks that the latter “must have been pretty well cleaned out.” The term is very general.
  • Clean - quite, or entirely; “clean gone,” entirely out of sight, or away.—Old, see Cotgrave and Shakspeare. Clean contrary, quite different, opposite.
  • Click - a knock or blow. Click-handed, left-handed.—Cornish. A term in Cumberland and Westmoreland wrestling for a peculiar kind of throw, as “an inside click,” or “an outside click.”
  • Click - to snatch, to pull away something that belongs to another.
  • Clift - to steal.
  • Cliggy - or clidgy, sticky.—Anglo-Saxon, clæg, clay.—See claggum.
  • Clinch (to get the), to be locked up in jail.
  • Cling-rig - stealing tankards from public-houses, &c.
  • Clipper - a fine fast-sailing vessel. Applied also as a term of encomium to a handsome woman.
  • Clipping - excellent, very good. Clipper, anything showy or first-rate.
  • Clock - a watch. Watches are also distinguished by the terms “red clock,” a gold watch, and “white clock,” a silver watch. Generally modified into “red’un” and “white’un.”
  • Clock - “to know what’s o’clock,” to be “up, down, fly and awake,” to know everything about everything—a definition of knowingness in general.—See time o’ day.
  • Clod-hopper - a country clown.
  • Cloud - to be under a, to be in difficulties, disgrace or disrepute; in fact, to be in shady circumstances.
  • Clout - an intentional heavy blow.
  • Clout - or rag, a cotton pocket-handkerchief.—Old Cant. Now “clouts” means a woman’s under-clothes, from the waist downwards, i.e., petticoats when they are on the person; but the term is extended to mean the whole unworn wardrobe. Probably St. Giles’s satire, having reference to the fact that few women there possess a second gown.
  • Club - in manœuvring troops, so to blunder in giving the word of command that the soldiers get into a position from which they cannot extricate themselves by ordinary tactical means. Young officers frequently “club” their men, and get consequently “wigged” by the inspecting general.
  • Clump - to strike, to beat.—Prov.
  • Cly-faker - a pickpocket.
  • Cly [a pocket], to take, receive, or have.
  • Cly - a pocket.—Old Cant for to steal. A correspondent derives this word from the Old English, cleyes, claws; Anglo-Saxon, clea. This pronunciation is still retained in Norfolk; thus, to cly would mean to pounce upon, to snatch.—See frisk. Gael., cliah (pronounced clee), a basket.
  • Coach-wheel - or tusheroon, a crown-piece, or five shillings.
  • Coach - a private tutor. Originally University, but now general. Any man who now trains or teaches another, or others, is called a coach. To coach is to instruct as regards either physical or mental acquirements. A private tutor is sometimes termed a rural coach when he is not connected with a college. At Rugby a flogging is termed a “coaching.”
  • Coal - money; “post the coal,” put down the money. The phrase was used by Mr. Buckstone at the Theatrical Fund Dinner of 1863. From this is derived the theatrical term coaling, profitable, very good, which an actor will use if his part is full of good and telling speeches—thus, “my part is full of coaling lines.” This term was used in the sporting world long anterior to Mr. Buckstone’s speech. See coal.
  • Coals - “to haul (or pull) over the coals,” to take to task, to scold. Supposed by Jamieson to refer to the ordeal by fire. To “take one’s coals in,” is a term used by sailors to express their having caught the venereal disease. It means that they have gotten that which will keep them hot for a good many months.
  • Cobbing - a punishment inflicted by sailors and soldiers among themselves. See Grose and Captain Marryat’s novels. A hand-saw is the general instrument of punishment.
  • Cock and bull story - a long, rambling anecdote.—See Peroration to Tristram Shandy.
  • Cock of the walk - a master spirit, head of a party. Places where poultry are fed are called walks, and the barn door cocks invariably fight for the supremacy till one has obtained it. At schools where this phrase was originally much used, it has been diminished to “cock” only.
  • Cock one’s toes - to die. Otherwise “turn-up one’s toes.”
  • Cock-a-hoop - in high spirits. Possibly the idea is from the fact that, if a cock wins a fight, he will mount on anything near, and crow lustily and jubilantly. It is noticeable that under these circumstances a cock always gets off the ground-level if he can.
  • Cock-a-wax - an amplification of the simple term cock, sometimes “Lad of wax,” originally applied to a cobbler, but now general.
  • Cock-and-hen-club - a free and easy gathering, or “sing-song,” where females are admitted as well as males.
  • Cock-and-pinch - the old-fashioned beaver hat, affected by “swells” and “sporting gents” forty years ago—cocked back and front, and pinched up at the sides.
  • Cock-eye - a term of opprobrium often applied to one that squints.
  • Cock-robin shop - a small printing-office, where cheap and nasty work is done and low wages are paid.
  • Cock - a familiar term of address; “jolly old cock,” a jovial fellow, “how are you, old cock?” Frequently rendered nowadays, cock-e-e, a vulgar street salutation—probably a corruption of cock-eye. The latter is frequently heard as a shout or street cry after a man or boy.
  • Cock - a pugilistic term for a man who is knocked out of time. “Knocked him a reg’lar cock.” Sometimes used to signify knocked out of shape, as, “Knocked him a-cock,” probably connected with “cocked-hat shape.” A horse who has been backed by the public, but who does not run, or, running, does not persevere.
  • Cock - a smoking term; “cocking a Broseley,” i.e., smoking a pipe. Broseley in Shropshire is famous for “churchwardens.” A “cock”2 is an apocryphal story, generally, of a murder or elopement bawled about the streets by the Seven Dials’ “patterers.”
  • Cock - “to cock your eye,” to shut or wink one eye, to make “sheep’s-eyes.”
  • Cockalorum - or cockylorum, amplification of cock or cocky.
  • Cocked-hat-shaped - shapeless: Anything which has been altered beyond recognition, or any man who has been put completely hors de combat, is said to have been knocked into a cocked-hat.
  • Cockles - “to rejoice the cockles of one’s heart,” a vulgar phrase implying great pleasure. Also, to “warm one’s cockles,” said of any hot, well-spiced drink, taken in cold weather. Cockles altogether seem to be an imaginary portion—of great importance—in the internal economy of the human frame.
  • Cockshy - a game at fairs and races, where trinkets are set upon sticks, and for one penny three throws at them are accorded, the thrower keeping whatever he knocks off. From the ancient game of throwing or “shying” at live cocks. Any prominent person abused in the newspapers is said to be a common cockshy.
  • Cocksure - certain.
  • Cocky - pert, saucy.
  • Cocoa-nut - the head. A pugilistic term. Also, when anything is explained to a man for the first time, it is not unusual for him to say, “Ah, that accounts for the milk in the cocoa-nut”—a remark which has its origin in a clever but not very moral story.
  • Cocum - shrewdness, ability, luck; “Jack’s got cocum, he’s safe to get on, he is,”—viz., he starts under favourable circumstances; “to fight cocum” is to be wily and cautious. Allied perhaps to the Scottish keek, German, gucken, to peep or pry into.
  • Cod - to hoax, to take a “rise” out of one. Used as a noun, a fool.
  • Codds - the “poor brethren” of the Charter House. In The Newcomes, Thackeray writes, “The Cistercian lads call these old gentlemen codds; I know not wherefore.” A probable abbreviation of codger.
  • Codger - or coger, an old man; “a rum old codger,” a curious old fellow. Codger is sometimes used as synonymous with cadger, and then signifies a person who gets his living in a questionable manner. “Cogers,” the name of a debating society, formerly held in Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, and still in existence. The term is probably a corruption of cogitators.
  • Cofe [cove], a person.
  • Coffee-Shop - a watercloset, or house of office.
  • Cog - to cheat at dice.—Shakspeare. Also, to agree with, as one cog-wheel does with another, to crib from another’s book, as schoolboys often do. This is called “cogging over.”
  • Cogged - loaded like false dice. Any one who has been hocussed or cheated is sometimes said to have been cogged.
  • Coin - “to post the coin”—sometimes “post the coal”—a sporting phrase meaning to make a deposit of money for a match of any kind.
  • Cold blood - a house licensed for the sale of beer “not to be drunk on the premises.”
  • Cold coffee - an Oxford synonym for a “sell,” which see.
  • Cold coffee - misfortune; sometimes varied to cold gruel. An unpleasant return for a proffered kindness is sometimes called cold coffee.—Sea.
  • Cold cook - an undertaker. Cold cook’s shop, an undertaker’s.
  • Cold meat train - the last train at night by which officers can reach Aldershot per South Western Railway. So called because by this train corpses are often conveyed on account of the Necropolis Company to Woking.
  • Cold meat - a corpse. Cold-meat box, a coffin.
  • Cold shoulder - “to show or give any one the cold shoulder” is to “cut” in a modified form, to assume a distant manner towards anybody, to evince a desire to cease acquaintanceship. Sometimes termed “cold shoulder of mutton.”
  • Colfabias - a Latinized Irish phrase signifying the closet of decency, applied as a slang term to a place of resort in Trinity College, Dublin.
  • Collar and elbow - a term for a peculiar style of wrestling—the Cornwall and Devon style.
  • Collar - to seize, to lay hold of. Thieves’ slang, i.e., to steal.
  • Collar - “out of collar,” i.e., out of place, no work. Probably a variation of the metaphorical expressions, “in, or out of harness,” i.e., in or out of work—the horse being in collar when harnessed for his work. Collar work is any very hard work, from the expression among drivers. Any uphill journey is said to be all “collar work” for the horses.
  • Collections - the College examinations at the end of each term, when undergraduates wear white ties and bands, and are trotted through the subjects of the term’s lecture. These are the occasions when the dons administer reproof or advice on the conduct of each individual undergrad.—Oxford University.
  • Collogue - to conspire, talk mysteriously together in low tones, plot mischief. Connected with “colloquy” or “colleague.” Maybe mixture of both.
  • Colly-wobbles - the stomach-ache, a person’s bowels,—supposed by many to be the seat of feeling and nutrition.—Devonshire.
  • Colour - complexion, tint; “I’ve not seen the colour of his money,” i.e., he has never paid me any. In fortune-telling by cards, a diamond colour is the fairest; heart-colour, fair, but not so fair as the last; club colour, rather dark; spade colour, an extremely swarthy complexion.
  • Colt - a murderous weapon, formed by slinging a small shot to the end of a rather stiff piece of rope. It is the original of the misnamed “life-preserver.”
  • Colt - a person who sits as juryman for the first time. In Cork an operative baker who does not belong to the union.
  • Colt - a professional cricketer during his first season. From the best colts in the annual match are selected new county players.
  • Colt - to fine a new juryman a sum to be spent in drink, by way of “wetting” his office; to make a person free of a new place, which is done by his standing treat, and submitting to be struck on the sole of the foot with a piece of board.
  • Colt’s tooth - elderly persons of juvenile tastes are said to have a colt’s tooth, i.e., a desire to shed their teeth once more, to see life over again.
  • Comb-cut - mortified, disgraced, “down on one’s luck.”—See cut.
  • Come down - to pay down.
  • Commemoration - the end of Lent term at Oxford, when honorary degrees are conferred and certain prizes given, and when men have friends “up.”
  • Commission [mish], a shirt.
  • Commission - a shirt.—Ancient Cant. Italian, camicia.
  • Commister - a chaplain or clergyman.—Originally Old Cant.
  • Common sewer - a drain,—vulgar equivalent for a drink.
  • Commons - the allowance of anything sent out of the buttery or kitchen. “A commons of bread,” or “of cheese,” for instance.—University. Short commons (derived from the University slang term), a scanty meal, a scarcity.
  • Competition wallah - one who entered the Indian Civil Service by passing a competitive examination.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Compo - a sailor’s term for his monthly advance of wages.
  • Comprador - a purveyor, an agent.—Originally Spanish, now Anglo-Chinese.
  • Concaves and convexes - a pack of cards contrived for cheating, by cutting all the cards from the two to the seven concave, and all from the eight to the king convex. Then by cutting the pack breadthwise a convex card is cut, and by cutting it lengthwise a concave is secured.—See longs and shorts.
  • Conjee - a kind of gruel made of rice.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Conk - a nose. Possibly from the Latin, concha, a shell. Greek, κόγχη—hence anything hollow. Somewhat of a parallel may be found in the Latin, testa, an earthenware pot, a shell, and in later Latin, a skull; from whence the French teste, or tête, head. Conky, having a projecting or remarkable nose. The first Duke of Wellington was frequently termed “Old Conky” in satirical papers and caricatures.
  • Connaught Rangers - the Eighty-eighth Regiment of Foot in the British Army.
  • Conshun’s price - fair terms, without extortion. Probably conscience price.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Constable - “to overrun the constable,” to exceed one’s income, or get deep in debt. The origin of this phrase is unknown, but its use is very general.
  • Constitutional - a walk, or other exercise taken for the benefit of the health.
  • Consumah - a butler.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Contango - among stockbrokers and jobbers, is a certain sum paid for accommodating a buyer or seller, by carrying the engagement to pay money or deliver shares over to the next account day.
  • Continuations - coverings for the legs, whether trousers or breeches. A word belonging to the same squeamish, affected family as unmentionables, inexpressibles, &c.
  • Convey - to steal; “convey, the wise it call.”
  • Conveyancer - a pickpocket. Shakspeare uses the cant expression conveyer, a thief. The same term is also French slang.
  • Conybeare’s (Dean) Essay on Church Parties, reprinted from the Edinburgh Review, No. CC., October, 1853, 12mo.1858.
  • Cooey - the Australian bush-call, now not unfrequently heard in the streets of London.
  • Cook one’s goose - to kill or ruin a person.—North.
  • Cook - in artistic circles, to dodge up a picture. Artists say that a picture will not cook when it is excellent and unconventional, and beyond specious imitation.
  • Cool - to look.
  • Cooler - a glass of porter as a wind up, after drinking spirits and water. This form of drinking is sometimes called “putting the beggar on the gentleman.”
  • Coolie - a soldier, in allusion to the Hindoo coolies, or day labourers.
  • Cooper - to destroy, spoil, settle, or finish. Coopered, spoilt, “done up,” synonymous with the Americanism caved in, fallen in, ruined. The vagabonds’ hieroglyph , chalked by them on gate posts and houses, signifies that the place has been spoilt by too many tramps calling there.
  • Cooper - to forge, or imitate in writing; “cooper a monniker,” to forge a signature.
  • Cooper - “stout half-and-half,” i.e., half stout and half porter. Derived from the coopers at breweries being allowed so much stout and so much porter a day, which they take mixed.
  • Cooter - “a sovereign.”—See Couter. Gipsy, cuta.
  • Cop - beware, take care. A contraction of Coprador.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Cop - to seize or lay hold of anything unpleasant; used in a similar sense to catch in the phrase “to cop (or catch) a beating.” “To get copt,” is to be taken by the police. Probable contraction of Lat. capere.
  • Coper - properly horse-couper, a Scotch horse-dealer,—used to denote a dishonest one. Coping, like jockeying, is suggestive of all kinds of trickery.
  • Copper - a halfpenny. Coppers, mixed pence.
  • Copper - a policeman, i.e., one who cops, which see.
  • Coppernose - a nose which is supposed to show a partiality on its owner’s part for strong drink. Synonymous with “jolly nose.” Grog-blossoms are the jewels often set in a jolly nose.
  • Copus - a Cambridge drink, consisting of ale combined with spices, and varied by spirits, wines, &c. Corruption of hippocras.
  • Corcoron (Peter.) The Fancy, a Poem, 12mo.182-.
  • Corduroy roads - an American term for the rough roads made by simply laying logs along a clearing.
  • Corinthianism - a term derived from the classics, much in vogue some years ago, implying pugilism, high life, “sprees,” roystering, &c.—Shakspeare, 1 Hen. IV. ii. 4. The immorality of Corinth was proverbial in Greece. Κορινθιάζεσθαι, to Corinthianize, indulge in the2 company of courtezans, was a Greek slang expression. Hence the proverb—
  • Cork - a broken man, a bankrupt. Probably intended to refer to his lightness, as being without “ballast.”
  • Cork - “to draw a cork,” to give a bloody nose.—Pugilistic.
  • Corkage - money charged when persons at an hotel provide their own wine—sixpence being charged for each “cork” drawn.
  • Corked - said of wine which tastes of cork, from being badly decanted, or which has lost flavour from various other obvious causes.
  • Corker - “that’s a corker,” i.e., that settles the question, or closes the discussion.
  • Corks - a butler. Derivation very obvious.
  • Corks - money; “how are you off for corks?” a sailors’ term of a very expressive kind, denoting the means of “keeping afloat.”
  • Corn in Egypt - a popular expression which means a plentiful supply of materials for a dinner, &c., or a good supply of money. Its origin is of course Biblical.
  • Corned - drunk or intoxicated. Possibly from soaking or pickling oneself like corned beef.
  • Corner-man - the end singer of a corps of Ethiopian or nigger minstrels. There are two corner men, one generally plays the bones and the other the tambourine. Corner-men are the grotesques of a minstrel company.
  • Corner - “the corner,” Tattersall’s famous horse repository and betting rooms, so called from the fact of its situation, which was at Hyde Park Corner. Though Tattersall’s has been removed some distance, to Albert Gate, it is still known to the older habitués of the Subscription Room as “the corner.”
  • Cornered - hemmed in a corner, placed in a position from which there is no escape.
  • Corporation - the protuberant front of an obese person. Probably from the old announcements which used to be made, and are made now in some towns where improvements are made by the municipal authorities, “Widened at the expense of the corporation.”
  • Corpse - to stick fast in the dialogue; to confuse, or put out the actors by making a mistake.—Theatrical.
  • Cosh - a neddy, a life-preserver; any short, loaded bludgeon.
  • Cossack - a policeman.
  • Costard - the head. A very old word, generally used in connexion with “cracked.”
  • Coster - the short and slang rendering of “costermonger,” or “costardmonger,” who was originally an apple-seller. Costering, i.e., costermongering, acting as a costermonger would.
  • Cotton Lord - a Manchester manufacturer.
  • Cotton - to like, adhere to, or agree with any person; “to cotton on to a man,” to attach yourself to him, or fancy him, literally, to stick to him as cotton would. Vide Bartlett, who claims it as an Americanism, and Halliwell, who terms it an archaism; also Bacchus and Venus, 1737.
  • Cottonopolis - Manchester. A term much in use among the reporters of the sporting press engaged in that locality.
  • Cotton’s (Charles) Genuine Poetical Works, 12mo.1771.
  • Council-of-ten - the toes of a man who turns his feet inward.
  • Counter-jumper - a shopman, a draper’s assistant.
  • Counter - to hit back, to exchange blows. A cross counter is a blow with the right hand given in exchange for one with the left, the counterer preferring to strike rather than to “stop” the blow.—Pugilistic.
  • Counterfet cranke - these that do counterfet the Cranke be yong knaves and yonge harlots, that deeply dissemble the falling sickness.
  • Country-captain - a spatch-cocked fowl, sprinkled with curry-powder. A favourite breakfast dish with the captains of country-ships.—Indian.
  • Country-ship - a ship belonging to the East Indies, and trading from port to port in that country.
  • County-crop (i.e., county-prison crop), haircut close and round, as if guided by a basin—an indication of having been in prison. Since short hair has become fashionable the expression has fallen somewhat into disuse. In the times when long hair was worn, a man with his hair cut as described was said to have had it done with a knife and fork.
  • Couple-beggar - a degraded person, who officiated as a clergyman in performing marriages in the Fleet Prison.
  • Couter - a sovereign. Half-a-couter, half-a-sovereign. From the Danubian-gipsy word cuta, a gold coin.
  • Covent Garden - a farden,—Cockney pronunciation of farthing.
  • Coventry - “to send a man to coventry,” not to speak to or notice him. Coventry was one of those towns in which the privilege of practising most trades was anciently confined to certain privileged persons, as the freemen, &c. Hence a stranger stood little chance of custom, or countenance, and “to send a man to coventry” came to be equivalent to putting him out of the pale of society.
  • Cover-down - a tossing coin with a false cover, enabling either head or tail to be shown, according as the cover is left on or taken off. The cover is more generally called a cap. This style of cheating is now obsolete. A man who cannot manage to cheat at tossing without machinery is a sorry rogue.
  • Cow and calf - to laugh.
  • Cow-cow - to be very angry, to scold or reprimand violently.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Cow-hocked - clumsy about the ankles; with large or awkward feet.
  • Cow-lick - the term given to the lock of hair which costermongers and tramps usually twist forward from the ear; a large greasy curl upon the cheek, seemingly licked into shape. These locks are also called number sixes, from their usual shape. The opposite of newgate-knocker, which see.
  • Cows and kisses - mistress or missus—referring to the ladies.
  • Cow’s grease - butter.
  • Coxy-loxy - good-tempered, drunk.—Norfolk.
  • Crab - a disagreeable old person. Name of a wild and sour fruit.
  • Crab - to offend, or insult; to expose or defeat a robbery, to inform against. Crab, in the sense of “to offend,” is Old English.
  • Crab - “to catch a crab,” to fall backwards by missing a stroke in rowing. From the crab-like or sprawling appearance of the man when in the bottom of the boat.
  • Crabs - in dicing, a pair of aces.
  • Crabshells - or trotter-cases, shoes.—See carts.
  • Crack a bottle - to drink. Shakspeare uses crush in the same slang sense.
  • Crack up - to boast or praise.—Ancient English.
  • Crack - dry firewood.—Modern Gipsy.
  • Crack - first-rate, excellent; “a crack hand,” an adept; a “crack article,” a good one. “A crack regiment,” a fashionable one.—Old.
  • Crack - the favourite horse in a race. Steeplechase and hunting cracks have been made the subjects of well-known pictures, and “the gallops of the cracks” is a prominent line in the sporting papers.
  • Crack - to break into a house; “crack a crib,” to commit burglary.
  • Crack - “in a crack (of the finger and thumb),” in a moment.
  • Cracked up - penniless or ruined.
  • Cracking a crust - rubbing along in the world. Cracking a tidy crust, means doing very well. This is a very common expression among the lower orders.
  • Crackle - or crackling, the scored rind on a roast leg or loin of pork; hence applied to the velvet bars on the gowns of the students at St. John’s College, Cambridge, long called “Hogs,” and the covered bridge which connects one of the courts with the grounds, Isthmus of Suez (sues, Lat. sus, a swine).
  • Cracksman - a burglar, i.e., the man who cracks.
  • Cram - to lie or deceive, implying to fill up or cram a person with false stories; to impart or acquire learning quickly, to “grind” or prepare for an examination.
  • Crammer - a lie.
  • Crammer - one skilled in rapidly preparing others for an examination. One in the habit of telling lies.
  • Cranke [cranky, foolish], falling evil [or wasting sickness].
  • Cranky - foolish, idiotic, rickety, capricious (not confined to persons). Ancient cant, cranke, simulated sickness. German, krank, sickly. A crank or cranky vessel is one which pitches very much.
  • Crap - to ease oneself by evacuation.
  • Crapping case - or ken, the water-closet. Generally called crapping-castle.
  • Crashing chetes - teeth.
  • Craw thumper - a Roman Catholic. Compare brisket-beater.
  • Crawler - a mean, contemptible, sycophantic fellow. Also a cab which is driven slowly along while its driver looks out for a fare. Crawling is by recent statute a punishable offence.
  • Crawly mawly - in an ailing, weakly, or sickly state.
  • Cream of the valley - gin; as opposed to or distinguished from “mountain dew,” whisky.
  • Crib biter - an inveterate grumbler; properly said of a horse which has this habit, a sign of its bad digestion.
  • Crib - a literal translation of a classic author.—University.
  • Crib - house, public or otherwise; lodgings, apartments; a situation. Very general in the latter sense.
  • Crib - to steal or purloin; to appropriate small things.
  • Cribbage-faced - marked with the small-pox, full of holes like a cribbage-board. Otherwise crumpet-face.
  • Crikey - profane exclamation of astonishment; “Oh, crikey, you don’t say so!” corruption of “O Christ!” Sometimes varied by “O crimes!”
  • Cripple - a bent sixpence.
  • Cripple - an awkward or clumsy person. Also one of dull wits.
  • Croak - to die—from the gurgling sound a person makes when the breath of life is departing.
  • Croaker - a beggar.
  • Croaker - a dying person beyond hope; a corpse. The latter is generally called a “stiff’un.”
  • Croaker - one who takes a desponding view of everything, a misanthrope; an alarmist. From the croaking of a raven.—Ben Jonson.
  • Croaks - last dying speeches, and murderers’ confessions.
  • Crocodiles’ tears - the tears of a hypocrite. An ancient phrase, introduced into this country by Mandeville, or other early English traveller, who believed that the crocodile made a weeping noise to attract travellers, and then devoured them. See Shakspeare’s use of the term in Othello.
  • Crocus - or croakus, a quack or travelling doctor; crocus-chovey, a chemist’s shop.
  • Crone - a termagant or malicious old woman. Crony, an intimate friend.
  • Crooked - a term used among dog-stealers and the “fancy” generally, to denote anything stolen. “Got on the crook” is exchangeable with “Got on the cross,” crook and cross generally being synonymous.
  • Crooky - to hang on to, to lead, to walk arm-in-arm; to court or pay addresses to a girl.
  • Crop up - to turn up in the course of conversation. “It cropped up while we were speaking.”
  • Cropped - hanged. Sometimes topped. “May I be topped.”
  • Cropper - a heavy fall, a decided failure. Term originally used in the hunting-field, but now general, and not at all confined to physical matters.
  • Cropper - “to go a cropper,” or “to come a cropper,” i.e., to fail badly.
  • Croppie - a person who has had his hair cut, or cropped, in prison. Formerly those who had been cropped (i.e., had their ears cut off and their noses slit) by the public executioner were called croppies, then the Puritans received the reversion of the title.
  • Cross cove and molisher - a man and woman who live by thieving.
  • Cross-buttock - an unexpected fling down or repulse; from a peculiar throw practised by wrestlers.
  • Cross-crib - a house frequented by thieves.
  • Crossed - prohibited from taking food from the buttery.—University.
  • Crow - one who watches whilst another commits a theft, a confederate in a robbery. The crow looks to see that the way is clear, whilst the sneak, his partner, commits the depredation.
  • Crow - or cock-crow, to exult over another’s abasement, as a fighting-cock does over his vanquished adversary.
  • Crow - “I have a crow to pick with you,” i.e., an explanation to demand, a disagreeable matter to settle. Sometimes the article picked is supposed to be a bone.
  • Crow - “a regular crow,” a success, a stroke of luck,—equivalent to a fluke.
  • Crowsfeet - wrinkles which gather in the corners of the eyes of old or dissipated people.
  • Crug - food. Christ’s Hospital boys apply it only to bread.
  • Crumbs - “to pick up one’s crumbs,” to begin to have an appetite after an illness; to improve in health, circumstances, &c., after a loss thereof.
  • Crummy-doss - a lousy or filthy bed.
  • Crummy - fat, plump.—North. In London street slang, lousy.
  • Crumpet-face - a face pitted with small-pox marks.
  • Crunch - to crush. Perhaps from the sound of teeth grinding against each other.
  • Crush - to run or decamp rapidly. Crush down sides, run to a place of safety, or the appointed rendezvous.—North Country Cant.
  • Crusher - a policeman.
  • Crushing - excellent, first-rate.
  • Crusty - ill-tempered, petulant, morose.—Old, said to be a corruption of the Anglo-Norman coruseux.
  • Cub - a mannerless uncouth lout.—See unlicked.
  • Cubitopolis - an appellation, originally given by Londoners to the Warwick and Eccleston Square districts. From the name of the builders.
  • Cue - properly the last word spoken by one actor, it being the cue for the other to reply. “Very often an actor knows nothing of a piece beyond his own lines and the cues.”
  • Cuffen - a manne. [A cuif in Northumberland and Scotland signifies a lout or awkward fellow.]
  • Cull - a man or boy.—Old Cant. Rum cull, the manager of a theatre.
  • Cullet - broken glass. French, cueillette, a gathering or collection.
  • Culling - or culing, stealing from the carriages at racecourses.
  • Cully gorger - a companion, a brother actor.—Theatrical. See gorger.
  • Culver-headed - weak and stupid.
  • Cummer - a gossip or acquaintance.
  • Cumshaw - a present or bribe.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Cup-tosser - a person who professes to tell fortunes by examining the grounds in tea or coffee cups. A cup or goblet, however, is the old mystic symbol of a juggler. French, Joueur de gobelet.
  • Cupboard-headed - an expressive designation of one whose head is both wooden and hollow.—Norfolk.
  • Cupboard-love - affection arising from interested motives.
  • Cure - an odd person; a contemptuous term, abridged from curiosity, which was formerly the favourite expression. The word cure, as originally applied, was London street slang, and was, as just stated, an abbreviation of curiosity, or, more correctly, of curious or queer fellow. Of late years it has, however, been used to denote a funny, humorous person, who can give and receive chaff.
  • Curios - a corruption of “curiosities;” any articles of vertu brought from abroad. Used by naval and military travellers and others.
  • Currants and plums - thrums,—slang for threepence.
  • Currency - persons born in Australia are there termed currency, while natives of England are termed sterling. The allusion is to the3 difference between colonial and imperial moneys, which it may be as well to remark have no difference so far as actual value is concerned.
  • Curse - anything worthless. Corruption of the Old English word kerse, a small sour wild cherry; French, cerise; German, kirsch. Vision of Piers Ploughman:—
  • Curtail - to cut off. Originally a Cant word—vide Hudibras, and Bacchus and Venus, 1737. Evidently derived from the French court tailler.
  • Cushion-smiter - polite rendering of tub-thumper, a clergyman, a preacher.
  • Cushion - to hide or conceal.
  • Cushmawaunee - never mind. Sailors and soldiers who have been in India frequently say—
  • Customhouse-officer - an aperient pill.
  • Cut-throat - a butcher, a cattle-slaughterer; a ruffian.
  • Cut - in theatrical language, means to strike out portions of a dramatic piece, so as to render it shorter for representation. A late treasurer of one of the so-called Patent Theatres when asked his opinion of a new play, always gave utterance to the brief but safe piece of criticism, “Wants cutting.”
  • Cut - tipsy.—Old.
  • Cut - to compete in business; “a cutting trade,” one conducted on competitive principles, where the profits are very closely shaved.
  • Cut - to take cards from a pack, with a view to decide by comparison which persons shall be partners, or which players shall deal. Not less than four cards must be picked up by the cutter, and the bottom one is the cut. When cutting for a “turn-up,” the residuum is called the cut.
  • Cute - sharp, cunning. Abbreviation of acute.
  • Cutter - a ruffian, a cut-purse. Of Robin Hood it was said—
  • Cutting-shop - a place where cheap rough goods are sold.
  • Cutty-pipe - a short clay pipe. Scotch, cutty, short.
  • Cutty-sark - a short chemise.—Scotch. A scantily-draped lady is so called by Burns.
  • D.T. - a popular abbreviation of delirium tremens; sometimes written and pronounced del. trem. D.T. also often represents the Daily Telegraph.
  • Da-erb - bread.
  • Dab tros - a bad sort.
  • Dab - or dabster, an expert person. Most probably derived from the Latin adeptus.
  • Dab - street term for small flat fish of any kind.—Old.
  • Dabheno - a bad one, sometimes a bad market. See doogheno.
  • Dacha-saltee - tenpence. Probably from the Lingua Franca. Modern Greek, δέκα; Italian, dieci soldi, tenpence; Gipsy, dik, ten. So also dacha-one (oney), i.e., dieci uno, elevenpence.—See saltee.
  • Daddle - the hand; “tip us your daddle,” i.e., shake hands.
  • Daddy; at mock raffles, lotteries, &c., the daddy is an accomplice, most commonly the getter-up of the swindle, and in all cases the person that has been previously selected to win the prize.
  • Daddy - a stage manager.—Theatrical. Also the person who gives away the bride at a wedding.
  • Daddy - the old man in charge—generally an aged pauper—at casual wards. Most people will remember “kind old daddy.”
  • Daffy - gin. A term with monthly nurses, who are always extolling the virtues of Daffy’s Elixir, and who occasionally comfort themselves with a stronger medicine under Daffy’s name. Of late years the term has been altered to “soothing syrup.”
  • Dags - feat or performance; “I’ll do your dags,” i.e., I will do something that you cannot do. Corruption of darings.
  • Dairies - a woman’s breasts, which are also called charlies.
  • Daisy roots - a pair of boots.
  • Daisy-cutter - a horse that trots or gallops without lifting its feet much from the ground.
  • Daisy-kicker - the name ostlers at large inns used to give each other, now nearly obsolete. Daisy-kicker, or grogham, was likewise the cant term for a horse. The daisy-kickers were sad rogues in the old posting days; frequently the landlords rented the stables to them, as the only plan to make them return a profit.
  • Damage - in the sense of recompense; “what’s the damage?” i.e., what is to pay? or actually, what is the damage to my pocket?
  • Damper - a shop till; to draw a damper, i.e., rob a till. A till is more modernly called a “lob,” and stealing from tills is known as “lob-sneaking.”
  • Dan Tucker - butter.
  • Dance upon nothing - to be hanged.
  • Dancer, or dancing-master - a thief who prowls about the roofs of houses, and effects an entrance by attic windows, &c. Called also a “garreter.”
  • Dander - passion or temper; “to get one’s dander up,” to rouse his passion.—Old, but now much used in America.
  • Dando - a great eater, who cheats at hotels, eating shops, oyster-cellars, &c., from a person of that name who lived many years ago, and who was an enormous oyster-eater. According to the stories related of him, Dando would visit an oyster-room, devour an almost fabulous quantity of bivalves, with porter and bread and butter to match, and then calmly state that he had no money.
  • Dandy - a boatman.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Dandy - a small glass of whisky.—Irish. “Dimidium cyathi vero apud Metropolitanos Hibernicos dicitur dandy.”—Father Tom and the Pope, in Blackwood’s Magazine for May 1838.
  • Dandypratt - a funny little fellow, a mannikin; originally a half-farthing of the time of Henry VII.
  • Danna - human ordure; danna drag, a nightman’s or dustman’s cart; hence dunna-ken, which see.
  • Darbies - handcuffs.—Old Cant.—See johnny darbies. Sir Walter Scott mentions these, in the sense of fetters, in his Peveril of the Peak—
  • Darble - the devil. French, diable.
  • Dark - “keep it dark,” i.e., secret. A dark horse is, in racing phraseology, a horse of whom nothing positive is known, but who is generally4 supposed to have claims to the consideration of all interested, whether bookmakers or backers.
  • Darkemans - the night.
  • Darky - twilight; also a negro. Darkmans, the night.
  • Darn - vulgar corruption of damn.—American.
  • Dash - an ejaculation, as “dash my wig!” “dash my buttons!” A relic of the attempts made, when cursing was fashionable, to be in the mode without using “bad words.”
  • Dash - fire, vigour, manliness. Literary and artistic work is often said to be full of dash.
  • Dash - to jot down suddenly. “Things I have dashed off at a moment’s notice.”
  • Dashing - showy, fast.
  • Daub - in low language, an artist. Also a badly painted picture.
  • David’s sow - “as drunk as david’s sow,” i.e., beastly drunk. See origin of the phrase in Grose’s Dictionary.
  • Davy - “on my davy,” on my affidavit, of which it is a vulgar corruption. Latterly davy has become synonymous in street language with the name of the Deity; “so help me davy,” generally rendered, “swelp my davy.” Slang version of the conclusion of the oath usually exacted of witnesses.
  • Davy’s locker - or Davy Jones’s locker, the sea, the common receptacle for all things thrown overboard;—a nautical phrase for death, is “gone to Davy Jones’s locker,” which there means the other world.—See duffy.
  • Dawdle - to loiter, or fritter away time.
  • Dawk - the post.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Daylights - eyes; “to darken his daylights,” to give a person black eyes. Also the spaces left in glasses between the liquor and the brim,—not allowed when bumpers are drunk. The toast-master in such cases cries “no daylights or heeltaps!”
  • Daze - to confound or bewilder; an ancient form of dazzle used by Spenser, Drayton, &c. This is more obsolete English than slang, though its use nowadays might fairly bring it within the latter category.
  • Dead-against - decidedly opposed to.
  • Dead-alive - stupid, dull.
  • Dead-amiss - said of a horse that from illness is utterly unable to run for a prize.
  • Dead-beat - utterly exhausted, utterly “done up.”
  • Dead-horse - “to draw the dead-horse;” dead-horse work—working for wages already paid; also any thankless or unassisted service.
  • Dead-lock - a permanent standstill, an inextricable entanglement.
  • Dead-lurk - entering a dwelling-house during divine service.
  • Dead-man - a baker. Properly speaking, it is an extra loaf smuggled into the basket by the man who carries it out, to the loss of the master. Sometimes the dead-man is charged to a customer, though never delivered. Among London thieves and low people generally a “dead’un” is a half-quartern loaf.
  • Dead-men - the term for wine bottles after they are emptied of their contents.—Old.—See marines.
  • Dead-men’s shoes - property which cannot be claimed until after decease of present holder. “To wait for a pair of dead-men’s shoes,” is considered a wearisome affair. It is used by Fletcher:—
  • Dead-set - a pointed and persistent attack on a person.
  • Dead’un - a horse which will not run or will not try in a race, and against which money may be betted with safety.—See safe un.
  • Deaner - a shilling. From denier.
  • Death-hunter - a running patterer, who vends last dying speeches and confessions. More modernly the term is supposed to mean an undertaker, or any one engaged in or concerned with burials.
  • Death - “to dress to death,” i.e., to the very extreme of fashion, perhaps so as to be killing.
  • Deb - or dab, a bed; “I’m off to the deb,” I’m going to bed.
  • Deck - a pack of cards. Used by Shakspeare, 3 K. Hen. VI., v. 1. Probably because of decking or arranging the table for a game at cards. General in the United States.
  • Decker’s (Thomas) English Villanies, eight several times prest to Death by the Printers, but still reviving again, are now the eighth time (as at the first) discovered by Lanthorne and Candle-light, &c., 4to.1648.
  • Decker’s (Thomas) Gull’s Hornbook, 4to.1609.
  • Decker’s (Thomas) Lanthorne and Candle-light, or the Bellman’s Second Night’s Walke, in which he brings to light a brood of more strange villanies than ever were to this year discovered, 4to.London, 1608-9.
  • Decker’s (Thomas) O per se O, or a new Cryer of Lanthorne and Candle-light, an Addition of the Bellman’s Second Night’s Walke, 4to, black letter.1612.
  • Decker’s (Thomas) The Bellman of London; bringing to light the most notorious villanies that are now practised in the Kingdom; 4to, black letter.London, 1608.
  • Decker’s (Thomas) Villanies discovered by Lanthorne and Candle-light, and the Helpe of a new Cryer called O per se O, 4to.1616.
  • Dee - a pocket-book; term used by tramps.—Gipsy. Dee (properly D), a detective policeman. “The dees are about, so look out.”
  • Delicate - a false subscription-book carried by a lurker.
  • Dell - a yonge wench.
  • Delo nammow - an old woman.
  • Delog - gold.
  • Demirep (or demirip), a courtezan. Contraction of demi-reputation, which is, in turn, a contraction for demi-monde reputation.
  • Derrick - an apparatus for raising sunken ships, &c. The term is curiously derived from a hangman of that name frequently mentioned in Old Plays, as in the Bellman of London, 1616.
  • Despatchers - false dice with two sets of numbers, and, of course, no low pips. So called because they bring the matter to a speedy issue. Great skill in palming is necessary for their successful use.
  • Deuce - the devil.—Old. Stated by Junius and others to be from Deus or Zeus.
  • Deuce - twopence; deuce at cards or dice, one with two pips or spots.
  • Devil dodger - a clergyman; also a person who goes sometimes to church and sometimes to meeting.
  • Devil-may-care - reckless, rash.
  • Devil-scolder - a clergyman.
  • Devil - a printer’s youngest apprentice, an errand-boy in a printing-office.
  • Devil - among barristers, to get up the facts of a case for a leader; to arrange everything in the most comprehensive form, so that the Q.C. or Serjeant can absorb the question without much trouble. Devilling is juniors’ work, but much depends on it, and on the ability with which it is done.
  • Devil’s bed-posts - the four of clubs. Otherwise Old Gentleman’s bed-posts.
  • Devil’s books - a pack of playing-cards; a phrase of Presbyterian origin.—See four kings.
  • Devil’s delight - a noise or row of any description. Generally used thus:—“They kicked up the devil’s delight.”
  • Devil’s dung - the fetid drug assafœtida.
  • Devil’s dust - a term used in the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire to denote shreds of old cloth torn up to re-manufacture; also called shoddy. Mr. Ferrand, in his speech in the House, March 4, 1842, produced a piece of cloth made chiefly from devil’s dust, and tore it into shreds to prove its worthlessness.—See Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates, third series, vol. lxi. p. 140.
  • Devil’s livery - black and yellow. From the mourning and quarantine uses of the colours.
  • Devil’s teeth - or devil’s bones, dice.
  • Devotional habits - horses weak in the knees, and apt to stumble and fall, are said to have these.—Stable.
  • Dew-beaters - feet; “hold out your dew-beaters till I take off the darbies.”—Peveril of the Peak. Forby says the word is used in Norfolk for heavy shoes to resist wet.
  • Dew-drink - a morning draught, such as is served out to labourers in harvest time before commencing work.
  • Dewse a vyle - the countrey.
  • Dewskitch - a good thrashing, perhaps from catching one’s due.
  • Dibbs - money; so called from the huckle bones of sheep, which have been used from the earliest times for gambling purposes when money was not obtainable—in one particular game being thrown up five at a time and caught on the back of the hand like halfpence.
  • Dick - a riding whip; gold-headed dick, one so ornamented.
  • Dick - abbreviation of “Dictionary,” but often euphemistically rendered “Richard,”—fine language, long words. A man who uses fine words without much judgment is said to have “swallowed the dick.”
  • Dickens - synonymous with devil; “what the dickens are you after?” what the devil are you doing? Used by Shakspeare in the Merry Wives of Windsor. In many old stories his Satanic Majesty is called the dickens, and by no other name, while in some others the word is spelt “diconce.”
  • Dickey Sam - a native of Liverpool.
  • Dickey - a donkey.—Norfolk.
  • Dickey - bad, sorry, or foolish; food or lodging is pronounced dickey when of a poor description; “very dickey”, very inferior; “it’s all dickey with him,” i.e., all over with him.
  • Dickey - formerly the cant for a worn-out shirt, but nowadays used for a front or half-shirt. Dickey was originally “tommy” (from the Greek, τομή, a section), a name which was formerly used in Trinity College, Dublin. The students are said to have invented the term, and love of change and circumlocution soon changed it to dickey, in which dress it is supposed to have been imported into England.
  • Dicking; “look! the bulky is dicking,” i.e., the constable has his eye on you.—North Country Cant.
  • Dictionary of all the Cant and Flash Languages, 12mo.London, 1797.
  • Dictionary of all the Cant and Flash Languages, both Ancient and Modern, 18mo.Bailey, 1790.
  • Dictionary of the Canting Crew (Ancient and Modern), of Gypsies, Beggars, Thieves, &c., 12mo.n. d. 700.]
  • Dictionnaire des Halle, 12mo.Bruxelles, 1696.
  • Diddle - old cant word for geneva, or gin.
  • Diddle - to cheat, or defraud.—Old. In German, dudeln is to play on the bagpipe; and the ideas of piping and cheating seem to have been much connected. “Do you think I am easier played on than a pipe?” occurs in Hamlet.
  • Diddler - or jeremy diddler, an artful swindler. A diddler is generally one who borrows money without any intention of ever repaying it; the sort of man who, having asked for half-a-crown and received4 only a shilling, would consider that eighteenpence was owing to him.—From Raising the Wind.
  • Diddling - cheating or swindling. Borrowing money without any intention of repaying it. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a very amusing article once on diddling, which he seemed to regard as a rather high art.
  • Didoes - pranks or capers; “to cut up didoes,” to make pranks.
  • Dig - a hard blow. Generally in pugilistic circles applied to a straight “left-hander,” delivered under the guard on the “mark.”
  • Diggers - spurs; also the spades on cards.
  • Diggings - lodgings, apartments, residence; an expression probably imported from California, or Australia, with reference to the gold diggings. It is very common nowadays for a man moving in very decent society to call his abode or his office, or anyplace to which he frequently resorts, his “diggings.”
  • Dilly-dally - to trifle.
  • Dilly - originally a coach, from diligence. Now a night-cart.
  • Dimber-damber - very pretty; a clever rogue who excels his fellows; chief of a gang. Old Cant in the latter sense.
  • Dimber - neat or pretty.—Worcestershire, but old cant.
  • Dimmock - money; “how are you off for dimmock?” diminutive of dime, a small foreign silver coin, in the United States 10 cents.
  • Dinarly - money; “nantee dinarly,” I have no money, corrupted from the Lingua Franca, “niente dinaro,” not a penny. Turkish, dinari; Spanish, dinero; Latin, denarius.
  • Dine out - to go without dinner. “I dined out to-day,” would express the same among the very lower classes that “dining with Duke Humphrey” expresses among the middle and upper.
  • Ding-dong - a song.
  • Ding - to strike; to throw away, or get rid of anything; to pass to a confederate by throwing. Old, used in old plays.
  • Dingy - a small boat. Generally the smallest boat carried by a ship. The g in this is pronounced hard.
  • Dipped - mortgaged.
  • Dirt - to eat, an expression derived from the East, nearly the same as “to eat humble (Umble) pie,” to put up with a mortification or insult.
  • Dirty Half-hundred - a nickname given to the 50th Regiment on account of their tattered and soiled appearance during the Peninsular War. A term to be proud of, as it implies much work and little reward.
  • Disguised - intoxicated. A very old term is that of “disguised in drink.”
  • Dithers - nervous or cold shiverings; “it gave me the dithers.”
  • Dittoes - a suit of, coat, waistcoat, and trousers of the same material.—Tailor’s term.
  • Ditty-bag - the bag or huswife in which sailors keep needles, thread, buttons, &c., for mending their clothes.
  • Diver - a pickpocket. Also applied to fingers, no doubt from a similar reason. To dive is to pick pockets.
  • Do the high - to walk up and down High Street on Sunday evenings, especially just after Church.—Oxford University.
  • Dobie - an Indian washerman; and though women wash clothes in this country, Anglo-Indians speak of a washerwoman as a dobie.
  • Dock - to deflower.
  • Doctor - to adulterate or drug liquor; to poison, to hocus; also to falsify accounts. A publican who sells bad liquors is said to keep the doctor in his cellars. On board ship the cook is always termed “the doctor.”—See cook.
  • Doddy - a term applied in Norfolk to any person of low stature. Sometimes hodmandod and “hoddy-doddy, all head and no body.” Dodman in the same dialect denotes a garden snail.
  • Dodge - a cunning trick. “Dodge, that homely but expressive phrase.”—Sir Hugh Cairns on the Reform Bill, 2nd March, 1859. Anglo-Saxon, deogian, to colour, to conceal. The tidy dodge, as it is called by street-folk, consists in dressing up a family clean and tidy, and parading in the streets to excite compassion and obtain alms.
  • Dodger - a dram. In Kent, a dodger signifies a nightcap; which name is often given to the last dram at night.
  • Dodger - a tricky person, or one who, to use the popular phrase, “knows too much.” Also one who knows all phases of London life, and profits by such knowledge.
  • Dog Latin - barbarous Latin, such as was formerly used by lawyers in their pleadings. Now applied to medical Latin.
  • Dog cheap - or dog-foolish, very or singularly cheap, or foolish. Latham, in his English Language, says:—“This has nothing to do with dogs. The first syllable is god=good, transposed, and the second, the ch‑‑p, is chapman, merchant: compare eastcheap.”—Old term.
  • Dog gone - a form of mild swearing used by boys.
  • Dog in a blanket - a kind of pudding, made of preserved fruit spread on thin dough, and then rolled up and boiled. This pudding is also called “rolly-polly” and “stocking.”
  • Dog in the manger - a scurvy, ill-conditioned, selfish fellow. From the fable of that title.
  • Dog stealer - a dog dealer. There is sometimes less difference between the two trades than between “d” and “st.”
  • Dogberry - a foolish constable.—Shakspeare.
  • Doggery - nonsense, transparent attempts to cheat.
  • Dogs - to go to the, to be commercially or socially ruined. Originally a stable term applied to old or worthless horses, sold to feed hounds.
  • Dog’s body - a kind of pease pudding.—Sea.
  • Dog’s ears - the curled corners of the leaves of books, which have been carelessly treated. The use of this term is so common that it is hardly to be considered slang.
  • Dog’s nose - gin and beer, so called from the mixture being cold, like a dog’s nose.
  • Doing time - working out a sentence in prison. “He’s done time,” is a slang phrase used in reference to a man who is known to have been in gaol.
  • Doldrums - difficulties, low spirits, dumps.—Sea.
  • Dollop - a lump or portion.—Norfolk. Anglo-Saxon, dale, dole.
  • Dollop - to dole up, to give up a share.—Ibid.
  • Dollymop - a tawdrily-dressed maid-servant, a semi-professional street-walker.
  • Dominie - a parson, or master at a grammar school.
  • Domino - a common ejaculation of soldiers and sailors when they receive the last lash of a flogging. The allusion may be understood from the game of dominoes. A domino means either a blow, or the last of a series of things, whether pleasant or otherwise, so the ejaculation savours somewhat of wit.
  • Dominoes - the teeth.
  • Don Pedro - a game at cards. It is a compound of All Fours, and the Irish game variously termed All Fives, Five and Ten, Fifteen, Forty-five, &c. It was probably invented by the mixed English and Irish rabble who fought in Portugal in 1832-3.
  • Don - a clever fellow, the opposite of a muff; a person of distinction in his line or walk. At the English Universities, the Masters and Fellows are the dons. Don is also used as an adjective, “a don hand at a knife and fork,” i.e., a first-rate feeder at a dinner-table.
  • Dona and feeles - a woman and children. Italian or Lingua Franca, donne e figlie. The word dona is usually pronounced doner.
  • Done up - an equivalent expression to “dead beat.”
  • Done! the expression used when a bet is accepted. To be done, is to be considerably worsted.—See also do.
  • Donkey - in printers’ slang, means a compositor. In the days before steam machinery was invented, the men who worked at press—the pressmen—were so dirty and drunken a body that they earned the name of pigs. In revenge, and for no reason that can be discovered, they christened the compositors donkeys.
  • Doog - good.
  • Doogheno hit - one good hit. A coster remarks to a mate, “Jack made a doogheno hit this morning,” implying that he did well at market, or sold out with good profit. Actually a good hit only is intended, but redundancy has its charms in the back slang as well as in more pretentious literary efforts.
  • Doogheno - literally “good-one,” but implying generally a good market, a good man, &c.
  • Dookin - fortune-telling. Gipsy, dukkerin.
  • Dose - three months’ imprisonment with hard labour.
  • Doss - a bed. Probably from doze, though quite as likely from dorse, the back. Least likely of all, as any one who knows aught about the surrounding circumstances of those who use the term will admit, is it from the Norman, dossel, a hanging or bed canopy, from which some have professed to derive it.
  • Doss - to sleep, formerly spelt dorse. Gael., dosal, slumber. In the old pugilistic days a man knocked down, or out of time, was said to be “sent to dorse,” but whether because he was senseless, or because he lay on his back, is not known, though most likely the latter.
  • Dossing-ken - a lodging-house.
  • Dot and go one - a lame or limping man.
  • Double cross - a cross in which a man who has engaged to lose breaks his engagement, and “goes straight” at the last moment. This proceeding is called “doubling” or “putting the double on,” and is often productive of much excitement in athletic circles.—See cross.
  • Double lines - ship casualties. So called at Lloyd’s from the manner of entering in books kept for the purpose.
  • Double up - to pair off, or “chum” with another man; to beat severely, so as to leave the sufferer “all of a heap.”
  • Double-shuffle - a low, shuffling, noisy dance, common amongst costermongers. Sometimes called “cellar flap,” from its being danced by the impecunious on the cellar-flaps of public-houses, outside which they must perforce remain.
  • Double - “to tip (or give) the double,” to run away from any person; to double back, turn short round upon one’s pursuers, and so escape, as a hare does.—Sporting.
  • Doublet - a spurious diamond, made up of two smaller stones for pawning or duffing purposes. These articles are cleverly manufactured and excellently set, and a practised eye can alone detect the imposition.—See Moskeneer.
  • Doughy - a sufficiently obvious nickname for a baker.
  • Douse - to put out; “douse that glim,” put out that candle. In Norfolk this expression is dout, which is clearly for do out. Sometimes douse means to rinse; and sometimes to throw water, clean or dirty, over any one, is to “douse it.”
  • Dove-tart - a pigeon pie. A snake tart is an eel pie.
  • Dovercourt - a noisy assemblage; “all talkers and no hearers, like Dovercourt.” At Dovercourt, in Essex, a court is annually held; and as the members principally consist of rude fishermen, the irregularity noticed in the proverbial saying frequently prevails. Bramston in his Art of Politics says:—
  • Dowd - a woman’s nightcap.—Devonshire: also an American term; possibly from dowdy, a slatternly woman.
  • Dowlas - a linendraper. Dowlas is a sort of towelling.
  • Down the road - stylish, showy, after the fashion.
  • Down to the ground - an American rendering of the word entirely; as, “that suits me down to the ground.”
  • Down - to be aware of, or awake to, any move—in this meaning, exchangeable with up; “down upon one’s luck,” unfortunate; “down in the mouth,” disconsolate; “to be down on one,” to treat him harshly or suspiciously, to pounce upon him, or detect his tricks.
  • Downer - a sixpence; apparently the Gipsy word, tawno, “little one,” in course of metamorphosis into the more usual “tanner.”
  • Downs - Tothill Fields’ Prison.
  • Downy - knowing or cunning; “a downy cove,” a knowing or experienced sharper. Literally, a downy person is one who is “down to every move on the board.” In Norfolk, however, it means low-spirited, i.e., down in the mouth.
  • Dowry - a lot, a great deal; “dowry of parny,” lot of rain or water.—See parny. Probably from the Gipsy.
  • Dowsers - men who profess to tell fortunes, and who, by the use of the divining rod, pretend to be able to discover treasure-trove.—Cornish.
  • Doxes - harlots.
  • Doxy - the female companion of a tramp or beggar. In the West of England, the women frequently call their little girls doxies, in a familiar or endearing sense. Orthodoxy has been described as being a man’s own doxy, and heterodoxy another man’s doxy.—Ancient Cant.
  • Drab - a vulgar or low woman.—Shakspeare.
  • Drab - poison.—Romany.
  • Draft on Aldgate Pump - an old mercantile phrase for a fictitious banknote or fraudulent bill.
  • Drag - a cart of any kind, term generally used to denote any particularly well-appointed turnout, drawn by a pair or four horses, especially at race meetings.
  • Drag - a street, or road; back-drag, back street.
  • Drag - feminine attire worn by men. A recent notorious impersonation case led to the publication of the word in that sense.
  • Drag - or three moon, three months in prison.
  • Drag - the, a favourite pursuit with fast-hunting sets; as, the drag can be trailed over very stiff country.
  • Dragging time - the evening of a country fair day, when the young fellows begin pulling the wenches about.
  • Dragging - robbing carts, &c., by means of a light trap which follows behind laden vehicles. Cabs are sometimes eased of trunks in this way, though it is hard to say whether with or without the complicity of the cabmen.
  • Draggletail - a dirty, dissipated woman; a prostitute of the lowest class.
  • Drain - a drink; “to do a drain,” to take a friendly drink—“do a wet;” sometimes called a “common sewer.”
  • Draw off - to throw back the body to give impetus to a blow; “he drew off, and delivered on the left drum.”—Pugilistic. A sailor would say, “he hauled off and slipped in.”
  • Draw the long bow - to tell extravagant stories, to exaggerate overmuch; same as “throw the hatchet.” From the extremely wonderful stories which used to be told of the Norman archers, and more subsequently of Indians’ skill with the tomahawk.
  • Drawers - formerly the ancient cant name for very long stockings.
  • Drawers - hosen.
  • Drawing teeth - wrenching off knockers.—Medical Student slang.
  • Drawlatch - a loiterer.
  • Dripping - a cook.
  • Drive at - to aim at; “what is he driving at?” “what does he intend to imply?” a phrase often used when a circuitous line of argument is adopted by a barrister, or a strange set of questions asked, the purport of which is not very evident.
  • Drive - a term used by tradesmen in speaking of business; “he’s driving a roaring trade,” i.e., a very good one; hence, to succeed in a bargain, “I drove a good bargain,” i.e., got the best end of it. To “let drive at one,” to strike out. A man snoring hard is said to be “driving his pigs to market.”
  • Driz-fencer - a person who sells lace.
  • Driz - lace. In a low lodging-house this singular autograph inscription appeared over the mantelpiece. “Scotch Mary, with driz [lace], bound to Dover and back, please God.” It is a common thing for ignorant or superstitious people to make some mark or sign before going on a journey, and then to wonder whether it will be there when they return.
  • Drop it - synonymous with “cut it” or “cheese it.” Probably from the signal given in the good old hanging days by the culprit, who used generally to drop a handkerchief when he was ready for the cart to be moved from under him.
  • Drop - to quit, go off, or turn aside; “drop the main Toby,” go off the main road.
  • Drop - “to drop a man,” to knock him down; “to drop into a person,” to give him a thrashing. See slip and walk. “To drop on a man,” to accuse or rebuke him suddenly.
  • Drop - “to drop an acquaintance,” to relinquish a connexion, is very polite slang. Dropping is distinguished from cutting by being done gradually and almost imperceptibly, whereas cutting has outward and visible signs which may be unpleasantly resented. To “drop money” at any form of speculation or gambling, is to lose it.
  • Drum - a house, a lodging, a street; hazard-drum, a gambling-house; flash-drum, a house of ill-fame.
  • Drum - as applied to the road, is doubtless from the Wallachian gipsy word “drumri,” derived from the Greek, δρόμος.
  • Drum - old slang for a ball or rout; afterwards called a hop.
  • Drum - the ear.—Pugilistic. An example of slang synecdoche.
  • Drummer - a robber who first makes his victims insensible by drugs or violence, and then plunders them.
  • Drumsticks - legs; drumstick cases, trousers. The leg of a fowl is generally called a drumstick.
  • Dry land - you understand.
  • Dry lodging - sleeping and sitting accommodation only, without board. This is lodging-house keepers’ slang, and is generally used in reference to rooms let to lodgers who take their meals at their clubs, or in the City, according to their social positions.
  • Dryasdust - an antiquary. From Scott.
  • Dub - to pay or give; “dub up,” pay up.
  • Dubash - a general agent.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Dubber - the mouth or tongue; “mum your dubber,” hold your tongue.
  • Dubsman - or screw, a turnkey.—Old Cant.
  • Ducange Anglicus. —The Vulgar Tongue: comprising Two Glossaries of Slang, Cant, and Flash Words and Phrases used in London at the present day, 12mo.1857.
  • Ducats - money.—Theatrical Slang.
  • Duck - a bundle of bits of the “stickings” of beef sold for food to the London poor.—See faggot.
  • Ducket - a ticket of any kind. Generally applied to pawnbroker’s duplicates and raffle cards. Probably from docket.
  • Ducks and Drakes - “to make ducks and drakes of one’s money,” to throw it away childishly—derived from children “shying” flat stones on the surface of a pool, which they call ducks and drakes, according to the number of skips they make.
  • Ducks - trousers. Sea term. The expression most in use on land is “white ducks,” i.e., white pantaloons or trousers.
  • Dudeen - or dudheen, a short tobacco-pipe. Common term in Ireland and the Irish quarters of London.
  • Dudes [or duds], clothes.
  • Duds - clothes, or personal property. Gaelic, dud; Ancient Cant; also Dutch.
  • Duff - pudding; vulgar pronunciation of dough.—Sea.
  • Duff - to cheat, to sell spurious goods, often under pretence of their being stolen or smuggled.
  • Duffer - a hawker of “Brummagem” or sham jewellery, or of shams of any kind, a fool, a worthless person. Duffer was formerly synonymous with dudder, and was a general term given to pedlars. It is mentioned in the Frauds of London (1760) as a word in frequent use in the last century to express cheats of all kinds.
  • Duffer - anything of no merit. A term applied by artists to a picture below mediocrity, and by dealers in jewellery to any spurious article. It is now general in its application to a worthless fellow.
  • Duffing - false, counterfeit, worthless.
  • Duffy - a term for a ghost or spirit among the West Indian negroes. In all probability the davy jones of sailors, and a contraction thereof originally.
  • Duke of York - walk, or talk, according to context.
  • Duke - gin, a term amongst livery servants.
  • Dukes - or dooks, the hands, originally modification of the rhyming slang, “Duke of Yorks,” forks = fingers, hands—a long way round, but quite true. The word is in very common use among low folk. “Put up your dooks” is a kind invitation to fight.
  • Dukey - or dookey, a penny gaff, which see.
  • Dumbfound - to perplex, to beat soundly till not able to speak. Originally a cant word. Johnson cites the Spectator for the earliest use. Scotch, dumbfounder.
  • Dummacker - a knowing or acute person.
  • Dummy - a deaf-and-dumb person; a clumsy, awkward fellow; any one unusually thick-witted.
  • Dummy - a pocket-book. In this word the derivation is obvious, being connected with dumb, i.e., that which makes no sound. As a thieves’ term for a pocket-book, it is peculiarly applicable, for the contents of pocket-books, bank-notes and papers, make no noise, while the money in a purse may betray its presence by chinking.
  • Dummy - in three-handed whist the person who holds two hands plays dummy.
  • Dump fencer - a man who sells buttons.
  • Dumpish - sullen or gloomy.
  • Dumpy - short and stout.
  • Dun - to solicit payment.—Old Cant, from the French donnez, give; or from Joe Din, or Dun, a famous bailiff; or simply a corruption of din, from the Anglo-Saxon dunan, to clamour.
  • Duncombe’s Flash Dictionary of the Cant Words, Queer Sayings, and Crack Terms now in use in Flash Cribb Society, 32mo, coloured print.1820.
  • Dunderhead - a blockhead.
  • Dundreary - an empty swell.
  • Dung - an operative who works for an employer who does not give full or “society” wages.
  • Dungaree - low, common, coarse, vulgar.—Anglo-Indian. Dungaree is the name of a disreputable suburb of Bombay, and also of a coarse blue cloth worn by sailors.
  • Dunkhorned - sneaking, shabby. Dunkhorn in Norfolk is the short, blunt horn of a beast, and the adjective is applied to a cuckold who has not spirit to resist his disgrace.
  • Dunnage - baggage, clothes. Also, a sea term for wood or loose faggots laid at the bottom of ships, upon which is placed the cargo.
  • Dunnyken - originally Dannaken, a watercloset.—From danna and ken, which see.
  • Dunop - a pound.
  • Dunop - a pound. Varied by “Dick,” back slang for “quid.”
  • Dunton’s Ladies’ Dictionary, 8vo.London, 1694.
  • Durrynacking - offering lace or any other article as an introduction to fortune-telling; generally practised by women.
  • Dust-hole - Sidney Sussex College at Cambridge.—Univ. Slang.
  • Dust-hole - the Queen’s Theatre, Tottenham Court Road, was so called until comparatively recently, when it was entirely renovated and renamed, and now, as the Prince of Wales’s, it is one of the most fortunate and fashionable theatres in London.
  • Dust - a disturbance, or noise, “to raise a dust,” to make a row.
  • Dust - money; “down with the dust,” put down the money.—Ancient. Dean Swift once took for his text, “He who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.” His sermon was short. “Now, my brethren,” said he, “if you are satisfied with the security, down with the dust.”
  • Dust - to beat; “dust one’s jacket,” i.e., give him a beating.
  • Dustoorie - commission, douceur, bribe.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Dusty - a phrase used in answering a question where one expects approbation. “What do you think of this?” “Well, it’s not so dusty,” i.e., not so bad; sometimes varied to “none so dusty.”
  • Dutch auction - a method of selling goods, adopted by “cheap johns,” to evade the penalties for selling without a licence. The article is offered all round at a high price, which is then dropped until it is taken. Dutch auctions need not be illegitimate transactions, and their economy (as likewise that of puffing) will be found minutely explained in Sugden (Lord St. Leonards) “On Vendors and Purchasers.”
  • Dutch concert - where each performer plays a different tune. Sometimes called a Dutch medley when vocal efforts only are used.
  • Dutch consolation - “thank God it is no worse.” “It might have been worse,” said a man whom the devil was carrying to hell. “How?” asked a neighbour. “Well, he’s carrying me—he might have made me carry him.”
  • Dutch courage - false courage, generally excited by drink—pot-valour.
  • Dutch feast - where the host gets drunk before his guest.
  • Dutch uncle - a personage often introduced in conversation, but exceedingly difficult to describe; “I’ll talk to him like a Dutch uncle!” conveys the notion of anything but a desirable relation.
  • Dutch - or Double Dutch, gibberish, or any foreign tongue. “To talk Double Dutch backwards on a Sunday” is a humorous locution for extraordinary linguistic facility.
  • E-fink - a knife.
  • Earl of Cork - the ace of diamonds.—Hibernicism.
  • Earwig - a clergyman, also one who prompts another maliciously and privately.
  • Earwigging - a private conversation; a rebuke in private; an attempt to defame another unfairly, and without chance of appeal; a wigging is more public.
  • Ease - to rob; “easing a bloke,” robbing a man.
  • East and south - the mouth.
  • Eat a fig - to “crack a crib,” to break into a house, or commit a burglary.
  • Eat his head off. A horse who is kept idle in the stable is said to eat his head off. Of late the phrase has been applied to servants who have little to do but constantly “dip their noses in the manger.”
  • Eavesdropper - a listener. The name is derived from the punishment which, according to Oliver, was directed in the Lectures, at the revival of Masonry in 1717, to be inflicted on a detected Cowan [g. v.], and which was
  • Edgabac - cabbage.
  • Edgenaro - an orange.
  • Efter - a thief who frequents theatres.
  • Egan. Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, with the addition of numerous Slang Phrases, edited by Pierce Egan, 8vo.1823.
  • Egan’s (Pierce) Life in London, 2 vols. thick 8vo, with coloured plates by Geo. Cruikshank, representing high and low life.18—.
  • Egg-flip - or egg-hot, a drink made after the manner of purl and bishop, with beer, eggs, and spirits made hot and sweetened.
  • Egg - or egg on, to excite, stimulate, or provoke one person to quarrel with another, &c. From the Anglo-Saxon eggian; or possibly a corruption of edge, or edge on, or even from agere, to drive.—Ancient.
  • Egyptian hall - a ball.
  • Ekame - a “make,” or swindle.
  • Ekom - a “moke,” or donkey.
  • Elbow grease - labour, or industry. Anything that is rusty, or in household work dirty or dingy, is said to require elbow grease.
  • Elbow - “to shake one’s elbow,” to play with dice; “to crook one’s elbow,” to drink.
  • Elegant extracts - a Cambridge University title for those students who having failed only slightly in some one subject, and being “plucked” accordingly, were allowed their degrees. This applied to the “Poll” list, as the “Gulf” did to the “Honours.”
  • Elephant’s trunk - drunk.
  • Elevated - intoxicated. Elevation is the name of a drug-mixture much used in the fen-counties for keeping up the spirits and preventing ague. It consists mainly of opium.
  • Elrig - a girl.
  • Elwyn’s (Alfred L.) Glossary of supposed Americanisms—Vulgar and Slang Words used in the United States, small 8vo.1859.
  • Emag - game, “I know your little emag.”
  • Enemy - time, a clock, the ruthless enemy and tell-tale of idleness and of mankind generally; “what says the enemy?” i.e., how goes the time?
  • Enif - fine.
  • Enin gen - nine shillings.
  • Enin yanneps - ninepence.
  • Epsom races - a pair of braces.
  • Erif - fire.
  • Erth gen - three shillings.
  • Erth sith-noms - three months,—a term of imprisonment unfortunately very familiar to the lower orders. Generally known as a “drag.”
  • Erth yanneps - threepence.
  • Erth-pu - three-up, a street game, played with three halfpence.
  • Erth - three.
  • Es-roch - a horse.
  • Esclop - police, now used to signify a constable only. Esclop is pronounced “slop” simply, but the c was never sounded. A policeman is now and then called, by some purist or stickler for etiquette, an “esclopnam.”
  • Essex lion - a calf. A calf is probably the only lively animal to be seen in a journey through Essex.
  • Essex stile - a ditch. A jocular allusion to the peculiarities of the “low county.”
  • Esuch - a house.
  • Evaporate - to go, or run away.
  • Everlasting shoes - the feet. The barefooted children about the Seven Dials, and other low quarters of London, are said to wear everlasting shoes and stockings. Another expression in connexion with this want is, “the shoes and stockings their mothers gave them.”
  • Everlasting staircase - the treadmill. Sometimes, but very rarely now called “Colonel Chesterton’s everlasting staircase,” from the gallant inventor or improver. Also known as “the stepper.”
  • Everton toffee - coffee.
  • Evif-gen - a crown, or five shillings.
  • Evif-yanneps - fivepence.
  • Evlenet sith-noms - twelve months. Generally known as a “stretch.”
  • Evlenet-gen - twelve shillings.
  • Exasperate - to over-aspirate the letter h, or to aspirate it whenever it commences a word, as is commonly done by under-educated people who wish to show off their breeding. Exasperation does not refer to an omission of the aspirate.
  • Exes - expenses. “Just enough to clear our exes.”
  • Exis gen - six shillings.
  • Exis sith-noms - six months.
  • Exis yanneps - sixpence.
  • Exis-evif-gen - six times five shillings, i.e., 30s. All moneys may be reckoned in this manner, either with yanneps or gens. It is, however, rarely or never done.
  • Exis-evif-yanneps - elevenpence,—literally, “sixpence and fivepence = elevenpence.” This mode of reckoning, distinct from the preceding, is only made by special arrangement amongst slangites, who wish to confound their intimates.
  • Extensive - frequently applied in a slang sense to a person’s appearance or talk; “rather extensive that!” intimating that the person alluded to is showing off, or “cutting it fat.”
  • Extracted - placed on the list of “elegant extracts.”—Camb. Univ.
  • Eye teeth - supposed evidences of sharpness. A man is said to have, or have not, cut his eye teeth, according to possession or want of shrewdness.
  • Eye water - gin. Term principally used by printers.
  • F sharps - fleas. Compare B flats.
  • Face entry - the entrée to a theatre. From the face being known, as distinguished from free-list entry.
  • Face - credit at a public-house, impudence, confidence, brass; thus a brazen-face. “To run one’s face,” is to obtain credit in a bounceable manner. “He’s got some face,” i.e., he has got lots of impudence.
  • Facer - a blow on the face. In Ireland, a dram.
  • Facer - a tumbler of whisky-punch. Possibly from the suffusion of blood to the face caused by it.
  • Fad - a hobby, a favourite pursuit.
  • Fadge - a farthing.
  • Fadge - a flat loaf.—North.
  • Fadge - to suit or fit; “it wont fadge,” it will not do. Used by Shakspeare, but now heard only in the streets.
  • Fadger - a glazier’s frame. Otherwise called a “frail,” perhaps in reference to the fragile nature of its contents.
  • Fag - a schoolboy who performs a servant’s offices to a superior schoolmate. From fag, to become weary or tired out. Low German, fakk, wearied.
  • Fag - to beat.
  • Faggot briefs - bundles of worthless papers tied up with red tape, carried by unemployed barristers in the back rows of the courts to simulate briefs.
  • Faggot - a bundle of bits of the “stickings” (hence probably its name) sold for food to the London poor. It is sometimes called a duck. In appearance it resembles a Scotch “haggis,” without, however, being nearly so good as that fragrant article. Probably the fag-end of a thing, the inferior or remaining part, the refuse.
  • Faggot - a term of opprobrium used by low people to children and women; “you little faggot, you!” Faggot was originally a term of contempt for a dry shrivelled old woman, whose bones were like a bundle of sticks, only fit to burn.—Compare the French expression for a heretic, sentir le fagot.
  • Fake - in the sporting world, means to hocus or poison. Fake is also a mixture supposed to be used for purposes of “making safe.”
  • Fake - to cheat, or swindle; to do anything; to go on, or continue; to make or construct; to steal or rob,—a verb variously used. Faked, done, or done for; “fake away, there’s no down;” go on, there is nobody looking. From the Latin facere.
  • Fakement Charley - the owner’s private mark. Faker, is one who makes or fakes anything. To “fake a cly,” is to pick a pocket.
  • Fakement - a false begging petition, any act of robbery, swindling, or deception. Fakement is a word of most general application among the lower classes. Any things strange, and most things not strange, are called fakements, particularly if there is anything peculiar or artistic in their production.
  • Fal-lals - trumpery ornaments, gewgaws. Forby suggests as a derivation the Latin phaleræ, horse trappings.
  • Fambles - handes.
  • Fambles - or famms, the hands.—Ancient Cant. German, fangen.
  • Fambling chete - a ring on one’s hand.
  • Family men - or people, thieves, or burglars.
  • Fan - a waistcoat.—Houndsditch term.
  • Fancy bloak - a fancy or sporting man.
  • Fancy - the favourite sports, pets, or pastime of a person, the ton of low life. Pugilists are sometimes termed the fancy. Shakspeare uses the word in the sense of a favourite or pet; and the paramour of a prostitute is still called her fancy man.
  • Fanning - a beating. Fanning is also stealing; cross-fanning is stealing with the arms crossed so as to distract attention, as in stealing breast-pins, &c.
  • Fanqui - a European, literally foreign devil.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Fantail - a dustman’s or coalheaver’s hat. So called from the shape.
  • Farmer. In Suffolk this term is applied to the eldest son of the occupier of the farm. In London it is used derisively of a countryman, and denotes a farm-labourer or clodpole. Both senses are different from the proper meaning.
  • Fast and loose - to play fast and loose with a man, is to treat him as a fast friend in the days while he is useful, and to cast him loose when he is no longer necessary; also, to equivocate or vacillate. In old days it was the name of a vulgar pastime. See prick the garter.
  • Fast - embarrassed, wanting money, tied up. Sometimes synonymous with “hard up.”—Yorkshire.
  • Fat - a printer’s term signifying the void spaces on a page, for which he is paid at the same rate as for full or unbroken pages. Occasionally called “grease,” and applied variously, but always as showing some undue or uncommon amount of advantage.
  • Fat - rich, abundant, &c.; “a fat lot;” “to cut it fat,” to exaggerate, to show off in an extensive or grand manner, to assume undue importance; “cut up fat,” see under cut. As a theatrical term, a part with plenty of fat in it is one which affords the actor an opportunity of effective display.
  • Father - or fence, a buyer of stolen property.
  • Favourite - the horse that has the lowest odds laid against it in the betting list. When the favourite wins, the public or backers of horses generally are the gainers. When an outsider wins, the ring, that is to say, the persons who make a business of laying against the chances of horses, are the gainers.
  • Fawney - a finger ring. Irish, fainee, a ring.
  • Feathers - money, wealth; “in full feather,” rich. Feathers is also a term applied to dress; “in full feather,” means very often in full costume. It also means, at times, in high spirits.
  • Feed - a meal, generally a dinner. Originally stable slang, now pretty general.
  • Feele - a daughter, or child.—Corrupted French.
  • Fellow-commoner - uncomplimentary epithet used at Cambridge for an empty bottle.
  • Felt - a hat.—Old term, in use in the sixteenth century.
  • Fen-nightingales - toads and frogs, from their continued croaking at night.
  • Fence - a purchaser or receiver of stolen goods; also, the shop or warehouse of a fencer.—Old Cant.
  • Feringee - a European—that is, a Frank.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Ferricadouzer - a knock-down blow, a good thrashing. Probably derived, through the Lingua Franca, from the Italian, “far’ cader’ douser,” to knock down. “Far’ cader’ morto,” is to knock down dead.
  • Few - used to signify the reverse, thus:—“Don’t you call this considerably jolly?” “I believe you, my bo-o-oy, a few.” Sometimes the reply is, “just a few.” Another expression of the same kind is rather, which see.
  • Fi-fa - a writ of Fieri-Facias.—Legal.
  • Fi-fi - Thackeray’s term for Paul de Kock’s novels, and similar modern French literature.
  • Fi-heath - a thief.
  • Fib - to beat or strike.—Old Cant.
  • Fib - to lie, to romance.
  • Fibbing - a series of blows delivered quickly, and at a short distance.—Pugilistic.
  • Fid-fad - a game similar to chequers, or drafts, played in the West of England.
  • Fiddle-face - a person with a wizened countenance.
  • Fiddle-faddle - twaddle, or trifling discourse.—Old Cant.
  • Fiddle-sticks! an exclamation signifying nonsense. Sometimes “Fiddle-de-dee.”
  • Fiddle - a sharper, “a street mugger.” In America, a swindle or an imposture.
  • Fiddle - “to play second fiddle,” to act subordinately, or follow the lead of another. From the orchestral practice.
  • Fiddler - a sharper, a cheat; also a careless, negligent, or dilatory person. On board some ocean steamers the fiddler is the capstan-house, the only place on board where passengers are permitted to smoke. The term fiddler is easily traceable to the fact that, while the seamen are working the capstan-bars, a man sometimes plays on the fiddle to cheer them at their toil.
  • Fiddler - a sixpence. Fiddler’s money is small money; generally from the old custom of each couple at a dance paying the fiddler sixpence.
  • Fiddler - or fadge, a farthing.
  • Fiddles - transverse pieces of wood used on shipboard to protect the dishes at table during stormy weather. Swing tables obviate the use of fiddles.
  • Fiddling - doing any odd jobs in the streets, holding horses, carrying parcels, &c., for a living. Among the middle classes, fiddling means idling away time, or trifling, and amongst sharpers it means gambling.
  • Field of wheat - a street.
  • Field - “to look out,” at cricket. In the outings of an eleven the fielders are those who stand away from the wickets with a view to checking the progress of the ball. Fielding is a great essential to cricket, and to be “a good field” is no slight honour. Also to lay against favourites in the betting.
  • Fieri-facias. A red-faced man is often jocularly said to have been served with a writ of fieri-facias.
  • Fig-leaf - a small apron worn by ladies.
  • Fig - “in full fig,” i.e., full-dress costume, “extensively got up.” Possibly an allusion to the dress assumed by our first parents after they were naked and not ashamed, or else an abbreviation of figure, in the references to plates in books of fashions.
  • Fig - “to fig a horse,” to play improper tricks with one in order to make him lively. The fig is a piece of wet ginger placed under a horse’s tail for the purpose of making him appear lively, and enhance his price.
  • Figaro - a barber; from Le Nozze di Figaro.
  • Figure - “to cut a good or bad figure,” to make good or indifferent appearance; “what’s the figure?” how much is to pay? Figure-head, a person’s face.—Sea term.
  • Filch - to steal, or purloin. Originally a cant word, derived from the filches, or hooks, thieves used to carry, to hook clothes, or any portable articles from open windows.—Vide Decker. It was considered a cant or gipsy term up to the beginning of the last century. Harman has “fylche, to robbe.” Probably from “filichi,” Romany for a handkerchief.
  • File - a deep or artful man, a jocose name for a cunning person. Originally a term for a pickpocket, when to file was to cheat or rob. File, an artful man, was used in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. To deal with an artful man is sometimes said to be like biting a file.
  • Filibuster - an American adventurer, who, if successful, helps to extend the boundaries of the United States, becomes a General, and receives high honours, but who remains a filibuster, and is despised as such, if he fails. The Texan, Nicaraguan, and kindred expeditions were of a filibustering order.
  • Fillet of veal - the treadwheel in the house of correction.
  • Fillibrush - to flatter, praise ironically.
  • Fimble-famble - a lame, prevaricating excuse.—Scandinavian.
  • Fin - a hand; “come, tip us your fin,” viz., let us shake hands.—Sea.
  • Finder - one who finds bacon and meat at the market before they are lost, i.e., steals them.
  • Finger and thumb - rum.
  • Finnuf - a five-pound note. Double finnuf, a ten-pound note.—German, funf, five.
  • Fire-eater - a quarrelsome man, a braggadocio or turbulent person who is always ready to fight.
  • Firkytoodle - to cuddle or fondle.
  • First flight - the first lot to finish in a foot or horse race, in a fox hunt, &c.
  • Fish - a person; “a queer fish,” “a loose fish.” Term never used except in doubtful cases, as those quoted.
  • Fishfag - originally a Billingsgate fishwife; now any scolding, vixenish, foul-mouthed woman.
  • Fishy - doubtful, unsound, rotten; used to denote a suspicion of a “screw6 being loose,” or “something rotten in the state of Denmark,” in referring to any proposed speculation.
  • Fit - an Americanism denoting the preterite of the verb to fight. A Yankee once came upon the words nihil fit, and he immediately wrote off to the editor of the paper to which he subscribed to know “Who was Nihil, who he fit, what amount he fit for, and if he won.”
  • Five fingers - the five of trumps, at the game of Five-cards, or Don.
  • Fives - “bunch of fives,” the fist.
  • Fix - a predicament, or dilemma; “an awful fix,” a terrible position; “to fix one’s flint for him,” i.e., to “settle his hash,” to “put a spoke in his wheel.”
  • Fixings - an Americanism, equivalent to our word “trimmings,” which see.
  • Fiz - champagne; any sparkling wine.
  • Fizzing - first-rate, very good, excellent; synonymous with “stunning.”
  • Flabbergast - or Flabberghast, to astonish, or strike with wonder; literally, to strike aghast.—Old.
  • Flag of distress - any overt sign of poverty; the end of a person’s shirt when it protrudes through his trousers.
  • Flag unfurled - a man of the world.
  • Flag - a groat, or 4d.—Ancient Cant.
  • Flag - an apron. People who wear their aprons when not at work, are called “flag-flashers.”
  • Flagg - a groat.
  • Flam - nonsense, blarney, a lie, humbug. “A regular flam,” a tale devoid of truth.
  • Flame - a sweetheart.
  • Flap - lead used for the coverings of roofs.
  • Flapper - or flipper, the hand.
  • Flare up - a jovial social gathering, a “breakdown,” a “row.”
  • Flash it - show it—said when any bargain is offered.
  • Flash o’ lightning - the gold band on an officer’s cap.—Sea. Also in street slang, a glass of gin.
  • Flat-feet - the battalion companies in the Foot Guards.
  • Flat - a fool, a silly or “soft” person; the opposite of “sharp.” The terms appear to be shortenings for “sharp-witted” and “flat-witted.” Or, maybe, from musical notes.
  • Flatch kennurd - half drunk.
  • Flatch-yenork - half-a-crown. See preceding remarks.
  • Flatch - half, or a halfpenny.
  • Flatch - halfpenny.
  • Flatchyannep - a halfpenny.
  • Flats - playing cards; sometimes called “broads.” Also the storeys of large houses, built on the “independent” principle, each flat having its separate and peculiar offices, street-door, &c.
  • Flatty-ken - a public-house the landlord of which is ignorant of the practices of the thieves and tramps who frequent it.
  • Flatty - a rustic, or uninitiated person.
  • Flay the fox - to vomit. Now replaced by the more popular “shoot the cat.”
  • Flea and louse - a house.
  • Flemish account. —Old. Still used by sailors for a tangled and unsatisfactory account or reckoning.
  • Flesh and blood - brandy and port in equal quantities.
  • Flesh bag - a shirt. American humourists call a white shirt a “clean biled rag.” In the mining camps, and rough parts generally, a white shirt is called a “biled shirt” to distinguish it from the usual woollen garment, which cannot be boiled.
  • Flick - or flig, to whip by striking, and drawing the lash back at the same time, which causes a stinging blow. A flicking is often administered by schoolboys with a damp towel or pocket-handkerchief.
  • Flick - or old flick, a comical old chap or fellow. Term of endearment among low people.
  • Flies - trickery, nonsense. “There are no flies about me, sir.” Softening of lies.
  • Flim-flamn - idle story.—Beaumont and Fletcher.
  • Flimp - to hustle, or rob.
  • Flimsy - a bank-note. Bank of Elegance notes are sometimes called soft flimsies. In this particular case two good terms make a bad one, as both “soft” and “flimsies” used separately refer to good notes.
  • Flimsy - the thin prepared copying-paper used by newspaper reporters and “penny-a-liners” for making several copies at once, which enables them to supply different papers with the same article without loss of time.
  • Flint - an operative who works for a “society” master, i.e., for full wages.
  • Flip-flap - a peculiar rollicking dance indulged in by costermongers when merry or excited—better described, perhaps, as the “double-shuffle” danced with an air of extreme abandon. Also, a kind of somersault, in which the performer throws himself over on his hands and feet alternately.
  • Flip - corruption of fillip, a light blow. Also a hot drink. See flannel.
  • Flipper - the hand; “give us your flipper,” give me your hand.—Sea. Metaphor taken from the flipper or paddle of a turtle.
  • Floater - a small suet dumpling put into soup.—Whitechapel.
  • Floating academy - the hulks.
  • Flogger - a whip.—Almost obsolete. Flogger is still the term applied to a number of strips of cloth attached to a handle, and used in theatrical painting rooms to beat off the dust of the charcoal used in sketching a scene.
  • Flogster - one addicted to flogging. William IV., who was accused of unduly and excessively punishing the sailors whom he commanded when in the navy, was nicknamed in the newspapers “Prince William Henry Flogster.”
  • Floor - to knock down.—Pugilistic.
  • Floored - when a picture is hung on the lowest row at the Exhibition of the Royal Academy, it is, in artistic slang, said to be floored, in contradistinction to “skyed,” which see.
  • Floorer - a blow sufficiently strong to knock a man down, or bring him to the floor. Often used in reference to sudden and unpleasant news.
  • Flop - to plump; “to go flop down,” to fall suddenly, with violence and noise.
  • Flounder and dab (two kinds of flat fish), a cab.
  • Flowery - lodging, or house entertainment; “square the omee for the flowery,” pay the master for the lodging.—Lingua Franca.
  • Flue-faker - a chimney-sweep.
  • Fluff it - a term of disapprobation, implying “take it away, I don’t want it.”
  • Fluff - railway ticket clerks’ slang for short change given by them. The profits thus accruing are called “fluffings,” and the practice is known as “fluffing.”
  • Fluke - at billiards, playing for one thing and getting another. Hence, generally what one gets accidentally, as an unexpected advantage, “more by luck than judgment.”
  • Flummery - flattery, gammon, genteel nonsense. In American ships a peculiar kind of light sweet pudding.
  • Flummux - to perplex or hinder.
  • Flummuxed - done up, sure of a month in quod, or prison. In mendicant freemasonry, the sign chalked by rogues and tramps upon a gate-post or house corner, to express to succeeding vagabonds that it is unsafe for them to call there, is known as , or flummuxed, which signifies that the only thing they would be likely to get upon applying for relief would be a “month in quod.”—See quod.
  • Flunkey - a footman or other man-servant.
  • Flunkeyism - blind worship of rank, birth, or riches, or of all three; toadyism.
  • Flush - a term in cribbage, signifying a hand of cards composed entirely of one suit.
  • Flush - the opposite of “hard up,” in possession of money, not poverty-stricken.—Shakspeare.
  • Flush - to whip; “flushed on the horse,” to be privately whipped in gaol; to deluge with water, as in “flushing the sewers;” to come upon suddenly and completely,—“I came flush upon him.”
  • Flutter - to try hard in defence or pursuit of an object. “I’ll have a flutter for it,” means I’ll have a good try for it. Also to toss for anything. Probably from the spinning of the coin.
  • Fly my kite - a light.
  • Fly the kite - or raise the wind, to obtain money on bills, whether good or bad, probably in allusion to tossing paper about as children do kites.
  • Fly the kite - to evacuate from a window,—term used in padding-kens, or low lodging-houses.
  • Fly-boys - men employed to clear the printed copies from the Hoe machines, on which daily papers are “worked.” So called to distinguish them from the “machine boys,” a superior grade of labourers who “lay on” the sheets.
  • Fly - knowing, wide-awake, fully understanding another’s meaning.
  • Fly - to be on the, to be out for a day’s drink or pleasure.
  • Fly - to lift, toss, or raise; “fly the mags,” i.e., toss up the halfpence; “to fly a window,” i.e., to lift one for the purpose of stealing.
  • Flying mare - a throw in wrestling.
  • Flying mess - “to be in flying mess” is a soldier’s phrase for being hungry and having to mess where he can.
  • Flying stationer - a paper-worker, hawker of penny ballads; “Printed for the Flying Stationers” is the imprimatur on hundreds of penny histories and sheet songs of the last and present centuries.
  • Flymy - knowing, cunning, roguish.—Seven Dials and Low Life.
  • Fobbed - old slang for robbed. From fob, the ancient breeches-pocket for the watch.
  • Fogey - or old fogey, a dullard, an old-fashioned or singular person. Grose says it is a nickname for an invalid soldier, from the French fougueux, fierce or fiery, but it has lost this signification now.
  • Fogger - a farm servant who feeds cattle. Probably a corruption of fodderer.
  • Fogger - old word for a huckster.
  • Foggy - tipsy.
  • Fogle - a silk handkerchief,—not a clout, which is of cotton. It has been hinted that this may have come from the German Vogel, a bird, from the bird’s-eye spots on some handkerchiefs, but a more probable derivation is the Italian slang (Fourbesque), foglia, a pocket, or purse; or from the French Argot, fouille, also a pocket.
  • Fogus - tobacco.—Ancient Cant. Fogo, old word for stench.
  • Follow-me-lads - curls hanging over a lady’s shoulder.
  • Foont - a sovereign, or 20s. Probably a corruption of vingt.
  • Footing - “to pay footing.” See shoe.
  • Forakers - the closet of decency, or house of office. Term used by the boys at Winchester School. Very likely from “four acres,” the original necessary having been in all likelihood a field behind the school.
  • Forks - or grappling-irons, fingers. Costermongers and other clumsy feeders have a proverb which seems to justify their taking bones and choice morsels in their hands during the progress of a meal. It is, “Fingers were the first forks;” sometimes varied to “Fingers were made before forks.”
  • Form - condition, training. “In good form” or “in bad form” refers to a man’s or horse’s state of being in the sporting world. Form has also had a moral significance of late years, and with the qualifying adjectives attached as occasion requires, is extensively used in general conversation. As, “It was bad form of Brown to do that.” “That article was bad form.” In the latter cases the word “in” rarely appears.
  • Forty foot - a derisive appellation for a very short person.
  • Forty guts - vulgar term for a fat man.
  • Forty winks - a short sleep or nap.
  • Forty-twa - the common place of retirement on a well-known French plan at Edinburgh, so called from its accommodating that number of persons at once.
  • Fou - rather more than slightly intoxicated.—Scotch.
  • Foul - a touch, no matter how slight, of bodies or machinery in a race of any kind. Fouls in boat-racing are often inevitable, and are not always the result of boring or any other malicious practice.
  • Foul - to jostle or bore unfairly in a race. See bore. To touch any foreign substance during a race—particularly a boat-race—is to foul it.
  • Four kings - history of the, an old name for a pack of playing cards. See Sir Thomas Urquhart’s Translation of Rabelais. In Argot, livre des quatre rois.
  • Four-and-nine - or four-and-ninepenny goss, a cheap hat, so called from 4s. 9d., the price at which a once noted advertising hat-maker sold his hats—
  • Four-eyes - a man or woman who habitually wears spectacles.
  • Fourth estate - the complete body of journalists of all descriptions. This term is much in use among “liners.”
  • Fourth - or fourth court, the court appropriated to the waterclosets at Cambridge; from its really being No. 4 at Trinity College. A man leaving his room to go to the fourth court, writes on his door, in algebraic notation, gone4, which expresses the Cambridge slang phrase, “gone to the fourth.”
  • Fox - to cheat or rob.—Eton College. In London to watch closely and narrowly.
  • Foxed - a term used by print and book collectors to denote the brown spotted appearance produced by damp on paper.
  • Foxing - when one actor criticises another’s performance.—Theatrical. Also in street slang foxing means watching slyly.
  • Foxy - rank, tainted, from the odour of the animal.—Lincolnshire.
  • Foxy - said also of a red-haired person.
  • Fox’s Sleep - or foxing, a purposely assumed indifference to what is going on. A fox, as well as a weasel, is said to sleep with one eye open.
  • Frapping - a beating. French, frapper.
  • Frater - a beggar wyth a false paper.
  • Free fight - a fight conducted on the Irishman’s principle—“Sure, wherever you see a head, hit it.” The term is, however, American, so the practice may be considered fairly general.
  • Free-and-easy - a club held at a low public-house, the members of which meet in the tap-room or parlour for the purpose of drinking, smoking, and hearing each other sing. These gatherings are generally called harmonic meetings by the landlord, but free-and-easy best indicates the character of the proceedings.
  • Freeman’s quay - “drinking at Freeman’s Quay,” i.e., at another’s cost. This quay was formerly a celebrated wharf near London Bridge, and the saying arose from the beer which was given gratis to porters and carmen who went there on business.
  • French cream - brandy.
  • French gout - a certain disease, which is also known as “ladies’ fever.”
  • French leave - to take, to leave or depart slyly, without saying anything; or obtaining permission.
  • Fresh - said of a person slightly intoxicated.
  • Freshe water mariners - these kind of caterpillers counterfet great losses on the sea:—their shippes were drowned in the playne of Salisbury.
  • Freshman - a University man during his first year. The official appellation for the students until they have passed the Previous or First Cambridge Examination, otherwise called the Smalls or Little Go, is Junior Sophs or Sophisters. After this they are Senior Sophs until their last term, when they are Questionists, or preparing “ad respondendum quæstioni.” At Oxford the title freshman lasts for the first term.
  • Friday-face - a gloomy-looking man. Most likely from Friday being a day of meagre fare among Catholics and High Church Protestants.
  • Frisk a cly - to empty a pocket.
  • Frisk - to search; frisked, searched by a constable or other officer.
  • Frog and toad - the main road.
  • Frog - a policeman. Because, by a popular delusion, he is supposed to pounce suddenly on delinquents.
  • Frog’s march - the manner in which four or more policemen carry a drunken or turbulent man to the station-house. The victim is held face downwards, one constable being at each shoulder, while the others hold on above the knees. Often there is another active and intelligent officer who beats time to the march on the recalcitrant hero’s posteriors.
  • Frontispiece - the face.
  • Frow - a girl, or wife. German, frau; Dutch, vrouw.
  • Frummagemmed - annihilated, strangled, garrotted, or spoilt.—Old Cant.
  • Frump - a slatternly woman, a gossip.—Ancient. In modern slang it is the feminine of fogey, and means a prim old lady, who is generally termed “a regular old frump.”
  • Frump - to mock or insult.—Beaumont and Fletcher.
  • Fuggies - hot rolls.—School.
  • Full blast - a term evidently borrowed from the technology of the engine-room, and now frequently used to express the heyday or apogee of anything. As, “By the middle of the day matters were in full blast, and proceedings generally were very satisfactory.”
  • Full feather - good condition, high spirits. Also any one gaily dressed is said to be in full feather.
  • Full fig - full costume, male or female uniform or evening dress.
  • Full of beans - arrogant, purseproud. A person whom sudden prosperity has made offensive and conceited, is said to be too “full of beans.” Originally stable slang.
  • Fullams - false dice, which always turn up high.—Shakspeare.
  • Fully - “to be fullied,” to be committed for trial. Term in general use among thieves. Possibly from the reports which, in the slang of the penny-a-liner, say “the prisoner was fully committed for trial.” The magistrates often say fully committed also, whatever that may mean.
  • Funk - to smoke out, or terrify.
  • Funk - trepidation, nervousness, cowardice. To funk, to be afraid or nervous.
  • Funking the cobbler - a bold schoolboy trick, performed with assafœtida and cotton stuffed into a hollow tube or cow’s horn. The cotton being lighted, the smoke is blown in through the keyhole of a door, or the crannies of a cobbler’s stall. A funny song, much in vogue some years back, gave all the agonies of a drunken cobbler, who believed the devil had come for him, with all sorts of accessories, till
  • Funny-bone - the extremity of the elbow—or rather, the muscle which passes round it between the two bones, a blow on which causes painful tingling in the fingers. Facetiously derived, from its being the extremity of the humerus (humorous).
  • Funny - a rowing boat with both ends pointed and out of the water.
  • Fye-buck - a sixpence.—Nearly obsolete.
  • Fylche - to robbe: Fylch-man, a robber.
  • Gab - gabber or gabble, talk; “gift of the gab,” loquacity, or natural talent for speech-making.—Anglo-Norman; gab is also found in the Danish and Old Norse.
  • Gaby - a simpleton, a country bumpkin. Probably from gape.
  • Gad - a trapesing slatternly woman.—Gipsy. Anglo-Saxon, gædeling.
  • Gadding the hoof - going without shoes. Gadding, roaming about, although used in an old translation of the Bible, is now only heard amongst the lower orders.
  • Gaff - a penny play-house, in which talking is not permitted on the stage. See penny gaff.
  • Gaffer - a master, or employer; term used by “navvies,” and general in Lancashire and North of England. Early English for an old man. See “blow the gaff.”
  • Gaffing - tossing halfpence, or counters.—North, where it means tossing up three halfpennies. One man tosses, and another calls. Sometimes the coins are tossed from a stick, and the tosser keeps those which fall heads uppermost.
  • Gag - a lie; “a gag he told to the beak.”—Thieves’ Cant.
  • Gag - language introduced by an actor into his part. In certain pieces this is allowed by custom, and these are called gag-pieces. The Critic, or a Tragedy Rehearsed, is chief among these. Many actors, however,7 take French leave in this respect with most pieces.—Theatrical slang.
  • Gag - to hoax, “take a rise” out of one; to “cod.”
  • Gage - a quart pot.
  • Gage - a small quantity of anything; as “a gage of tobacco,” meaning a pipeful; “a gage of gin,” a glassful. Gage was, in the last century, a chamber utensil.
  • Galeny - old cant term for a fowl of any kind; now a respectable word in the West of England, signifying a Guinea fowl.—Vide Grose. Latin, gallina.
  • Gallanty show - an exhibition in which black figures are shown on a white sheet to accompanying dialogue. Generally given at night by “Punch and Judy” men.
  • Gallimaufry - a kind of stew, made up of scraps of various kinds. Sea term, and probably meaning the galley scraps.
  • Gallipot - an apothecary.
  • Gallivant - to wait upon the ladies.—Old.
  • Gallows bird - an incorrigible thief; often applied to denote a ruffian-like appearance.
  • Gallows - or gallus, very, or exceedingly—an unpleasant exclamation; “gallows poor,” very poor. Term originally applied to anything bad enough to deserve hanging.
  • Gallowses - in the North of England a pair of braces.
  • Gally-yarn - a sailor’s term for a hoaxing story. He expresses disbelief by saying only “g. y.”
  • Galoot. —See geeloot.
  • Galore - abundance. Irish, go leor, in plenty.
  • Gamb - a leg. Still used as an heraldic term, as well as by thieves, who probably get it from the Lingua Franca. Italian, gamba; French, jambe, a leg.
  • Game leg - a lame or wounded leg.
  • Game - a term variously applied; “are you game?” have you courage enough? “what’s your little game?” what are you going to do? “come, none of your games,” be quiet, don’t annoy me; “on the game,” out thieving. To “play the game” is among sporting men to do a thing thoroughly and properly.
  • Gameness - pluck, endurance, courage generally.
  • Gammon - deceit, humbug, a false and ridiculous story. Anglo-Saxon, gamen, game, sport.
  • Gammon - to hoax, to deceive merrily, to laugh at a person, to tell an untrue but plausible story, to make game of, or, in the provincial dialect, to make game on;—“who’s thou makin’ thy gam’ on?” i.e., of whom are you making a fool?—Yorkshire.
  • Gammy-vial (Ville), a town where the police will not let persons hawk.
  • Gan - a mouth.
  • Gander Month - the period when the monthly nurse is in the ascendant, and the husband has to shift for himself. Probably from the open choice he has during that period.
  • Ganger - the person who superintends the work of a gang, or a number of navigators.
  • Gape-seed - something to look at, cause for astonishment; a lazy fellow, unmindful of his work, is said to be “looking for gape-seed.” Rustics are said to find plenty of “gape-seed” in London streets.
  • Gape - to stare about in an astonished manner. “gaping about like a country bumpkin.” Sometimes pronounced garp. There is no reference in the use of this phrase by Cockneys to gape in its correct sense.
  • Gar - euphuistic rendering of the title of the Deity; “be gar, you don’t say so!”—Franco-English.
  • Garden gate - a magistrate.
  • Garden - among tradesmen signifies Covent Garden Market; among theatrical performers, Covent Garden Theatre.
  • Gardener - an awkward coachman; an insinuation that he is both coachman and gardener, and understands the latter branch of service better than the first; “get on, gardener,” is a most insulting expression from a cabby to a real coachman. Men who in small families do the coach, garden, and general work, are sometimes called “teakettle grooms,” or “teakettle coachmen.”
  • Gargle - medical-student slang for drinkables.
  • Garnish - footing money.—Yorkshire.
  • Garnish - the douceur or fee which, before the time of Howard the philanthropist, was openly exacted by the keepers of gaols from their unfortunate prisoners for extra comforts. The practice of garnishing is by no means so defunct as some folk seem to think, and its influence may often be traced by those who wish.
  • Garreter - a thief who crawls over the tops of houses, and enters garret-windows.7 Called also a “dancer,” or “dancing-master,” from the light and airy nature of his occupation.
  • Garrotting - a mode of cheating practised amongst card-sharpers, by concealing certain cards at the back of the neck.
  • Gas - to give off superfluous conceit, to bounce or brag; “his game is gas.” “To give a person gas,” is to scold him or give him a good beating. Synonymous with “to give him Jessie.”
  • Gassy - or gaseous, liable to “flare up” at any offence.
  • Gate-race - among pedestrians a mock race, got up not so much for the best runner to win, as for the money taken from spectators, at the gate. This sort of business is not peculiar to pedestrians; there are such things as gate-money meetings at horse-racing.
  • Gate - the, Billingsgate. Sometimes Newgate, according to the occupation and condition of the speaker. In the same way Paternoster Row is by publishers known as “the Row.”
  • Gate - to order an undergrad not to pass beyond the college gate. As a rule, the gate begins after hall, but in extreme cases the offender is gated for the whole day.—University.
  • Gatter - beer; “shant of gatter,” a pot of beer. A curious slang street melody, known in Seven Dials as Bet the Coaley’s Daughter, thus mentions the word in a favourite verse:—
  • Gaudy - the annual dinner of the Fellows of a College, in memory of founders and benefactors. From gaudeamus.—Oxford University.
  • Gawfs - cheap red-skinned apples, a favourite fruit with costermongers, who rub them well with a piece of cloth, and find ready purchasers.
  • Gawky - a lanky, or awkward person; a fool. Saxon, geak; Scotch, gowk.
  • Gay tyke boy - a dog-fancier.
  • Gay - loose, dissipated; “gay woman,” a kept mistress or prostitute. Many people will remember Leech’s celebrated caricature of two7 wretched females on an equally wretched night, and the question asked by one woman of the other, “How long have you been gay?”
  • Gee - to agree with, or be congenial to a person.
  • Geeloot - or galoot, a recruit, or awkward soldier. A clumsy person, also a term of contempt in America.
  • Gen-net - or net gen, ten shillings.
  • Gen - a shilling. See back-slang article.
  • Gen - twelvepence, or one shilling. Formerly imagined to be an abbreviation of argent, cant term for silver.
  • Generalize - a shilling, almost invariably shortened to gen.
  • Genitraf - a farthing.
  • Genol - long.
  • Gent - a contraction of “gentleman,”—in more senses than one. A dressy, showy, foppish man, with a little mind, who vulgarizes the prevailing fashion.
  • Gent - silver. From the French, argent.
  • Gentleman of four outs; in Ireland when a vulgar, blustering fellow asserts that he is a gentleman, the retort generally is, “Yes, a gentleman of four outs”—that is, without wit, without money, without credit, and without manners.
  • Gentleman of three ins -—that is, in debt, in danger, and in poverty.
  • Gentleman’s Magazine - 8vo.n. d.
  • Gentleman’s Magazine - vol. xcii., p. 520.
  • Gentry cofe - a noble or gentle man.
  • Gentry cofes ken - a noble or gentle man’s house.
  • Gentry mort - a noble or gentle woman.
  • Geordie - general term in Northumberland and Durham for a pitman, or coal-miner. From the Greek, George meaning one who works the earth, originally a cultivator; the term has been in use more than a century.
  • German Duck - a sheep’s-head stewed with onions; a favourite dish among the German sugar-bakers in the East-end of London.
  • German Ducks - bugs.—Yorkshire.
  • German flutes - a pair of boots.
  • Gerry - excrement.
  • Get up - a person’s appearance or general arrangements. Probably derived from the decorations of a play.
  • Ghost - “the ghost doesn’t walk,” a theatrical term which implies that there is no money about, and that there will be no “treasury.”
  • Gib-face - a heavy, ugly face; gib is properly the lower lip of a horse; “to hang one’s gib,” to pout the lower lip, to be angry or sullen.
  • Gibus - an opera hat. From the inventor of the crush hat.
  • Giffle-gaffle - or gibble-gabble, nonsense. See chaff. Icelandic, gafla.
  • Gig lamps - spectacles; also a person who wears spectacles is often called gig-lamps. Connexion obvious. This term has been in use probably as long as gig-lamps themselves—if gig-lamps were invented after spectacles.
  • Gig - a farthing. Formerly grig.
  • Gig - fun, frolic, a spree. Old French, gigue, a jig, a romp.
  • Gill - or jill, a homely woman; “Jack and Gill,” &c.
  • Gills - overlarge shirt collars.
  • Gills - the lower part of the face.—Bacon. “To grease one’s gills,” “to have a good feed,” or make a hearty meal. A man suffering from the effects of a previous night’s debauch, is said to “look queer about the gills.”
  • Gilt - money. German, geld; Dutch, gelt.
  • Gimcrack - a bijou, a slim piece of mechanism. Old slang for “a spruce wench.”—New Bailey. Any things which are gaudy and easily breakable, are known now as gimcracks.
  • Gin-spinner - a distiller, or rectifier of gin.
  • Ginger hackled - having flaxen, light yellow hair. Term originally7 used to describe a certain colour or colours in game-cocks.—See hackle.
  • Ginger - a showy, fast horse—as if he had been figged with ginger under his tail; a red-haired man. Term commonly used in depreciation of a person’s appearance.
  • Gingerly - to do anything with great care.—Cotgrave.
  • Gingham - an umbrella. Term very common in London.
  • Gingumbob - a bauble.
  • Girl and boy - a saveloy,—a penny sausage.
  • Give in - to admit oneself defeated, to “throw up the sponge,” or “strike one’s flag.”
  • Give it mouth - a rude request to an actor or orator, which means, speak up. Low folk can fancy nothing higher in the way of encomium on an actor than, “He’s the cove to give it mouth—rather!”
  • Give - to strike, to scold; “I’ll give it to you,” i.e., I will thrash you. To lead to, in the sense of directions. Thus, in one of the Christmas numbers of All the Year Round we are told that “a side portal and a passage, dark at noon, gave upon Paradise Alley.” This usage of the word, from the French idiomatic use of donner, is becoming by no means uncommon.
  • Gladstone - cheap claret. Gladstone reduced the duty on French wines.
  • Glasgow magistrate - a salt herring. When George IV. visited Scotland, a wag placed some salt herrings on the iron guard of the carriage belonging to a well-known Glasgow magistrate, who made one of a deputation to receive his Majesty.
  • Glasyers - eyes.
  • Glaze - glass; generally applied to windows. To “star the glaze” is to break a window.
  • Glib - a tongue; “slacken your glib,” i.e., “loosen your tongue.”
  • Glim lurk - a begging paper, giving a circumstantial account of a dreadful fire—which never happened.
  • Glim - a light, a lamp; “dowse the glim,” put out the candle. Sea and Old Cant. Glims, spectacles. Gaelic, glinn, light. German (provincial), glimm, a spark.
  • Gloak - a man. Term much used in old thieves’ cant.
  • Glorious sinner - a dinner.
  • Glossaries of County Dialects.v. d.
  • Glum - sulky, stem; “to look glum,” to appear annoyed or disconcerted.
  • Glump - to sulk.
  • Glumpish - of a stubborn, sulky temper.
  • Glymmar - fyer.
  • Go along - a fool, a cully, one of the most contemptuous terms in a thieves’ vocabulary.
  • Go due north - to become bankrupt, to go to Whitecross Street.—Nearly obsolete.
  • Go in - to enter for, to apply oneself in pursuit of. Men at the Universities7 are said to go in for honours, aquatics, or whatever their chief desire or employment may be. The expression is now general.
  • Go it - a term of encouragement, implying, “keep it up!” Sometimes amplified to “go it, ye cripples;” said to have been a facetious rendering of the last line of Virgil’s Eclogues—
  • Go over - in clerical slang, signifies to join the Church of Rome.
  • Go the whole pile - to put all one’s bank on a solitary chance. An Americanism which had its origin in the piles of gold dust used as circulating medium by gambling miners.
  • Gob or gobbet, a portion. Generally applied to meat by schoolboys.
  • Gob - the mouth, as in pugilistic slang “a spank on the gob, drawing the gravy.” Also mucus, or saliva. Sometimes used for gab, talk—
  • Gods - the people in the upper gallery of a theatre; “up amongst the gods,” a seat amongst the persons in the gallery—so named from the high position of that part, and the blue sky generally painted on the ceiling of the theatre; termed by the French, “paradis.”
  • Gods - the quadrats used by printers in throwing on the imposing stone, similar to the movement in casting dice.—Printers’ term.
  • Gol-mol - noise, commotion.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Gold-mine - any profitable investment, from a fried-fish shop to a remunerative speculation involving millions.
  • Goldbacked uns - body lice. Sometimes called greybacked uns.
  • Golden Cabinet (The) of Secrets opened for Youth’s delightful Pastime, in 7 parts, the last being the “City and Country Jester;” with a Canting Dictionary, by Dr. Surman, 12mo.London, n. d. (1730.)
  • Goldfinches - sovereigns. Similar to Canaries.
  • Golgotha - a hat, “place of a skull.” Hence the “Don’s gallery,” at St. Mary’s, Cambridge, and that part of the theatre at Oxford where the heads of houses sit.
  • Golopshus - splendid, delicious, luscious.—Norwich.
  • Gonnof - an expert thief, a master of his craft; one of the greatest compliments a London pickpocket can pay another is to say, “he’s a reglar gonnof.”—See gun. The word gonnof is very old. During Kett’s rebellion in Norfolk, in the reign of Edward VI., a song was sung by the insurgents in which the term occurs—
  • Good people - the name given by country folk, evidently from fear of offending by any less decided term, to fairies, brownies, pixies, &c. Mothers often say to querulous children, “I wish the good people would run away with you.”
  • Good time - an expressive phrase, which means all earthly bliss to the American mind. The finest reminiscence a Yankee can have is that of a good time, wherever it may have been spent. No moderate amount of happiness is ever recorded in the register which denotes how often its possessor has “had a good time.”
  • Good woman - a not uncommon public-house sign, representing a woman without a head,—the ungallant allusion is that she cannot scold. Maybe, the publican does not think that it means also that she cannot drink. The Honest Lawyer, another sign, is depicted in the same manner.
  • Goods - in the sporting world, men or horses. A horse or man of exceptionable quality is called “good goods,” and a backer will speak of either as being in his opinion “best goods,” as compared with others in the race.
  • Goose; “Paddy’s goose,” i.e., the White Swan, a celebrated public-house in Ratcliff Highway.
  • Goose - a tailor’s pressing iron. Originally a slang term, but now in most dictionaries.
  • Goose - to ruin, or spoil; to hiss a play.—Theatrical. To be “sound on the goose” is in America to be orthodox in one’s political creed.
  • Goose - “to cook his goose,” to kill him; the same as “to give him his gruel,” or “settle his hash.”
  • Goose - “to get the goose,” “to be goosed,” signifies to be hissed while on the stage. The big-bird, the terror of actors. See big bird.—Theatrical.
  • Gooseberry pudding (vulgo pudden), a woman.
  • Gooseberry-pickers - sharp children, who are ostensibly placed in charge of their elder sisters, when the latter go out shopping, but who are in reality a check on any chance of flirtation.
  • Gooseberry - to “play up old gooseberry” with any one, to defeat or silence a person in a quick or summary manner.
  • Goosecap - a simpleton, a booby, or noodle.—Devonshire.
  • Gooser - a settler, or finishing blow.
  • Gorge - to eat in a ravenous manner. “Rotten gorgers” are those hungry lads who hang about Covent Garden Market, and devour the discarded fruit.
  • Gorger - a swell, a well-dressed, or gorgeous man—probably derived from the latter adjective. Sometimes used to denote an employer, or principal, as the manager of a theatre.
  • Gormed - a Norfolk corruption of a profane oath. So used by Mr. Peggotty in David Copperfield.
  • Gospel Shop - an irreverent term for a church or chapel of any denomination. Mostly in use among sailors.
  • Gospel grinder - a City missionary, or tract-distributor.
  • Goss - a hat—from the gossamer silk of which modern hats are made.
  • Goss - “to give a man goss,” to requite an injury, to beat, or kill. This is an Americanism, and is applied variously. A steamboat captain on the Mississippi, determined to pass his rival, called out, so the story goes, to the fireman, “Give her goss and let her rip, as I mean to pass that boat, or bust.”
  • Goth - an uncultivated person. One who is ignorant of the ways of society.
  • Gourock ham - a salt herring. Gourock, on the Clyde, about twenty-five miles from Glasgow, was formerly a great fishing village.—Scotch.
  • Government sign-post - the gallows. This is necessarily almost obsolete.
  • Governor - a father, a master or superior person, an elder; “which way, guv’ner, to Cheapside?”
  • Gowler - a dog.—North Country Cant. Query, growler.
  • Gownsman - a student at one of the universities, as distinguished from a townsman.
  • Grab - to clutch, or seize; grabbed, caught, apprehended.
  • Graft - work; “where are you grafting?” i.e., where do you work? “What graft are you at?” what are you doing? Perhaps derived from gardening phraseology; or a variation of craft.
  • Grannam - corne.
  • Granny - a knot which will not hold, from its being wrongly and clumsily tied.—Sea.
  • Granny - to know, or recognise; “do ye granny the bloke?” do you know the man?
  • Grappling irons - fingers.—Sea.
  • Grass widow - an unmarried mother; a deserted mistress. In the United States, during the gold fever in California, it was common for an adventurer to put both his wife (termed in his absence a grass-widow) and his children to school during his absence. Also a married woman, resident in England, whose husband is in India or the colonies.
  • Grass-comber - a country fellow, a haymaker.
  • Grass - to knock down. Also to throw in a wrestling-match. “He grassed his man with a heavy righthander,” or “He brought his man to grass by means of a swinging hipe.”
  • Grass - “gone to grass,” dead,—a coarse allusion to burial; absconded, or disappeared suddenly; also, gone to waste; it is said of wasted limbs that they have “gone to grass;” “oh, go to grass,” a common answer to a troublesome or inquisitive person,—possibly a corruption of “go to grace,” meaning, of course, a directly opposite fate.
  • Grasshopper - a waiter at a tea-garden.
  • Gravel-rash - a scratched face,—telling its tale of a drunken fall. A person subject to this is called a gravel-grinder.
  • Gravel - to confound, to bother; “I’m gravelled,” i.e., perplexed or confused.—Old. Also, to prostrate, to beat to the ground.
  • Gravesend sweetmeats - shrimps. Gravesend twins are solid particles of sewage.
  • Gray mare - a wife who “wears the breeches.” From an old story in which the point is to show that the “gray mare,” the wife’s choice, “is the better horse,” and by parity of reasoning that the wife is superior to the husband.
  • Gray-coat parson - a lay impropriator, or lessee of great tithes.
  • Grays - or Scotch grays, lice. These pretty little things are called by many names, among others by those of gray-backs, and gold-backed uns, which are popular among those who have most interest in the matter.
  • Grease spot - a minute remnant, humorously the only distinguishable remains of an antagonist after a terrific contest.
  • Greasing - bribing. Sometimes called “greasing the palm” of a man’s hand.
  • Grecian bend - modern milliner slang for an exaggerated bustle, the effect of which is generally assisted by unnaturally high-heeled boots.
  • Greek kalends - an expression signifying an indefinite period; never. Term used in making promises never intended to be carried out. The Greeks had no kalends.
  • Greek - a wide-awake fellow, a sharper.
  • Green-horn - a fresh, simple, or uninitiated person.
  • Green - ignorant, not wide-awake, inexperienced.—Shakspeare. “Do you see any green in my eye?” ironical question in a dispute.
  • Greenbacks - the paper money issued in the United States during the war. The term was at first applied only to the notes for small amounts, which were backed with green, but eventually the one word represented all descriptions of what is now known in America as “currency.”
  • Greene’s (Robert) Groundworke of Conny-catching, the manner of their pedlers’ French, and the meanes to understand the same, with the cunning sleights of the Counterfeit Cranke. Done by a Justice of the Peace of great Authoritie, 4to, with woodcuts.1592.
  • Greenlander - an inexperienced person, a spoon. Sometimes an Irishman.
  • Greenwich goose - a pensioner of the Naval Hospital.
  • Griddler - a person who sings in the streets without a printed copy of the words.—Seven Dials.
  • Gridiron and dough boys - the flag of the United States, in allusion to the stars and stripes.—Sea.
  • Gridiron - a County Court summons. Originally a summons to the Court of Westminster only; from the gridiron arms. The Grafton Club is nearly always known as the grid or gridiron, that instrument being brought into requisition whenever possible in the cuisine.
  • Grief - “to come to grief,” to meet with an accident, to be ruined.
  • Griffin - in India, a newly-arrived cadet; general for an inexperienced youngster.
  • Grind - to work up for an examination, to cram by oneself, or with a private tutor.
  • Grind - “to take a grind,” i.e., a walk, or constitutional. The daily grind is a term representing employment containing much routine. At Oxford college sports are called sometimes the grind.
  • Grinder - a tooth.
  • Grinder - private tutor, a coach.—University.
  • Grindoff - a miller. From The Miller and his Men.
  • Gripes - the stomach-ache. See tripes.
  • Grist to the mill - money to the pocket, food to the family; anything which is supposed to add to a man’s immediate prospects, to his income, or to his benefit in any way, is said to “bring grist to the mill.”
  • Grizzle - to fret or cry continuously.
  • Grog blossoms - pimples on the face, caused by hard drinking. Of such a person it is often said, “He bears his blushing honours thick upon him.”
  • Grog-fight - a drinking party.—Military.
  • Groggy - tipsy; when a prize-fighter becomes “weak on his pins,” and nearly beaten, he is said to be groggy. The same term is applied to horses that are overworked and unsteady. From similarity of appearance to the peculiarity of gait consequent on imbibing too much grog.
  • Grose’s (Francis, generally styled Captain) Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 8vo.178-.
  • Grove of the Evangelist - a facetious name for St. John’s Wood.
  • Growler - a four-wheeled cab. It is generally supposed that drivers of these vehicles take a less favourable view of life than do their Hansom brethren.
  • Grub and bub - victuals and drink of any kind,—grub signifying food, and bub, drink.
  • Grubbing ken - or spinikin, a workhouse; a cook-shop.
  • Grubby - musty, or old-fashioned.—Devonshire.
  • Gruel - “to give a person his gruel,” to kill him. An expression in all probability derived from the report of a trial for poisoning, or from the easiest manner of administering a dose of poison. In the old days8 a similar phrase was “to drug a posset.” Compare “to settle his hash,” and “cook his goose.”
  • Grunting chete - a pygge.
  • Guardevine - a cellaret.—Scotch.
  • Guinea pigs - habitual directors of public companies; special jurymen; and engineer officers doing civil duty at the War Office, and paid a guinea per diem.
  • Guinea to a goose - a sporting phrase, meaning long odds in favour of, or against, anything under notice. In the City this state of things is represented by the phrase, Lombard Street to a China orange. There are also other colloquialisms on this subject, but their power is, as a rule, mainly dependent upon their indecency.
  • Gull - to cheat, to deceive; also one easily cheated. From the easy manner in which the bird of that name is deceived.
  • Gully rakers - cattle thieves in Australia, the cattle being stolen out of almost inaccessible valleys, there termed gullies.
  • Gullyfluff - the waste—coagulated dust, crumbs, and hair—which accumulates imperceptibly in the pockets of schoolboys.
  • Gulpin - a weak, credulous fellow, who will gulp down anything.
  • Gummy - thick, fat—generally applied to a woman’s ankles, or to a man whose flabby person betokens him a drunkard.
  • Gumption - or rumgumption, comprehension, capacity. From gaum, to comprehend; “I canna gauge it, and I canna gaum it,” as a Yorkshire exciseman said of a hedgehog.
  • Gun - a magsman or street thief. Diminutive of gonnuf or gunnof. A gun’s practice is known as gunoving.
  • Gunner’s daughter - a term facetiously applied to the method of punishing boys in the Royal Navy by tying them securely to the breech of a cannon, so as to present the proper part convenient for the cat, and flogging them. This is called “marrying” or “kissing” the gunner’s daughter.
  • Gup - gossip.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Gurrawaun - a coachman, a native Indian corruption of the English word coachman. For another curious corruption of a similar kind, see simpkin.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Gusher - one overflowing with sentiment, a rhapsodizer. Romance-reading young ladies are generally described as gushing, and of late years the word gush has done duty as representing the newspaper work necessary for a continuance of the “largest circulation.”
  • Gut scraper - a fiddler.
  • Gutter blood - a low or vulgar man.—Scotch.
  • Gutter lane - the throat. Probably from guttur.
  • Guttle - see guzzle.
  • Guy - a fright, a dowdy, an ill-dressed person. Derived from the effigy of Guy Fawkes carried about by boys on Nov. 5. “Hollo, boys, another guy!”
  • Guy - to get away. Same as hedge in street phraseology, which see.
  • Guzzle - to eat or drink to excess; to eat loudly, hastily, and clumsily.
  • Gyb - a writing.
  • Gyger [jigger], a dore.
  • Gyp - an undergraduate’s servant at Cambridge. Popularly derived by Cantabs from the Greek, gyps, (γύψ), a vulture, from the dishonest rapacity peculiar to gyps. At Oxford servants are called scouts.
  • Hackle - pluck; “to show hackle,” to be willing to fight. Hackles are the long feathers on the back of a cock’s neck, which he erects when angry,—hence the metaphor.
  • Hackslaver - to stammer in one’s speech, like a dunce at his lesson.
  • Haddock - a purse.—See beans.
  • Haggart. Life of David Haggart, alias John Wilson, alias Barney M’Coul, written by himself while under sentence of death, curious frontispiece of the prisoner in irons, intermixed with all the Slang and Cant words of the day, to which is added a Glossary of the same, 12mo.1821.
  • Hair of the dog - a “modest quencher,” taken the morning following a debauch. Originally a “hair of the dog that bit you.” This is very old, and seems to show that homœopathy is by no means new, so far as topers, at all events, are concerned.
  • Half Jack. See jacks.
  • Half-a-bean - half-a-sovereign.
  • Half-a-bull - two shillings and sixpence.
  • Half-a-couter - half-a-sovereign.
  • Half-a-hog - sixpence; sometimes termed half-a-grunter.
  • Half-a-stretch - six months in prison.
  • Half-a-tusheroon - half-a-crown.
  • Half-and-half - a mixture of ale and porter, much affected by medical students; occasionally Latinized into “dimidium dimidiumque.” Cooper is half-and-half, made of stout and porter. The term of half-and-half is also applied to the issue of marriages between gipsies and “white people.”
  • Half-baked - soft, doughy, half-witted, silly. Half-rocked has a similar meaning.
  • Half-foolish - ridiculous; means often wholly foolish.
  • Half-mourning - to have a black eye from a blow. As distinguished from “whole-mourning,” two black eyes.
  • Half-rocked - silly, half-witted. Derived from a vulgar idea that in the Westcountry children are nursed in a peculiar manner, which in afterlife affects their wits. They are said to be nursed bottom upwards, so8 as to sleep without much rocking. If this is inconsequent it is the fault of the saying and not of the dictionary. Compare half-baked.
  • Half-seas-over - reeling drunk.—Sea. Used by Swift.
  • Hall - the, Leadenhall Market, among folk who get their livings there, in the same way as “The Garden” refers to Covent Garden.
  • Halliwell’s Archaic Dictionary, 2 vols. 8vo.1855.
  • Hall’s (B.H.) Collection of College Words and Customs, 12mo. Cambridge (U.S.), 1856.
  • Hand-me-downs - second-hand clothes. See reach-me-downs.
  • Hand-saw - or chive fencer, a man who sells razors and knives in the streets.
  • Hand - a workman or helper, a person. “A cool hand,” explained by Sir Thomas Overbury to be “one who accounts bashfulness the wickedest thing in the world, and therefore studies impudence.”
  • Hander - a second, or assistant. At some schools blows on the hand administered with a cane are so called.
  • Handicap - an arrangement by which, in any description of sport, every competitor in a race is supposed to have a chance of winning equal to the chances of his opponents. Handicapping, in horse-racing signifies the adjudgment of various weights to horses differing in age, power, and speed, so as to place them as much as possible on an equality. At other sports this equalization is managed by means of starts.
  • Handle - a nose; the title appended to a person’s name; also a term in boxing, “to handle one’s fists,” to use them against an adversary.
  • Handling - a method of concealing certain cards in the palm of the hand, or in fashionable long wristbands; one of the many modes of cheating practised by sharpers.
  • Handseller - or cheap jack, a street or open-air seller, a man who carries goods to his customers, instead of waiting for his customers to visit him.
  • Hang out - to reside,—in allusion to the ancient custom of hanging out signs.
  • Hang up - to rob with violence, to garrotte. Most likely from throttling associations in connexion with the practice of garrotting.
  • Hanging - in difficulties. A man who is in great straits, and who is, therefore, prepared to do anything desperate to retrieve his fortunes, is said, among sporting men, to be “a man hanging,” i.e., a man to whom any change must be for the better.
  • Hangman’s wages - thirteenpence halfpenny.—Old. 17th century.
  • Hannah - “that’s the man as married hannah,” a Salopian phrase to express a matter begun or ended satisfactorily. Meaning actually, “that’s the thing.”
  • Happy-go-lucky - careless, indifferent as to the favours or reverses of fortune.
  • Haramzadeh - a very general Indian term of contempt, signifying base-born.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Hard lines - hardship, difficulty. Soldiers’ term for hard duty on the lines in front of the enemy. Lines was formerly synonymous with Lot, see Ps. xvi. 6.—Bible version—“The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places;” Prayer-Book do.—“The lot is fallen unto me in a fair ground.”
  • Hard mouthed un - any one difficult to deal with, a sharp bargainer, an obstinate person. Derivation obvious.
  • Hard tack - ship biscuits. This is a term used by sailors to distinguish their ordinary sea-bread from that obtained on shore, which is called soft tack, or soft tommy. Hard tack is also a phrase used by the London lower classes to signify coarse or insufficient food.
  • Hard-up - a cigar-end finder, who collects the refuse pieces of smoked cigars from the gutter, and having dried them, smokes them, or sells them as tobacco to the very poor. See topper.
  • Hard-up - in distress, poverty-stricken.—Sea.
  • Hardy - a stone.—North.
  • Harebrained - reckless, unthinking.
  • Harlequin Jack Shepherd, with a Night Scene in Grotesque Characters, 8vo.(About 1736.)
  • Harrison’s (William) Description of the Island of Britain (prefixed to Holinshed’s Chronicle), 2 vols. folio.1577.
  • Harry Bluff - snuff.
  • Harry-soph - (ἐρίσοφος, very wise indeed), a student of law or physic at Cambridge who, being of the same standing as the students in arts in his year, is allowed to wear a full-sleeved gown when they assume their B.A. gowns, though he does not obtain his actual degree so soon. An undergraduate in his last year is a Senior Soph, in his last term a Questionist.
  • Harry - or old harry, (i.e., Old Hairy?) the Devil; “to play old harry with one,” i.e., ruin or annoy him.
  • Harum-scarum - wild, dissipated, reckless; four horses driven in a line. This is also called suicide. See tandem, randem, unicorn, &c.
  • Hash - a mess, confusion; “a pretty hash he made of it;” to hash up, to jumble together without order or regularity. The term also occurs in the phrase “to settle his hash,” which is equivalent to “give him his gruel,” or “cook his goose,” i.e., to kill him.
  • Hatchet - “to sling the hatchet,” to skulk.—Sea.
  • Hatchet - “to throw the hatchet,” to tell lies. Same as “to draw the long bow.”
  • Hawbuck - a vulgar, ignorant, country fellow, but one remove from the clodpole.
  • Hawse holes - the apertures in a ship’s bows through which the cables pass; “he has crept in through the hawse-holes,” said of an officer who has risen from the grade of an ordinary seaman, whose original position in the vessel was forward—before the mast.—Navy.
  • Hay bag - a woman.
  • Haymarket Hectors - bullies who, in the interest of prostitutes, affect the neighbourhood of Leicester Square and the Haymarket.
  • Haze - to confuse and annoy a subordinate by contradictory, unnecessary, and perplexing orders.
  • Hazlitt’s (William) Table Talk, 12mo, (vol. ii. contains a chapter on Familiar Style, with a notice on Slang terms.)
  • Hazy - intoxicated, also dull and stupid.
  • Ha’porth o’ coppers - Habeas Corpus.—Legal slang.
  • Ha’porth o’ liveliness - the music at a low concert, or theatre. Also a dilatory person.
  • Head or tail - “I can’t make head or tail of it,” i.e., cannot make it out. Originally a gambling phrase.
  • Head-beetler - the bully of the workshop, who lords it over his fellow-workmen by reason of superior strength, skill in fighting, &c. Sometimes applied to the foreman.
  • Head-rails - the teeth.—Sea.
  • Head-serag - a master, overseer, or other important personage; from serang, a boatswain.—Bengalee, and Sea.
  • Header - a plunge head foremost into water, or a fall in the same posture from accident. Nowadays a theatrical expression for any supposedly daring jump of hero or heroine in sensational dramas.
  • Head’s (Richard) English Rogue, described in the Life of Meriton Latroon, a Witty Extravagant, 4 vols. 12mo.Frans. Kirkman, 1671-80.
  • Heap - “a heap of people,” a crowd; “struck all of a heap,” suddenly astonished.
  • Hearing chetes - eares.
  • Heat - a bout, or turn, in horse or foot racing. By means of heats the field is gradually reduced.
  • Heavy dragoons - bugs, in contradistinction from fleas, which are “light infantry.”—Oxford University.
  • Heavy wet - malt liquor—because the more a man drinks of it, the heavier and more stupid he becomes.
  • Hedge-popping - shooting small birds about the hedges, as boys do; unsportsmanlike kind of shooting.
  • Hedge - to get away from any dangerous spot. “We saw the slop coming, and hedged at once.”
  • Heel-tap - the small quantity of wine or other beverage left in the bottom of a glass, considered as a sign that the liquor is not liked, and therefore unfriendly and unsocial to the host and the company. See day-light.
  • Heigh-ho! a cant term for stolen yarn, from the expression used to apprize the dishonest shopkeeper that the speaker had stolen yarn to sell.—Norwich Cant.
  • Hell and Tommy - utter destruction.
  • Hell upon earth - or the most pleasant and delectable History of Whittington’s Colledge, otherwise vulgarly called Newgate, 12mo.1703.
  • Hell - a fashionable gambling-house. Small places of this kind are called “silver hells.” Reason obvious.
  • Helter-skelter - anyhow, without regard to order or precedence.
  • Hempen cravat - the hangman’s noose.
  • Hen and Chickens - large and small pewter pots.
  • Hen-pecked - said of one whose wife “wears the breeches.” From the action of the hen in paired cage-birds.
  • Henley’s (John, better known as Orator Henley) Various Sermons and Orations.1719-53.
  • Herring-pond - the sea; “to be sent across the herring-pond,” to be transported.
  • Hiding - a thrashing. Webster gives this word, but not its root, hide, to beat, to flay by whipping. Most likely from the part attacked. The threat of thrashing is sometimes conveyed thus:—“I’ll tan (or dress) your hide.”
  • Higgledy-piggledy - confusedly, all together,—as pigs lie.
  • High Church - term used in contradistinction from “Low Church.”
  • High and dry - an epithet applied to the soi-disant “orthodox” clergy of the last century, for whom, while ill-paid curates did the work, the comforts of the Establishment were its greatest charms.
  • High jinks - “on the high jinks,” taking up an arrogant position, assuming an undue superiority. Scott explains this game in Guy Mannering. Nowadays high jinks is often used to mean a jollification.
  • High-flier - anything above the common order. Apt students, fast9 coaches, and special trains are sufficient instances of the extreme openness of the qualification.
  • High-fly - “on the high-fly,” on the genteel or letter-bearing begging system.
  • High-flyer - a genteel beggar or swindler. A begging-letter impostor.
  • High-flyer - a large swing, in frames, at fairs and races. The first fast coaches were called high-flyers on account of their desperate speed.
  • High-lows - laced boots reaching a trifle higher than ankle-jacks.
  • High-strikes - corruption of Hysterics.
  • Highfalutin’ - showy, affected, tinselled, affecting certain pompous or fashionable airs, stuck up; “come, none of yer highfalutin’ games,” i.e., you must not show off or imitate the swell here.—American slang, now common in Liverpool and the East-end of London. From the Dutch, verlooten. Used generally now in the sense of fustian, high-sounding, unmeaning eloquence, bombast.
  • Hipped - bored, offended, crossed, low-spirited, &c. This may have been originally hypped, and have had some connexion with hypochondriacal affections.
  • Hitched - an Americanism for married. From the word hitch, used in America in the sense of to harness.
  • Hittite - a facetious sporting term for a prize-fighter. Derived from the Bible.
  • Hivite - a student of St. Begh’s College, Cumberland, which is pronounced and generally written St. Bee’s. Literally, Hive-ite.
  • Hoax - to deceive, or ridicule,—Grose says this was originally a University cant word. Corruption of hocus, to cheat.
  • Hob Collingwood - according to Brockett, a north country term for the four of hearts, considered an unlucky card.
  • Hob and nob - to act in concert with another; to lay “heads together;” to touch glasses in drinking; to fraternize in a convivial meeting or merry-making. Originally meaning “foot and head,”—the touching of the top of one glass with the bottom of another, and then reversing the order. Nowadays it means simply to clink glasses together as a salutation before imbibing.
  • Hobbadehoy - a youth who has ceased to regard himself as a boy, and is not yet regarded as a man.
  • Hobble - trouble of any kind. A man is said to be in a hobble when he has offended the proprieties in any way, “from pitch and toss to manslaughter.”
  • Hobbled - committed for trial; properly said of animals fed by the wayside, with their forelegs fastened together. Hence people who gather burdens about them are said to get into hobbles.
  • Hobson’s choice - “this or none.” Hobson was a carrier at Cambridge, and also a letter-out of horses for hire; and is said to have always compelled his customers to take the horse that stood in the stall next the stable-door or none at all. He was a benefactor to the town, and Hobson’s Conduit still stands as a memorial of him.
  • Hock-dockies - shoes.
  • Hocks - the feet and ankles; curby hocks, round or clumsy feet and ankles. Term originating with horsey men.
  • Hocus - to drug a person for purposes of robbery. The potion generally consists of snuff and beer among rogues of the lowest class, and is by them called “snuffing a bloke;” or sometimes, when the drug is administered to a woman for purposes other than those of robbery, “snuffing a blowen.”
  • Hod of mortar - a pot of porter.
  • Hodge - a countryman or provincial clown. Most country districts in England have one or more families in the name of hodge; indeed, giles and hodge appear to be the favourite hobnail nomenclature. Hodge is said to be simply an abbreviation of Roger.
  • Hog - a shilling.—Old Cant.
  • Hoga - do. “That wont hoga,” i.e., that wont do, is one of the very commonest of the Anglo-Indian slang phrases.
  • Hogmagundy - the process by which the population is increased.
  • Hogmany night - New Year’s Eve, when presents are solicited by the young folk.—Scotch.
  • Hogo - a tremendous stench. From haut goût. Now often pronounced fogo.
  • Hoisting - shoplifting.
  • Hold hard - an exclamation made when a sudden stoppage is desired. Originally an expression used in riding or driving, now general.
  • Hollow - “to beat hollow,” to excel.
  • Holy Joe - a sea-term for a parson.
  • Holy Land - a very old term for the Seven Dials,—where St. Giles’s Greek is spoken.
  • Homo - a man. Lingua Franca; but see omee, the more usual Cockney pronunciation.
  • Hondey - a Manchester name for an omnibus, and the abbreviation of hondeybush, the original Lancashire pronunciation of the word.
  • Honey blobs - a Scotch term for large ripe, yellow gooseberries.
  • Honour bright - an asseveration which means literally, “by my honour, which is bright and unsullied.” It is often still further curtailed to “honour!” only.
  • Hook it - “get out of the way,” or “be off about your business;” generally varied by “take your hook.” “To hook it,” to run away, to decamp; “on one’s own hook,” dependent upon one’s own exertions. Originally connected with the preceding, but now perfectly “on its own hook.”
  • Hook or by crook - by fair means or foul—in allusion to the hook with which footpads used to steal from open windows, &c., and from which hook, to take or steal, has been derived. Mentioned in Hudibras as a cant term.
  • Hook um snivey (formerly “hook and snivey”), a low expression, meaning to cheat by feigning sickness or other means. Also a piece of thick iron wire crooked at one end, and fastened into a wooden handle, for the purpose of undoing from the outside the wooden bolt of a door. Sometimes used as an irrelevant answer by street boys. As, “who did that?”—“hook um snivey”—actually no one.
  • Hook - an expression at Oxford, implying doubt, either connected with Hookey Walker, or with a note of interrogation (?) “Yes, with a hook at the end of it!” i.e., with some reservation, generally that of doubt, by the speaker.
  • Hook - to steal or rob. See the following.
  • Hookey walker! ejaculation of incredulity, usually shortened to walker!—which see.
  • Hooks - “dropped off the hooks,” said of a deceased person—possibly derived from the ancient practice of suspending on hooks the quarters of a traitor or felon sentenced by the old law to be hung, drawn, and quartered, which dropped off the hooks as they decayed.
  • Hop merchant - a dancing master.
  • Hop o’ my thumb - an undersized person. From the story of that name. Portion of a set of phrases established for the benefit of the small, in which Tomtit, Little Breeches, Daniel Lambert, Sixfoot, Twentystun, &c., play a prominent part.
  • Hop the twig - to run away; also, a flippant expression meaning to die. Many similar phrases are used by the thoughtless and jocose, as “laying down one’s knife and fork,” “pegging out,” from the game of cribbage, and “snuffing it.” A new form of this phraseology is to say that a man has “given up” or “given in.”
  • Hop - a dance.—Fashionable slang.
  • Hopping Giles - a cripple. St. Ægidius or Giles, himself similarly afflicted, was the patron saint of lazars and cripples. The ancient lazar houses were dedicated to him.
  • Hoppo - custom-house officer, or custom-house. Almost anything connected with custom-house business.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Hornswoggle - nonsense, humbug. Believed to be of American origin.
  • Horrors - the low spirits, or “blue devils,” which follow intoxication. Incipient del. trem.
  • Horse chaunter - a dealer who takes worthless horses to country fairs and disposes of them by artifice. He is generally an unprincipled fellow, and will put in a glass eye, fill a beast with shot, plug him with ginger, or in fact do anything so that he sells to advantage. See coper.
  • Horse nails. At the game of cribbage, when a player finds it his policy to keep his antagonist back, rather than push himself forward, and plays accordingly, he is sometimes said “to feed his opponent on horse nails.”
  • Horse nails - money.—Compare brads.
  • Horse - contraction of Horsemonger-Lane Gaol, also a slang term for a five-pound note.
  • Horse - to flog. From the old wooden horse or flogging-stool.
  • Horsebreaker. See pretty horsebreaker.
  • Horsey - like a groom or jockey. Applied also to persons who affect the turf in dress or conversation.
  • Horse’s nightcap - a halter; “to die in a horse’s nightcap,” to be hanged.
  • Hot coppers - the feverish sensations experienced in the morning by those who have been drunk over-night.
  • Hot tiger - an Oxford mixture of hot-spiced ale and sherry.
  • Hounslow Heath - teeth.
  • House of Commons - a humorous term for the closet of decency.
  • Household Words - No. 183, September 24.
  • Houses; “safe as houses,” an expression to satisfy a doubting person; “Oh! it’s as safe as houses,” i.e., perfectly safe, apparently in allusion to the paying character of house property as an investment. It is said the phrase originated when the railway bubbles began to burst, and when people began to turn their attention to the more ancient forms of speculation, which though slow were sure.
  • Housewarming - the first friendly gathering in a new or freshly-occupied house.
  • How much? A facetious way of asking for an explanation of any9 difficult or pedantic expression. “Why don’t you cook your potatoes in an anhydrohepsaterion?” A waggish listener might be excused for asking, “An anhydro—how much!”
  • How-came-you-so? intoxicated.
  • How’s your poor feet? an idiotic street cry with no meaning, much in vogue a few years back.
  • Hoxter - an inside pocket.—Old English, oxter. Probably the low slang word huxter, money, is derived from this. Oxter is, among the Irish, an armpit.
  • Hubble bubble - the Indian pipe termed a hookah is thus designated, from the noise it makes when being smoked.
  • Huey - a town or village.—Tramps’ term.
  • Huff - a dodge or trick; “don’t try that huff on me,” or “that huff wont do.” Also a term in the game of draughts,—the penalty for failing to take an opponent’s piece when an opportunity occurs.
  • Huff - to vex, to offend; a poor temper. Huffy, easily offended. Huffed, annoyed, offended. Some folk are tersely and truly described as easily huffed.
  • Hugger-mugger - underhand, sneaking. Also, “in a state of hugger-mugger” means to be muddled.
  • Hulk - to hang about in hopes of an invitation. See mooch.
  • Hulky - extra-sized.—Shropshire. From this and from hulk we probably get our adjective hulking, as applied to the great lazy ruffians who infest low neighbourhoods.
  • Hum and haw - to hesitate, or raise objections.—Old English.
  • Hum-box - a pulpit. This is a very old term.
  • Humble pie - to “eat humble pie,” to knock under, to be submissive. The umbles, or entrails, and other unprime parts of a deer, were anciently made into a dish for servants, while their masters feasted off the haunch.
  • Humdrum - monotonous, tedious, tiresome, boring; “a society of gentlemen who used to meet near the Charter House, and at the King’s Head, St. John’s Street, Clerkenwell. They were characterized by less mystery and more pleasantry than the Freemasons.”—Bacchus and Venus, 1737. In the West the term applies to a low cart.
  • Humming - strong as applied to drink. Extra strong ale is often characterized as “humming October.” Maybe from its effect on heads not quite so strong.
  • Hump up - “to have one’s hump up,” to be cross or ill-tempered—like a cat with its back set up. See back and monkey.
  • Hump - low spirits. A costermonger who was annoyed or distressed about anything would describe himself as having “the hump.”
  • Hump - to botch, or spoil.
  • Humpty-dumpty - short and thick; all of a heap; all together, like an egg.
  • Hunch - to shove, or jostle.
  • Hunks - a miserly fellow, a curmudgeon.
  • Hunky - an American term which means good, jolly, &c. As, “a hunky boy,” a good jovial fellow; and “everything went off hunky.”
  • Hunter pitching - the game of cockshies—three throws a penny.—See cockshy.
  • Hurdy-gurdy - a droning musical instrument shaped like a large fiddle, and turned by a crank, used by Savoyards and other itinerant foreign musicians in England, now nearly superseded by the hand-organ. From the peculiar noise made by the instrument, which in Italy is called “viola.”
  • Hurkaru - a messenger.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Husbands’ boat - the Saturday afternoon packet to Margate during the summer season. So called for obvious reasons. The passengers by this boat come in for an unusual share of attention from the cads peculiar to this watering-place.
  • Husbands’ tea - very weak tea. See water bewitched.
  • Hush-money - a sum given to quash a prosecution or stay evidence. Money given to any one for the purpose of quieting him.
  • Hush-shop - or crib, a shop where beer and spirits are sold “on the quiet”—no licence being paid.
  • Huxter - money. Term much in use among costermongers and low sharpers. Probably from oxter or hoxter.
  • Hy-yaw! an interjectional exclamation of astonishment.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Hyps - or hypo, the blue devils. From hypochondriasis.—Swift.
  • I desire - a fire.
  • I suppose - the nose.
  • Ikey - a Jew “fence.” Corruption of Isaac, a common Hebrew name.
  • Imperence - servant-girl currency for impudence or impertinence. “Now, then, Mr. Imperence, leave off now, do,” seems, however, to have faded away with Greenwich, Bartlemy, and kindred fairs.
  • Improve the occasion - a slang term much in use among Chadbands and Stigginses, who never lose an opportunity of improving the condition of either pockets or stomachs at the expense of the credulous.
  • In for it - in trouble or difficulty of any kind. As, “You’re in for it, I wouldn’t stand in your shoes for a trifle.”
  • In for patter - waiting for trial, referring to the speeches of counsel, the statements of witnesses, the summing up of the judge, &c.,—the fuss of which the prisoner sets down as “all so much patter.”
  • In - “to be in with a person,” to be even with, or up to him; also, to be on intimate terms, or in partnership, with him.
  • Inexpressibles - unutterables, unmentionables, unwhisperables, or sit upons, trousers, the nether garments. All affected terms, having their origin in a most unpleasant squeamishness.
  • Infantry - nursery term for children; light infantry, fleas.
  • Innings - earnings, good fortune; “he’s had a long innings,” i.e., a good run of luck, with plenty of cash flowing in. From the distinction between innings and outings at cricket and kindred games.
  • Inside lining - dinner, &c.
  • Interesting - “to be in an interesting situation,” applied to females when enceinte.
  • Into - “hold my hat, Jim, I’ll be into him,” i.e., I will fight him. In this sense equivalent to pitch into, or slip into.
  • Invite - an invitation—a corruption used by stuck-up people of mushroom origin. Often used, also, by people who know better, from their desire for slang of any kind.
  • Ipsal dixal - Cockney corruption of ipse dixit—said of one’s simple uncorroborated assertion.
  • Irish American - an Irishman who has been for some time resident in the States; sometimes a man born in America of Irish parents. The Irish American body is a power in the United States, and is the fount-spring as well as the maintaining power of all Fenianism.
  • Irish apricots - potatoes.
  • Irish theatre - the temporary prison, guard-room, or lock-up in a barracks. The fond fancy of the soldier supplies it with other figurative appellations, as “the mill,” “the jigger,” “the house that Jack built.” In Edinburgh Castle it is termed “the dryroom.”
  • Irons in the fire - a man is said to have too many irons in the fire when he turns his attention to too many occupations or enterprises at once.
  • Isabeller (vulgar pronunciation of isabella), an umbrella.
  • Isle of France - a dance.
  • Isthmus of Suez - the covered bridge at St. John’s College, Cambridge, which connects the college with its grounds on the other side of the river.—See crackle.
  • Ivories - teeth; “a box of ivories,” a set of teeth, the mouth; “wash your ivories,” i.e., “drink.” The word is also used to denote dice.
  • I’m afloat - a boat. This is also used for coat. See ante.
  • Jabber - to talk, or chatter. A cant word in Swift’s time. Probably from gibber.
  • Jack Ketch - the public hangman.—See ketch.
  • Jack Nasty-face - a sailor.—Sea. Nasty-face is a term applied often in London streets to an ugly or unpleasant-looking person.
  • Jack Randall (a noted pugilist), a candle.
  • Jack Sprat - a diminutive boy or man.
  • Jack Tar - a sailor.
  • Jack-a-dandy - brandy.
  • Jack-at-a-pinch - one whose assistance is only sought on an emergency. Jack-in-the-water, an attendant at the watermen’s stairs on the river and sea-port towns, who does not mind wetting his feet for a customer’s convenience, in consideration of a douceur.
  • Jack-in-the-box - a small but powerful kind of screw, used by burglars to break open safes.
  • Jack - the knave of trumps, at the game of all-fours.
  • Jacked-up - ruined, done for. To jack-up is to leave off doing anything suddenly. See chuck-up.
  • Jacket - the skin of a potato which has not been pared before cooking. In Ireland potatoes are generally served “with their jackets on.”
  • Jacketing - a thrashing. Similar term to leathering, cowhiding, &c.
  • Jackey - gin. Seven Dials originally. Nearly general now.
  • Jacob - a ladder. Grose says, from Jacob’s dream.—Old Cant.
  • Jacob’s ladder - a longitudinal flaw in the leg of a ballet-girl’s tights.
  • Jagger - a gentleman. German, Jager, a sportsman.
  • Jail-bird - a prisoner, one who has been in jail.
  • James - a sovereign, or twenty shillings. From Jacobus, the James II. guinea.
  • Jannock - sociable, fair dealing.—Norfolk. Generally now jonnick, which see.
  • Japan - to ordain. Having evident reference to the black clothes which follow ordination.—University.
  • Jark - a “safe-conduct” pass.—Oxford. Old cant for a seal.
  • Jarke - a seale.
  • Jarkeman - one who makes writings and sets seales for [counterfeit] licences and passports.
  • Jaw-breaker - a hard or excessively long word. Also, in pugilistic sense, a hard blow on the side of the face.
  • Jaw-twister - a hard or many-syllabled word. Elaboration of preceding.
  • Jaw - speech, or talk; “hold your jaw,” don’t speak any more; “what are you jawing about?” i.e., what are you making a noise about?
  • Jaw - to talk without cessation, to scold vehemently.
  • Jawbone - credit.
  • Jazey - a wig. A corruption of jersey, the name for flax prepared in a peculiar manner, of which common wigs were formerly made; “the cove with the jazey,” i.e., the judge.
  • Jeames (a generic for “flunkeys”), the Morning Post newspaper—the organ of Belgravia and the “Haristocracy.”
  • Jehu - old slang term for a coachman, or one fond of driving.—Biblical.
  • Jeminy O! a vulgar expression of surprise.
  • Jemmy Jessamy - a dandy.
  • Jemmy ducks - the man whose business it is to look after the poultry on board a ship.—Sea.
  • Jemmy-John - a jar for holding liquor; probably a corruption of demi-gallon, by means of demi-john.
  • Jemmy - a sheep’s-head.—See sanguinary James.
  • Jemmy - a short crowbar, which generally takes to pieces, for the convenience of housebreakers.
  • Jenny Linder - a winder,—vulgar pronunciation of window.
  • Jeremiad - a lament; derived, of course, from the Book of Lamentations, written by the Prophet Jeremiah.
  • Jeremy Diddler - an adept at raising the wind, i.e., at borrowing, especially at borrowing with no intention of repaying. See the farce of Raising the Wind.
  • Jericho - an improper quarter of Oxford. A lady visitor once writing her name down in the visitors’ book at the Bodleian or elsewhere, for a joke put down her residence as “Jericho,” to the no small disgust of her undergraduate friend.—University.
  • Jerry Lynch - a pig’s head pickled. Term usually applied to the long Irish heads which are sent over here for sale in the poorer districts of London, and which are vastly different from the heads of “dairy-fed” porkers.
  • Jerry Sneak - a hen-pecked husband,—a character in the Mayor of Garret. Also, a stealer of watches.
  • Jerry shop - a beer-house. Contraction of “Tom and Jerry.”
  • Jerry-go-nimble - the diarrhœa. Derivation apparent.
  • Jerry - a chamber utensil; abbreviation of jeroboam.—Swift.
  • Jerry - a watch. “Jerry nicking” or “jerry sneaking” is watch-stealing, which is a distinct form of street robbery, and requires both courage and dexterity; for it is done, as the thieves say, “right afore a bloke’s face.”
  • Jerry - to jibe or chaff cruelly. Development of jeer.
  • Jerusalem pony - a donkey.
  • Jessie - “to give a person jessie,” to beat him soundly. See gas.
  • Jew fencer - a Jew street salesman.
  • Jezebel - a showily-dressed woman of suspected character; derived, of course, from 2 Kings ix. 30, but applied in this sense from the time of the Puritans. Also, a hot-tempered female.
  • Jib - a first-year man.—Dublin University.
  • Jib - or jibber, a horse that starts or shrinks. Shakspeare uses it in the sense of a worn-out horse.
  • Jib - the face, or a person’s expression; “the cut of his jib,” i.e., his peculiar appearance. That sail of a ship, which in position and shape, corresponds to the nose on a person’s face.—Sea. A vessel is often known by the cut of the jib sail; hence the popular phrase, “to know a man by the cut of his jib.”
  • Jibb - the tongue.—Gipsy and Hindoo. (Tramps’ term.) Thence extended to mean language.
  • Jiffy - “in a jiffy,” in a moment.
  • Jigger-dubber - a term applied to a gaoler or turnkey.
  • Jigger - a door; “dub the jigger,” shut the door. Ancient cant, gyger. In billiards, the bridge or rest is often termed the jigger. Also, the curtain of a theatre. Jigger has many meanings, the word being applied to any small mechanical contrivance. Printers use the word for a little machine which guides the eye when copy is minute.
  • Jigger - a secret still for the manufacture of illicit spirits.
  • Jigger - “I’m jiggered if you will,” a common form of mild swearing. See snigger.
  • Jiggot o’ mutton - a leg of mutton. From Fr. gigot.
  • Jilt - a crowbar or house-breaking implement.
  • Jingo - “by jingo,” a common form of oath, said to be a corruption of St. Gingoulph. Vide Halliwell.
  • Jo - Scotticism for a man or lover. As “John Anderson, my jo, John.”
  • Job - a sudden blow, as “a job in the eye.” Also used as a verb, “I’ll job this here knife in your ribs.”
  • Job - “a job lot,” otherwise called a “sporting lot,” any miscellaneous goods purchased at a cheap rate, or to be sold a bargain. Frequently0 used to conceal the fact of their being stolen, or otherwise dishonestly obtained.
  • Jobation - a chiding, a reprimand, a trial of the hearer’s patience.
  • Jobbery - the arrangement of jobs, or unfair business proceedings.
  • Job’s comfort - reproof instead of consolation.
  • Job’s comforter - one who brings news of additional misfortunes. Both these words are of Biblical origin.
  • Job’s turkey - “as poor as Job’s turkey,” as thin and as badly fed as that ill-conditioned and imaginary bird.
  • Jocteleg - a shut-up knife. Corruption of Jacques de Liège, a famous cutler.
  • Joe Savage - a cabbage.
  • Joe - a too marvellous tale, a lie, or a stale joke. Abbreviated from Joe Miller. The full name is occasionally used, as in the phrase “I don’t see the Joe Miller of it,” i.e., I don’t perceive the wit you intend, or I don’t see the fun of doing it,—whatever may have been the request.
  • Joey - a fourpenny piece. The term is derived (like Bobby from Sir Robert Peel) from Joseph Hume. The explanation is thus given in Hawkins’s History of the Silver Coinage of England:—
  • Jog-trot - a slow but regular trot, or pace.
  • Jogul - to play up, at cards or other game. Spanish, jugar.
  • John Blunt - a straightforward, honest, outspoken man.
  • John Thomas - a generic for “flunkeys,”—more especially footmen with large calves and fine bushy whiskers.
  • Johnny Darbies - a nickname for policemen, an evident corruption of the French gensdarmes. Also, a term applied to handcuffs.—See darbies.
  • Johnny Raw - a newly-enlisted soldier.
  • Johnny - half-a-glass of whisky.—Irish.
  • Johnson’s (Dr. Samuel) Dictionary (the earlier editions).v. d.
  • Jolly - a Royal Marine.—See horse marine.
  • Jolly - a word of praise, or favourable notice; “chuck Harry a jolly, Bill,” i.e., go and praise up his goods, or buy of him, and speak well of the article, that the crowd standing around his stall may think it a good opportunity for laying out their money. This is called jollying. “Chuck a jolly,” lit. translated, is, throw “a shout” or “good word.”
  • Jolly - to abuse or vituperate, sometimes to “bear up” or “bonnet.” To jolly a man often means to give him a piece of one’s mind. To jolly “for” any one is another phase of the business mentioned in the foregoing paragraph.
  • Jomer - a sweetheart, or favourite girl. See blower.
  • Jonnick - right, correct, proper. Said of a person or thing.
  • Jonson’s (Ben.) Bartholomew Fair, ii. 6.
  • Jonson’s (Ben.) Masque of the Gipsies Metamorphosed, 4to.16—.
  • Jordan - a chamberpot. To throw the contents of a chamberpot over any one is to christen him.
  • Jorum - a capacious vessel from which food is eaten, as broth or stew.
  • Joskin - a countryman.
  • Jossop - the syrup or juice in a fruit pie or pudding. Also, sauce or gravy.—School.
  • Jow - be off, be gone immediately. If the word Jehanum be added, it forms a peremptory order to go to a place unmentionable to ears polite.—Anglo-Indian. Our phrase, “Go to Jericho,” is probably a modification of the Jehanum business.
  • Judas - a deceitful person; judas-haired, red-haired, deceitful. It is generally believed that Judas Iscariot was red-haired. Painters seem to have accepted this idea, with modifications as to the exact amount of colour.
  • Jug - a prison of any kind. Contraction of “stone jug.”
  • Julep - one of a set of drinks peculiar to America. Generally prepared with mint, and called a mint-julep. Originally julep was a pleasant0 liquid, in which nauseous medicines were taken. Its literal meaning is rosewater, and it is derived from the Arabic.
  • Jump-up-behind - to endorse an accommodation-bill.
  • Jump - to seize, or rob; to “jump a man,” to pounce upon him, and either rob or maltreat him; “to jump a house,” to rob it.
  • Jumped-up - conceited, arrogant, setting full value on oneself.
  • Juniper - gin. Derivation obvious.
  • Junk - salt beef.—See old horse.
  • Juwaub - literally, in Hindostanee, an answer; but in Anglo-Indian slang signifying a refusal. If an officer asks for leave and is refused, he is said to be juwaubed; if a gentleman unsuccessfully proposes for the hand of a lady, he is said to have got the juwaub.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Kanitseeno - a stinking one. Kanits is a stink.
  • Karibat - food, literally rice and curry; the staple dish of both natives and Europeans in India.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Keel-hauling - a good thrashing or mauling, rough treatment,—from the old nautical custom of punishing offenders by throwing them overboard with a rope attached, and hauling them up from under the ship’s keel. See full description of this barbarous practice in Marryat’s Snarleyyow.
  • Keep a pig - an Oxford University phrase, which means to have a lodger. A man whose rooms contain two bedchambers has sometimes, when his college is full, to allow the use of one of them to a Freshman, who is called under these circumstances a pig. The original occupier is then said to keep a pig.
  • Keep it up - to prolong a debauch, or the occasion of a rejoicing,—a metaphor drawn from the game of shuttlecock. People suffering from the effects of drink are said to have been keeping it up.—Grose.
  • Kelter - coin, money. Probably from gelt.
  • Ken - a house.
  • Ken - a house.—Ancient cant. khan, Gipsy and Oriental.
  • Kennedy - a poker; to “give Kennedy” is to strike or kill with a poker. A St. Giles’s term, so given from a man of that name being killed by a poker.
  • Kennurd - drunk.
  • Kent rag - or clout, a cotton handkerchief.
  • Kent’s (E.) Modern Flash Dictionary, containing all the Cant words, Slang Terms, and Flash Phrases now in Vogue, 18mo, coloured frontispiece.1825.
  • Kervorten - a Cockneyism for quartern or quarter-pint measure. “Kervorten and three houts,” a quartern of liquor and glasses, each holding a third of the quantity.
  • Ketch - or Jack Ketch, the popular name for a public hangman; derived from a person of that name who officiated in the reign of Charles II.—See Macaulay’s History of England.
  • Kettle of fish - a mess or muddle of any kind. As, “Here’s a pretty kettle of fish!”
  • Kew (or more properly keeu), a week.
  • Kews - skew, or skeeu, weeks.
  • Key of the street - an imaginary instrument said to be possessed by any one locked out of doors.
  • Kibosh - nonsense, stuff, humbug; “it’s all kibosh,” i.e., palaver or nonsense; to “put on the kibosh,” to run down, slander, degrade,0 &c. To put the kibosh on anything is, latterly, to put an effectual end or stop to it.
  • Kick over the traces - to be over-extravagant. Any one who has come to grief by fast living is said to have kicked over the traces.
  • Kick the bucket - to die.—Norfolk. According to Forby, a metaphor taken from the descent of a well or mine, which is of course absurd. The Rev. E. S. Taylor supplies the following note from his MS. additions to the work of the East-Anglian lexicographer:—
  • Kick up - a noise or disturbance.
  • Kick up - “to kick up a row,” to create a tumult.
  • Kick - a moment; “I’ll be there in a kick,” i.e., in a moment.
  • Kick - a pocket; Gaelic, cuach, a bowl, a nest; Scotch, quaigh.
  • Kick - a sixpence; “two and a kick,” two shillings and sixpence.
  • Kickeraboo - dead. A West Indian negro’s phrase. See kick the bucket, of which phrase it is a corruption.
  • Kickseys - or kicksies, trousers.
  • Kickshaws - trifles; made, or French dishes—not English or substantial. Anything of a fancy description now. Corruption of the French quelques choses.
  • Kicksy - troublesome, disagreeable. German, keck, bold.
  • Kid-on - to entice or incite a person to the perpetration of an act.
  • Kid - an infant, or child. From the German kind; or possibly from the name for the young of a goat. Also, a shallow dish in which sailors receive their portions of food.
  • Kid - to joke, to quiz, to hoax anybody. “No kid, now?” is a question often asked by a man who thinks he is being hoaxed.
  • Kidden - or kidken, a low lodging-house for boys.
  • Kiddier - a pork-butcher.
  • Kiddily - fashionably or showily; “kiddily togg’d,” showily dressed.
  • Kiddleywink - a small shop where are retailed the commodities of a village store. Originally kiddle-a-wink, from the offer made, with a wink, to give you something out of the kettle or kiddle. In the west country an alehouse. Also, a woman of unsteady habits.
  • Kiddy - a man, or boy. Formerly a low thief.
  • Kiddyish - frolicsome, jovial.
  • Kidnapper - originally one who stole children. Now applied without reference to the age or sex of those stolen. From “kid,” a child, and “nab” (corrupted to “nap”), to steal, or seize.
  • Kidney - “of that kidney,” of such a stamp; “strange kidney,” odd humour; “two of a kidney,” two persons of a sort, or as like as two peas, i.e., resembling each other like two kidneys in a bunch.—Old. “Attempt to put their hair out of kidney.”—Terræ Filius, 1763.
  • Kidsman - one who trains boys to thieve and pick pockets successfully.
  • Kilkenny cat - a popular simile for a voracious or desperate animal or person, from the story of the two cats in that county, who are said to have fought and bitten each other until a small portion of the tail of one of them alone remained.
  • Killing - bewitching, fascinating. The term is akin to the phrase “dressing to death.”
  • Kilt - an Irishism for badly beaten, but by no means equivalent with killed.
  • Kimbo - or a-kimbo, holding the arms in a bent position from the body, and resting the hands upon the hips, in a bullying attitude. Said to be from a schimbo, bandy-legged, crooked, Italian; but more probably from kimbaw, the old cant for beating or bullying. See Grose. Celtic, cam, crooked.
  • Kimmer - a gossip, an acquaintance, same as cummer.—Scotch.
  • Kinchin cove - a man who robs children; a little man.—Ancient Cant.
  • Kinchin - a child.—Old Cant. From the German diminutive, kindchen, a baby.
  • Kincob - uniform, fine clothes, richly embroidered dresses. Really, cloth of gold or silver.—Anglo-Indian.
  • King’s pictures (now, of course, queen’s pictures), money.
  • Kirb - a brick.
  • Kisky - drunk, fuddled.
  • Kiss-curl - a small curl twisted on the temple. See bowcatcher.
  • Kiss-me-quick - the name given to the very small bonnets which have of late years become fashionable.
  • Kisser - the mouth.—Pugilistic term.
  • Kissing-crust - the soft crust which marks where one loaf has been broken from another.
  • Kit - a person’s baggage. Also, a collection of anything, “the whole kit of ’em,” the entire lot. Anglo-Saxon, kyth.—North.
  • Kite -—see fly the kite.
  • Kitmegur - an under-butler, a footman.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Kitna - how much?—Anglo-Indian.
  • Knacker - an old horse; a horse-slaughterer. Originally Gloucestershire, but now general.
  • Knap - i.q., nap, to break.—Old English, but nearly obsolete. See Ps. xlvi. 9 (Prayer-book version), “He breaketh the bow, and knappeth the spear in sunder;” probably sibilated into “snap.”
  • Knap - to receive, to take. Generally applied to the receipt of punishments; “oh, my! wont he just knap it when he gets home!”
  • Knap - to steal.—Prison Cant.
  • Knapping-jigger - a turnpike gate; “to dub at the knapping-jigger,” to pay money at the turnpike.
  • Knark - a hard-hearted or savage person. The word is now usually spelt nark, and is applied to the lowest class of informers.
  • Knife it - “cut it,” cease, stop, don’t proceed.
  • Knife-board - the seat running along the roof of an omnibus.
  • Knife - “to knife a person,” to stab; an un-English custom, but a very common expression.
  • Knight - a common and ironical prefix to a man’s calling—thus, “knight of the whip,” a coachman; “knight of the thimble,” a tailor.
  • Knobstick - a non-society workman. One who takes work under price.
  • Knock about the bub - to hand or pass about the drink. Bub is a very old cant term for drink.
  • Knock off - to give over, or abandon. A saying used by workmen in reference to dinner or other meal times, for upwards of two centuries.
  • Knock out - in racing parlance, to drive out of the quotations; as a knocked-out favourite. Also to make bankrupt; as a knocked-out backer or bookmaker. When a man cannot meet his engagements on the turf, he is said to be knocked out.
  • Knock-down - or knock-me-down, strong ale.
  • Knock-in - the game of loo.
  • Knock-it-down - to show, in the “free and easy” style, approval of a song or toast, by hammering with pot or glass on the table.
  • Knock-under - to submit.
  • Knock-’em-downs - the game of skittles.
  • Knocked-up - tired, jaded, used up, done for. In the United States, amongst females, the phrase is equivalent to being enceinte, so that Englishmen often unconsciously commit themselves when amongst our Yankee cousins.
  • Knocker-face - an ugly face, i.e., like an old-fashioned door-knocker.
  • Knocker - “up to the knocker,” means finely or showily dressed, in the height of fashion; proficient, equal to the task.
  • Knocking-in - coming into college after time. A habit of knocking-in late generally leads to some unpleasantness.—Oxford University.
  • Knocking-out. All visitors, on leaving a college after time, have to state in whose rooms they have been, that his gate-bill may be scored up for them. When a rackety party takes place, the visitors, or “out college men,” are generally supplied with a list of the names of the quietest men in college, so that the whereabouts of the party may not be betrayed.—Oxford University.
  • Knowing - sharp, shrewd, artful; “a knowing codger,” or “a knowing blade,” one who can take you in, or cheat you, in any transaction you may have with him. It implies also deep cunning and foresight, and generally signifies dishonesty.
  • Knowledge-box - the head.—Pugilistic.
  • Knuckle to - or knuckle under, to yield or submit.
  • Knuckle-duster - a large, heavy, or over-gaudy ring; a ring which attracts attention from its size.
  • Knuckle-duster - an iron or brass instrument which covers the knuckles so as to protect them from injury when striking a blow, adding force to it at the same time. Sometimes a knuckle-duster has knobs or points projecting, so as to mutilate and disfigure the person struck. This brutal invention is American, but has been made familiar here.
  • Knuckle - to fight with fists, to pommel.
  • Knuller - old term for a chimney-sweep, who solicited jobs by ringing a bell. From the Saxon, cnyllan, to knell, or sound a bell. See querier.
  • Kool - to look.
  • Kootee - a house.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Kotoo - to bow down before, to cringe, to flatter. From a Chinese ceremony.
  • Kubber - news.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Kudos - praise; kudized, praised. Greek, κύδος.—University.
  • Kye - eighteenpence.
  • Kynchen co [or cove], a young boye trained up like a “Kynching Morte.” [From the German diminutive, Kindschen.]
  • Kynching morte - is a little gyrle, carried at their mother’s backe in a slate, or sheete, who brings them up sauagely.
  • Kypsey - a basket. A term generally used by gipsies.
  • La! a euphuistic rendering of lord! common amongst females and very precise persons; imagined by many to be a corruption of look! but this is a mistake. Sometimes pronounced law, or lawks.
  • Lac - one hundred thousand.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Laced - strengthened with ardent spirits. Tea or coffee in which brandy is poured is said to be laced.
  • Lacing - a beating. From the phrase, “I’ll lace your jacket.”—L’Estrange. Perhaps to give a beating with a lace or lash. Perhaps, also, a figurative phrase for ornamenting the article in question with stripes.
  • Ladder - “can’t see a hole in a ladder,” said of any one who is intoxicated. It was once said that a man was never properly drunk until he could not lie down without holding, could not see a hole through a ladder, or went to the pump to light his pipe.
  • Ladies’ mile - that part of Hyde Park where the feminine beauty, rank, and fashion most do congregate during the airing hours of the London season.
  • Lag of dudes - a bucke [or basket] of clothes.
  • Lag - a returned transport, or ticket-of-leave convict.
  • Lag - to void urine.—Ancient Cant. In modern slang to transport, as regards bearing witness, and not in reference to the action of judge or jury.
  • Lag - water.
  • Lage - to washe.
  • Lagged - imprisoned, apprehended, or transported for a crime. From the Old Norse, lagda, “laid,”—laid by the leg.
  • Lagger - a sailor. Also, one who gives evidence; an informer.
  • Lagging gage - a chamber-pot.—Ancient Cant.
  • Lambasting - a beating. Perhaps lumb-basting, from the lumbar-regions.
  • Lamb’s wool - spiced ale, of which the butler at Brasenose every Shrove Tuesday supplies as much as is required at Hall, with a copy of verses on the subject, generally written by a Brasenose man. One of these poems began:—
  • Lame duck - a stockjobber who speculates beyond his capital, and cannot pay his losses. Upon retiring from the Exchange he is said to “waddle out of the Alley.”
  • Lamming - a beating.—Old English, lam; used by Beaumont and Fletcher. Not as Sir Walter Scott supposed, from one Dr. Lamb, but from the Old Norse, lam, the hand; also, Gaelic.
  • Lammy - a blanket.
  • Land-lubber - sea term for “a landsman.” See loafer.
  • Land-shark - a sailor’s definition of a lawyer.
  • Lane - a familiar term for Drury Lane Theatre, just as Covent Garden Theatre is constantly spoken of as “the Garden.”
  • Lap. Lap the gutter, to get beastly and helplessly drunk. Lap means to drink. Lap the gatter, to drink up the beer; a “rare lapper,” a hard drinker.
  • Lap - butter mylke, or whey.
  • Lap - liquor, drink. Lap is the term invariably used in the ballet girls’ dressing-room for gin.
  • Lap - one circuit of a pedestrian enclosure. In running a race of any distance one man is said to lap another when he is one entire circuit in front.
  • Lark - a frolic, a joke; “let’s have a jolly good lark,” let us have a piece of fun.—Anglo-Saxon, lac, sport; but more probably from the nautical term skylarking, i.e., mounting to the highest yards and sliding down the ropes for amusement, which is allowed on certain occasions.
  • Lark - to sport boisterously, to show a disposition for “going on the spree.”
  • Larrence - an imaginary being, supposed by the Scottish peasantry to have power over indolent persons. Hence laziness is often called larrence.
  • Larrup - to beat or thrash.
  • Larruping - a good beating or hiding.—Irish.
  • Lashins - large quantities; as, “lashins of whisky.” An Irishism in common use.
  • Latchpan - the lower lip—properly a dripping-pan; “to hang one’s latchpan,” to pout, be sulky.—Norfolk.
  • Lath and plaster - a master.
  • Lavender - “to be laid up in lavender;” to be in pawn; to be out of the way for an especial purpose. From the practice among housewives of placing lavender in drawers in which linen and clothes are to be kept for any period.
  • Law - “to give law to an animal” is a sporting term signifying to give the hare or stag a chance of escaping, by not setting on the hounds till the quarry has run some distance. Also, used for giving any one a chance of succeeding in a difficult undertaking by allowing him so much grace or preliminary notice.
  • Lawt - tall.
  • Lay down the knife and fork - to die. Compare pegging-out, hopping the twig, and similar flippancies.
  • Lay - a pursuit or practice, a dodge. Term in this sense much used by thieves.
  • Lay - in wagering, to bet against a man or animal. Betters are divided in racing slang into layers and takers; they are otherwise known as bookmakers and backers.
  • Lay - some, a piece. “Tip me a lay of pannum,” i.e., give me a slice of bread.—North.
  • Lay - to watch; “on the lay,” on the look-out.—Shakspeare.
  • Lean and fat - a hat.
  • Lean and lurch - a church.
  • Leary bloke - a clever or artful person.
  • Leary - flash, knowing, artful, sly.
  • Leather - to beat or thrash. Probably from allusion to the skin, which is often called leather. Some think the term is from the leather belts worn by soldiers, which are often used as weapons in street rows. Most likely from there being “nothing like leather” with which to administer a thrashing.
  • Leathern conveniency - a carriage. A Quaker being reprimanded by the Society of Friends for keeping a carriage, “contrary to the1 ancient testimonies,” said, “it is not a carriage I keep, but merely a leathern-conveniency.” See under Simon Pure, in the Introduction.
  • Leaving shop - or dolly shop, an unlicensed house where goods are taken into pawn at exorbitant rates of interest.
  • Led captain - a fashionable spunger, a “swell” who by artifice ingratiates himself into the favours of the master of the house, and lives at his table. Probably from the fact that a real captain leads, but that a sham one is led—to the dinner-table.
  • Leer - empty.—Oxfordshire. Pure German, as is nearly so the next word.
  • Leer - print, newspaper. German, lehren, to instruct; hence Old English, lere, “spelt in the leer.” See spell.—Old Cant.
  • Leg bail - the bail or security given by absence. To give leg bail is to run away.
  • Leg it - to run; “to give a leg,” to assist, as when one mounts a horse; “making a leg,” a countryman’s bow,—projecting the leg from behind as a balance to the head bent forward.—Shakspeare.
  • Leg of mutton fist - a large, muscular or bony hand.
  • Leg-and-leg - the state of a game when each player has won a leg. In Ireland a leg is termed a horse, leg-and-leg being there termed “horse-and-horse.”
  • Leg-of-mutton - humorous street term for a sheep’s trotter, or foot.
  • Leg - a part of a game. In some old games there are so many legs to the chalk, and so many chalks to the game. Sometimes the legs are called chalks, and the chalks legs—one word is as good as another, provided an agreement is made beforehand.
  • Leg - or blackleg, a disreputable sporting character and racecourse habitué; that is, one who is disreputable among sporting men.
  • Length - forty-two lines of a dramatic composition.—Theatrical.
  • Length - six months’ imprisonment. See stretch.
  • Ler-ac-am - mackerel.
  • Let alone - an expression which signifies “much less” as used in comparative statement or argument. “I cannot afford five shillings, let alone five pounds.” Barham, in one of the Ingoldsby Legends, says:—
  • Let drive - to strike at, or attack with vigour.
  • Let in - to cheat or victimize. “He let me in heavily.”
  • Let on - to give an intimation of having some knowledge of a subject. Ramsay employs the phrase in the Gentle Shepherd. Common in Scotland.
  • Let the cat out - or let the cat out of the bag, a common phrase, which implies that a secret is to be or has been let out.
  • Letty - a bed. Italian, letto.—Lingua Franca.
  • Levy - a shilling.—Liverpool. Among labourers a levy is a sum obtained before it is due, something to keep a man going till Saturday-night comes, or his task is finished.
  • Lexicon Balatronicum; a Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence, by a Member of the Whip Club, assisted by Hell-fire Dick, 8vo.1811.
  • Liber Vagatorum: Der Betler Orden, 4to. Translated into English, with Notes, by John Camden Hotten, as The Book of Vagabonds and Beggars, with a vocabulary of their Language (Rotwelsche Sprach); edited, with preface, by Martin Luther, in the year 1528, 4to, with woodcuts.1859.
  • Liberty - ground let in parts of Yorkshire for shooting purposes.
  • Lick - a blow; licking, a beating; “to put in big licks,” a curious and common phrase, meaning that great exertions are being made.—Dryden; North.
  • Lick - to excel, or overcome; “if you ain’t sharp, he’ll lick you,” i.e., be finished first. Signifies, also, to whip, chastise, or conquer. Ancient cant, lycke. Welsh, llachio, to strike.
  • Lickspittle - a coarse but singularly expressive term for a parasite, who puts up with indignities for the sake of advantages.
  • Life in St. George’s Fields; or, The Rambles and Adventures of Disconsolate William, Esq., and his Surrey Friend, Flash Dick, with Songs and a flash dictionary, 8vo.1821.
  • Lifer - a convict who is sentenced to imprisonment for life.
  • Lift - to steal, pick pockets; “there’s a clock been lifted,” said when a watch has been stolen. The word is as old as the Border forays, and is used by Shakspeare. Shoplifter is a recognised term. Old Gothic, llifan, to steal; Lower Rhenish, löften.
  • Lig - a lie, a falsehood.—Lancashire. In old ballads the word “lie” is often spelt “lig.” In old Saxon, lig is to lie, but to lie as in a bed.
  • Light Bob - a light infantry soldier.—Military.
  • Light Feeder - a silver spoon.
  • Light - credit, trust; “to get a light at a house” is to get credit. When a man’s credit is stopped, his light is said to be put out. Light also means life. “I’ll put your light out” is a murderous threat.
  • Lightmans - the day.
  • Lightning - gin; “flash o’ lightning,” a glass of gin.
  • Lights - a worthless piece of meat; applied metaphorically to a fool, a soft or stupid person.
  • Lights - the eyes. Also, the lungs; animals’ lungs are always so called.
  • Lil - a book, generally a pocket-book.—Gipsy.
  • Lily Benjamin - a great white coat. See Benjamin.
  • Limb of the law - a lawyer, or clerk articled to that profession.
  • Limb - a troublesome or precocious child.
  • Limbo - a prison, from limbus or limbus patrum, a mediæval theological term for purgatory. The Catholic Church teaches that limbo was that part of hell where holy people who died before the Redemption were kept.
  • Line - a hoax, a fool-trap; as, “to get him in a line,” i.e., to get some sport out of him.
  • Line - calling, trade, profession; “what line are you in?” “the building line.”
  • Linendraper - paper.
  • Liner - a casual reporter, paid by the line. Diminutive of “penny-a-liner.”
  • Lingo - talk, or language. Slang is termed lingo amongst the lower orders. Italian, lingua.—Lingua Franca.
  • Lint-scraper - a young surgeon. Thackeray, in Lovel the Widower, uses the phrase, and gives, also, the words “Æsculapius,” “Pestle-grinder,” and “Vaccinator,” for the same character.
  • Lion-hunter - one who hunts up, and has a devout veneration for, small celebrities. Mrs. Leo Hunter, in Pickwick, is a splendid specimen of this unpleasant creature.
  • Lionesses - ladies visiting an Oxford man, especially at “Commemoration,” which is the chief time for receiving feminine visitors at the University.
  • Lionize - to make much of any visitor with small or moderate claims to distinction; to conduct a stranger round the principal objects of attraction in a place; to act as cicerone.
  • Lip - talk, bounce, impudence; “come, none o’ yer lip!”
  • Lip - to sing; “lip us a chant,” sing a song.
  • Liquor - or liquor up, to drink drams.—Americanism. In liquor, tipsy, or drunk.
  • Little go - the old term for the examination now called smalls.
  • Little snakes-man - a little thief, who is generally passed through a small aperture to open a door and let in the rest of the gang.
  • Live eels - fields.
  • Live-stock - vermin of the insect kind, especially of that more than usually unpleasant kind found on tramps, 1&c.
  • Liverpool Irishman - any man born in Liverpool of Irish parents. See Irish Cockney.
  • Liverpudlian - a native of Liverpool.
  • Load of hay - a day.
  • Loafer - a lazy vagabond. Generally considered an Americanism. Loper, or loafer, however, was in general use as a cant term in the early part of the last century. Landloper was a vagabond who begged in the attire of a sailor; and the sea-phrase, land-lubber, was doubtless synonymous.
  • Loaver - money. See lour.—Lingua Franca.
  • Lob-sneaking - stealing money from tills; occasionally stealing tills and all.
  • Lob - a till, or money-drawer.
  • Lobb - the head.—Pugilistic.
  • Loblolly boy - a derisive term for a surgeon’s mate in the navy.
  • Loblolly - gruel.—Old: used by Markham as a sea-term for grit gruel, or hasty pudding.
  • Lobs! schoolboys’ signal on the master’s approach. Also, an assistant watcher, an under gamekeeper.
  • Lobs - words, talk.—Gipsy.
  • Lobscouse - a dish made of potatoes, meat, and biscuits, boiled together.
  • Lobster-box - a barrack, or military station.
  • Lobster - a soldier. A policeman, from the colour of his coat, is styled an unboiled, or raw lobster.
  • Loggerheads - “to come to loggerheads,” to come to blows.
  • Logie - theatrical jewellery, made mostly of tin.
  • Loll - to lie about lazily. “He would loll upon the handle of the door,” said of an incorrigibly lazy fellow.
  • Lolly - the head. See lobb.—Pugilistic.
  • London ordinary - the beach at Brighton, where the “eight-hours-at-the-sea-side” excursionists dine in the open-air.
  • Long acre - a baker.
  • Long firm - a gang of swindlers who obtain goods by false pretences. They generally advertise or answer advertisements. The word long is supposed to be from a playful allusion made by one of the firm to the length of their credit.
  • Long-bow. See draw the long bow.
  • Long-ghost - a tall, thin, awkward person. Sometimes called “lamp-post.”
  • Long-headed - far-seeing, clever, calculating.
  • Long-hundred - a Billingsgate expression for 120 fresh herrings, or other small fish, the long-hundred being six score.
  • Long-odds - the odds which denote that the man or animal laid against has, or is supposed to have, little or no chance.
  • Long-shore butcher - a coast-guardsman.—Sea. All people who get their livings by the side of the Thames below bridge are called long-shore folk.
  • Long-tailed-one - a bank-note or “flimsy” for a large amount.
  • Long-tails - among shooters, are pheasants; among coursers and dog-fanciers they are greyhounds.
  • Longs-and-shorts - cards made for cheating.
  • Longs - the latrine at Brasenose, so called because built by Lady Long.—Oxford University.
  • Looking-glass - a facetious synonym for a pot de chambre. This is very old. The term arose from the fact that in ancient times this utensil was the object of very frequent examination by the medical fraternity. There is an old story of a lady who called at an inn, and called for a looking-glass to arrange her hair, and who was presented with a chamber utensil.
  • Loony - a silly fellow, a natural. Corruption of looney tick (lunatic). Sometimes corrupted to looby.
  • Loose-box - a brougham or other vehicle kept for the use of a dame de compagnie. A more vulgar appellation is “mot-cart,” the contemptuous sobriquet applied by the envious mob to a one-horse covered carriage.
  • Loose-box - a stable in which a horse is not tethered, but remains loose.
  • Loose. See on the loose.
  • Loot - swag or plunder; also used as a verb. The word came much into vogue during the latest Chinese campaign.
  • Lop-sided - uneven, one side larger than the other. See Jacob Faithful.
  • Lope - this old form of leap is often heard in the streets. To lope is also to steal. German, laufen.
  • Lord John Russell - a bustle.
  • Lord Lovel - a shovel.
  • Lord-mayor’s-fool - an imaginary personage who likes everything that is good, and plenty of it.
  • Lord - a humpbacked man. See my lord.
  • Lord - “drunk as a lord,” a common saying, probably referring to the facilities a man of fortune has for such a gratification; perhaps a sly sarcasm at the supposed habits of the aristocracy. This phrase had its origin in the old hard drinking days, when it was almost compulsory on a man of fashion to get drunk regularly after dinner.
  • Lothario - a “gay” deceiver; generally a heartless, brainless villain.
  • Loud - flashy, showy, as applied to dress or manner. See bags.
  • Lour - or lowr, money; “gammy lowr,” bad money. From the Wallachian Gipsy word, lowe, coined money. Possibly connected with the French, louer, to hire.—Ancient Cant and Gipsy.
  • Louse-trap - a small-tooth comb.—Old Cant. See catch-’em-alive.
  • Love - “to do a thing for love,” i.e., for nothing. A man is said to marry for love when he gets nothing with his wife; and an Irishman, with the bitterest animosity against his antagonist, will fight him for love, i.e., for the mere satisfaction of beating him, and not for a stake.
  • Loveage - tap droppings, a mixture of stale spirits, sweetened and sold to habitual dram-drinkers, principally females. Called also “alls.”
  • Low-water - but little money in pocket, when the finances are at a low ebb.
  • Lowing chete - a cowe.
  • Lowre - money. [From the Wallachian Gipsy word lowe, coined money. See M. Cogalniceano’s Essai sur les Cigains de la Moldo-Valachie.]
  • Lubbares -—“sturdy Lubbares,” country bumpkins, or men of a low degree.
  • Lubber - a clown, or fool.—Ancient Cant, lubbare. Among seamen an awkward fellow, a landsman.
  • Lubber’s hole - an aperture in the maintop of a ship, by which a timid climber may avoid the difficulties of the “futtock shrouds;” hence as a sea-term the lubber’s hole represents any cowardly way of evading duty.
  • Luck - “down on one’s luck,” wanting money, or in difficulty.
  • Lucky - “to cut one’s lucky,” to go away quickly. See strike.
  • Ludlam’s dog. An indolent, inactive person is often said to be “as lazy as Ludlam’s dog, which leaned its head against the wall to bark.” Sailors say “as lazy as Joe the Marine, who laid down his musket to sneeze.”
  • Lug chovey - a pawnbroker’s shop.
  • Lug - to pull, or slake thirst.—Old.
  • Lug - “my togs are in lug,” i.e., in pawn.
  • Luke - nothing.—North Country Cant.
  • Lully prigger - a rogue who steals wet clothes hung on lines to dry.
  • Lully - a shirt.
  • Lumber - to pawn or pledge. Probably from Lombard.
  • Lumbered - pawned; sometimes imprisoned.
  • Lummy - jolly, first-rate.
  • Lump it - to dislike it; “if you don’t like it, you may lump it;” sometimes varied to, “if you don’t like it, you may do the other thing.”2 Probably from the fact that, in bulk or in lump, the good has to be taken with the bad. What you don’t like must be reckoned with the lump. To lump it is also to take off at a draught, as medicine or a dram. “He lumped it down at once.”
  • Lump of coke - a bloke—vulgar term for a man.
  • Lump of lead - the head.
  • Lump the lighter - to be transported.
  • Lump work - work contracted for, or taken by the lump.
  • Lump - anything exceptionally large, “as a lump of a man,” “a great lump of a fellow,” &c.
  • Lump - the workhouse; also called the Pan.
  • Lumper - a contractor. On the river more especially a person who contracts to deliver a ship laden with timber.
  • Lumper - a low thief who haunts wharves and docks, and robs vessels, also a person who sells old goods as new.
  • Lumpy - intoxicated. Also used to signify enceinte.
  • Lunan - a girl.—Gipsy.
  • Lurch - a term at the game of cribbage. A is said to lurch B when the former attains the end, or sixty-first hole, of the board before the latter has pegged his thirty-first hole; or, in more familiar words, before B has turned the corner. A lurch sometimes, and then only by agreement, counts as a double game or rub.
  • Lurk - a sham, swindle, or representation of feigned distress. An imposition of any kind is a lurk.
  • Lurker - an impostor who travels the country with false certificates of fires, shipwrecks, &c. Also, termed a silver beggar, which see.
  • Lush-crib - a public-house.
  • Lush - intoxicating drinks of all kinds, but generally used for beer. It is generally allowed, as has been stated, that lush and its derivatives claim Lushington, the brewer, as sponsor.
  • Lush - to drink, or get drunk.
  • Lushington - a drunkard, or one who continually soaks himself with lush. Some years since there was a Lushington Club in Bow Street, Covent Garden.
  • Lushy - intoxicated. Johnson says, “opposite to pale,” so red with drink. He must, however, have been wrong, as the foregoing derivation shows.
  • Lyb-beg - a bed.
  • Lycke [lick], to beate.
  • Lylo - come hither.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Lynch-law - summary punishment. From an American judge famous for hanging first and trying afterwards.
  • Lyp - to lie down.
  • Lypken - a house to lye in.
  • L’Estrange’s (Sir Roger) Works (principally translations).v.d.
  • M. B. coat - (i.e., Mark of the Beast,) a name given to the long surtout worn by some of the clergy,—a modern Puritan form of abuse, said to have been accidentally disclosed to a High Church customer by a tailor’s orders to his foreman.
  • M.P. - member of the police, one of the slang titles of the Force.
  • M.T. - railway slang used by porters and pointsmen for empties, or empty carriages. See Moll Thomson’s mark.
  • Mab - a cab, or hackney-coach.
  • Macaroni - a pony.
  • Mace - to sponge, swindle, or beg, in a polite way: “give it him (a shopkeeper) on the mace,” i.e., obtain goods on credit and never pay for them; also termed “striking the mace.”
  • Mace - to welsh, to obtain money without any expectation of being able to pay or intention of paying.
  • Maceman - or macer, a welcher, magsman, or general swindler; a “street-mugger.”
  • Madza - half. Italian, mezza. This word enters into combination with various cant phrases, mainly taken from the Lingua Franca, as madza caroon, half-a-crown, two-and-sixpence; madza saltee, a halfpenny2 [see saltee]; madza poona, half-a-sovereign; madza round the bull, half a pound of steak, &c. This word is, in street phraseology, invariably pronounced medzer.
  • Mag - a halfpenny.—Ancient Cant, make. Megs were formerly guineas.—B. M. Carew. Make, the old form, is still used by schoolboys in Scotland. “Not a blessed mag!” would be the phrase of a cadger down on his luck to express his penniless state.
  • Mag - literary and printers’ slang for magazine.
  • Mag - to talk; hence magpie. To mag in thieves’ slang is to talk well and persuasively.
  • Maggoty - fanciful, fidgety. Whims and fancies were formerly termed maggots, from the popular belief that a maggot in the brain was the cause of any odd notion or caprice a person might exhibit. Deer are sometimes found to have maggots in their brains, which, perhaps, accounts for the origin of the term.
  • Maginn (Dr.) wrote Slang songs in Blackwood’s Magazine.1827.
  • Mahcheen - a merchant. Chinese pronunciation of the English word.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Mahogany flat - a bug.
  • Mahogany - “to have one’s feet under another man’s mahogany,” to sit at his table, be supported on other than one’s own resources; “amputate your mahogany,” i.e., go away, elaboration of “cut your stick.”
  • Maids adorning - the morning.
  • Maidstone jailer - a tailor.
  • Mail - to post a letter; “this screeve is mailed by a sure hand.”
  • Main-toby - the highway, or the main road. See toby.
  • Make tracks - an Americanism synonymous with skedaddle; to make oneself scarce.
  • Make-up - personal appearance.—Theatrical.
  • Make [mag], a halfpenny.
  • Make - any one is said to be “on the make” who asks too high a price for his goods, or endeavours in any way to overreach.
  • Make - to steal, a successful theft or swindle. A man on the look-out for swindling opportunities is said to be “on the make.”
  • Makings - materials. A man is often said to have the makings of a good politician (or whatever he may aspire to be) in him, if they were but properly applied.
  • Malapropism - an ignorant, vulgar misapplication of language, so named from Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Sheridan’s famous comedy of the Rivals. Mrs. Partington afterwards succeeded to the mantle of Mrs. Malaprop; but the phrase Partingtonism is as yet2 uncoined, for the simple reason that Mrs. Malaprop was the original, Mrs. Partington the imitation.
  • Malley - a gardener.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Man a-hanging - a man in difficulties. See hanging.
  • Man in the moon - the gentleman who is supposed to find the “pieces” to pay election expenditure and electors’ expenses, so long as the latter vote his way. See election inquiries.
  • Man-handle - to use a person roughly, as to take him prisoner, turn him out of a room, or give him a beating.
  • Manablins - broken victuals.
  • Mandozy - a term of endearment among East-end Jews; probably from the valiant fighter named Mendoza.
  • Mang - to talk.—Scotch.
  • Marbles - furniture, movables; “money and marbles,” cash and personal effects.
  • Marchioness - a little, dirty, old-fashioned maid-of-all-work; a title now in regular use, but derived from the remarkable character in the Old Curiosity Shop.
  • Margeri prater - a hen.
  • Marine - or marine recruit, an empty bottle. This expression having once been used in the presence of an officer of marines, he was at first inclined to take it as an insult, until some one adroitly appeased his wrath by remarking that no offence could be meant, as all that it could possibly imply was, “one who had done his duty, and was ready to do it again.”
  • Mark - to make one’s mark is to achieve a success literary, artistic, or otherwise. Men of eminence are said to leave their marks on the earth’s surface. An American poet has described this ambitious, albeit somewhat rare, proceeding as leaving “footprints on the sands of time.”
  • Market-horse - a horse simply kept in the betting-lists for the purpose of being betted against.
  • Marketeer - a betting man who devotes himself, by means of special information, to the study of favourites, and the diseases incident to that condition of equine life. The marketeer is the principal agent in all milking and knocking-out arrangements.
  • Marplot - an officious bungler, who spoils everything he interferes with.
  • Marriage lines - a marriage certificate.—Provincial.
  • Marrow-bones - the knees; “I’ll bring him down upon his marrow bones,” i.e., I’ll make him bend his knees as he does to the Virgin Mary. Supposed to be from Mary Bones, an objectionable term used by the first Protestants in reference to the supposed adoration of the Virgin Mary by Catholics.
  • Marrow - a mate, a fellow-workman, a pitman who works in a “shift” with another.—Northumberland and Durham.
  • Marrowskying. See Medical Greek.
  • Marry - a very old term of asseveration, originally (in Popish times) a mode of swearing by the Virgin Mary; q.d., by Mary.
  • Martingale - a gambling term, which means the doubling of a stake every time you lose; so that when you win once you win back all that you have lost. So called from the fact that, as in all fair games you must win once, you have a safe hold of fortune. The difficulty is to obtain a bank large enough to do this effectively, or having the bank to find any one who will follow you far enough, in a fair game.
  • Mary Ann - the title of the dea ex machinâ evolved from trades-unionism at Sheffield, to the utter destruction of recalcitrant grinders. She is supposed to do all the “blow-ups,” steal all the bands, and otherwise terrorize over victims of the union.
  • Marygold - one million sterling. See plum.
  • Maskee - never mind, no consequence.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Massacre of the innocents - when the leader of the House of Commons goes through the doleful operation of devoting to extinction a number of useful measures at the end of the session, for want of time to pass them. Vide Times, 20th July, 1859: Mr. C. Foster, on altering the time of the legislative sessions.—Parliamentary Slang.
  • Master of the Mint - a gardener.
  • Master of the Rolls - a baker.
  • Mate - the term a coster or low person applies to a friend, partner, or companion; “me and my mate did so and so,” is a common phrase with a low Londoner. Originally a sea term.
  • Matey - a labourer in one of Her Majesty’s dockyards. Common elaboration of the word mate.
  • Maudlin - Magdalen College, Oxford. This is the old English pronunciation of the word.
  • Mauley - a fist, that with which one strikes as with a mall.—Pugilistic.
  • Mauley - a signature, from mauley, a fist; “put your fist to it,” is sometimes said by a tradesman when desiring a fellow-trader to put his signature to a bill or note.
  • Maund - to beg; “maundering on the fly,” begging of people in the streets.—Old Cant. Maung, to beg, is a term in use amongst the gipsies, and may also be found in the Hindoo vocabulary. Maund, however, is pure Anglo-Saxon, from mand, a basket. Compare beg, which is derived from bag—a curious parallel.
  • Maw - the mouth; “hold your maw,” cease talking.
  • Mawworm - a hypocrite of the most unpleasant kind. From Bickerstaff’s play of The Hypocrite. Originally a mawworm was a worm in the stomach, the thread worm.
  • Max - gin; max upon tick, gin obtained upon credit.
  • Mayhew’s (Henry) Great World of London, 8vo.1857.
  • Mayhew’s (Henry) London Labour and the London Poor, 4 vols.1851-61.
  • Mazarine - the platform beneath the stage in large theatres. Probably corruption of Italian, mezzanino.
  • Mealy-mouthed - soft-spoken, plausible, deceitful. A specious liar is said to be mealy-mouthed.
  • Mean white - a term of contempt among negroes, in the old slavery days, for white men without landed property. A white man in the Southern States had no locus standi unless he possessed property, and the blackest of niggers would have felt insulted at any “poor white trash” claiming to be “a man and brother.”
  • Measley - mean, miserable-looking, “seedy;” “what a measley-looking man!” i.e., what a wretched, unhappy fellow.
  • Meisensang - a missionary, Chinese pronunciation of the English word.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Men of Kent - men born in that portion of the “garden of England” which lies east of the Medway, as distinguished from Kentish men born the other side. The men of kent are entitled to the benefit of the old laws of the county, that of gavelkind particularly.
  • Menagerie - the orchestra of a theatre.—Theatrical.
  • Menavelings - odd money remaining after the daily accounts are made up at a railway booking-office,—usually divided among the clerks. See overs and shorts.
  • Merkin - a term usually applied to a woman’s privities. Originally false hair for those parts.
  • Mesopotamia - a name given to Eaton Square and neighbourhood when first built. This part was also called Cubitopolis.—Fashionable slang.
  • Mess - to interfere unduly. Costermongers refer to police supervision as messing. Among sailors, a dead man is said to have lost the number of his mess.
  • Metallician - a racing bookmaker. Bookmakers use metallic books and pencils.
  • Middleton (Thomas) and Decker’s (Thomas) Roaring Girl; or Moll Cut Purse, 4to.1611.
  • Middy - abbreviation of midshipman.—Naval.
  • Midge net - a lady’s veil.
  • Mike - an Irish hodman, or general labourer.
  • Mike - to loiter; or “lazy about.” The term probably originated in St. Giles’s, which is thronged with Irish labourers, who rarely or never labour (Mike being so common a term with them as to become a generic appellation for Irishmen), and who loiter and lean against the public-houses in the “Dials.” It has been said that the term is Old English, miche, to skulk, to loiter; Old Norse, mak, leisure, idleness.
  • Mild - second-rate, inferior. See draw it mild. Also feeble, inefficient, as “a mild attempt.” Weak young men who keep bulldogs, and dress in a “loud” stable style, from a belief that it is very becoming, are sometimes called “mild bloaters.”
  • Milky ones - white linen rags.
  • Mill - a fight, or set to. Ancient Cant, myll, to rob. Probably from the special opportunities afforded to pickpockets when the ring was a “national institution.”
  • Mill - the old Insolvent Debtors’ Court. “To go through the mill” was equivalent to being “whitewashed.”
  • Mill - the tread-mill.
  • Mill - to fight or beat.
  • Miller. This word is frequently called out when a person relates a stale joke. See Joe.
  • Miller. To drown the miller is to put too much water in anything. The phrase was originally “to drown the miller’s thumb,” or go over the specified mark, i.e., the thumb-mark, in adding water to ardent spirits.
  • Milling - to steale [by sending a child in at a window].
  • Milvader - to beat.
  • Mince pies - the eyes.
  • Mish - a shirt, or chemise. From commission, the ancient cant for a shirt, afterwards shortened to k’mish or smish, and then to mish. French, chemise; Italian, camicia.
  • Mitey - a cheesemonger.
  • Mitten. “To get the mitten” is, in Canadian slang, to be jilted.
  • Mittens - the boxing gloves.
  • Mizzle - a frequentative form of mist in both senses; as applied to weather, it is used by John Gadbury in his Ephemeris in 1695—misty and mizzling—to come down as mist; while the other sense may be expressed as to fade away like a mist.
  • Mizzle - to run away, or decamp; to disappear as in a mist. From mizzle, a drizzling rain; a Scotch mist.
  • Mizzler - or rum-mizzler, a person who is clever at effecting an escape, or getting out of a difficulty.
  • Moab - a name applied to the turban-shaped hat which was some few years back fashionable among ladies, and ladylike swells of the other sex. From the Scripture phrase, “Moab is my washpot” (Ps. lx. 8), which latter article the hat in question was supposed to resemble.—University.
  • Mob. Swift informs us, in his Art of Polite Conversation, that mob was, in his time, the slang abbreviation of “mobility,” just as nob is of “nobility,” at the present day. See school.
  • Mob - a thief’s immediate companions, as,—“our own mob;” mobsman, a dressy swindler or pickpocket.
  • Mob - to hustle, crowd round, and annoy, necessarily the action of a large party against a smaller one, or an individual. Mobbing is generally a concomitant of street robbery.
  • Mobility - the populace; or, according to Burke, the “great unwashed.” Johnson calls it a cant term, although Swift notices it as a proper expression.
  • Mockered - holey, marked unpleasantly. A ragged handkerchief and a blotched or pitted face are both said to be mockered.
  • Modern Flash Dictionary - 48mo.1825.
  • Modest quencher - a glass of spirits and water. Dick Swiveller was fond of a modest quencher.
  • Moey - the mouth.—Gipsy and Hindoo. Shakspeare has moe, to make mouths.
  • Moffling chete - a napkin.
  • Mofussilite - an inhabitant of an up-country district.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Moisten your chaffer - a slang phrase equivalent to “take something to drink.” Also “moisten your clay,” originally applied to smokers, now general, and supposed to have reference to the human clay.
  • Moke - a donkey.—Gipsy, but now general to all the lower orders. A “coster” and his “moke” are almost inseparable terms. Probably derived originally from the Arabic al mocreve, a carrier.
  • Moko - a name given by sportsmen to pheasants killed by mistake during September, before the pheasant-shooting comes in. They pull out their tails, and roundly assert that they are no pheasants at all, but mokos.
  • Moll Thomson’s mark - that is, M. T.—empty; as, “Take away this bottle, it has Moll Thomson’s mark on it.” See m. t.
  • Moll-tooler - a female pickpocket.
  • Moll - a girl; nickname for Mary.—Old Cant.
  • Molled - followed, or accompanied by a woman. When a costermonger sees a friend walking with a woman he does not know, he says on the first opportunity afterwards, “I see yer the other night when yer was molled up and too proud to speak.”
  • Mollisher - a low girl or woman; generally a female cohabiting with a man who gets his living by thieving.
  • Mollsack - a reticule, or market basket.
  • Mollycoddle - an effeminate man; one who “coddles” amongst the women, or does their work.
  • Mollygrubs - or mulligrubs, stomach ache, or sorrow—which to the costermonger is much the same, as he believes, like the ancients, that the viscera is the seat of all feeling. Costermongers are not alone, even in the present day, in this belief.
  • Molrowing - “out on the spree,” in company with so-called “gay women.” In allusion to the amatory serenadings of the London cats. Another form of this is, “out on the tiles.”
  • Moncrieff’s Tom and Jerry, or Life in London, a Farce in Three Acts, 12mo.1820.
  • Mondayish - or Mondayfied, disinclined for work. “St. Monday” is a great institution among artizans and small tradesmen.
  • Monk - a term of contempt; probably an abbreviation of monkey.
  • Monkery - the country, or rural districts. Originally an old word for a quiet or monastic life.—Hall.
  • Monkey with a long tail - a mortgage.—Legal.
  • Monkey-board - the place or step attached to an omnibus, on which the conductor stands.
  • Monkey-boat - a peculiar, long, narrow, canal boat.
  • Monkey - 500l.--Sporting Slang.
  • Monkey - spirit or ill temper; “to get one’s monkey up,” to rouse his passion. A man is said to have his monkey up or the monkey on his back, when he is “riled,” or out of temper; this is old, and was probably in allusion originally to the evil spirit which was supposed to be always present with a man; also under similar circumstances a man is said to have his back or hump up.
  • Monkey - the instrument which drives a rocket.—Army.
  • Monkey - the vessel in which a mess receives its full allowance of grog.—Sea.
  • Monkey’s allowance - to get blows instead of alms, more kicks than halfpence.
  • Monniker - a person’s name or signature.
  • Month of Sundays - an indefinite period, a long time.
  • Mooch - to sponge; to obtrude oneself upon friends just when they are about to sit down to dinner, or other lucky time—of course quite accidentally. Compare hulk. To slink away, and allow your friend to pay for the entertainment. In Wiltshire, to mooch is to shuffle. See the following.
  • Mooching - or on the mooch, on the look-out for any articles or circumstances which may be turned to a profitable account; watching in the streets for odd jobs, horses to hold, &c.; also scraps of food, drinks, old clothes, &c.
  • Moon-raker - a native of Wiltshire; because it is said that some men of that county, seeing the reflection of the moon in a pond, took it to be a cheese, and endeavoured to pull it out with a rake.
  • Moon - a month; generally used to express the length of time a person has been sentenced by the magistrate; thus “one moon” is one month of four weeks. A calendar month is known as a “callingder” or long moon. A “lunar moon,” ridiculous as the phrase may seem, is of constant use among those who affect slang of this description.
  • Mooney - intoxicated, a name for a silly fellow.
  • Mooning - loitering, wandering about in a purposeless manner.
  • Moonlight - or moonshine, smuggled spirits. From the night-work of smugglers.
  • Moonshee - a learned man, professor, or teacher.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Moonshine - palaver, deception, humbug.
  • Mop up - to drink, or empty a glass.—Old Sea term.
  • Mop - a hiring place (or fair) for servants. Steps are often “about to be taken” to put down these assemblies, which have been proved to be greatly detrimental to the morality of the poor. They are supposed to contribute largely to the bastardy percentages.
  • Mop - an habitual drunkard. Also a period of intoxication. “To be on2 the mop” is to be on the drink from day to day—to be perpetually “stale drunk.”
  • Mops and brooms - intoxicated. Supposed by an imaginative person to be the appearance presented by the world to a very drunken man. Possibly the term was first used to express sea-sickness.
  • Mopusses - money; “mopusses ran taper,” money ran short.
  • Moral - a forthcoming result which appears certain—originally moral certainty. This is racing slang, as, “The race is a moral for Cremorne.” These morals are often, however, of very uncertain tenure.
  • More-ish. When there is scarcely enough of an eatable or drinkable, it is said to taste more-ish; as, “This wine is very good, but it has a slight more-ish flavour.”
  • Morris - to decamp, be off. Probably from the ancient moresco, of morris-dance. See Shakspeare.
  • Mortar-board - a square college cap.
  • Mortes [mots], harlots.
  • Mortgage-deed - a pawnbroker’s duplicate.
  • Mot - a girl of indifferent character. Formerly, Mort. Dutch, mott-kast, a harlotry. Mot-cart, see loose-box.
  • Mother and daughter - water.
  • Mottob - bottom.
  • Mouchey - a Jew.
  • Mouldy-grubs - travelling showmen, mountebanks who perform in the open air without tent or covering. Doing this is called mouldy-grubbing.
  • Mouldy - grey-headed. Servants wearing hair-powder are usually termed mouldy-pates by street boys.
  • Mount - a saddle-horse. According to quality, “a good mount,” or “a bad mount.”
  • Mount - in theatrical parlance, to prepare for production on the stage. “The piece was excellently mounted.”
  • Mountain-dew - whisky, advertised as from the Highlands.
  • Mountain-pecker - a sheep’s head. See jemmy.
  • Mounter - a false swearer. Derived from the borrowed clothes men used to mount, or dress in, when going to swear for a consideration.
  • Mourning - “a full suit of mourning,” two black eyes; half-mourning, one black eye.
  • Mouse - a black eye. By a façon de parler, any one with “a mouse” is supposed to have been to Blackwall.
  • Mouth-almighty - a noisy, talkative person.
  • Mouthpiece - a lawyer, or counsel. Thieves and their associates always speak of a counsel as a mouthpiece.
  • Move - a “dodge,” or cunning trick; “up to a move or two,” acquainted with tricks. Probably derived from the game of chess.
  • Mrs. Grundy - the representative of the censorious world, “What will Mrs. Grundy say?” Originally a character in the comedy of Speed the Plough.
  • Mrs. Jones - the house of office, a water-closet.
  • Much of a muchness - alike, very much the same thing.
  • Muck-out - to clean out; often applied to one utterly ruining an adversary in gambling.
  • Muck-snipe - one who has been “mucked out,” or beggared, at gambling. See muck.
  • Muckender - or muckenger, a pocket-handkerchief.—Old. Cf. snottinger. The original name of the “Neckinger” in Bermondsey was “the Devil’s Neck-handkerchief.” There is still a Neckinger Road and Messrs. Bevington and Sons’ tannery in Bermondsey bears the name of the Neckinger Mills.
  • Mucker - to go a, to go to grief, to ruin one’s prospects.—Oxford Univ.
  • Mud-crusher - a word of contempt, used by the cavalry in reference to the infantry.
  • Mud-student - a farming pupil. The name given to the students at the Agricultural College, Cirencester.
  • Mudfog - “The British Association for the Advancement of Science.” Term first used by Charles Dickens in Bentley’s Miscellany, about 1836.
  • Muff - a silly or weak-minded person, a duffer; muff has been defined to be “a soft thing that holds a lady’s hand without squeezing it.”
  • Muffin baker - a Quaker (slang term for excrement).
  • Muffin-cap - a cap similar to that worn by a charity-boy.
  • Muffin-face - a white, soft, delicate, or whiskerless face.
  • Muffin-worry - an old lady’s tea party.
  • Mufti - the civilian dress of a naval or military officer when off duty.—Anglo-Indian. From an Eastern word signifying a clergyman or priest.
  • Mug-up - to paint one’s face, or dress specially with a view to impersonation.—Theatrical. To “cram” for an examination.—Army.
  • Mug - the mouth, or face.—Old.
  • Mug - to strike in the face, or fight. Also, to rob or swindle. Gaelic, muig, to suffocate, oppress; Irish, mugaim, to kill, destroy.
  • Mug - “to mug oneself,” to get tipsy.
  • Mugging - a thrashing,—synonymous with “slogging,” both terms of the “ring,” and frequently used by fighting men.
  • Muggy - drunk. Also, as applied to weather, stifling, oppressive.
  • Mull - “to make a mull of it,” to spoil anything, or make a fool of oneself.
  • Mulligrubs. Vide mollygrubs.
  • Multee kertever - very bad. Italian, molto cattivo. Generally used with the affix of bloke when referring to a man. Phrase much used by circus riders.
  • Mum - “to keep mum,” to hold one’s peace. Hence “mum’s the word,”—a phrase which implies to all hearers that the matter to which it refers must remain secret.
  • Mummer - a performer at a travelling theatre.—Ancient. Rustic performers at Christmas in the West of England.
  • Mump - to beg. In Lincolnshire, Boxing-day is known as mumping day.
  • Mumper - a beggar. A collector of holiday tribute.
  • Mumps - the miserables. To feel mumpish is to be heavy, dull, and stupid.
  • Mundungus - trashy, coarse tobacco. Sometimes used to represent the half-soddened, half-calcined residuum at the bottom of an all-but-smoked-out pipe, which, when knocked out, is vulgarly called the topper, q.v. Spanish, mondongo, black pudding.
  • Mungarly - bread, food. Mung is an old word for mixed food, but mungarly is doubtless derived from the Lingua Franca, mangiar, to eat. See the following.
  • Munging - or mounging, whining, begging, muttering.—North.
  • Muns - the mouth. German, mund.—Old Cant.
  • Mur - rum. A “nettock o’ mur” is a quartern of rum.
  • Murerk - the mistress of the house. See burerk.
  • Murkarker - a monkey,—vulgar Cockney pronunciation of macauco, a species of monkey. Jacko Macauco, or Maccacco, as he was mostly called, was the name of a famous fighting monkey, who used nearly fifty years ago to display his prowess at the Westminster pit, where, after having killed many dogs, he was at last “chawed up” by a bull terrier.
  • Murphy - a potato. Probably from the Irish national liking for potatoes, murphy being a surname common amongst the Irish. Murphies (edible) are sometimes called donovans.
  • Murphy - “in the arms of Murphy,” i.e., fast asleep. Corruption of Morpheus.
  • Mush (or mushroom) faker , an itinerant mender of umbrellas.
  • Mush - an umbrella. Contraction of mushroom.
  • Mushroom - a hat, shaped like the fungus from which it takes its name, often worn by demure ladies.
  • Muslin - a woman or girl; “he picked up a bit of muslin.”
  • Musta - or muster, a pattern, one of a sort. Anglo-Indian term used in describing the make or pattern of anything. A sample of any kind of merchandize. This word is very generally used in commercial transactions all over the world.
  • Mutton chops - a sheep’s-head. A man who has dined off sheep’s-head dignifies his meal by calling it mutton chops (chaps).
  • Mutton-fist - an uncomplimentary title for any one having a large and muscular, bony, or coarse hand.
  • Mutton-walk - the saloon at Drury Lane Theatre. A vulgar appellation applied to this place early in the last century, still in use in the neighbourhood of Covent Garden, which was formerly the great resort for the gay and giddy of both sexes.
  • Muzzle - the mouth.
  • Muzzle - to fight or thrash; to throttle or garrotte.
  • Muzzler - a blow in the mouth; a dram of spirits.
  • Muzzy - intoxicated.
  • My aunt - Aunt Jones, or Mrs. Jones, the closet of decency, or house of office.
  • My lord - a nickname given to a hunchback.
  • My tulip - a term of endearment used by the lower orders to persons and animals; “‘Kim up, my tulip,’ as the coster said to his donkey when thrashing him with an ash stick.”
  • My uncle - the pawnbroker,—generally used when any person questions the whereabouts of a domestic article. “Oh! only at my uncle’s” is the reply. “Up the spout” has the same meaning. It is worthy of remark that the French call this useful relative “ma tante,” my aunt.
  • Myll - to robbe.
  • Mynt - gold.
  • N. C. - “enough said,” being the initials of nuf ced. A certain theatrical manager spells, it is said, in this style.
  • Nab the rust - to take offence.
  • Nab [nob], a heade.
  • Nab - to catch, to seize; “nab the rust,” to take offence.—Ancient, fourteenth century. See nap.
  • Nabchet - a hat or cap.
  • Nabob - an Eastern prince, a retired Indian official,—hence a slang term for a capitalist. From Nawaub.
  • Nabs - self; my nabs, myself; his nabs, himself.—North Country Cant.
  • Nag - to persistently talk in a scolding manner, after the manner of Mrs. Caudle. Nagging is supposed to be persistent, persevering, passionless scolding.
  • Nail - to steal, or capture; “paid on the nail,” i.e., paid ready money; nailed, taken up, or caught,—probably in allusion to the practice of nailing bad money to the counter. We say, “as dead as a door-nail;” most possibly because of “apt alliteration.” Shakspeare has the expression in Henry IV.—
  • Nair - rain.
  • Nam esclop - a policeman. See esclop.
  • Nam - a man.
  • Namby-pamby - particular, over-nice, effeminate. This was possibly of Pope’s invention, and first applied by him to the affected short-lined verses addressed by Ambrose Phillips to Lord Carteret’s infant children. See Johnson’s Life of Pope.
  • Nammow - a woman; delo nammow, an old woman.
  • Nammus - or namous, to be off, to get away; “let’s nammus, somebody’s coming.” See vamos.
  • Nanny-shop - a disreputable house.
  • Nantee palaver - no conversation, i.e., hold your tongue. Very often in this sense also shortened to nantee only. Originally Lingua Franca, but now general.
  • Nantee - not any, or “I have none.” Nantee also means “shut up!” or “leave off!” Italian, niente, nothing. See dinarly.—Lingua Franca.
  • Nap nix - a person who works at his trade, and occasionally goes on the stage to act minor parts without receiving any pay. The derivation is obvious. See nap and nix, i.e., nichts.
  • Nap one’s bib - to cry, shed tears, or carry one’s point.
  • Nap the regulars - to divide the booty.
  • Nap the teaze - to be privately whipped in prison.
  • Nap - or nab, to take, steal, or receive; “you’ll nap it,” i.e., you will catch a beating.—North; also Old Cant.
  • Nap - or napper, a hat. From “nab,” a hat, cap, or head.—Old Cant.
  • Nap - to break, or rap with a hammer. See knap.—North.
  • Nark - a person in the pay of the police; a common informer; one who gets his living by laying traps for publicans, &c. Sometimes called a “nose.”
  • Nark - to watch, or look after; “nark the titter,” watch the girl.
  • Narp - a shirt.—Scotch.
  • Narrow - mean, sordid.—Scotch. In common slang, dull of comprehension, as distinguished from wide awake.
  • Nase - dronken.
  • Nasty - ill-tempered, cross-grained. “He was very nasty,” i.e., he was ill-humoured.
  • Nation - or tarnation, very, or exceedingly. Corruption of damnation.
  • Natty - pretty, neat, tidy.—Old.
  • Natural - an idiot, a simpleton. Sometimes half-natural.
  • Navigator Scot - baked potatoes all hot.
  • Navigators - taturs,—vulgar pronunciation of potatoes.
  • Navvy - an excavator employed in making railways, canals, &c. Originally slang, but now a recognised term. Short for navigator, a term humorously applied to excavators when their chief work was that of cutting and banking canals, making dykes to rivers, &c.
  • Near - mean and stingy.
  • Neardy - a person in authority over another; master, parent, or foreman.—North.
  • Neat - unmixed with water. “Two half goes of gin, one neat, the other cold,” meaning one as drawn, the other diluted with cold water. The Americans use the word “straight” instead of neat: “I’ll take mine straight.”
  • Neck and crop - entirely, completely; “he chuck’d him neck and crop out of window.”
  • Neck and neck. Horses run neck and neck in a race when they are so perfectly equal that one cannot be said to be before the other.
  • Neck beef - a synonym for coarseness. “As coarse as neck ends of beef.”
  • Neck or nothing - desperate. Originally a steeplechase phrase.
  • Neck - to swallow. Neck-oil, drink of any kind.
  • Neckinger - a cravat. See muckenger.
  • Ned Stokes - the four of spades.—North Hants. See Gentleman’s Magazine for 1791, p. 141.
  • Ned - a guinea. Half-ned, half-a-guinea.
  • Neddy - a considerable quantity, as “a neddy of fruit,” “a neddy of fish,” &c.—Irish slang.
  • Neddy - a donkey. On Sunday, when a costermonger, if at all well to do, takes his family out for an airing in his “shallow,” the donkey is called “Eddard.”
  • Neddy - a life preserver. Possibly contraction of Kennedy, the name of the first man, it is said in St. Giles’s, who had his head broken by a poker.
  • Needful - money, cash; the “one thing needful” for the accomplishment of most pet designs.
  • Needle and thread - bread.
  • Needle - to annoy. To “cop the needle” is to become vexed or annoyed.
  • Needy mizzler - a shabby person; a tramp who runs away without paying for his lodging.
  • Neel - lean.
  • Neergs - greens.
  • Net enin gen - nineteen shillings.
  • Net evif gen - fifteen shillings.
  • Net exis gen - sixteen shillings.
  • Net gen - ten shillings, or half a sovereign.
  • Net nevis gen - seventeen shillings.
  • Net rith gen - thirteen shillings.
  • Net roaf gen - fourteen shillings. It will be seen by the foregoing that the reckoning is more by tens than by “teens.” This is, however, matter of choice, and any one wishing to be considered accomplished in this description of slang, must do as he thinks best—must lead and not be led.
  • Net theg gen - eighteen shillings.
  • Net yanneps - tenpence.
  • Nevele gen - eleven shillings.
  • Nevele yanneps - elevenpence.
  • Never fear - beer.
  • Never trust me - an ordinary phrase with low Londoners, and common in Shakspeare’s time, vide Twelfth Night. It is generally used instead of an oath, calling vengeance on the asseverator, if such-and-such does not come to pass.
  • Nevis gen - seven shillings.
  • Nevis stretch - seven years’ penal servitude.
  • Nevis yanneps - sevenpence.
  • New Dictionary of all the Cant and Flash Languages used by every class of offenders, from a Lully Prigger to a High Tober Gloak, small 8vo, pp. 62.179-.
  • New Dictionary of the Terms, Ancient and Modern, of the Canting Crew in its several tribes of Gypsies, Beggars, Thieves, Cheats, &c., with an addition of some Proverbs, Phrases, Figurative Speeches, &c., by B. E., Gent., 12mo.n. d. 710.]
  • Newgate Knocker - the term given to the lock of hair which costermongers and thieves usually twist back towards the ear. The shape is supposed to resemble the knocker on the prisoners’ door at Newgate—a resemblance that carries a rather unpleasant suggestion to the wearer. Sometimes termed a cobbler’s knot, or cow-lick.
  • Newgate fringe - or frill, the collar of beard worn under the chin; so called from its occupying the position of the rope when Jack Ketch operates. Another name for it is a Tyburn collar.
  • Newmarket - in tossing, when the game is “two out of three,” that is, when he who gains the first two tosses wins. When the first toss is decisive, the game is termed “sudden death.”
  • Nib-cove - a gentleman. Nibsomest cribs, best or gentlemen’s houses.—Beggar’s Cant.
  • Nib-like - gentlemanly.
  • Nibble - to take, or steal. Nibbler, a petty thief.
  • Nibs - self. His nibs, means any one who may be referred to. As, “I told his nibs,” or “stag his nibs.” “Your nibs,” yourself.
  • Nick-nack - a trifle.—Originally Cant.
  • Nick - or Old Nick, the devil.—Scandinavian, Knickar, one of the names of Odin, as the destroying or evil principle.
  • Nick - to hit the mark; “he’s nicked it,” i.e., won his point. Also to steal. To be “out on the nick,” is to be out thieving. Sometimes described as being “on the pinch.”
  • Niggling - trifling, or idling; taking short steps in walking.—North.
  • Night and day - the play.
  • Night-hunter - a poacher.—North. Also a London prostitute. Sometimes in the latter capacity varied to night-hawk.
  • Nightcap - a glass of “warm with” taken the last thing at night.
  • Nil - half; half profits, &c.
  • Nilly-willy - i.e., nill ye, will ye, whether you will or no; a familiar version of the Latin, nolens volens. Generally written now, willy-nilly.
  • Nimming - stealing. Old English, nim, to take. Motherwell, the Scotch poet, thought the old word nim (to snatch or pick up) was derived from nam, nam, the tiny words or cries of an infant, when eating anything which pleases its little palate. A negro proverb has the word:—
  • Nincompoop - a fool, a hen-pecked husband, a “Jerry Sneak.”—Corruption of non compos mentis.
  • Nine Shillings - cool audacity; most probably derived from the French, nonchalance.
  • Nine corns - a pipeful of tobacco.
  • Nines - “dressed up to the nines,” in a showy or recherché manner. Up to the nines, up to the dodges and “wrinkles” of life.
  • Ning-nang - horse-coupers’ term for a worthless thoroughbred.
  • Ninnyhammer - a foolish, ignorant person. Generally shortened to ninny. Ninny is also short for nincompoop.
  • Nip - to steal, to take up quickly. See nap and nib.
  • Nipcheese - a purser.—Old Sea Slang.
  • Nipper - a sharp lad. Originally a superior grade among cut-purses.
  • Nix my dolly - once a very popular slang song, beginning—
  • Nix! the signal word of schoolboys and workpeople to each other that the master, or other person in authority, is approaching.
  • Nix - nothing. German, nichts. See mungarly.
  • Niz-priz - a writ of nisi-prius.—Legal.
  • Nizzie - a fool, a coxcomb.—Old Cant, vide Triumph of Wit.
  • No flies - an emphatic addition made to an assertion for the purpose of giving it weight. It really means “no error” or “no mistake.” Both of them popular; as, “A jolly fine girl, and no flies!”
  • No odds - no matter, of no consequence.—Latimer’s Sermon before Edward VI.
  • No-fly - artful, designing. Term much used among printers, who shorten it to “n.f.”
  • Nob. When the knave of trumps is held at the game of cribbage, the holder counts “one for his nob.”
  • Nob - a person of high position, a “swell,” a nobleman,—of which word it may be an abbreviation, or of nobilis. See snob.
  • Nob - the head.—Pugilistic; “bob a nob,” a shilling a head. Ancient Cant, neb. Nob is an early English word, and is used in the romance of Kynge Alinaunder (thirteenth century) for a head; originally, no doubt, the same as knob.
  • Nobba saltee - ninepence. Lingua Franca, nove soldi.
  • Nobba - nine. Italian, nove; Spanish, nova,—the b and v being interchangeable, as in sabe and savvey. Slang introduced by the “organ-grinders” from Italy.
  • Nobbing cheat - the gallows.—Old Cant.
  • Nobbing - collecting money; “what nobbings?” i.e., how much have3 you got or collected from the crowd? This term is much used by “buskers.”
  • Nobble - to cheat, to overreach; to discover. In the racing world, to “nobble” a horse, is to “get at,” and lame or poison him.
  • Nobbler - a blow on the nob, a finishing stroke; “that’s a nobbler for him,” i.e., a settler.—Pugilistic.
  • Nobbler - a confederate of thimble-riggers and card-sharpers, who plays earnestly, as if a stranger to the “rig,” and thus draws unsuspecting persons into a game. The same as a “bonnet” or “bearer-up.” In the North of England, a low, cunning lawyer.
  • Nobby - or nobbish, fine or showy; nobbily, showily. See snob for derivation.
  • Noli-me-tangere - the Scotch fiddle, or other contagious disease.
  • Non-com - a non-commissioned officer in the army.
  • Noom - the moon.
  • Nooning - an interval for rest and refreshment, taken at midday by travellers in hot countries.
  • Norfolk-Howards - bugs; a person named Ephraim Bug some few years back advertised, that for the future he would call himself by the more aristocratic appellation of Norfolk Howard.
  • North country compliment - to give or offer anything that is not wanted by either giver or receiver is to pass a north country compliment.
  • North - cunning. The inhabitants of Yorkshire and the Northern counties are supposed, like the canny Scots, to get the better of other people in dealing; hence the phrase, “He’s too far north for me,” i.e., too cunning for me to deal with.
  • Norwicher - more than one’s share; said of a person who leaves less than half the contents of a tankard for his companion. In what way the term originated, or why Norwich was selected before any other city is not known. Most likely from the slanders which the inhabitants of one town are always inventing about their neighbours.
  • Nos-rap - a parson.
  • Nose and chin - a winn,—ancient cant for a penny.
  • Nose in the manger - to put one’s, to sit down to eat. To “put on the nose-bag” is to eat hurriedly, or to eat while continuing at work.
  • Nose out of joint - to put one’s; to supplant, supersede, or mortify a person by excelling him.
  • Nose ’em - or fogus, tobacco. Nose ’em is but a contraction of the rhyming slang, which see.
  • Nose-bag - a visitor at a watering-place, or house of refreshment, who carries his own victuals. Term applied by waiters.
  • Nose-ender - a straight blow delivered full on the nasal promontory.
  • Nose - a thief who turns informer; a paid spy; generally called a policeman’s nose; “on the nose,” on the look-out.
  • Nose - to give information to the police, to turn approver.
  • Nose - “to pay through the nose,” to pay an extravagant price.
  • Nosegent - a nunne.
  • Noser my knacker - tobacco.
  • Noser - a hard blow, leading to a bloody or contused nose.—Pugilistic.
  • Notes and Queries. The invaluable Index to this most useful periodical may be consulted with advantage by the seeker after etymologies of Slang and Cant words.
  • Notional - imaginative, full of ideas. Used in America to express a wife’s imaginations with regard to her husband’s doings.
  • Nouse - comprehension, perception.—Old, apparently from the Greek, νοῦς. Gaelic and Irish, nos, knowledge, perception.
  • Nowhere - horses not placed in a race—that are neither first, second, nor third—are said to be nowhere, especially when this lack of position happens to favourites.
  • Number of his mess - when a man dies in the army or navy, he is said to “lose the number of his mess.”
  • Nut-cut - roguish, mischievous. A good-natured term of reproach.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Nut - the head, in pugilistic slang. Used as an exclamation at a fight, it means to strike on the head. In tossing it is a direction to hide the head; to be “off one’s nut,” to be crazed or idiotic.
  • Nuts - to be nuts on anything or person is to be pleased with or fond of it or him; a self-satisfied man is said to be nuts on himself. Nutted, taken in by a man who professed to be nuts on you.
  • Nux - the “plant,” or object in view. “Stoll up to the nux?” “Do you fully comprehend what is wanted?”—North Country Cant.
  • O. K. - a matter to be o. k. (oll korrect, i.e., all correct), must be on the “square,” and perfectly in order. This is an Americanism, and is derived from the initials o. k., said to have been marked on a document by an official to signify that all was right and proper.
  • O. P. Publishers’ reply to an inquiry for a book or paper that is out of print.
  • Oaf - a lumbering, awkward fellow.
  • Oak - the outer door of college rooms; to “sport one’s oak,” to be “not at home” to visitors. See sport.—University.
  • Oar - “to put in an oar,” to interfere.
  • Oat-stealer - an ostler.
  • Oat - an atom. Probable corruption of iota, or perhaps from the small size of an oat. “I never got an oat of it,” I never received the smallest portion.
  • Oats and barley - Charley.
  • Oats and chaff - a footpath.
  • Obfuscated - intoxicated.
  • Obliquitous - oblivious of distinction between right and wrong.—American.
  • Obstropolous - Cockney corruption of obstreperous.
  • Occabot - tobacco; “tib fo occabot,” bit of tobacco.
  • Ochre - money, generally applied to gold, for a very obvious reason.
  • Od rot it (Colman’s Broad Grins), drat it, od’s blood, and all other exclamations commencing with od, are nothing but softened or suppressed oaths. Od is a corruption of god, and drat of rot.
  • Odd man - a man who trains in company with a boat’s crew, so that in the event of any one falling ill the seat will be fairly occupied.
  • Off and on - vacillating; “an off and on kind of a chap,” one who is always undecided.
  • Off at the head - crazy.—Oxfordshire.
  • Off one’s chump. To be crazy is to be off one’s chump; this is varied by the word chumpy. A mild kind of lunatic is also said to be “off his head,” which means of course exactly the same as the first phrase.
  • Off one’s feed. To be unable to eat is to be off one’s feed. Originally stable slang.
  • Off the horn - a term used in reference to very hard steak, which is fancifully said to be off the horn.
  • Office - “to give the office,” to give a hint dishonestly to a confederate, thereby enabling him to win a game or bet, the profits being shared. Also in sporting phraseology to give any information worth having.
  • Offish - distant, not familiar. Corruption of stand-offish.
  • Ogging ot tekram - going to market.
  • Ogle - to look, or reconnoitre.
  • Ogles - eyes.—Old Cant. French, œil.
  • Oil of palms - or palm oil, money.
  • Ointment - medical student slang for butter.
  • Old Lady in Threadneedle Street - the Bank of England.
  • Old boots - a simile as general in its application as it is irrelevant. “Like old boots” means like anything. “As cheeky as old boots;” “As quick as old boots,” seem a little more reasonable, new boots being somewhat unfavourable to speedy locomotion.
  • Old dog - a knowing blade, an experienced person. Butler uses the phrase, Hudibras, part ii. canto iii. 208, where it was said of Sidrophel, “And was old dog at physiology.” An Irish proverb says, “old dog for hard road,” meaning that it requires an experienced person to execute a difficult undertaking.
  • Old gentleman - the devil. Also a card almost imperceptibly longer than the rest of the pack, used by sharpers for the purpose of cheating.
  • Old gooseberry (see gooseberry), Old Harry (Old Hairy), Old Scratch, all synonyms for the devil.
  • Old gown - smuggled tea.
  • Old horse - salt junk, or beef.—Sea.
  • Old hoss - a term of endearment, originally an Americanism, but now in common use here among friends.
  • Old man - in American merchant ships, the master. The phrase is becoming common in English ships.
  • Old salt - a thorough sailor.
  • Oliver - the moon; “oliver don’t widdle,” i.e., the moon does not shine. Nearly obsolete.
  • Ollapod - a country apothecary. From George Coleman’s comedy of The Poor Gentleman.
  • Omee - a master or landlord; “the omee of the carsey’s a nark on the pitch,” the master of the house will not let us perform. Italian, uomo, a man; “uomo della casa,” the master of the house. Latin, homo.—Lingua Franca.
  • Omnium gatherum - an indiscriminate collection of articles; a numerous and by no means select assemblage.
  • On doog - no good.
  • On the fly - getting one’s living by thieving or other illegitimate means; the phrase is applied to men the same as “on the loose” is to women. On the fly also means on the drink.
  • On the loose - obtaining a living by prostitution; in reality, on the streets. The term is applied to females only, excepting in the case of “sprees,” when men carousing are sometimes said to be on the loose.
  • On the nose - on the watch or look-out. See nose.
  • On the shelf - transported. With old maids it has another and very different meaning.
  • On the tiles - out all night “on the spree,” or carousing,—in allusion to the London cats on their amatory excursions. See caterwauling.
  • On - “to be on,” in public-house or vulgar parlance, is synonymous with getting “tight” or tipsy; “it’s St. Monday with him, I see he’s on again,” i.e., drunk as usual, or on the road to it. “I’m on” also expresses a person’s acceptance of an offered bet. To get on a horse or a man is to make bets on it or him. “Try it on,” a defiant challenge to a person.
  • One in ten - a parson. In allusion to the tithing system.
  • One-er - that which stands for one, a blow that requires no repeating. In The Old Curiosity Shop, the “Marchioness” tells Dick Swiveller that “her missus is a one-er”—there a variation of “stunner.”
  • Onion - a watch-seal.
  • Open the ball - to commence anything.
  • Oracle - “to work the oracle,” to plan, manœuvre, to succeed by a wily stratagem.
  • Orate - an Americanism, which means, to speak in public, or make an oration.
  • Organ-grinder - an itinerant who is supposed to “grind” music out of a barrel-organ.
  • Originator - an inventor of plans for the formation of joint-stock companies. The originator submits his schemes to the promoter, who accepts or rejects them.
  • Orinoko (pronounced orinoker), a poker.
  • Otter - eightpence. Italian, otto, eight.—Lingua Franca.
  • Ottomy - a thin man, a skeleton, a dwarf. Vulgar pronunciation of anatomy. Shakspeare has atomy.
  • Out and out - prime, excellent, of the first quality; beyond measure. Out-and-outer, one who is of an out-and-out description, “up” to anything.
  • Out of collar - out of place,—in allusion to servants. When in place, the term is in collar. Most likely from “head in the collar,” said of horses when hard at work.
  • Out on the loose - “on the spree,” in search of adventures. See on the loose.
  • Out on the pickaroon. Picarone is Spanish for a thief, but this phrase does not necessarily mean anything dishonest, but is often used to mean readiness for anything in the way of excitement. It also means to be in search of anything profitable, without much care as to honesty or otherwise.
  • Out - a dram glass. These glasses are two-out (half-quartern), three-out, and four-out. An habitué of a gin-shop, desirous of treating a brace of friends, calls for “a quartern of gin and three outs,” by which he means three glasses which will exactly contain the quartern. Really, the word glasses is understood. The man actually means, and one or more three-out glasses.
  • Out - in round games, where several play, and there can be but one loser, the winners in succession stand out, while the others play off.
  • Outcry - an auction.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Outing - a day’s holiday. The Oxford and Cambridge boatrace, the Derby, and other events of a like character, are each said to be simply excuses to the Cockneys for a day’s outing.
  • Outsider - a person who does not habitually bet, or is not admitted to the “ring,” a duffer or good-for-nothing fellow. Also, a horse whose name does not appear among the “favourites.”—Sporting.
  • Over the stile - sent for trial.
  • Over! or over the left, i.e., the left shoulder—a common exclamation of disbelief in what is being narrated,—sometimes implying that the results of a proposed plan will be over the left, i.e., in the wrong direction, loss instead of gain.
  • Over - in cricket, four balls delivered from one end to another. After an over has been bowled, the fielders, wicket-keepers, &c., change ends, and the bowling goes on from the recent batting wicket. A maiden-over is an over from which no runs are obtained. Four balls is the regulation number to an over in all important matches; but little clubs and practice elevens suit their own convenience.
  • Overs - the odd money remaining after the daily accounts are made up at a banking-house,—usually divided amongst the clerks. See menavelings and shorts.
  • Owned - a slang expression used by the ultra-Evangelicals when a popular preacher makes many converts. The converts themselves are called his “seals.”
  • O’clock - “like one o’clock,” a favourite comparison with the lower orders, implying briskness; otherwise “like winkin’.” “To know what’s o’clock” is to be wide-awake, sharp, and experienced.
  • P. P. - an expression much in use among racing men, which means play or pay, i.e., either go on with the arrangement or forfeit the money. The following is a law of the turf on the subject:—
  • Pac - a cap.
  • Pack - to go away; “now, then, pack off there,” i.e., be off, don’t stop here any longer.—Old. “Make speede to flee, be packing awaie.”—Baret’s Alvearie, 1580. Contraction of “pack up and be off.” Sometimes the term “sent packing” is used to indicate a sudden discharge, as of a servant or mistress.
  • Packets - hoaxing lies. Sometimes used as an exclamation of incredulity.—North.
  • Pad the hoof - to walk; “padding the hoof, on the high toby,” tramping or walking on the high road.
  • Pad - the highway; also a tramp or itinerant musician.
  • Pad - “to stand pad,” to beg with a small piece of paper pinned on the breast, inscribed, “I am starving.”
  • Padding-ken - or crib, tramps’ and boys’ lodging-house.
  • Padding - the light articles in the monthly magazines, of which the serial stories are the main attraction. Publishers of magazines seem to think that if they get a serial story from a popular novelist they can pack any amount of rubbish into the remaining pages. This is not so in America, as magazines like the Atlantic Monthly and the Overland Monthly show.
  • Paddle - to go or run away.—American.
  • Paddy Quick - thick, or a stick.
  • Paddy - Pat, or Paddy Whack, an Irishman. A nickname of Patrick.
  • Paddy’s goose - the sign of the White Swan, a noted flash public-house in the east of London, supposed to be Paddy’s idea of a goose.
  • Paddy’s land - “ould Ireland.”
  • Padre - a clergyman. From the Portuguese.
  • Pal - a partner, acquaintance, friend, an accomplice. Gipsy, a brother.
  • Palampo - a quilt or bed-cover. Probably from Palanpore, a town in India, renowned for its manufacture of chintz counterpanes.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Palaver - to ask, or talk—deceitfully or otherwise, as occasion requires; “palaver to his nibs for a shant of bivvy,” ask the master for a pot of beer. Nantee palaver (pronounced perlarver), cease talking. In this sense used by tramps. Derived from the Portuguese.
  • Pallyard - a borne beggar [who counterfeits sickness, or incurable sores. They are mostly Welshmen, Harman says.]
  • Palm oil - or palm soap, money; also, a bribe.
  • Palm - to impose upon. “You can’t palm that off upon me,” is said when an intending purchaser is suspicious of the quality of the article offered.
  • Palmer - a swindler who used to visit shops under the pretence of collecting harp halfpence. To induce shopkeepers to search for them, he offered thirteenpence for one shilling’s-worth, when many persons were silly enough to empty a large quantity of copper on their counters. The palmer, a proficient with his fingers, generally contrived to conceal some before he left the shop.
  • Pam - the knave of clubs at the game of loo; or, in street phraseology, while the “Judicious Bottleholder” was alive, Lord Palmerston.
  • Pannikin - a small pan.
  • Pannum-bound - said of a pauper or prisoner when his food is stopped. Pannum-struck, very hungry, starving.
  • Pannum - food, bread.—Lingua Franca, pannen; Latin, panis; Ancient Cant, yannam.
  • Panny - a house—public or otherwise; “flash panny,” a public-house used by thieves; panny-men, housebreakers. Panny, in thieves’ cant, also signifies a burglary.
  • Pantalettes - the drawers worn in America by little girls.
  • Pants - American term for trousers. Here used to represent the long drawers worn underneath.
  • Panupetaston - a loose overcoat with wide sleeves, now out of fashion.—Oxford University.
  • Paper-Worker - a wandering vendor of street literature; one who sells ballads, dying speeches, and confessions, sometimes termed a “running stationer.”
  • Paper-maker - a rag-gatherer, or gutter-raker—similar to the chiffonnier of Paris. Also, a man who tramps through the country, and collects rags on the pretence that he is an agent to a paper mill.
  • Parachute - a parasol.
  • Paradise - French slang for the gallery of a theatre, “up amongst the gods,” which see.
  • Param - mylke.
  • Parish lantern - the moon.
  • Parish prig - or parish bull, a parson.—Thieves’ cant.
  • Parker. High and Low Life, A View of Society in, being the Adventures in England, Ireland, &c., of Mr. G. Parker, A Stage Itinerant, 2 vols. in 1, thick 12mo.Printed for the Author, 1781.
  • Parker’s (Geo.) Life’s Painter of Variegated Characters, with a Dictionary of Cant Language and Flash Songs, to which is added a Dissertation on Freemasonry, portrait, 8vo.1789.
  • Parney - rain; “dowry of parney,” a quantity of rain. Anglo-Indian slang from the Hindoo, pani, water; Gipsy, pane. Old Indian officers always call brandy-and-water “brandy pawnee.”
  • Parson Trulliber - a rude, vulgar, country clergyman, devoted to agricultural pursuits; the race is most probably now extinct. From the pig-feeding and pig-headed parson in Joseph Andrews.
  • Parson - a signpost. Common term in the north, where they say that the parson points, but does not lead. This is given, as the lawyers say, “without prejudice.”
  • Parson’s nose - the hind part of a goose—a savoury mouthful. Sometimes called the Pope’s nose.
  • Parter - a free, liberal person. Sometimes called a “good parter.” Any one who looks twice at his money, or who doesn’t pay it at all, is called a “bad parter.”
  • Pash - to strike; now corrupted to bash, which see.—Shakspeare.
  • Paste-horn - the nose. Shoemakers nickname any shopmate with a large nose “old paste-horn,” from the shape of the horn in which they keep their paste.
  • Paste - to beat, to thrash vigorously.
  • Pasteboard - a visiting card; “to pasteboard a person,” to drop a card at an absent person’s house.
  • Pasty - a bookbinder.
  • Patch. This old English term of reproach, long obsolete in polite language, may yet occasionally be heard in sentences like these:—“Why, he’s not a patch upon him,” i.e., he is not to be compared with him; “one’s not a patch on the other,” &c. Shakspeare uses the word in the sense of a paltry fellow:—
  • Patent coats - the first coat, with the pockets inside the skirt, were so termed.
  • Patrico - a priest.
  • Patricos kinchen - a pygge. [A satirical hit at the church, patrico meaning a parson or priest, and kinchen his little boy or girl.]
  • Patter-crib - a flash house.
  • Patter - to talk. Patter flash, to speak the language of thieves, talk cant.
  • Patteran - a gipsy trail, made by throwing down a handful of grass occasionally, especially where they have turned off from the main road.
  • Pattern - a common vulgar phrase for “patent.”
  • Paul Pry - an inquisitive person. From the well-known comedy.
  • Paw - the hand. Paw-cases, gloves. Boots are in some parts of Ireland called “gloves for the feet.”
  • Pay-away - “go on with your story, or discourse.” From the nautical phrase pay-away, meaning to allow a rope to run out of a vessel. When the hearer considers the story quite long enough, he, carrying out the same metaphor, exclaims “hold on.”
  • Pay - to deliver. “Pay that letter to Mr. So-and-so” is a very common direction to a Chinese servant.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Peach - an informer against omnibus conductors and drivers, one especially hired by the proprietors to count passengers and stoppages. The term is in frequent use amongst omnibus-men. This is about the only instance known of the verb being used as a substantive.
  • Peach - to inform against or betray. Webster states that the word “impeach” is now mostly used, and that peach is confined principally to the conversation of thieves and the lower orders. The word was originally “impeach,” though it was never until lately used in the same way as its abridgment.
  • Peacock horse - amongst undertakers, is one with a showy tail and mane, which holds its head up well. Peacocky refers to an objectionable high action among racehorses.
  • Peaking - remnants of cloth. Term amongst drapers and cloth warehousemen.
  • Peaky - sickly, delicate.
  • Pec - a term used by the Eton boys for money, an abbreviation, of course, of the Latin pecunia.
  • Peck-alley - the throat.
  • Peck - food; “peck and boose,” meat and drink.—Lincolnshire. Ancient Cant, pek, meat.
  • Peck - to eat voraciously. A hearty eater is generally called “a rare pecker.” Originally peck was to eat delicately, “but we have changed all that now.”
  • Pecker - “keep your pecker up,” i.e., don’t get down in the mouth,—literally, keep your beak or head well up, “never say die!”
  • Peckham - a facetious usage of the name of this district, implying a dinner; “all holiday at Peckham,” i.e., nothing to eat.
  • Peckish - hungry. Old Cant, peckidge, meat.
  • Peel - to strip, or disrobe.—Sporting.
  • Peeler - a policeman; so called from Sir Robert Peel (see bobby); properly applied to the Irish Constabulary rather than the Metropolitan Police, the former force having been established by Sir Robert Peel.
  • Peepers - eyes; “painted peepers,” eyes bruised or blackened from a blow.—Pugilistic.
  • Peery - suspicious, or inquisitive.
  • Peg - brandy and soda-water. A peg by which to pull oneself up again. Also, a shilling.—Scotch.
  • Peg - to drink frequently; generally used in reference to devotees of “S. and B.”
  • Peg - “to peg away,” to strike, run, or drive away; “peg a hack,” to drive a cab; “to take him down a peg or two,” to check an arrogant or conceited person,—possibly derived from the use of peg tankards. See pin.
  • Peggers - people who constantly stimulate themselves by means of brandy and soda-water.
  • Pegge’s (Samuel) Anecdotes of the English Language, chiefly regarding the Local Dialect of London and Environs, 8vo.1803-41.
  • Pegtops - the loose trousers in fashion some years back, small at the ankle and swelling upwards, in imitation of the Zouave costume.
  • Pen and ink - a stink.
  • Penang-lawyer - a long cane, sometimes carried by a footman. Penang-lawyers are also bludgeons which are carried by all classes in Singapore.
  • Penny dreadfuls - an expressive term for those penny publications which depend more upon sensationalism than upon merit, artistic or literary, for success.
  • Penny starver - a penny roll. See buster.
  • Pensioner - a man of the most degraded condition who lives off the miserable earnings of a prostitute. There is an unmentionable prefix to the word Pensioner. See Ponce.
  • Pen’orth - value for money; as, “I’ll have my pen’orth,”—given irrespective of the actual amount.
  • Pepper-boxes - the buildings of the Royal Academy and National5 Gallery in Trafalgar Square. The name was first given by a wag, in allusion to the cupolas erected by Wilkins, the architect, upon the roof, which, from their form and awkward appearance, at a distance suggest to the stranger the fact of their being enlarged pepper-boxes. See boilers.
  • Pepper - to thrash, or strike.—Pugilistic, but used by Shakspeare.—Eastern Counties.
  • Perch - or roost, a resting-place; “I’m off to perch,” i.e., I am going to bed.
  • Perform - to carry out a design, generally a dishonest one. To “perform on a flat” is to cozen a fool.
  • Perkin - beer. Dandy or affected shortening of the widely-known firm, Barclay and Perkins.
  • Perpendicular - a lunch taken standing-up at a tavern bar. It is usual to call it lunch, often as the perpendicular may take the place of dinner.
  • Perry’s (William) London Guide and Stranger’s Safeguard against Cheats, Swindlers, and Pickpockets, by a Gentleman who has made the Police of the Metropolis an object of inquiry twenty-two years (no wonder when the author was in prison a good portion of that time!)1818.
  • Persuaders - spurs.
  • Pesky - an intensitive expression, implying annoyance; as, “A pesky, troublesome fellow.” Corruption of pestilent; or, Irish, peasgach, rough, rugged. Pesky has now become more American than English. Pesky Ike is the name of a popular American drama.
  • Peter Funk - an American term for a spurious auction or “knock-out.”
  • Peter Grievous - a miserable, melancholy fellow; a croaker.
  • Peter - a bundle, or valise. Also, a cash-box.
  • Peter - a partridge.—Poacher’s term.
  • Peter - to run short, or give out.—American.
  • Petticoat - a woman.
  • Pewter - money, like “tin,” used generally to signify silver; also a tankard. “Let me have my beer in the pewter,” is a common request to waiters, made by “City” men, and others who affect habits of rude health. The pots for which rowing men contend are often called pewters.
  • Philadelphia-lawyer - a Transatlantic limb of the law considered to be the very acme of acuteness. Sailors relate many stories of his artful abilities, none, however, short enough to find a place here. The phrase, “Enough to puzzle a Philadelphia-lawyer,” means, enough to puzzle the sharpest man in the world.
  • Philander - to ramble on incoherently; to write discursively and weakly.
  • Philip - a policeman. The word is loudly given as a signal that the police are approaching.
  • Philiper - a thief’s accomplice, one who stands by and looks out for the police while the others commit a robbery, and who calls out “Philip!” when any one approaches.
  • Philistine - a policeman. The German students call all townspeople not5 of their body “Philister,” as ours say “cads.” The departing student says, mournfully, in one of the Burschenlieder—
  • Phillip’s New World of Words, folio.1696.
  • Physog - or phiz, the face. Swift uses the latter word. Corruption of physiognomy.
  • Picaroon - a pirate or buccaneer originally; now an ordinary thief.
  • Piccadilly butchers - a satirical name applied by the crowd to the regiment of Horse Guards, known as the “Royal Blues,” from their savage onslaught upon the crowd on the occasion of the arrest of Sir Francis Burdett at his house in Piccadilly, by order of the Speaker of the House of Commons. See Cheesemongers.
  • Piccadilly weepers - long carefully combed-out whiskers of the Dundreary fashion.
  • Pick-me-up - a revivifying drink taken after a debauch; a tonic.
  • Pick - “to pick oneself up,” to recover after a beating or illness, sometimes varied to “pick up one’s crumbs;” “to pick a man up,” “to do,” or cheat him.
  • Pickaninny - a young child is thus styled by the West Indian negroes. The word is now completely naturalized among sailors and water-side people in England.
  • Pickering’s (F.) Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases which have been supposed to be peculiar to the United States of America, to which is prefixed an Essay on the present state of the English Language in the United States, 8vo.Boston, 1816.
  • Pickers - the hands.—Shakspeare.
  • Pickle - a miserable or comical position; “he is in a sad pickle,” said of any one who has fallen into the gutter, or got besmeared. “A pickle herring,” a comical fellow, a merry-andrew.—Old. Also, a mischievous boy; “what a pickle he is, to be sure!” Derived from his always getting into a pickle, or mess.
  • Pickles! gammon; also a jeering and insulting exclamation.
  • Picture of the Fancy - 12mo.18—.
  • Piece - a contemptuous term for a woman; a strumpet.—Shakspeare. Not always objectionable nowadays. A “barber’s clerk” does not object to hear his sweetheart or wife called “a nice piece;” and gentlemen of the counter-jumping fraternity describe their “young ladies” as “nice pieces of goods.”
  • Pig and Tinder-box - the vulgar rendering of the well-known tavern sign, “Elephant and Castle.”
  • Pig-headed - obstinate.
  • Pig - a mass of metal,—so called from its being poured in a fluid state from a sow, which see.—Workman’s term.
  • Pig - a policeman; an informer. The word is now almost exclusively applied by London thieves to a plain-clothes man, or a “nose.”
  • Pig - a pressman in a printing office. See donkey.
  • Pig - or sow’s baby, a sixpence.
  • Pig - to live in a crowded, filthy manner. The lower orders of Irish are said to pig together. A suggestive, if not elegant, expression.
  • Pigeon-English - the English spoken by the natives of Canton and other parts of China.
  • Pigeon-flying - or bluey cracking, breaking into empty houses and stealing lead.
  • Pigeon - a gullible or soft person. The French cant, or Argot, has the word pigeon, dupe—“pechon, peschon de ruby, apprenti gueux, enfant (sans doute dérobé)”. The vagabonds and brigands of Spain also used the word in their Germania, or robbers’ language, palomo (pigeon), ignorant, simple. In the sporting world sharps and flats are often called “rooks and pigeons” respectively—sometimes “spiders and flies.”
  • Pigeon - business, simply the Chinese pronunciation of the English word.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Pigeon’s milk - an imaginary fluid for which boys and simpletons are frequently sent on the 1st of April.
  • Pig’s eye - the ace of diamonds in cards.
  • Pig’s whisper - a low or inaudible whisper; also a short space of time, synonymous with “cockstride,” i.e., cock’s tread.
  • Pike it - is said as a hasty and contemptuous, if not angry, dismissal, “if you don’t like it, take a short stick and pike it.” This is but a form of the attempts at rhyming smartness common in London.
  • Pike - a turnpike; “to bilk a pike,” to cheat the keeper of the toll-gate. Mr. Tony Weller makes many amusing remarks on pikes and pike-keepers. Since the first edition of this work was published, pikes and pike-keepers have departed from amongst us, so far as London and its immediate vicinity are concerned.
  • Pike - to run, to be off with speed.
  • Pikey - a tramp or gipsy. A pikey-cart is in various parts of the country5 one of those habitable vehicles suggestive of a wandering life. Possibly the term has reference to one who constantly uses the pike, or turnpike road.
  • Pile - a sum of money; generally the whole of a man’s private means. A term originally peculiar to Californian miners, in reference to their accumulated dust and nuggets. American gamblers speak of “putting all the pile on” when they fancy anything very much. “To go the whole pile” runs level with our sporting phrase, “To go a raker.”
  • Pill-box - a doctor’s carriage.
  • Pill - a doctor.—Military. Pill-driver, a peddling apothecary.
  • Pill - to blackball a man at a club. Sometimes a man who is blackballed is described as having received too much medicine.
  • Pinch - to steal or cheat; also, to catch, or apprehend.
  • Pinchbeck - inferior, deteriorated. Anything pretending to more than its proper value is said to be pinchbeck.
  • Pink - the acme of perfection. The scarlet garb worn in the hunting-field.
  • Pink - to stab, or pierce. In the days of rapier-wearing a professed duellist was said to be “a regular pinker and driller.”
  • Pinnel - or pennel,—corruption of penal servitude. As, “four-year pinnel.”
  • Pinner-up - a seller of old songs, pinned against a wall or framed canvas. Formerly many of these street salesmen carried on their little “paper trade” in London. There are but one or two now left.
  • Pinnurt pots - turnip tops.
  • Pins - legs.
  • Pipe - to follow or dog a person; to watch, to notice.
  • Pipe - to shed tears, or bewail; “pipe one’s eye.”—Sea term.
  • Pipe - “to put one’s pipe out,” to traverse his plans, “to take a rise” out of him. When any one meets with a rebuff or a sharp answer, he is often told to “put that in his pipe and smoke it,” i.e., to digest it carefully.
  • Piper - a broken-winded hack horse.
  • Piper - a person employed by an omnibus proprietor to act as a spy on the conductor.
  • Pipkin - the stomach,—properly, an earthen round-bottomed pot—Norwich.
  • Pips - the marks, no matter of what suit, on playing cards. The ace is often called “single pip.”
  • Pit - a breast-pocket.
  • Pitch and fill - Bill,—vulgar shortening for William.
  • Pitch into - to fight; “pitch into him, Bill,” i.e., give him a thrashing.
  • Pitch the fork - to tell a pitiful tale.
  • Pitch the nob - prick the garter, which see.
  • Pitch - a fixed locality where a patterer can hold forth to a gaping multitude for at least some few minutes continuously; “to do a pitch in the drag,” to perform in the street. An itinerant is said to “make a pitch” whenever he attempts to do any business.
  • Pitch - to go to bed for less than the ordinary period. Journeymen bakers, and others whose work is disjointed, call any short interval of sleep a pitch. Probably from the action.
  • Place - first, second, or third position in a race. Sometimes a place is called a “situation” or a “shop.”
  • Place - to name the first three horses in a race. This is the duty of the judge, who sees nothing of the race but the finish. Sometimes an official will place more than the first three, but this in no way interferes with the meaning of the word as generally received. To run “nowhere” is to be unplaced.
  • Plant - a dodge, a preconcerted swindle; a position in the street to sell from. All bearings-up, bonnetings, and such like arrangements, are the results of preconcerted schemes or plants.
  • Plant - a hidden store of money or variables. To “spring a plant” is to unearth another person’s hoard.
  • Plant - to mark a person out for plunder or robbery; to conceal or hide money, &c.—Old Cant. In the sense of conceal, there is a similar word in Argot, planquer.
  • Plates of meat - the feet.
  • Platform - a standpoint in an argument, a statement of political or general opinion. “Home rule’s my platform!” Originally American, but now general.
  • Play - to strike for higher wages, to be out of work.—North.
  • Plebs - a term used to stigmatize a tradesman’s son at Westminster School. Latin, plebs, the vulgar.
  • Plough the deep - to go to sleep.
  • Plough. To be ploughed is to fail to pass an examination. About twenty years ago “pluck,” the word then used, began to be superseded by plough. It is said to have arisen from a man who could not supply the examiner with any quotation from Scripture, until at last he blurted out, “And the ploughers ploughed on my back, and made long furrows.”—University.
  • Ploughed - drunk.
  • Pluck - courage, valour, stoutness. See following.
  • Pluck - the heart, liver, and lungs of an animal,—all that is plucked away in connexion with the windpipe, from the chest of a sheep or hog.
  • Pluck - to turn back at a University examination. The supposed origin of pluck is, that when, on degree day, the proctor, after having read the name of a candidate for a degree, walks down the hall and back, it is to give any creditor the opportunity of plucking his sleeve, and informing him of the candidate’s being in debt.
  • Plucked un - a stout or brave fellow; “he’s a rare plucked un,” i.e., he dares face anything.
  • Plum-cash - prime cost.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Plum - £100,000, usually applied to the dowry of a rich heiress, to a legacy, or to a sum made in business or by a lucky speculation.
  • Plummy - round, sleek, jolly, or fat; excellent, very good, first-rate.
  • Plumper - a single vote at an election, not a “split ticket.”
  • Plunder - a common word in the horse trade to express profit. Also an5 American term for baggage, luggage. In Lower Canada the French packmen call luggage “butin.”
  • Plunger - a heavy cavalry-man.—Military slang.
  • Plutocracy - the wealthy classes. The Manchester merchants are often termed a millocracy, and words of a similar character are mobocracy and moneyocracy.
  • Pocket-pistol - a dram-flask.
  • Pocket - to put up with. A man who does not resent an affront is said to pocket it.
  • Podgy - drunk; dumpy, short, and fat.
  • Pogram - a Dissenter, a fanatic, formalist, or humbug. So called from a well-known enthusiast of this name.
  • Poke. “Come, none of your poking fun at me,” i.e., you must not laugh at me.
  • Poke - a bag, or sack; “to buy a pig in a poke,” to purchase anything without seeing it. Poke was originally a pocket. Shakspeare says—
  • Poker. “By the holy poker and the tumbling Tom!” an Irish oath.
  • Pokers - or silver pokers, the Bedels of the Vice-Chancellor, who carry silver maces, and accompany him through the streets. They are also officers of his court.—University.
  • Poky - confined or cramped; “that corner is poky and narrow.” Housewives describe a small uncomfortable room as “a poky hole.” Saxon, poke, a sack.
  • Policeman - a fly—more especially the kind known as “blue bottle.” Also, among the dangerous classes, a man who is unworthy of confidence, a sneak or mean fellow.
  • Polish off - to finish off anything quickly—a dinner, for instance; also to finish off an adversary.—Pugilistic.
  • Poll parrot - a talkative, gossiping woman. A term much used about Ratcliff Highway.
  • Poll - a female of unsteady character; “polled up,” means living with a woman in a state of unmarried impropriety. Also, if a costermonger sees one of his friends walking with a strange woman, he will say to him on the earliest opportunity, “I saw yer when yer was polled up.”
  • Poll - at Cambridge, the “ordinary degree” candidates for the B.A. Examination, who do not aspire to the “Honours” list. From the Greek, οἱ πόλλοι, “the many.”
  • Poll - or polling, one thief robbing another of part of the booty. In use in ancient times, vide Hall’s Union, 1548.
  • Poll - to beat or distance, as in a race; to utterly vanquish in competition. Term much used by printers.
  • Polony - Cockney shortening and vulgar pronunciation of Bologna (sausage). The sausages which are sold under the name of polonies have, however, no nearer connexion with Bologna sausages than that of the word’s derivation.
  • Pompadours - the Fifty-sixth Regiment of Foot in the British army.
  • Ponce - a degraded man who lives upon a woman’s prostitution. Low-class East-end thieves even will “draw the line” at ponces, and object to their presence in the boozing-kens.
  • Pond - or herring-pond, the sea; so called by those who were sent across it at the national expense.
  • Ponge - or pongelow, beer, half-and-half; the term is also used as a verb, as in the Cockney phrase, “let’s pongelow, shall we?”
  • Pony - twenty-five pounds.—Sporting.
  • Poona - a sovereign. Corruption of “pound;” or from the Lingua Franca.
  • Pop the question - to make an offer of marriage.
  • Pop - to pawn or pledge; “to pop up the spout,” to pledge at the pawnbroker’s,—an allusion to the spout up which the brokers send the ticketed articles until such times as they shall be redeemed. The spout runs from the ground-floor to the wareroom at the top of the house. Ginger-beer is also known as pop.
  • Pope o’ Rome - home.
  • Pope’s nose - the extremity of the rump of a roast fowl, sometimes devilled as a dainty for epicures. Also known as “the parson’s nose.”
  • Pope’s-eye - a peculiar little part in a leg of mutton, much esteemed by lovers of that joint.
  • Poppelars - porrage.
  • Pops - pocket-pistols.
  • Porterhouse steak - an American term for a steak which contains a small bone. In the States, tender-loin steaks are much eaten. These are from what we call the undercut of the sirloin.
  • Portrait - a sovereign. Modification of “Queen’s picture.”
  • Posa - a treasurer. A corruption of “purser,” the name given to the treasurer in the large Anglo-Chinese mercantile establishments.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Posh - a halfpenny, or trifling coin. Also a generic term for money.
  • Post-horn - the nose. See paste-horn.
  • Post-mortem - at Cambridge, the second examination which men who have been “plucked” have to undergo.—University.
  • Post - to pay down; “post the pony” signifies to place the stakes played for on the table.
  • Posted up - well acquainted with the subject in question, “up to the mark,”—metaphor drawn from the counting-house.
  • Pot-boiler - a picture hurriedly painted for the purpose of “keeping the pot boiling.”—Artistic slang.
  • Pot-faker - a hawker of crockery and general earthenware.
  • Pot-hat - a low-crowned hat, as distinguished from the soft wideawake and the stove-pipe.
  • Pot-hunter - a sportsman who shoots anything he comes across, having more regard to filling his bag than to the rules which regulate the sport. A man who fires at anything, regardless of the rules which govern true sportsmen.
  • Pot-luck - just as it comes; to take pot-luck, i.e., one’s chance of a dinner, or of what there is for dinner. A hearty term, used to signify that whatever the pot contains the visitor is welcome to.
  • Pot-valiant - courageous through application to the bottle. Possessed of Dutch courage.
  • Pot - a favourite in the betting for a race. Probably so called because it is usual to say that a heavily-backed horse carries “a pot of money.” When a favourite is beaten the pot is said to be upset.
  • Pot - a sixpence, i.e., the price of a pot or quart of half-and-half. A half-crown, in medical student slang, is a five-pot piece.
  • Pot - to finish; “don’t pot me,” term used at billiards, when a player holes his adversary’s ball—generally considered shabby play. This word was much used by our soldiers in the Crimea in reference to shots from a hole or ambush. These were called pot-shots. The term is still used to denote a shot taken sitting or at ease.
  • Pot - to go to pot, to die; from the classic custom of putting the ashes of the dead in an urn; also, to be ruined or broken up,—often applied to tradesmen who fail in business. “Go to pot!” i.e., go and hang yourself, shut up and be quiet.—L’Estrange. “To put the pot on,” to overcharge or exaggerate. “To go to pot” most probably means to go out of all shape, as metal in the melting-pot.
  • Potato-trap - the mouth.—Originally a Hibernicism.
  • Potheen - whisky made in an illicit still, once a favourite drink in Ireland, now almost unattainable. People resident in England who read of the charms of potheen would be rather astonished if they were to taste it. It is real “fire-water” flavoured with peat-smoke.
  • Potted - or potted out, cabined, confined, figurative of crammed into a garden-pot. Also applied to burial,—a horticultural allusion.
  • Potter - to meddle without much judgment. Application various. A gentleman may describe himself as “pottering about in his garden,” and think the phrase pleasant. The gardener, who has to do the work all over again, may, however, use the word in quite a different sense.
  • Potter’s (H. T., of Clay, Worcestershire) New Dictionary of all the Cant and Flash Languages, both ancient and modern, 8vo, pp. 62.1790.
  • Poulter. The Discoveries of John Poulter, alias Baxter, 8vo, 48 pages.(1770?)
  • Pow-wow - a conference. Originally an Indian term.
  • Power - a large quantity; “a power of money.”—Irish at first, but now general.
  • Prad - a horse. Prad-napping was horse-stealing. Both these terms are old cant.
  • Prancer - a horse.—Ancient Cant. In modern slang an officer of cavalry.
  • Prat - a buttocke. [This word has its equivalent in modern slang.]
  • Praties - potatoes.—Irish.
  • Pratling chete - a toung.
  • Prauncer - a horse.
  • Precious - used, in a slang sense, like very or exceeding; “a precious little of that,” i.e., a very little indeed; a precious humbug, rascal, &c., i.e., an eminent one.
  • Pretty horsebreakers - a phrase adopted some years back, in deference to common squeamishness, to denote the demi-monde, who dress so well and ride so daintily. Really, pretty heartbreakers.
  • Prial - a corruption of pair-royal, a term at the game of cribbage, meaning three cards of a similar description. Often used metaphorically for three persons or things of a kind. Double-prial, a corruption of double pair-royal, means four cards, persons, or things of a similar description.
  • Prig - a conceited, stuck-up, over-knowing person; one who appropriates or adopts a manner or costume not suited to him.
  • Prigger of prauncers be horse-stealers, for to prigge signifieth in their language to steale, and a prauncer is a horse, so being put together, the matter was playn. [Thus writes old Thomas Harman, who concludes his description of this order of “pryggers,” by very quietly saying, “I had the best gelding stolen out of my pasture, that I had amongst others, whyle this book was first a-printing.”]
  • Priggish - conceited.
  • Primed - said of a person in that state of incipient intoxication that if he took more drink it would become evident. Also, crammed for an examination.
  • Prison-breaker - The, or the Adventures of John Sheppard, a Farce, 8vo.London, 1725.
  • Pro - a professional.—Theatrical.
  • Pro - the proproctor, or second in command in the proctorial police. The two proctors generally appoint a certain number of proproctors each.—Oxford University.
  • Proctorized - to be, to be stopped by the Proctor, and told to call on him.—University.
  • Prog - meat, food, &c. Johnson calls it “a low word.” He was fond of “prog,” however.
  • Proof - the best ale at Magdalen College, Oxford.
  • Prop-nailer - a man who “sneaks,” or rather snatches, pins from gentlemen’s scarves.
  • Prop - a blow. As, “a prop on the nose,”—more street slang than pugilistic.
  • Prop - a scarf pin.
  • Proper - very, exceedingly, sometimes used ironically; “you are a proper nice fellow,” meaning a great scamp. A “proper man” generally means a perfect man, as far as can be known.
  • Props - crutches.
  • Props - stage properties.—Theatrical.
  • Pros - a water-closet. Abbreviated form of πρὸς τινα τόπον. Some say, πρὸς τον τόπον.—Oxford University.
  • Pross - to break in or instruct a stage-infatuated youth. Also, to spunge upon a comrade or stranger for drink. In this latter capacity the word is in connexion with prostitute, a prosser being considered a most degraded being, and the word being supposed by many to represent a man who lives on a woman’s prostitution.
  • Prygges - dronken tinkers, or beastly people.
  • Psalm-smiter - a “Ranter,” one who sings at a conventicle. See brisket-beater.
  • Pub - or public, a public-house; “what pub do you use?” i.e., which inn or public-house do you frequent?
  • Public patterers - swell mobsmen who pretend to be Dissenting preachers, and harangue in the open air to attract a crowd for their confederates to rob.
  • Pucker - poor or bad temper, difficulty, déshabillé. Pucker up, to get in a bad temper.
  • Puckering - talking privately.
  • Puckerow - to seize, to take hold of. From the Hindostanee, puckerna.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Pudding-snammer - one who robs a cook-shop.
  • Puff - to blow up, or swell with praise; declared by a writer in the Weekly Register, as far back as 1732, to be illegitimate.
  • Pug - a fighting man’s idea of the contracted word to be produced from pugilist.
  • Pull - an advantage, or hold upon another; “I’ve the pull over (or of) you,” i.e., you are in my power—perhaps an oblique allusion to the judicial sense. See the following.
  • Pull - to drink; “come, take a pull at it,” i.e., drink up.
  • Pull - to have one apprehended; “to be pulled up,” or more recently “to be pulled” only, to be taken before a magistrate. The police are constantly “pulling” loitering, furiously driving, or drunken cabmen.
  • Pull - to prevent a horse from winning, that is, so far as the rider’s action is concerned.
  • Pullet - a young girl. Filly is an exchangeable term.
  • Pummel - to thrash,—from pommel.
  • Pump - to extract information by roundabout questioning.
  • Punch - or the London Charivari.
  • Pundit - a person who assumes to be very grave and learned.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Punkah - a fan, usually a fan of very large size, worked with a string, and used to ventilate rooms.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Punt - to gamble; punting-shop, a gambling-house. Common in ancient writers, but now disused. The word seems confined to playing for “chicken stakes.” Punt means now in the sporting world to back horses for small stakes.
  • Punter - a small professional backer of horses.
  • Pup and ringer - i.e., the “Dog and Bell,” the sign of a flash public-house.
  • Purdah - a curtain.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Pure finders - street-collectors of dogs’ dung.—Humorous.
  • Purl - a mixture of hot ale and sugar, with wormwood infused in it, a favourite morning drink to produce an appetite; sometimes with gin and spice added:—
  • Purl - to spill; purled is a hunting and steeplechasing term synonymous with “foaled,” or “spilt” (thrown); “he’ll get purled at the rails.”
  • Purler - a heavy fall from a horse in the hunting or steeplechasing field.
  • Push - a crowd.—Old Cant.
  • Push - a robbery or swindle. “I’m in this push,” the notice given by one magsman to another that he means to “stand in.”
  • Pussey-cats - corruption of Puseyites, a name constantly, but improperly, given to the Tractarian party in the Church, from the Oxford Regius Professor of Hebrew, who by no means approved of the Romanizing tendencies of some of its leaders. The name still sticks, however, to this day.
  • Put on - to promise another money or valuables in the event of an anticipated success. “You’re on a quid if Kaiser wins,” might often have been heard before last St. Leger. Many hangers-on of the turf live almost entirely by what they are put on, by bookmakers and backers for whom they do odd work.
  • Put that in your pipe and smoke it - said of a blow or repartee, and equivalent to take that and think over it, or digest it, or let it be a warning to you.
  • Put the pot on - to put too much money upon one horse.—Sporting.
  • Put up - to inspect or plan out with a view of robbery. To obtain full particulars with regard to a house and its occupants, so that danger shall be reduced to a minimum, and the chances of success enlarged.
  • Put up - to suggest, to incite, “he put me up to it;” he prompted me to do it. Put up, to stop at an hotel or a tavern for entertainment.
  • Put upon - cheated, victimized, oppressed.
  • Put - a game at cards, once fashionable, but now played among thieves and costermongers only.
  • Put - an obsolete slang term representing the modern “bloke” or “cove.” It was generally applied to elderly persons.
  • Puttun - regiment.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Pyah - weak, useless, paltry. This word, much in use among sailors, is evidently derived from the Indian term pariah, signifying the lowest caste of Hindoos. Thus the Pariah dogs in India are termed pyah dogs; and the Pariah descendants of the old Portuguese settlers are called pyah Portuguese. Sailors term the natives of St. Helena—a wretched-looking set of individuals—pyah Englishmen.
  • Pygostole - the least irreverent of names for the peculiar M. B. coats worn by Tractarian curates:—
  • Pyjands - a kind of drawers or loose pantaloons.—Anglo-Indian.
  • P’s and q’s - particular points, precise behaviour; “mind your p’s and q’s,” be very careful. Originating, according to some, from the similarity of p’s and q’s in the hornbook alphabet, and therefore the warning of an old dame to her pupils, or, according to others, of a French dancing-master to his pupils, to mind their pieds (feet) and queues (wigs) when bowing.
  • Quacking chete - a drake or duck.
  • Quad. See quod.
  • Quaker - a lump of excrement.
  • Quality - gentry, the upper classes.
  • Quandary - described in the dictionaries as a “low word,” may fittingly be given here. It illustrates, like “hocus-pocus,” and other compound colloquialisms, the singular origin of slang expressions. Quandary, a dilemma, a doubt, a difficulty, is from the French, qu’en dirai-je?—Skinner.
  • Quaromes - a body.
  • Quartereen - a farthing.—Gibraltar term. Italian, quattrino.
  • Quarterly Review - vol. x. p. 528.
  • Quaver - a musician.
  • Quean - a strumpet. In Scotland, a lower-class woman. Saxon, cwean, a barren old cow.
  • Queen Bess - the Queen of Clubs,—perhaps because that queen, history says, was of a swarthy complexion.—North Hants. See Gentleman’s Magazine for 1791, p. 141.
  • Queen’s tobacco-pipe - the kiln in which all contraband tobacco seized by the Custom-house officers is burned.
  • Queer bail - worthless persons who for a consideration formerly stood bail for any one in court. Insolvent Jews generally performed this office, which gave rise to the term Jew-bail, otherwise straw bail.
  • Queer cuffen - a justice of the peace, or magistrate,—a very ancient term, mentioned in the earliest slang dictionary. In this sense, as well as in that of the verb just given, the term is evidently derived from quæro, to inquire, to question. Quiz and quis? have also an undoubted connexion.
  • Queer-bit-makers - coiners.
  • Queer-soft - bad notes.
  • Queer-street - “in queer street,” in difficulty or in want.
  • Queer - “to queer a flat,” to puzzle or confound a “gull,” or silly fellow.
  • Querier - a chimney-sweep who calls from house to house soliciting employment,—formerly termed knuller, which see.
  • Qui-hi - an English resident at Calcutta.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Qui-tam - a solicitor. He who, i.e., “he who, as much for himself as for the King,” seeks a conviction, the penalty for which goes half to the informer and half to the Crown. The term would, therefore, with greater propriety, be applied to a spy than to a solicitor.
  • Quick sticks - in a hurry, rapidly; “to cut quick sticks,” to start off hurriedly, or without more ado. See cut one’s stick.
  • Quid-nunc - an inquisitive person, always seeking for news. The words translated simply signify, “What now?”
  • Quid - a small piece of tobacco—one mouthful. Quid est hoc? asked one, tapping the swelled cheek of another; Hoc est quid, promptly replied the other, exhibiting at the same time a “chaw” of the weed. Cud is probably a corruption. Derivation, O. F., or Norman, quider, to ruminate.
  • Quid - or thick un, a sovereign; “half a quid,” half a sovereign;6 quids, money generally; “quid for a quod,” one good turn for another. The word is used by old French writers:—
  • Quier cuffin - the justice of peace.
  • Quier [queer], badde. [See ante.]
  • Quiet - “on the quiet,” clandestinely, so as to avoid observation, “under the rose.”
  • Quill-driver - a scrivener, a clerk,—satirical phrase similar to “steel bar driver,” a tailor.
  • Quiller - a parasite, a person who sucks neatly through a quill. See suck up.
  • Quilt - to thrash, or beat.
  • Quisby - bankrupt, poverty-stricken. Amplification of queer.
  • Quisi - roguish, low, obscene.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Quiz - a prying person, an odd fellow. Originally Oxford slang, but now general, and lately admitted into some dictionaries. See queer cuffen.
  • Quiz - to pry, or joke; to hoax.
  • Quizzical - jocose, humorous.
  • Quizzing-glass - an eyeglass. This was applied to the old single eyeglass, which was not stuck in the eye, as now, but was held in the hand.
  • Quockerwodger - a wooden toy figure which, when pulled by a string, jerks its limbs about. The term is used in a slang sense, to signify a pseudo-politician, one whose strings of action are pulled by somebody else.
  • Quod - a prison, a lock-up; quodded, put in prison. Quod is really a shortening of quadrangle; so to be quodded is to be within four walls. The expression is, however, seldom used now except to mean in prison. At Oxford, where it is spelt quad, the word has its original signification.
  • Quodger - a contraction, or corruption rather, of the Latin law phrase, quo jure? by what law?—Legal.
  • Quyer crampringes - boltes or fetters.
  • Quyer kyn - a pryson house.
  • R. M. D. - cash down, immediate payment. The initial letters of ready money down. Another version of this is p. y. c. (pay your cash), often seen in the market quotations,—as, “Meat fetched 6s. 4d. a stone, p. y. c., and 6s. 6d. for the account.”
  • Rabbit - when a person gets the worst of a bargain, he is said “to have bought the rabbit.” From an old story about a man selling a cat to a foreigner for a rabbit.
  • Racket - a dodge, manœuvre, exhibition; a disturbance.
  • Rackety - wild or noisy.
  • Racks - the bones of a dead horse. Term used by horse-slaughterers.
  • Raclan - a married woman. Originally Gipsy, but now a term with English tramps.
  • Rafe - or ralph, a pawnbroker’s duplicate.—Norwich.
  • Raff - a dirty, dissipated fellow; raffish, looking like a raff.
  • Rag and Famish - the Army and Navy Club. From Ensign rag and Captain famish, imaginary characters, out of whom Leech some years back obtained much amusement.
  • Rag-shop - a bank.
  • Rag-splawger - a rich man.
  • Rag - a bank-note.
  • Rag - to divide or share; “let’s rag it,” or “go rags,” i.e., share it equally between us.—Norwich.
  • Ragamuffin - an ill-clad vagabond, a tatterdemalion.
  • Rain napper - an umbrella.
  • Raise the wind - to obtain credit, or money,—generally by pawning or selling property, but not unusually by borrowing. Sometimes varied to whistle up the breeze.
  • Raker - to go a, is, in racing parlance, to put more money than usual on a certain horse. “Going a raker” often leads to “coming a cropper.”
  • Ramp - to hustle, to rob with violence, to levy blackmail in a ferocious manner; to extort by means of threats. Ramping is generally done in gangs.
  • Rampage - to be on the, on the drink, on the loose. Dickens, in Great Expectations, refers to Mrs. Jo as being on the rampage when she is worse tempered than usual.
  • Ramper - a ruffian of the most brutal description, who infests racecourses and similar places on welching expeditions during summer, and finds pleasure and profit in garrotte robberies during winter.
  • Ramshackle - queer, rickety, knocked about, as standing corn is after a high wind. Corrupted from ram-shatter, or possibly from ransack.
  • Ran-tan - “on the ran-tan,” drunk.
  • Rancho - originally a Spanish-American word, signifying a hunting-lodge, or cattle-station, in a wood or desert far from the haunts of men. A hunting or fishing station in the Highlands or elsewhere. In Washington, with their accustomed ingenuity in corrupting words and meanings, the Americans use the appellation for a place of evil report. The word is generally pronounced ranch now.
  • Randall (Jack), a Few Selections from his Scrap-book; to which are added Poems on the late Fight for the Championship, 12mo.1822.
  • Randall’s (Jack, the Pugilist, formerly of the “Hole in the Wall,” Chancery Lane) Diary of Proceedings at the House of Call for Genius,8 edited by Mr. Breakwindow, to which are added several of Mr. B.’s minor pieces, 12mo.1820.
  • Randals-man. See billy.
  • Randan - a boat impelled by three rowers, the midship man sculling, and the bowman and strokesman rowing with oars.
  • Random - three horses driven in line. See tandem, sudden death, harum-scarum.
  • Randy - rampant, violent, warm.—North. randy-beggar, a gipsy tinker.
  • Rank - to cheat. Modification of ramp.
  • Ranker - a commissioned officer in the army who has risen from the ranks. Usually employed in a disparaging sense. Purely military. Also, among street folk, a corruption of rank duffer.
  • Rantipoll - a noisy rude girl, a madcap.
  • Rap - a halfpenny; frequently used generically for money, thus:—“I haven’t a rap,” i.e., I have no money whatever; “I don’t care a rap,” &c. Originally a species of counterfeit coin used for small change in Ireland, against the use of which a proclamation was issued, 5th May, 1737. Small copper or base metal coins are still called rappen in the Swiss cantons. Irish robbers were formerly termed rapparees.
  • Rap - to utter rapidly and vehemently; “he rapped out a volley of oaths.”
  • Rape - a pear.
  • Rapping - enormous; “a rapping big lie.”
  • Rapscallion - a low tattered wretch—not worth a rap.
  • Raree-show - a collection of curiosities.
  • Rat - a sneak, an informer, a turn-coat, one who changes his party for interest. The late Sir Robert Peel was called the rat, or the Tamworth ratcatcher, for altering his views on the Roman Catholic question. From rats deserting vessels about to sink. The term is often used amongst printers to denote one who works under price. Old cant for a clergyman.
  • Rat - to smell a, to suspect something, to guess that there is something amiss.
  • Rather! a ridiculous street exclamation synonymous with yes; “Do you like fried chickens?” “rather!” “Are you going out of town?” “rather!” Very often pronounced “rayther!”
  • Rattening - the punishment inflicted on non-unionists by Sheffield grinders, through the instrumentality of “Mary Ann.” See Parliamentary Inquiry Report on the subject.
  • Rattlecap - an unsteady, volatile person. Generally applied to girls.
  • Rattler - a cab, coach, or cart.—Old Cant.
  • Rattletrap - the mouth. Anything shaky and mean, but pretentious and vulgar, is said to belong to the rattletrap order of things.
  • Rattling - jolly, pleasant, well-appointed. “A rattling good spread” means an excellent repast, while a true friend is said to be a “rattling good fellow.”
  • Raw - a tender point, or foible; “to touch a man upon the raw,” is to irritate one by alluding to, or joking him on, anything on which he is peculiarly susceptible or “thin-skinned.” Originally stable slang.
  • Raw - uninitiated; a novice.—Old. Frequently Johnny Raw.
  • Re-raw - “on the re-raw,” tipsy or drunk.
  • Reach me downs - or hand me downs, clothes bought at secondhand shops. From “Reach me down that, and let’s see if it fits.” In Houndsditch and other celebrated old clothes’ marts, the goods are kept hanging on pegs so as to be well within view of intending buyers.
  • Read and write - to fight.
  • Reader - a pocket-book; “Touch him for his reader,” i.e., rob him of his pocket-book.
  • Ready-reckoners - the Highland regiments of the British army.
  • Ready - or ready gilt (maybe gelt), money. Used by Arbuthnot—“Lord Strut was not very flush in ready.”
  • Real jam - a sporting phrase, meaning anything exceptionally good. It is said to be real jam for those who back a horse at a long price, when the animal wins, or comes to a short figure.
  • Recent incision - the busy thoroughfare on the Surrey side of the Thames, known to sober people as the New Cut. Even this latter name has now been changed—if indeed the place ever was so called properly. Although to the general public the street which runs from opposite Rowland Hill’s Chapel to Westminster Bridge Road is known as the New Cut, its name to the Board of Works is Lower Marsh.
  • Red herring - a soldier. The terms are exchangeable, the fish being often called a “soldier.”
  • Red lane - the throat.
  • Red liner - an officer of the Mendicity Society.
  • Red rag - the tongue.
  • Red shanke - a drake or ducke.
  • Red un - a gold watch.
  • Redge - gold.
  • Redtape - official routine. A term which was much in vogue during the Crimean campaign, so famous for War Office blunderings.
  • Reeb - beer. “Top o’ reeb,” a pot of beer.
  • Regulars - a thief’s fair share of plunder.
  • Reliever - a coat worn in turn by any party of poor devils whose wardrobes are in pawn.
  • Relieving Officer - a significant term for a father.—University.
  • Renage - to revoke, a word used in Ireland at the game of five-card.
  • Rench - vulgar pronunciation of rinse. “(W)rench your mouth out,” said a fashionable dentist one day.
  • Resurrection pie - once a school but now a common phrase, used in reference to a pie supposed to be made of the scraps and leavings that have appeared before.
  • Ret - an abbreviation of the word reiteration, used to denote the forme which, in a printing-office, backs or perfects paper already printed on one side.
  • Rev-lis - silver.
  • Rhino - ready money.—Old.
  • Rhinoceral - rich, wealthy, abounding in rhino. At first sound it would seem as though it meant a man abounding in rhinoceroses.
  • Rib - a wife. Derivation, of course, Biblical.
  • Ribbon - gin, or other spirits. Modification of white satin.
  • Ribbons - the reins. “To handle the ribbons,” to drive.
  • Ribroast - to beat till the ribs are sore.—Old; but still in use:—
  • Rich - spicy; also used in the sense of “too much of a good thing;” “a rich idea,” one too absurd or unreasonable to be adopted.
  • Richard - a dictionary. See dick.
  • Ride - “to ride the high horse,” or “ride roughshod over one,” to be overbearing or oppressive; “to ride the black donkey,” to be in an ill humour.
  • Rider - a supplementary clause in a document.
  • Rider - in a University examination, a problem or question appended to another, as directly arising from or dependent on it;—beginning to be generally used for any corollary or position which naturally arises from any previous statement or evidence.
  • Riff-raff - low, vulgar rabble.
  • Rig - or trick, “spree,” or performance; “run a rig,” to play a trick.—See John Gilpin. “rig the market,” in reality to play tricks with it,—a mercantile slang phrase often used in the newspapers.
  • Rigged - “well rigged,” well dressed.—Old Slang, in use in 1736. See Bailey’s Dictionary.—Sea.
  • Rigging - a process well known in connexion with sales by auction, by which articles are secured at prices considerably below their real value. See knock-outs. To rig the market is to do similar business on a larger scale for the purpose of affecting the supplies, and thereby increasing the profits on an original purchase of the goods thus made scarce.
  • Right as ninepence - or nice as ninepence (possible corruption of nine-pins), quite right, exactly right, comfortable. See ninepence.
  • Right you are - a phrase implying entire acquiescence in what has been said or done. The expression is singularly frequent and general amongst the lower and middle classes of the metropolis.
  • Rights - “to have one to rights,” to be even with him, to serve him out properly. “To rights” is also an ejaculation signifying satisfaction of the highest order.
  • Rigmarole - a prolix story.
  • Rile - to offend, to render very cross, irritated, or vexed. Properly, to render liquor turbid.
  • Ring - a generic term given to horse-racing and pugilism,—the latter was sometimes termed the prize-ring. From the rings used for betting and fighting in, respectively.
  • Ring - formerly “to go through the ring,” to take advantage of the Insolvency Act, or be “whitewashed.” Now obsolete.
  • Ring - to change; “ringing castors,” changing hats; “to ring the changes,” in low life means to change bad money for good; in respectable7 society the phrase is sometimes employed to denote that the aggressor has been paid back in his own coin, as in practical joking, when the laugh is turned against the jester. The expression originally came from the belfry.
  • Ringdropping - is a pursuit to which London “magsmen” and “street-muggers” are prone. A ring or other spurious article is supposed to be found just in front of a “soft-looking party,” and he or she is tempted to buy it at less than half its supposed value.
  • Rip - a rake, “an old rip,” an old libertine, or a debauchee. Corruption of reprobate.
  • Rip - to go at a rare pace. This is an American term, and often means to burst up. “Let her rip, I’m insured.”
  • Ripper - a first-rate man or article.—Provincial.
  • Ripping - excellent, very good. Equivalent to “stunning.”
  • Rise, or raise, a Barney - to collect a mob; term used by patterers and “schwassle-box” (Punch and Judy) men.
  • Rise - “to take a rise out of a person.” A metaphor from fly-fishing, the silly fish rising to be caught by an artificial fly; to mortify, outwit, or cheat him, by superior cunning.
  • River Lea - tea.
  • Roaf-gen - four shillings.
  • Roaf-yanneps - fourpence.
  • Roarer - a broken-winded horse; or, in the more polite speech of the stable, “a high blower.” Roaring, as applied to horses, is often termed “talking” by turf-men. It is often said delicately by sporting writers, when speaking of a broken-winded racehorse, that “he makes a noise.”
  • Roaring trade - a very successful business.—Shopkeepers’ Slang.
  • Roast - to expose a person to a running fire of jokes for the amusement and with the assistance of a whole company. A performance not indulged in by gentlemen. Quizzing is done by a single person only.
  • Robin redbreast - the ancient Bow Street runner. So called from the colour of his waistcoat.
  • Rock-a-low - an overcoat. Corruption of the French, roquelaure.
  • Rocked - “he’s only half-rocked,” i.e., half-witted. See half-rocked.
  • Rof-efil - for life—sentence of punishment.
  • Roger - a goose.
  • Rogue and villain - a shillin,—common pronunciation of shilling.
  • Rogue’s yarn - a thread of red or blue worsted, worked into the ropes manufactured in the Government dockyards, to identify them if stolen. Also a blue thread worked into canvas, for the same purpose.
  • Roll me in the dirt - a shirt.
  • Roll of snow - a piece of linen, or bundle of underclothing.
  • Romany - a gipsy, or the gipsy language; the speech of the Roma or Zincali.—Spanish Gipsy. “Can you patter romany?” i.e., can you talk “black,” or gipsy lingo?
  • Rome bouse [rum booze], wyne. [A name probably applied by canters coming on it for the first time, and tasting it suddenly.]
  • Rome mort - the Queene [Elizabeth].
  • Rome vyle [Rum-ville], London.
  • Rome - goode [now curious, noted, or remarkable in any way. Rum is the modern orthography].
  • Rook - a cheat, or tricky gambler; the opposite of “pigeon.”
  • Rook - a clergyman, not only from his black attire, but also, perhaps, from the old nursery favourite, the History of Cock Robin.
  • Rook - to cheat, to play “rook” to another’s “pigeon.”
  • Rookery - a low neighbourhood inhabited by dirty Irish and thieves—as St. Giles’s rookery.—Old. In military slang that part of the barracks occupied by subalterns, often by no means a pattern of good order.
  • Rooky - rascally, rakish, scampish.
  • Roost - synonymous with perch, which see.
  • Rooster - a cock, whether bantam, game, barndoor, or of any other kind. This is an Americanism which obtains full currency on the other side of the Atlantic, though its use would infer that hens do not roost. As the outcome of transpontine delicacy it must, however, be respected.
  • Rooter - anything good, or of a prime quality; “that is a rooter,” i.e., a first-rate one of the sort.
  • Rope - to lose a race of any kind purposely, to swindle one’s backers or the public by means of a “cross” or pre-arranged race, in which the best man or best horse is made to rope, or run behind.
  • Roper - Mistress, “to marry Mrs. Roper” is to enlist in the Royal Marines.
  • Ropes - the ways of London lower life. “To know the ropes,” is to be conversant with the minutiæ of metropolitan dodges, as regards both the streets and the sporting world.
  • Roping - the act of pulling or restraining a horse, by its rider, to prevent its winning a race—a trick not unfrequently practised on the turf. Also when a pedestrian or other athlete loses where he should have won, according to his backer’s calculations, he is accused of roping.
  • Rory o’More - the floor. Also used to signify a whore.
  • Rosin-the-bow - a fiddler. From a famous old song of that name.
  • Rosin - beer or other drink given to musicians at a dancing party.
  • Rot-gut - bad, small beer. See bumclink. In America, cheap whisky.
  • Rot - nonsense, anything bad, disagreeable, or useless.
  • Rough-it - to put up with chance entertainment, to take pot-luck and what accommodation “turns up,” without sighing for better.
  • Rough - bad; “rough fish,” bad or stinking fish.—Billingsgate.
  • Roughs - coarse, or vulgar men. By many thought to be ruff, corruption of ruffian.
  • Rouleau - a packet of sovereigns.—Gaming.
  • Round robin - a petition, or paper of remonstrance, with the signatures written in a circle,—to prevent the first signer, or ringleader, from being discovered.
  • Round the houses - trousies,—vulgar pronunciation of trousers.
  • Round un - an unblushingly given and well-proportioned lie. Sometimes known as a “whacker.”
  • Round (in the language of the street), the beat or usual walk of a costermonger to sell his stock. A term used by street folk generally.
  • Round - to tell tales, to split, which see; “to round on a man,” to swear to him as being the person, &c. Synonymous with buff, which see. Also to turn round upon and abuse or rate. Shakspeare has rounding, whispering.
  • Round - “round dealing,” honest trading; “round sum,” a large sum. Synonymous also, in a slang sense, with square, which see.
  • Roundabout - a large swing with four compartments, each the size, and very much the shape, of the body of a cart, capable of seating six or eight boys and girls, erected in a high frame, and turned round by men at a windlass. Fairs and merry-makings generally abound with these swings. The frames take to pieces, and are carried in vans from fair to fair by miserable horses.
  • Roundem - a button.
  • Row - a noisy disturbance, tumult, or trouble. Originally Cambridge, now universal. Seventy years ago it was written roue, which would almost indicate a French origin, from roué, a profligate or disturber of the7 peace.—Vide George Parker’s Life’s Painter, 1789, p. 122. This is, however, very unlikely, as the derivation of the French word shows.
  • Row - “the Row,” i.e., Paternoster Row. The notorious Holywell Street is now called by its denizens “Bookseller’s Row.”
  • Rowdy-dow - low, vulgar “not the cheese,” or thing.
  • Rowdy - money. In America, a ruffian, a brawler, a “rough.” Rowdyism is the state of being of New York roughs and loafers.
  • Rub - a quarrel or impediment; “there’s the rub,” i.e., that is the difficulty.—Shakspeare and L’Estrange.
  • Rubbed out - dead,—a melancholy expression, of late frequently used in fashionable novels. Rubbed out is synonymous with wiped out, which see.
  • Rubber - a term at whist, &c., the best of three games.
  • Ruck - the undistinguished crowd; “to come in with the ruck,” to arrive at the winning-post among the thick of the unplaced horses.—Racing term.
  • Ruction - an Irish row. A faction fight.
  • Ruff peck - baken [short bread, common in old times at farm-houses].
  • Ruffmans - the wood or bushes.
  • Ruggy - fusty, frowsy.
  • Rule the roast - to be at the head of affairs, to be “cock of the walk.”
  • Rule. “To run the rule over,” is, among thieves, to try all a person’s pockets quietly, as done by themselves, or to search any one thoroughly, as at the police-station.
  • Rum cull - the manager of a theatre, generally the master of a travelling troop.
  • Rum-mizzler - Seven Dials cant for a person who is clever at making his escape, or getting out of a difficulty.
  • Rum-slim - or rum sling, rum punch.
  • Rumbler - a four-wheeled cab. Not so common as bounder. See growler.
  • Rumbowling - anything inferior or adulterated.—Sea.
  • Rumbumptious - haughty, pugilistic.
  • Rumbustious - or rumbustical, pompous, haughty, boisterous, careless of the comfort of others.
  • Rumgumption - or gumption, knowledge, capacity, capability,—hence, rumgumptious, knowing, wide-awake, forward, positive, pert, blunt.
  • Rump - to turn the back upon any one. A still more decided “cut direct” than the “cold shoulder.”
  • Rumpus - a noise, disturbance, a “row.”
  • Rumy - a good woman or girl.—Gipsy Cant. In the Continental Gipsy, romi, a woman, a wife, is the feminine of ro, a man.
  • Run for the money - to have a, to have a start given in with a bet. As 20 to 1 against Doncaster, with a run given. See p.p. To have a run for one’s money is also to have a good determined struggle for anything.
  • Run-in - to lock up in the station-house. The police are very fond of threatening to run-in any person to whom they may take exception, and, as recent revelations have shown, are by no means averse from putting their threats into execution.
  • Run (good or bad), the success or duration of a piece’s performance.—Theatrical.
  • Run - to comprehend, &c.; “I don’t run to it,” i.e., I can’t do it, I don’t understand; also not money enough, as, “I should like to, but it wont run to it.”
  • Run - “to get the run upon any person,” to have the upper hand, or be able to laugh at him. Run down, to abuse or backbite any one; to “lord it,” or “drive over” him. Originally stable slang.
  • Running patterer - a street seller who runs or moves briskly along, calling aloud his wares.
  • Rush - to come upon suddenly, generally for the purpose of borrowing. To “give a man the rush,” is to spunge upon him all day, and then borrow money at the finish, or pursue some such similar mode of procedure.
  • Rush - “doing it on the rush,” running away, or making off.
  • Rust - “to nab the rust,” to take offence. Rusty, cross, ill-tempered, morose; not able to go through life like a person of easy and “polished” manners.
  • Rustication - the sending of an offender from the University for one term or more, thus hindering his qualifying for a degree.
  • Rusty guts - a blunt, rough, old fellow. Corruption of rusticus.
  • Rutat - or rattat, a “tatur,” or potato.
  • Rye. Gipsy term for a young man. In the same parlance “rawnie” is a young woman.
  • Sack - to “get the sack,” to be discharged by an employer. Varied in the North of England to “get the bag.” In London it is sometimes spoken of as “getting the empty.” It is common now to speak of “getting the bullet,” an evident play on the word discharge.
  • Sad dog - a merry fellow, a joker, a “gay” or “fast” man.
  • Saddle - an additional charge made by the manager to a performer upon his benefit night.—Theatrical.
  • Safe - trusty, worthy of confidence. A safe card is a man who knows “what’s o’clock.” A safe man among betters is one who is sure to fulfil his engagements.
  • Sails - nickname for the sail-maker on board ship.
  • Saint Monday - a holiday most religiously observed by journeymen shoemakers and other mechanics. An Irishman observed that this saint’s anniversary happened every week. In some parts of the country Monday is termed Cobblers’ Sunday.
  • Sal - a salary.—Theatrical.
  • Salaam - a compliment or salutation.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Salamander - a street acrobat and juggler who eats fire.
  • Salmon and trout - the mouth.
  • Salomon - an alter or masse.
  • Salt junk - navy salt beef. See old horse.
  • Salt-box - the condemned cell in Newgate.
  • Salt - a sailor.
  • Saltee - a penny. Pence, &c., are thus reckoned:—
  • Salve - praise, flattery, chaff.
  • Sam - i.e., Dicky-Sam, a native of Liverpool.
  • Sam - to “stand Sam,” to pay for refreshment or drink, to stand paymaster for anything. An Americanism, originating in the letters U.S. on the knapsacks of the United States’ soldiers, which letters were jocularly said to be the initials of Uncle Sam (the Government), who pays for all. In use in this country as early as 1827.
  • Sammy - a stupid fellow.
  • Sampan - a small boat.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Samshoo - a fiery, noxious spirit, distilled from rice. Spirits generally.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Samson and Abel - a group of wrestlers in the centre of Brasenose quadrangle. Some said it represented Samson killing a Philistine; others Cain killing Abel. So the matter was compromised as above.—Oxford University.
  • Sandwich - a human advertising medium, placed between two boards strapped, one on his breast the other on his shoulders. A “toad in the hole” is the term applied to the same individual when his person is confined by a four-sided box. A gentleman with a lady on each arm is sometimes called a sandwich. The French phrase for this kind of sandwich, l’âne à deux pannières, is expressive.
  • Sanguinary James - a raw sheep’s-head. See bloody Jemmy.
  • Sank work - tailors’ phrase for soldiers’ clothes. Perhaps from the Norman sanc, blood,—in allusion either to the soldier’s calling, or the colour of his coat.
  • Sap - or sapscull, a poor green simpleton, with no heart for work.
  • Sappy - soft, foolish, namby-pamby, milk-and-watery. “It’s such a sappy book.”
  • Satin - gin; “a yard of satin,” a glass of gin. Term used by females on make-believe errands, when the real object of their departure from home is to replenish the private bottle. With servants the words “tape” and “ribbon” are more common, the purchase of these feminine requirements being the general excuse for asking to “run out for a little while.” See white satin.
  • Saucebox - a pert young person. In low life it also signifies the mouth.
  • Saveloy - a sausage of bread and chopped beef smoked, a minor kind of polony, which see.
  • Savvey - to know; “do you savvey that?” Spanish, sabe. In the nigger and Anglo-Chinese patois, this is sabby, “me no sabby.” It is a general word among the lower classes all over the world. It also means acuteness or cleverness; as, “That fellow has plenty of savvey.”
  • Saw your timber - “be off!” equivalent to “cut your stick.” Occasionally varied, with mock refinement, to “amputate your mahogany.” See cut.
  • Saw - a term at whist. A saw is established when two partners alternately trump a suit, played to each other for the express purpose.
  • Sawbones - a surgeon.
  • Sawney - a simpleton; a gaping, awkward lout.
  • Sawney - bacon. Sawney Hunter, one who steals bacon.
  • Sawney - or sandy, a Scotchman. Corruption of Alexander.
  • Scab-raiser - a drummer in the army, so called from one of the duties formerly pertaining to that office, viz., inflicting corporal punishment on the soldiers.—Military.
  • Scab - a worthless person.—Old. Shakspeare uses “scald” in a similar sense.
  • Scabby neck - a native of Denmark.—Sea.
  • Scabby-sheep - epithet applied by the vulgar to a person who has been in questionable society, or under unholy influence, and become tainted. Also a mean disreputable fellow.
  • Scaldrum dodge - a dodge in use among begging impostors of burning the body with a mixture of acids and gunpowder, so as to suit the hues and complexions of any accident to be deplored by a confiding public.
  • Scaly - shabby, or mean. Perhaps anything which betokens the presence of the “Old Serpent,” or it may be a variation of “fishy.”
  • Scamander - to wander about without a settled purpose;—possibly in allusion to the winding course of the Homeric river of that name.
  • Scammered - drunk.
  • Scamp - a graceless fellow, a rascal; a wandering vagabond; scamping was formerly the cant term for plundering and thieving. A royal-scamp was a highwayman, whilst a foot-scamp was an ordinary thief with nothing but his legs to trust to in case of an attempt at capture. Some have derived scamp from qui ex campo exit, one who leaves the field, a deserter.
  • Scamp - to give short measure or quantity; applied to dishonest contractors. Also to hurry through a task in a way which precludes the possibility of its being done well. Probably the same as skimp and scrimp.
  • Scandal-water - tea; from old maids’ tea-parties being generally a focus for scandal.
  • Scaramouch - properly a tumbler, or saltimbanco. Also a disreputable fellow.
  • Scarborough-warning - a warning given too late to be taken advantage of. When a person is driven over, and then told to keep out of the way, he receives Scarborough-warning. Fuller says the proverb alludes to an event which happened at that place in 1557, when Thomas Stafford seized upon Scarborough Castle before the townsmen had the least notice of his approach.
  • Scarce - to make oneself; to be off; to decamp.
  • Scarlet fever - the desire felt by young ladies to flirt with officers in preference to civilians.
  • Scarlet-town - Reading, in Berkshire. As the name of this place is pronounced Redding, scarlet-town is probably a rude pun upon it.
  • Scarper - to run away; Spanish, escapar, to escape, make off; Italian, scappare. “scarper with the feeley of the donna of the carzey,” to run away with the daughter of the landlady of the house; almost pure Italian, “scappare colla figlia della donna della casa.”—Seven Dials and Prison Cant, from the Lingua Franca.
  • Schism-shop - a Dissenters’ meeting-house.—University.
  • Schofel - bad money. See shoful.
  • School - a knot of men or boys; generally a body of idlers or street gamblers. Also, two or more “patterers” working together in the streets.
  • Schroff - a banker, treasurer, or confidential clerk.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Schwassle box - the street arrangement for Punch and Judy. See swatchel-cove.
  • Sconce - the head; judgment, sense.—Dutch.
  • Score - a reckoning, “to run up a score at a public-house,” to obtain credit there until pay-day, or a fixed time, when the debt must be “wiped off.” From the old practice of scoring a tippler’s indebtedness on the inside of a public-house door.
  • Scorf - to eat voraciously.
  • Scot - a quantity of anything, a lot, a share.—Anglo-Saxon, sceat, pronounced shot.
  • Scot - temper, or passion,—from the irascible temperament of the Scotch; “Oh! what a scot he was in,” i.e., what temper he showed.
  • Scotch Peg - a leg.
  • Scotch coffee - biscuits toasted and boiled in water. A gross calumny on the much-enduring Scotians; a supposed joke on their parsimony.—Sea.
  • Scotch fiddle - the itch; “to play the Scotch fiddle,” to work the index finger of the right hand like a fiddlestick between the index and middle finger of the left. This provokes a Scotchman in the highest8 degree, as it implies that he is afflicted with the itch. It is supposed that a continuous oatmeal diet is productive of cutaneous affection.
  • Scotch greys - lice. Our northern neighbours were calumniously reported, in the “good old times” of ignorance and prejudice, to be peculiarly liable to cutaneous eruptions and parasites.
  • Scotches - the legs; also synonymous with notches.
  • Scoundrel’s Dictionary; or, an Explanation of the Cant Words used by Thieves, Housebreakers, Street-robbers, and Pickpockets about Town, with some curious Dissertations on the Art of Wheedling, &c., the whole printed from a copy taken on one of their gang, in the late scuffle between the watchman and a party of them on Clerkenwell Green, 8vo.1754.
  • Scout - a college valet, or waiter.—Oxford. See gyp.
  • Scout - the male servant, who generally has a staircase under his charge, and waits on the men in each set of rooms. The female servant (not unfrequently his wife or daughter) is the bedmaker.—University.
  • Scrag - the neck.—Old Cant. Scotch, craig. Still used by butchers. Hence, scrag, to hang by the neck, and scragging, an execution,—also Old Cant.
  • Scran-bag - a soldier’s haversack.—Military Slang.
  • Scran - pieces of meat, broken victuals. Formerly the reckoning at a public-house. Scranning, or “out on the scran,” begging for broken victuals. Also, an Irish malediction of a mild sort, “Bad scran to yer!” i.e., bad food to you.
  • Scrap - to fight. Also used as a substantive. Prize-fighters are often known as scrappers.
  • Scrape - a difficulty; scrape, low wit for a shave.
  • Scrape - cheap butter; also butter laid on bread in the thinnest possible manner, as though it had been laid on and scraped off again. “Bread and scrape,” the bread and butter issued to schoolboys,—so called from the manner in which the butter is laid on.
  • Scratch-race (on the turf), a race at which the horses run at catch weights, a race without restrictions. In boating, a race in which the crew are picked up anyhow. A scratch crew is a crew of all sorts.
  • Scratch - an imaginary meeting-point in a fight, or verbal contest; “coming up to the scratch,” preparing to fight—literally approaching the line which used to be chalked on the ground to divide the ring. According to the rules of the prize ring, the toe should be placed at the scratch, so the phrase often is “toeing the scratch.”
  • Scratch - to strike a horse’s name out of the list of runners in a particular race. “Tomboy was scratched for the Derby at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, from which period all bets made in reference to him are void.” See p.p.—Turf. One of Boz’s characters asks whether horses are “really made more lively by being scratched.”
  • Scratch - “no great scratch,” of little worth.
  • Screaming - first-rate, splendid. Believed to have been first used in the Adelphi play-bills; “a screaming farce,” one calculated to make the audience scream with laughter. Now a general expression.
  • Screed - an illogical or badly-written article or paper upon any subject.
  • Screeve - a letter, a begging petition.
  • Screeve - to write, or devise; “to screeve a fakement,” to concoct, or write, a begging letter, or other impostor’s document. From the Dutch, schryven; German, schreiben, to write.
  • Screw loose. When friends become cold and distant towards each other, it is said there is a screw loose betwixt them; the same phrase is also used when anything goes wrong with a person’s credit or reputation.
  • Screw - a key—skeleton, or otherwise.
  • Screw - a mean or stingy person.
  • Screw - a small packet of tobacco. A “twist” of the “weed.”
  • Screw - a turnkey.
  • Screw - an unsound or broken-down horse, that requires both whip and spur to get him along. So called from the screw-like manner in which his ribs generally show through the skin.
  • Screw - salary, or wages.
  • Screw - “to put on the screw,” to limit one’s credit, to be more exact and precise; “to put under the screw;” to compel, to coerce, to influence by strong pressure.
  • Screwed - intoxicated or drunk.
  • Scrimmage - or scrummage, a disturbance or row.—Ancient. Probably a corruption of skirmish.
  • Scrimshaw. Anything made by sailors for themselves in their leisure hours at sea is termed scrimshaw-work.
  • Scrouge - to crowd or squeeze.—Wiltshire.
  • Scruff - the back part of the neck seized by the adversary in an encounter. “I seized him by the scruff of the neck, and chucked him out.” Originally scurf.
  • Scrumptious - nice, particular, beautiful.
  • Scufter - a policeman.—North Country.
  • Scull - or skull, the head, or master of a college.—University, but nearly obsolete; the gallery, however, in St. Mary’s (the Oxford University church), where the “Heads of Houses” sit in solemn state, is still nicknamed the “Golgotha” by the undergraduates.
  • Scurf - a mean fellow. Literally a scurvy fellow.
  • Sea-connie - the steersman of an Indian ship. By the insurance laws he must be either a pyah Portuguese, a European, or a Manilla man,—Lascars not being allowed to be helmsmen.
  • Sea-cook - “son of a sea-cook,” an opprobrious phrase used on board ship, differing from “son of a gun,” which is generally used admiringly or approvingly.
  • Seals - a religious slang term for converts. Also a Mormon term for wives. See owned.
  • See it out - to stay out late or early, and see the gas put out. Also to complete an undertaking.
  • See the king. See elephant.
  • See-otches - shoes.
  • See. Like “go” and “do,” this useful verb has long been supplemented with a slang or unauthorized meaning. In street parlance, “to see” is to know or believe; “I don’t see that,” i.e., “I don’t put faith in what you offer, or I know what you say to be untrue.”
  • Seeley’s pigs - blocks of iron in Government dockyards. Mr. Seeley, M.P., was the first to call attention in the House of Commons to the scandalous waste of pig-iron in the dockyards. Some of the yards were found to be half paved with blocks of metal, which were thence called “Seeley’s pigs.”
  • Sell - a deception, or disappointment; also a lying joke.
  • Sell - to deceive, swindle, or play a practical joke upon a person. A sham is a sell in street parlance. “Sold again, and got the money,” a patterer cries after having successfully deceived somebody. Shakspeare uses selling in a similar sense, viz., blinding or deceiving.
  • Sensation - a quartern of gin.
  • Serve out - to punish, or be revenged on any one.
  • Set-to - a sparring match, a fight; “a dead set” is a determined opposition in argument, or in movement.
  • Setter - a person employed by the vendor at an auction to run the bidding up; to bid against bona-fide bidders. Also the man who takes the box at hazard, and “sets a go.”
  • Setter - sevenpence. Italian, sette. See saltee.—Lingua Franca.
  • Setting jewels - taking the best portions of a clever book not much known to the general public, and incorporating them quietly with a new work by a thoroughly original author. The credit of this term belongs to Mr. Charles Reade, who explained that the process is accountable for the presence of some writing by one Jonathan Swift, in a story published at Christmas, 1872, and called The Wandering Heir.
  • Settle - to kill, ruin, or effectually quiet a person.
  • Settled - transported, or sent to penal servitude for life; sometimes spoken of as winded-settled.
  • Seven-pennorth - transportation for seven years.
  • Seven-sided animal - a one-eyed man, as he has an inside, outside, left side, right side, foreside, backside, and blind side.
  • Seven-up - the game of all-fours, when played for seven chalks—that is, when seven points or chalks have to be made to win the game.
  • Sevendible - a very curious word, used only in the North of Ireland, to denote something particularly severe, strong, or sound. It is, no doubt, derived from sevendouble—that is, sevenfold—and is applied to linen cloth, a heavy beating, a harsh reprimand, &c.
  • Sewed-up - done up, used up, intoxicated. Dutch, seeuwt, sick.
  • Sewn-up - quite worn-out, or “dead beat.”
  • Sey - yes. Pronounced see.
  • Shack-per-swaw - every one for himself,—a phrase in use amongst the lower orders at the East-end of London, derived apparently from the French, chacun pour soi.
  • Shack - a “chevalier d’industrie.” A scamp, a blackguard.—Nottingham.
  • Shackly - loose, rickety.—Devonshire.
  • Shady - an expression implying decadence. On “the shady side of forty” implies that a person is considerably older than forty. Shady also means inferiority in other senses. A “shady trick” is either a shabby one, mean or trumpery, or else it is one contemptible from the want of ability displayed. The shady side of a question is, and fairly enough too, that which has no brightness to recommend it.
  • Shake the elbow - to, a roundabout expression for dice-playing. To “crook the elbow” is an Americanism for “to drink.”
  • Shake-down - an improvised bed.
  • Shake-lurk - a false paper carried by an impostor, giving an account of a “dreadful shipwreck.”
  • Shake - a disreputable man or woman.—North. In London a shake is a prostitute.
  • Shaker - a shirt.
  • Shakers - a Puritanical sect, almost peculiar to America, and not similar to our Quakers, as is generally believed. They have very strange8 notions on things in general, and especially on marriage and the connexion of the sexes.
  • Shakes - a bad bargain is said to be “no great shakes;” “pretty fair shakes” is anything good or favourable.—Byron. In America, a fair shake is a fair trade or a good bargain.
  • Shakes - “in a brace of shakes,” i.e., in an instant.
  • Shakester - or shickster, a female. Amongst costermongers this term is invariably applied to ladies, or the wives of tradesmen, and females generally, of the classes immediately above them. Amongst Jews the word signifies a woman of shady antecedents. Supposed to be derived from the Hebrew, shiktza. It is generally pronounced “shickser.”
  • Shaky - said of a person of questionable health, integrity, or solvency; at the Universities, of one not likely to pass his examination.
  • Shaler - a girl. Corrupt form of Gaelic, caille, a young woman.
  • Shalley-gonahey - a smock-frock.—Cornish.
  • Shallow-cove - a begging rascal, who goes about the country half naked, with the most limited amount of rags upon his person, wearing neither shoes, stockings, nor hat.
  • Shallow-mot - a ragged woman,—the frequent companion of the shallow-cove.
  • Shallow - a weak-minded country justice of the peace.—Shakspeare.
  • Shallow - the peculiar barrow used by costermongers.
  • Shallows - “to go on the shallows,” to go half naked.
  • Sham Abraham - to feign sickness. See Abraham.
  • Sham - contraction of champagne. In general use among the lower class of sporting men. Sometimes extended to shammy.
  • Shandrydan - an old-fashioned or rickety conveyance of the “shay” order.
  • Shandy-gaff - ale and gingerbeer. Origin unknown, but use very common.
  • Shanks - legs.
  • Shanks’s mare - “to ride shank’s mare,” to go on foot.
  • Shant - a pot or quart; “shant of bivvy,” a quart of beer.
  • Shanty - a rude, temporary habitation. The word is principally employed to designate the huts inhabited by navigators, when constructing large lines of railway far distant from towns. It is derived from the French chantier, used by the Canadians for a log hut, and has travelled from thence, by way of the United States, to England.
  • Shanty - a song. A term in use among sailors. From chanter.
  • Shapes - “to cut up” or “show shapes,” to exhibit pranks, or flightiness.
  • Shark - a sharper, a swindler. Bow Street term in 1785, now in most dictionaries.—Friesic and Danish, schurk. See land-shark.
  • Sharp (Jeremy), The Life of an English Rogue, 12mo.1740.
  • Sharp - or sharper, a cunning cheat, a rogue,—the opposite of flat.
  • Sharp’s-alley blood-worms - beef sausages and black puddings. Sharp’s Alley was, until City improvements caused it to be destroyed, a noted slaughtering-place near Smithfield.
  • Shave; “to shave a customer,” charge him more for an article than the marked price. Used in the drapery trade. When the master sees an opportunity of doing this, he strokes his chin, as a signal to his assistant who is serving the customer.
  • Shave - a false alarm, a hoax, a sell. This term was much in vogue in the Crimea during the Russian campaign,—that is, though much used by the military before then, the term did not, until that period, become known to the general public.
  • Shave - a narrow escape. At Cambridge, “just shaving through,” or “making a shave,” is just escaping a “pluck” by coming out at the bottom of the list.
  • Shaver - a sharp fellow; there are young and old shavers.—Sea.
  • Shebeen - an unlicensed place where spirituous liquors are illegally sold. A word almost peculiar to Ireland.
  • Sheen - bad money.—Scotch.
  • Sheeny - a Jew. This word is used by both Jew and Gentile at the East-end of London, and is not considered objectionable on either side.
  • Sheep’s eyes - loving looks, “to make sheep’s eyes at a person,” to cast amorous glances towards one on the sly.
  • Shelf - “on the shelf,” not yet disposed of; young ladies are said to be so situated when they cannot meet with husbands. “On the shelf” also means pawned, or laid by in trust.
  • Shell out - to pay or count out money. Also a game played on a billiard table, a variation of pool.
  • Shepherd - to look after carefully, to place under police surveillance.
  • Sherwood’s Gazetteer of Georgia, U.S., 8vo.
  • Shice - nothing; “to do anything for shice,” to get no payment. The term was first used by the Jews in the last century. Grose gives the phrase chice-am-a-trice, which has a synonymous meaning. Spanish, chico, little; Anglo-Saxon, chiche, niggardly; or perhaps connected with the German, scheissen.
  • Shicer - a mean man, a humbug, a “duffer,”—a worthless person, one who will not work. This is the worst term one Jew can use to another. At the diggings it means a hole which yields nothing.
  • Shickery - shabby, bad. From shaky, shakery.
  • Shickster-crabs - ladies’ shoes.—Tramps’ term.
  • Shickster - a lady. See shakester.
  • Shif - fish.
  • Shigs - money, silver.—East London.
  • Shikaree - a hunter, a sportsman.—Anglo-Indian. An English sportsman who has seen many ups and downs in jungles of the East styles himself “an old shikaree.”—Anglo-Indian. Also spelt shekarry.
  • Shilly-shally - to trifle or fritter away time; to be irresolute. Corruption of “Shall I, shall I?”
  • Shin-plaster - a bank-note. Originally an Americanism.
  • Shin - an Americanism for walking. “I’m tired of shinning around.”
  • Shindy - a row, or noise. A shindy generally means a regular mêlée.
  • Shine - a row, or disturbance.
  • Shine - “to take the shine out of a person,” to surpass or excel him.
  • Shiners - sovereigns, or money.
  • Shiney rag - “to win the shiney rag,” to be ruined,—said in gambling, when any one continues betting after “luck has set in against him.”
  • Shins. “To break one’s shins,” figurative expression meaning to borrow money.
  • Ship in full sail - a pot of ale.
  • Ship-shape - proper, in good order; sometimes the phrase is varied to “ship-shape and Bristol fashion.”—Sea. The latter portion of the expression went out with Bristol’s fame as a seaport.
  • Shirty - ill-tempered, or cross. When one person makes another in an ill-humour he is said to have “got his shirt out.”
  • Shivering Jemmy - the name given by street-folk to any cadger who exposes himself, half naked, on a cold day, to obtain alms. The “game” is unpleasant, but was, before exposure of a different kind spoilt it, exceedingly lucrative.
  • Shockhead - a head of long, unkempt, and rough hair.
  • Shoddy - old cloth worked up into new; made from soldiers’ and policemen’s coats. The old cloth is pulled to pieces, the yarn unravelled and carded over again. This produces shoddy, which is very short in the fibre, and from it are produced, on again twisting and weaving, cloth fabrics used for ladies’ mantles, &c. Also, a term of derision applied to workmen in woollen factories.—Yorkshire.
  • Shoddy - the plutocracy created out of bogus contracts during the civil8 war in the United States. The shoddyites enriched themselves at the expense of their country in the most shameless manner, having most likely studied under those contractors who should have supplied our soldiers with necessaries during the Crimean War.
  • Shoe leather! a thief’s warning cry when he hears footsteps. This exclamation is used in the spirit which animated the friend who, when he suspected treachery towards Bruce at King Edward’s court, in 1306, sent him a purse and a pair of spurs, as a sign that he should use them in making his escape.
  • Shoe - to free or initiate a person,—a practice common in most trades to a new-comer. The shoeing consists in paying for beer, or other liquor, which is drunk by the older hands. The cans emptied, and the bill paid, the stranger is considered properly shod. Shoeing is a variation of “paying one’s footing.”
  • Shoes, children’s, to make - to suffer oneself to be made sport of, or depreciated. Commonly used in Norfolk.—Cf. Mrs. Behn’s comedy, The Roundheads.
  • Shoes - “to die in one’s shoes,” to be hanged. In the old hanging days a highwayman would often kick off his shoes when the rope was round his neck, so as—oh, vain and impotent attempt!—to defeat the prophecy that had foreshadowed his present position.
  • Shoful pullet - a “gay” or unsteady woman, especially a young woman.
  • Shoful-pitcher - a passer of bad money. Shoful-pitching, passing bad money. “Snide-pitcher” and “Snide-pitching” are terms exchangeable with the preceding.
  • Sholl - to bonnet one, or crush a person’s hat over his eyes.—North.
  • Shool - Jews’ term for their synagogue.
  • Shool - to saunter idly, to become a vagabond, to beg rather than work.—Smollett’s Roderick Random, vol. i., p. 262.
  • Shoot the cat - to vomit. From a story of a man being sick in the back yard, and suffocating a cat and all her kittens.
  • Shoot the moon - to remove furniture from a house in the night without paying the landlord.
  • Shop-bouncer - or shop-lifter, a person generally respectably attired, who, while being served with a small article at a shop, steals one of more value. Shakspeare has the word lifter, a thief.
  • Shop-walker - a person employed to walk up and down a shop, to hand seats to customers, and see that they are properly served. Contracted also to walker.
  • Shop. In racing slang, to secure first, second, or third position in a race, is to get a shop. This is also known as a place, and as a situation. See place.
  • Shop - a house. “How are they all at your shop?” is a common question among small tradesmen.
  • Shop - the House of Commons. The only instance we have met with of the use of this word in literature occurs in Mr. Trollope’s Framley Parsonage:—
  • Shop - to discharge a shopman. In military slang, to shop an officer is to put him under arrest in the guard-room. In pugilistic slang, to punish a man severely is “to knock him all over the shop,” i.e., the ring, the place in which the work is done.
  • Shopping - purchasing at shops. Termed by Todd a slang word, but used by Cowper and Byron.
  • Shoppy - to be full of nothing but one’s own calling or profession; “to talk shop,” to converse of nothing but professional subjects.
  • Short commons - short allowance of food. See commons.
  • Short - hard-up; a polite term for impecuniosity used in clubs and among military men.
  • Shorter - one who makes a dishonest profit by reducing the coin of the realm by clipping and filing. From a crown-piece a shorter could gain 5d. Another way was by chemical means: a guinea laid in aquafortis would, in twelve hours, precipitate 9d.-worth of sediment; in twenty-four, 1s. 6d.-worth.—Rommany Rye.
  • Shot in the locker - money in pocket, resource of any kind in store.—Navy.
  • Shot - a term used among horse chaunters. To shot a horse, is to give him a lot of small shot, which will for a short time effectually “open his pipes,” and make him appear sound in wind.
  • Shot - from the modern sense of the word to shoot,—a guess, a random conjecture; “to make a bad shot,” to expose one’s ignorance by making a wrong guess, or random answer, without knowing whether it is right or wrong.
  • Shot - from the once general, but now provincial word, to shoot, to subscribe, contribute in fair proportion;—a share, from the Anglo-Saxon word, sceat; “to pay one’s shot,” i.e., share of the reckoning, &c.
  • Shot - “I wish I may be shot, if,” &c., a common form of mild swearing.
  • Shoulder - when a servant embezzles his master’s money, he is said to shoulder his employer.
  • Shout - to pay for drink round. “It’s my shout,” says he who pays. Possibly because the payer originally shouted to the bar-keeper of an hotel to score the drink to him.—Australian, but now general.
  • Shove in the mouth - a glass of spirits, which is taken off quickly and at once.
  • Shove-halfpenny - a gambling pot-house pastime, played on a table. A very old game, originally called push-penny.
  • Shovel - a term applied by the vulgar crowd to the inelegant twisted hats worn by the dignitaries of the Church. Dean Alford says, “I once heard a venerable dignitary pointed out by a railway porter as “an old party in a shovel.”—Queen’s English.
  • Shrimp - a diminutive person.—Chaucer.
  • Shtumer - a horse against which money may be laid without risk. See safe un.
  • Shunt - to avoid, to turn aside from. From the railway term.
  • Shut of - or shot of, i.e., rid of. A very common expression amongst the London lower orders. One costermonger will say to another:—“Well, Ike, did yer get shut o’ them there gawfs [apples]?” i.e., did you sell them all?
  • Shut up! be quiet, don’t make a noise; to stop short, to cease in a summary manner, to silence effectually. The following is from a literary paper:—“Only the other day we heard of a preacher who, speaking of the scene with the doctors in the Temple, remarked that the Divine disputant completely shut them up!” Shut up, utterly exhausted, done for.
  • Shy. “To fight shy of a person,” to avoid his society either from dislike, fear, or other reason. Shy has also the sense of flighty, unsteady, untrustworthy.
  • Shy - a throw. See the following:—
  • Shy - to fling; cock-shy, a game at fairs, consisting of throwing short9 sticks at trinkets or cocoanuts set upon other sticks,—both name and practice derived from the old game of throwing or shying at live cocks. This game is best known to the London public as “three shies a penny.”
  • Shy - to stop suddenly, or turn off, as a horse does when frightened.
  • Shyster - a duffer, a vagabond. Variation of “shicer.”
  • Si quis - a candidate for “orders.” From the notification commencing si quis—if any one.
  • Sices - or sizes, a throw of sixes at dice.
  • Sick as a horse - a popular simile,—curious, because a horse never vomits.
  • Sickener - a dose too much of anything. Too much of even a good thing will make a man sick.
  • Side-boards - or stick-ups, shirt collars. Name applied some years ago, before the present style of collars came into fashion.
  • Side - an affirmative expression in the cant language of the northern towns. “Do you stoll the gammy?” (Do you understand cant?) “Side, cove” (yes, mate).
  • Sift - to embezzle small coins, those which might pass through a sieve—as threepennies and fourpennies—and which are, therefore, not likely to be missed.
  • Sight - “to take a sight at a person,” a vulgar action employed by boys and others to denote incredulity, or contempt for authority, by placing the thumb against the nose and extending the fingers, which are agitated in token of derision.
  • Silver beggar - or lurker, a vagabond who travels through the country with “briefs” containing false statements of losses by fire, shipwrecks, accidents, &c. Forged documents are exhibited with signatures of magistrates and clergymen. Accompanying these are sham subscription books. The former, in beggar parlance, is termed “a sham,” whilst the latter is denominated “a delicate.”
  • Sim - one of a Methodistical turn in religion; a Low Churchman; originally a follower of the late Rev. Charles Simeon.—Cambridge.
  • Simon - a sixpenny-piece.
  • Simon - or simple simon, a credulous, gullible person. A character in a song, but now common.
  • Simpkin - or simkin, champagne.—Anglo-Indian. Derived from the manner in which native servants pronounce champagne.
  • Simpson - water used in the dilution of milk. Term in use among cow-keepers. From this the parish pump has been called Mrs. Simpson.
  • Sing out - to call aloud.—Sea.
  • Sing small - to lessen one’s boasting, and turn arrogance into humility.
  • Sing-song - a harmonic meeting at a pot-house, a free-and-easy.
  • Sinkers - bad money,—affording a man but little assistance in “keeping afloat.”
  • Sinks - a throw of fives at dice. French, cinq.
  • Sir Harry - a close stool.
  • Sir Reverence - a corruption of the old phrase, save your reverence, a sort of apology for alluding to anything likely to shock one’s sense of decency. Latin, salvâ reverentiâ. See Shakspeare’s Romeo and Juliet, act i. scene iv. From this it came to mean the thing itself—human ordure generally, but sometimes other indecencies.
  • Sir Walter Scott - a pot,—generally of beer.
  • Sirretch - cherries. Very often sirretches.
  • Siserara - a hard blow.—Suffolk. Many derive this term from the story of Sisera in the Old Testament, but it is probably a corruption of certiorari, a Chancery writ reciting a complaint of hard usage.
  • Sit under - a term employed in Dissenters’ meeting-houses, to denote attendance on the ministry of any particular preacher.
  • Sit upon - to overcome or rebuke, to express contempt for a man in a marked manner. Also, to chaff or “roast” a man consumedly.
  • Sit-upons - trousers. See inexpressibles.
  • Sith-nom - a month. This is because the slang was made from months, not month. Perhaps because the latter was not easy; perhaps because terms of imprisonment run longer than a month, and are often enumerated in the “kacab genals.” However it may be, “months” in this mode of speaking has a double plural as it stands now.
  • Sivvy - “’pon my sivvy,” i.e., upon my soul or honour. Corruption of “asseveration,” like davy, which is an abridgment of “affidavit.”
  • Six-water grog - a sea-term for the weakest grog possible—six portions of water to one of rum—hardly enough spirit to “swear by.”
  • Sixty-per-cent - a bill-discounter. From the rate of interest generally charged. If bill-discounters profess to do the business for less, they generally make up the level sixty by extras.
  • Sixty - “to go along like sixty,” i.e., at a good rate, briskly.
  • Size - to order extras over and above the usual commons at the dinner in college halls. Soup, pastry, &c., are sizings, and are paid for at a certain specified rate per size, or portion, to the college cook. Peculiar to Cambridge. Minsheu says, “size, a farthing which schollers in Cambridge have at the buttery, noted with the letter s.”
  • Sizers - or sizars, certain poor scholars at Cambridge, annually elected, who got their dinners (including “sizings”) from what was left at the upper, or Fellows’ table, free, or nearly so. They paid rent of rooms, and some other fees, on a lower scale than the “Pensioners” or ordinary students, and were equal with the “battlers” and “servitors” at Oxford.
  • Sizings. See size.
  • Skid - a sovereign. Fashionable slang. Occasionally skiv.
  • Skid - or skidpan, an instrument for locking the wheel of a coach when going down hill. It is often said that a talkative person might put the skid on, with advantage to his listeners, if not to himself.
  • Skied. Artists say that a picture is skied when it is hung on the upper line at the Exhibition of the Royal Academy. See floored.
  • Skied - or skyed, thrown upwards, as “coppers” in tossing.
  • Skilligolee - prison gruel. Also sailors’ soup of many ingredients. The term is occasionally used in London workhouses.
  • Skilly - abbreviation of skilligolee.
  • Skimmery - St. Mary Hall, Oxford.—University.
  • Skin-the-lamb - a game at cards, a very expressive corruption of the term “lansquenet,” also a racing term. When a non-favourite wins a race, bookmakers are said to skin the lamb, under the supposition that they win all their bets, no person having backed the winner. This has been corrupted into skinner.
  • Skin - a purse. This term is mostly in use among thieves.
  • Skin - to abate, or lower the value of anything; “thin-skinned,” sensitive, touchy, liable to be “raw” on certain subjects.
  • Skinflint - an old and popular simile for a “close-fisted,” stingy person.9 Sternberg, in his Northamptonshire Glossary, says the Eastern languages have the same expression. Abdul-Malek, one of the Ommeyade Khaliphs, noted for his extreme avarice, was surnamed Raschal-Hegiarah, literally, “the skinner of a flint.”
  • Skinner - a term among bookmakers. “May we have a skinner,” i.e., may we skin the lamb, which see.
  • Skipper-birds - or keyhole-whistlers, persons who sleep in barns or outhouses from necessity or in preference to sleeping in lodging-houses.
  • Skipper-it - to sleep in the open air, or in a rough way.
  • Skipper - a barn.—Ancient Cant. From the Welsh, ysgubor, pronounced scybor, or scibor, the proper word in that language for a barn.
  • Skipper - the master of a vessel. Germ., schiffer, from schiff, a ship; sometimes used as synonymous with “governor.”
  • Skit - a joke, a squib. Term generally used in reference to any pungent or pointed political allusion.
  • Skow-banker - a fellow who loiters about the premises of any one willing to support him, and who objects to the necessity of working for his living; a rogue, a rascal. Common in Melbourne, Australia.
  • Skrouge - to push or squeeze.—North.
  • Skull-thatcher - a straw-bonnet-maker,—sometimes called “a bonnet-builder.”
  • Skunk - a mean or paltry fellow, one whose name stinks.
  • Sky-blue - London milk much diluted with water, or from which the cream has been too closely skimmed.
  • Sky-lark. See under lark.
  • Sky-parlour - the garret.
  • Sky-scraper - a tall man; “Are you cold up there, old sky-scraper?” Properly a sea-term. The light sails, which some adventurous skippers set above the royals in calm latitudes, are termed sky-scrapers and moon-rakers.
  • Sky-wannocking - unsteady frolicking.—Norfolk.
  • Sky - a disagreeable person, an enemy.—Westminster School. The word derived its origin from a corruption of the last syllable of the word “volsci:” Westminster boys being of course understood to be the Romans.
  • Sky - to toss up towards the sky. Term used in tossing with halfpence; “It’s all right, Jim skied the browns,” i.e., threw them up, a proof that there could have been no collusion or cheating.
  • Skypper - a barne.
  • Slab - thick, as gruel, porridge, &c.
  • Slack - “to hold on the slack,” to skulk; a slack rope not requiring to be held.—Sea.
  • Slam - a term at the game of whist. When two partners gain the whole thirteen tricks, they win a slam, which is considered equal to a rubber.
  • Slam - to talk fluently. “He’s the bloke to slam.” From a term in use among birdsingers at the East-end, by which they denote a certain style of note in chaffinches.
  • Slammock - a slattern or awkward person.—West, and Norfolk.
  • Slang-whanger - a long-winded speaker.—Parliamentary.
  • Slang - a travelling show.
  • Slang - a watch-chain. Super and slang, a watch and chain.
  • Slang - counterfeit or short weights and measures. A slang quart is a pint and a half. Slang measures are lent out at 2d. per day to street salesmen. The term is used principally by costermongers.
  • Slang - to cheat, to abuse in foul language.
  • Slang - “out on the slang,” i.e., to travel with a hawker’s licence.
  • Slangy - flashy, vulgar; loud in dress, manner, and conversation.
  • Slantingdicular - oblique, awry,—as opposed to perpendicular. Originally an Americanism, now a part of the vocabulary of London “high life below stairs.”
  • Slaoc - coals.
  • Slap-bang-shops - originally low eating-houses where the ready-money was paid down with a slap-bang.—Grose. A slap-bang-shop is now a very pretentious eating-house.
  • Slap-bang - suddenly, violently. From the strike of a ball being felt before the report reaches the ear,—the slap first, the bang afterwards.
  • Slap-dash - immediately, or quickly; at a great rate.
  • Slap-up - first-rate, excellent, very good.
  • Slap - exactly, precisely; “slap in the wind’s eye,” i.e., exactly to windward.
  • Slap - paint for the face, rouge.
  • Slasher - a powerful roysterer, a game and clever pugilist.
  • Slashers - the Twenty-eighth Regiment of Foot in the British army.
  • Slate - a sheete or shetes.
  • Slate - to knock the hat over one’s eyes, to bonnet.—North.
  • Slate - to pelt with abuse, to beat, to “lick;” or, in the language of the reviewers, to “cut up.” Also, among bettors, to lay heavily against a particular man or animal in a race.
  • Slate - “he has a slate loose,” i.e., he is slightly crazy.
  • Slavey - a maid-servant.
  • Slawmineyeux - a Dutchman. Probably a corruption of the Dutch, ja, mynheer; or German, ja, mein Herr.—Sea.
  • Sleepless-hats - those of a napless character, better known as wide-awakes.
  • Slender - a simple country gentleman.—Shakspeare.
  • Slewed - drunk, or intoxicated.—Sea term. When a vessel changes the tack, she, as it were, staggers, the sails flap, she gradually heels over, and the wind catching the waiting canvas, she glides off at another angle. The course pursued by an intoxicated, or slewed, man, is supposed to be analogous to that of the ship.
  • Slick - an Americanism, very prevalent in England since the publication of Judge Haliburton’s facetious stories, which means rapidly, effectually, utterly.
  • Slick - smooth, unctuous; abbreviation of sleek.
  • Sling your hook - a polite invitation to move-on. “Sling your Daniel” has the same meaning. The pronouns may be altered to suit the context.
  • Sling - a drink peculiar to Americans, generally composed of gin, soda-water, ice, and slices of lemon. At some houses in London gin-slings may be obtained.
  • Sling - to pass from one person to another. To blow the nose with the naked fingers.
  • Slip - or let slip; “to slip into a man,” to give him a sound beating, “to let slip at a cove,” to rush violently upon him, and assault with vigour.
  • Slipping - a trick of card-sharpers, in the performance of which, by dexterous9 manipulation, they place the cut card on the top, instead of at the bottom of the pack. It is the faire sauter la coupe of the French. In pugilistic parlance, “to slip a man,” is to “duck and get away” with great dexterity.
  • Slips - the sides of the gallery in a theatre are generally so called.
  • Slog - to beat or baste, to fight. German, schlachten; or perhaps from some connexion with the Gaelic slogan. The pretended Greek derivation from σλογω is humbug, there being no such word in the language.
  • Slogdollager - an Americanism, meaning the same as our stockdollager, which see.
  • Sloggers - i.e., slow-goers, the second division of race-boats at Cambridge. At Oxford they are called torpids.—University. A hard hitter at cricket is termed a slogger; so is a pugilist.
  • Slogging - a good beating.
  • Slop - a policeman. At first back slang, but now modified for general use.
  • Slop - a policeman. See esclop.
  • Slop - cheap, or ready-made, as applied to clothing, is generally supposed to be a modern appropriation; but it was used in this sense in 1691, by Maydman, in his Naval Speculations; and by Chaucer two centuries before that. Slops properly signify sailors’ working clothes, which are of a very cheap and inexpensive character.
  • Slops - any weak, wet, and warm mixture. Hard drinkers regard all effeminate beverages as slops.
  • Slops - chests or packages of tea; “he shook a slum of slops,” i.e., stole a chest of tea. Also ready-made clothes—the substantive of slop.
  • Slops - liquid house-refuse.
  • Slopshop - a tailor’s shop where inferior work is done, and where cheap goods are sold.
  • Slour - to lock, or fasten.—Prison Cant.
  • Sloured - buttoned up; sloured hoxter, an inside pocket buttoned up.
  • Slowcoach - a lumbering, dull person; one slow of comprehension.
  • Slowed - to be locked up (in prison).
  • Slubberdegullion - a paltry, dirty, sorry wretch.
  • Sluicery - a gin-shop or public-house.
  • Sluicing one’s bolt - drinking.
  • Slum the gorger - to cheat on the sly, to be an eye-servant. Slum in this sense is old cant.
  • Slum - a chest, or package. See slops.
  • Slum - a letter.—Prison Cant.
  • Slum - an insinuation, a discreditable innuendo.
  • Slum - gammon, “up to slum,” wide awake, knowing.
  • Slum - or back slum, a dark retreat, a low neighbourhood; as Westminster and East-end slums, favourite haunts for thieves.
  • Slum - to hide, to pass to a confederate.
  • Slum - to saunter about, with a suspicion, perhaps, of immoral pursuits.—Cambridge University Slang.
  • Slumgullion - any cheap, nasty, washy beverage. An Americanism best known in the Pacific States.
  • Slumming - passing bad money.
  • Slush - the grease obtained from boiling the salt pork eaten by seamen, and generally the cook’s perquisite.
  • Slushy - a ship’s cook.
  • Sluter - butter.—North.
  • Smack smooth - even, level with the surface, quickly.
  • Small hours - the early hours after midnight.
  • Small potatoes - a term of contempt. “He’s very small potatoes,” he’s a nobody. Yet no one thinks of calling an important personage “large potatoes.”
  • Small-beer; “he doesn’t think small-beer of himself,” i.e., he has a great opinion of his own importance. Small coals is also used in the same sense.
  • Smalls - a University term for the first general examination of the student. It is used at Cambridge, but properly belongs to Oxford. The Cambridge term is “little go.”
  • Smash-man-Geordie - a pitman’s oath.—Durham and Northumberland. See Geordie.
  • Smash - to become bankrupt, or worthless; “to go all to smash,” to break, “go to the dogs,” or fall in pieces.
  • Smash - to pass counterfeit money.
  • Smasher - one who passes bad coin, or forged notes.
  • Smashfeeder - a Britannia-metal spoon,—the best imitation shillings are made from this metal.
  • Smeller - the nose; “a blow on the smeller” is often to be found in pugilistic records. Otherwise a nose-ender.
  • Smelling chete - a garden or orchard.
  • Smelling chete - a nose.
  • Smish - a shirt, or chemise.
  • Smith (Capt. Alexander), The Thieves’ Grammar, 12mo, p. 28.17—.
  • Smithers - or smithereens; “all to smithereens,” all to smash, smither is a Lincolnshire word for a fragment.
  • Smith’s (Capt.) Compleat History of the Lives and Robberies of the most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifters, and Cheats, of both Sexes, in and about London and Westminster, 12mo, vol. i.1719.
  • Smith’s (Capt.) Thieves’ Dictionary, 12mo.1724.
  • Smock-face - a white delicate face,—a face without whiskers.
  • Smoke - London. From the peculiar dense cloud which overhangs London. The metropolis is by no means so smoky as Sheffield, Birmingham, &c.; yet country-people, when going to London, frequently say they are on their way to the smoke; and Londoners, when leaving for the country, say they are going out of the smoke.
  • Smoke - to detect, or penetrate an artifice. Originally used by London detectives, probably on account of their clouded intellects.
  • Smudge - to smear, obliterate, daub. Corruption of smutch.
  • Smug - extremely neat, after the fashion, in order.
  • Smug - sleek, comfortable. Term often applied to a seemingly pious humbug, more of the Chadband than the Stiggins.
  • Smug - smuggling.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Smuggings - snatchings, or purloinings,—shouted out by boys, when snatching the tops, or small play property, of other lads, and then running off at full speed.
  • Smut - a copper boiler. Also, the “blacks” from a furnace.
  • Smutty - obscene,—vulgar as applied to conversation. Variation of dirty.
  • Snack - a share or division of plunder. To “go snacks,” to divide equally. Also, a light repast.—Old Cant and Gipsy term.
  • Snack - to quiz or chaff with regard to a particular weakness or recent transaction. As a substantive in this sense snack means an innuendo.
  • Snaffle - conversation on professional or private subjects which the rest of the company cannot appreciate. In East Anglia, to snaffle is to talk foolishly.
  • Snaffled - arrested, “pulled up,”—so termed from a kind of horse’s bit called a snaffle.
  • Snaggle teeth - those that are uneven, and unpleasant looking.—West.
  • Snaggling - angling after geese with a hook and line, the bait being a worm or snail. The goose swallows the bait, and is quietly landed and bagged. See Seymour’s Sketches.
  • Snaggy - cross, crotchety, malicious.
  • Snake in the grass - a looking-glass.
  • Snam - to snatch, or rob from the person. Mostly used to describe that kind of theft which consists in picking up anything lying about, and making off with it rapidly.
  • Snapps - spirits. Dutch, schnapps. The word, as originally pronounced, is used by East-end Jews to describe any kind of spirits, and the Gentiles get as near as they can.
  • Snaps - share, portion; any articles or circumstances out of which money may be made; “looking out for snaps,” waiting for windfalls, or odd jobs.—Old. Scotch, chits, term also used for “coppers,” or halfpence.
  • Sneaksman - a shoplifter; a petty, cowardly thief.
  • Sneerg - greens.
  • Sneeze-lurker - a thief who throws snuff in a person’s face, and then robs him.
  • Sneezer - a snuff-box; a pocket-handkerchief.
  • Snell-fencer - a street salesman of needles. Snells are needles.
  • Snick-ersnee - a knife.—Sea. Thackeray uses the term in his humorous ballad of Little Billee.
  • Snicker - a drinking-cup. A horn-snicker, a drinking-horn.
  • Snid - a sixpence.—Scotch.
  • Snide - bad, spurious, contemptible. As, “a snide fellow,” “snide coin,” &c. Also used as a substantive, as, “He’s a snide,” though this seems but a contraction of snide ’un.
  • Snigger - to laugh in a covert manner. Also a mild form of swearing,—“I’m sniggered if you will.” Another form of this latter is jiggered.
  • Sniggering - laughing to oneself.—East.
  • Snip - a tailor,—apparently from snipes, a pair of scissors, or from the snipping sound made by scissors in cutting up anything.
  • Snipe - a long bill or account; also a term for attorneys,—a race with a remarkable propensity for long bills.
  • Snipes - “a pair of snipes,” a pair of scissors. They are occasionally made in the form of a snipe.
  • Snitch - to give information to the police, to turn approver. Snitching is synonymous in thieves’ slang with “nosing” and “peaching.”
  • Snitchers - persons who turn Queen’s evidence, or who tell tales. In Scotland, snitchers signify handcuffs.
  • Snob-Stick - a workman who refuses to join in strikes, or trade-unions. Amplification of knob-stick.
  • Snobbish - stuck up, proud, make-believe.
  • Snooks - an imaginary personage often brought forward as the answer to an idle question, or as the perpetrator of a senseless joke. Said to be simply a shortening or abbreviation of “Sevenoaks,” the Kentish village.
  • Snooze-case - a pillow-slip.
  • Snooze - or snoodge (vulgar pronunciation), to sleep or doze.
  • Snorter - a blow on the nose. A hurry is sometimes called a “reg’lar snorter.”
  • Snot - a small bream, a slimy kind of flat fish.—Norwich.
  • Snot - a term of reproach applied to persons by the vulgar when vexed or annoyed, meaning really a person of the vilest description and meanest capacity. In a Westminster school vocabulary for boys, published in the last century, the term is curiously applied. Its proper meaning is the glandular mucus discharged through the nose.
  • Snotter - or wipe-hauler, a pickpocket whose chief fancy is for gentlemen’s pocket-handkerchiefs.—North.
  • Snottinger - a coarse word for a pocket-handkerchief. The German Schnupftuch is, however, nearly as plain. A handkerchief was also anciently called a “muckinger” or “muckender,” and from that a neckerchief was called a “neckinger.”
  • Snow-gatherer - or snow-dropper, a rogue who steals linen from hedges and drying-grounds.
  • Snow - wet linen, or linen hung out to dry.—Old Cant.
  • Snowden’s Magistrate’s Assistant, and Constable’s Guide, thick small 8vo. 1852.
  • Snowt fayre [said of a woman who has a pretty face or is comely].
  • Snuff - “up to snuff,” knowing and sharp; “to take snuff,” to be offended. Shakspeare uses snuff in the sense of anger, or passion.
  • Snuffy - tipsy, drunk.
  • Snuggle - to lie closely and cosily.
  • Snyder - a tailor. German, schneider.
  • So-so - not particularly reputable. “A very so-so sort of a person,” a person whom it is no advantage to know. “It was very so-so” (said of a piece of work or an entertainment), it was neither good nor bad.
  • Soaker - an habitual drunkard.
  • Soap - flattery. See soft soap.
  • Sober-water - a jocular allusion to the uses of soda-water.
  • Sock into him - i.e., give him a good drubbing; “give him sock,” i.e., thrash him well.
  • Sock - credit. As, “He gets his goods on sock, while I pay ready.”
  • Sockdolager. See stockdollager.
  • Socket-money - money extorted by threats of exposure. To be applied to for socket-money is perhaps one of the most terrible inflictions that can befall a respectable man. Socketers, as the applicants are called, should be punished with the utmost possible severity.
  • Sodom - a nickname for Wadham, due to the similarity of the sounds.—Oxford University.
  • Soft-horn - a simpleton; literally a donkey, whose ears, the substitutes of horns, are soft.
  • Soft-sawder - flattery easily laid on or received. Probably introduced by Sam Slick.
  • Soft-soap - or soft-sawder, flattery, ironical praise.
  • Soft-tack - bread.—Sea.
  • Soft-tommy - loaf-bread, in contradistinction to hard biscuit.
  • Soft - foolish, inexperienced. A term for bank-notes.
  • Soiled doves - the “Midnight Meeting” term for prostitutes and “gay” ladies generally.
  • Sold up - or out, broken down, bankrupt.
  • Sold - “sold again! and got the money,” gulled, deceived. Vide sell.
  • Soldier - a red herring. Common term in seaport towns, where exchange is made, a soldier being called by the fishy title.
  • Something damp - a dram, a drink.
  • Son of a gun - a familiar term for a man. Sometimes applied eulogistically, never contemptuously. Generally said of an artful person, and perhaps, originally, son of a “gun,” (or “gonnof”). In the army it is sometimes applied to an artilleryman.
  • Sonkey - a clumsy, awkward fellow.
  • Soor - an abusive term. Hindostanee, a pig.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Soot-bag - a reticule.
  • Sop - a soft or foolish man. Abbreviation of milksop.
  • Soph (abbreviation of “sophister”), a title peculiar to the University of Cambridge. Undergraduates are junior sophs before passing their “Little Go,” or first University examination,—senior sophs after that.
  • Sorrowful tale - three months in jail.
  • Sort - used in a slang sense thus—“That’s your sort,” as a term of approbation. “Pitch it into him, that’s your sort,” i.e., that is the proper kind of plan to adopt.
  • Sound - to pump, or draw information from a person in an artful manner.
  • Souper - an Irish Roman Catholic who pretends conversion—or perversion—so as to obtain a share of the soup and blankets provided for Protestants only by Christian missionaries. These recalcitrants are also called “swaddlers.”
  • Sou’-wester - a hat with a projection behind. Much worn at sea in “dirty” weather. A hat similar to that of a dustman or coalheaver, which is called a “fantail.”
  • Sov - contraction of sovereign; much used in sporting parlance to denote the amount of entrance money, forfeit, and added coin in connexion with a race. In the published conditions of a race the word sovs is almost invariably used in preference to pounds, though in reckoning the net value of a big stake, after its decision, the common £ is used.
  • Sow - the receptacle into which the liquid iron is poured in a gun-foundry. The melted metal poured from it is termed pig.
  • Sow’s baby - a pig; sixpence.
  • Spanish - money. Probably a relic of buccaneering days.
  • Spank - a smack, or hard slap.
  • Spank - to move along quickly; hence a fast horse or vessel is said to be “a spanker to go.”
  • Spanking - large, fine, or strong; e.g., a spanking pace, a spanking breeze, a spanking fellow.
  • Sparks - diamonds. Term much in use among the lower orders, and generally applied to stones in rings and pins.
  • Specklebellies - Dissenters. A term used in Worcester and the North, though the etymology seems unknown in either place.
  • Specks - damaged oranges.—Costermonger’s term.
  • Speech - a tip or wrinkle on any subject. On the turf a man will wait before investing on a horse until he “gets the speech,” as to whether it is going to try, or whether it has a good chance. To “give the speech,” is to communicate any special information of a private nature.
  • Speel - to run away, make off; “speel the drum,” to go off with stolen property.—North.
  • Spell - a turn of work, an interval of time. “Take a spell at the capstern.”—Sea. “He took a long spell at that tankard.” “After a long spell.”
  • Spell - contracted from spellken. “Precious rum squeeze at the spell,” i.e., a good evening’s work at the theatre, might be the remark of a successful pickpocket.
  • Spell - to advertise, to put into print. “Spelt in the leer,” i.e., advertised in the newspaper.
  • Spell - “to spell for a thing,” to hanker after it, to desire possession.
  • Spellken - or speelken, a playhouse. German, spielen. See ken.—Don Juan.
  • Spick and span - applied to anything that is quite new and fresh.—Hudibras.
  • Spidireen - the name of an imaginary ship, sometimes mentioned by sailors. If a sailor be asked what ship he belongs to, and does not wish to tell, he will most probably reply—“The spidireen frigate, with nine decks, and ne’er a bottom.” See merry dun of Dover.
  • Spierized - to have your hair cut and shampooed, from the shop of Spiers in High Street.—Oxford University.
  • Spiff - a well-dressed man, a “swell.”
  • Spiffed - slightly intoxicated.—Scotch Slang.
  • Spifflicate - to confound, silence, annihilate, or stifle. A corruption of the last word, or of “suffocate.”
  • Spiffs - the per-centages allowed by drapers to their young men when they effect a sale of old-fashioned or undesirable stock.
  • Spiffy - spruce, well-dressed, tout à la mode.
  • Spike Park - the Queen’s Bench Prison. See Burdon’s Hotel.
  • Spill - to throw from a horse or chaise. See purl.
  • Spin - to reject from an examination.—Army.
  • Spindleshanks - a nickname for any one who has thin legs.
  • Spiniken - St. Giles’s Workhouse. “Lump,” Marylebone Workhouse. “Pan,” St. Pancras. “Pan” and “Lump” are now terms applied to all workhouses by tramps and costers.
  • Spinning-house - the place in Cambridge where street-walkers are locked up, if found out after a certain time at night.
  • Spirt - or spurt, “to put on a spirt,” to make an increased exertion for a brief space, to attain one’s end; a nervous effort. Abbreviation or shortening of spirit, or allusion to a spirt of water, which dies away as suddenly as it rises.
  • Spitfire - a passionate person.
  • Splash - complexion powder used by ladies to whiten their necks and faces. The finest rice flour, termed in France poudre de riz, is generally employed. See slap.
  • Splendiferous - sumptuous, first-rate. Splendacious sometimes used with similar meanings.
  • Splice the main brace - to take a drink.—Sea.
  • Splice - to marry; “and the two shall become one flesh.”—Sea. Also, a wife.
  • Split asunder - a costermonger.
  • Split up - long in the legs. Among athletes, a man with good length of limb is said to be “well split up.”
  • Split - to inform against one’s companions, to tell tales. “To split with a person,” to cease acquaintanceship; to quarrel. Also to divide a bottle of aërated water; as, “two brandies and a soda split;” in which case “to split with” a person has a very different meaning from that just given.
  • Splodger - a lout, an awkward countryman.
  • Spoffy - a bustling busybody is said to be spoffy.
  • Sponge - “to throw up the sponge,” to submit, to give over the struggle,—from the practice of throwing up the sponge used to cleanse a combatant’s face at a prize-fight, as a signal that the side on which that particular sponge has been used has had enough—that the sponge is no longer required.
  • Spoon - synonymous with spooney. A spoon has been defined to be “a thing that touches a lady’s lips without kissing them.”
  • Spooney - a weak-minded and foolish person, effeminate or fond; “to be spooney on a girl,” to be foolishly attached to one.
  • Spoons - the condition of two persons who spoon on each other, who are deeply in love. “I see, it’s a case of spoons with them,” is a common phrase when lovers are mentioned.
  • Sport - an American term for a gambler or turfite—more akin to our sporting man than to our sportsman.
  • Sporting door - the outer door of chambers, also called the oak. See under sport.—University.
  • Sportsman’s Dictionary - 4to.17—.
  • Spot - to mark, to recognise. Originally an Americanism, but now general. “I spotted him (or it) at once.”
  • Spotted - to be known or marked by the police.
  • Spout - to preach, or make speeches; spouter, a preacher or lecturer.
  • Spout - “up the spout,” at the pawnbroker’s; spouting, pawning. See pop for origin.
  • Sprat - sixpence.
  • Spread - a lady’s shawl, an entertainment, a display of good things.
  • Spread - a meal. Sporting term for a dinner. A sporting man often challenges another to compete with him at any athletic pursuit or pastime, for so much wine and a spread of large or small proportions.
  • Spread - butter. Term with workmen and schoolboys. See scrape.
  • Spree - a boisterous piece of merriment; “going on the spree,” starting out with intent to have a frolic. French, esprit. In the Dutch language, spreeuw is a jester.
  • Springer-up - a tailor who sells low-priced ready-made clothing, and gives starvation wages to the poor men and women who “make up” for him. The clothes are said to be sprung-up, or “blown together.”
  • Sprint race - a short-distance race, ran at the topmost speed throughout. Sprint is in the North synonymous with spurt, and hence the name.
  • Sprung - inebriated sufficiently to become boisterous.
  • Spry - active, strong, manly. Much used in America, but originally English.
  • Spuddy - a seller of bad potatoes. In lower life, a spud is a raw potato; and roasted spuds are those cooked in the cinders with their skins on.
  • Spun - when a man has failed in his examination at Woolwich, he is said to be spun; as at the Universities he is said to be “plucked” or “ploughed.”
  • Spunge - a mean, paltry fellow, sometimes called a spunger.
  • Spunge - to live at another’s expense in a mean and paltry manner.
  • Spunging-house - the sheriff’s officer’s house, where prisoners, when arrested for debt, used to be taken. As extortionate charges were made there for accommodation, the name was far from inappropriate.
  • Spunk-fencer - a lucifer-match seller.
  • Spunk - spirit, fire, courage, mettle, good humour.
  • Spunks - lucifer-matches.—Herefordshire; Scotland. Spunk, says Urry, in his MS. notes to Ray, “is the excrescency of some tree, of which they make a sort of tinder to light their pipes with.”
  • Spurt. —Old. See spirt.
  • Squabby - flat, short and thick. From squab, a sofa.
  • Square cove - an honest man, as distinguished from “cross cove.”
  • Square moll - an honest woman, one who does not “batter.”
  • Square rigged - well dressed.—Sea.
  • Square up - to settle, to pay a debt.
  • Square - honest; “on the square,” i.e., fair and strictly honest; “to turn square,” to reform, and get one’s living in an honest manner,—the opposite of “cross.” The expression is, in all probability, derived from the well-known masonic emblem the square, the symbol of evenness and rectitude.
  • Square - “to be square with a man,” to be even with him, or to be revenged; “to square up to a man,” to offer to fight him. Shakspeare uses square in the sense of to quarrel.
  • Squaring his nibs - giving a policeman, or any official, money for an immoral or unlawful purpose. The term his nibs has no reference to any functionary, as the words mean simply “him,” and may be applied to any one.
  • Squarum - a cobbler’s lapstone.
  • Squash - to crush; “to go squash,” to collapse.
  • Squeak on a person - to inform against, to peach.
  • Squeak - an escape. Generally used with regard to the avoidance of casualties. Among thieves, too, a prisoner acquitted after a hard trial is said to have had “a narrow squeak for it.”
  • Squeal - to inform, to peach. A North country variation of squeak; squealer, an informer, also an illegitimate baby.
  • Squeeze - silk; also, by a very significant figure, a thief’s term for the neck.
  • Squib - a jeu d’esprit, which, like the firework of that denomination, sparkles, bounces, stinks, and vanishes.—Grose. Generally used in reference to political and electioneering attacks of a smart kind, which sting for a moment and are then forgotten.
  • Squibs - paint-brushes.
  • Squiffy - slightly inebriated.
  • Squinny-eyed - said of one given to squinting.—Shakspeare.
  • Squirt - a doctor, or chemist.
  • Squish - common term among University men for marmalade.
  • St. Martin’s lace - imitation gold lace; stage tinsel.
  • St. Martin’s-le-Grand - the hand.
  • Stab-rag - a regimental tailor.—Military Slang.
  • Stab - “Stab yourself and pass the dagger,” help yourself and pass the bottle.—Theatrical Slang.
  • Stab - “on the stab,” i.e., paid by regular weekly wages on the “establishment,” of which word stab is an abridgment.—Printer’s term.
  • Stag - a shilling.
  • Stag - a term applied during the railway mania to a speculator without capital, who took “scrip” in proposed lines, got the shares up to a premium, and then sold out. Caricaturists represented the house of Hudson, “the Railway King,” at Albert Gate, with a stag on it, in allusion to this term.
  • Stag - to see, discover, or watch,—like a stag at gaze; “stag the push,” look at the crowd. Also, to dun, or demand payment; to beg.
  • Stage-whisper - one loud enough to be heard. From the stage “asides.”
  • Stagger - one who looks out, or watches.
  • Stagger - to surprise. “He quite staggered me with the information.”
  • Staggering-bob - an animal to whom the knife only just anticipates death from natural disease or accident,—said of meat on that account unfit for human food. Also a newly-born calf.
  • Stalking-horse - originally a horse covered with loose trappings, under which the mediæval sportsman concealed himself with his bow, so as to approach his game unobserved. Subsequently a canvas figure, made light, so as to be easily moved with one hand. Now used to represent any bugbear persistently paraded; any constant and unpleasant reference to the possible consequences of an act.
  • Stall off - to blind, excuse, hide, to screen a robbery during the perpetration of it by an accomplice.
  • Stall your mug - go away; spoken sharply by any one who wishes to get rid of a troublesome or inconvenient person.
  • Stall-off - to put off by means of a device, to misdirect purposely.
  • Stall - to frighten or discourage. In the days of dog-fighting and pugilism, a dog or man who had originally shown great pluck would, after a hard battle or two, show signs of cowardice. In such case he was said to have been stalled by his previous encounters. A stall is a spurious excuse or an imposition, a dodge, &c.
  • Stall - to lodge, or put up at a public-house. Also, to act a part.—Theatrical.
  • Stallsman - sometimes stall, an accomplice.
  • Stampers - shoes.
  • Stampers - shoes.—Ancient Cant.
  • Stampes - legges.
  • Stand in - to make one of a party in a bet or other speculation; to take a side in a dispute.
  • Standing patterers - men who take a stand on the kerb of a public thoroughfare, and deliver prepared speeches to effect a sale of any articles they have to vend. See patterer.
  • Standing - the position at a street corner, or on the kerb of a market street, regularly occupied by a costermonger, or street seller.
  • Stangey - a tailor, a person under petticoat government,—derived from the custom of “riding the stang,” mentioned in Hudibras:—
  • Stanley’s Remedy, or the Way how to Reform Wandring Beggars, Thieves, &c., wherein is shewed that Sodomes Sin of Idleness is the Poverty and the Misery of this Kingdome, 4to.1646.
  • Star it - to perform as the centre of attraction, with inferior subordinates to set off one’s abilities.—Theatrical.
  • Star the glaze - to break a window. Among thieves it means to break the window or show-glass of a jeweller or other tradesman, take any valuable articles, and run away. Sometimes the glass is cut with a diamond, and a strip of leather fastened to the piece of glass cut out to keep it from falling in and making a noise. Another plan is to cut the sash.
  • Star - a common abbreviation of the name of the well-known Star and Garter Inn at Richmond. Clever people, who delight in altering names, call this hostelry the “Gar and Starter.”
  • Starchy - stuck-up, high-notioned, showily dressed, stiff and unbending in demeanour.
  • Stark-naked - originally strip-me-naked, vide Randall’s Diary, 1820, raw gin.
  • Start - a proceeding of any kind; “a rum start,” an odd circumstance; “to get the start of a person,” to anticipate or overreach him.
  • Start - “the start,” London,—the great starting-point for beggars and tramps. This is a term also used by many of superior station to those mentioned.
  • Starvation - though now a recognised word, was originally slang. Its derivation is composite, and it was first introduced into the English language by Mr. Dundas, in a debate in the House of Commons on American affairs, in 1775. “I shall not,” he said, “wait for the advent of starvation from Edinburgh to settle my judgment.” From this he was always afterwards called Starvation Dundas.—Horace Walpole’s Letters.
  • Starve’em - Rob’em , and Cheat’em , the adjoining towns of Stroud, Rochester, and Chatham are so designated by soldiers and sailors; from some fancied peculiarities of the inhabitants.
  • Stash - to cease doing anything, to refrain, be quiet, leave off; “stash it, there, you sir!” i.e., be quiet, sir; to give over a lewd or intemperate course of life is to stash it.
  • Stauling ken - a house that will receyue stollen wares.
  • Stawlinge kens - tippling-houses.
  • Stay - to exhibit powers of endurance at walking, running, rowing, &c.
  • Steam-engine - potato-pie at Manchester is so termed.
  • Steam-packet - a jacket.
  • Steel-bar drivers - or flingers, journeymen tailors.
  • Steel - the House of Correction in London, formerly named the Bastile, but since shortened to steel. See bastile.
  • Stems - the legs.
  • Step it - to run away, or make off.
  • Stepper - the treadmill; the “everlasting staircase.”
  • Stick-up - to keep any one waiting at an appointed place or time. To leave a friend or acquaintance to pay the whole or an undue share of a tavern bill.
  • Stick-ups - or gills, shirt collars.
  • Stick - a derogatory expression for a person; “a rum, or odd, stick,” a curious man. More generally a “poor stick.”—Provincial.
  • Sticker - one not likely to be easily shaken off, a stayer.
  • Stickings - coarse, bruised, or damaged meat sold to sausage-makers and penny pie-shops.
  • Sticks - furniture, or household chattels; “pick up your sticks and cut!” summary advice to a person to take himself and furniture away.
  • Sticky - wax.
  • Stiff un - a corpse. Term used by undertakers.
  • Stiff-fencer - a street-seller of writing paper.
  • Stiff - paper, a bill of acceptance, &c.; “how did you get it, stiff or hard?” i.e., did he pay you cash or give a bill? “To do a bit of stiff,” to accept a bill. See kite.
  • Stilton - “that’s the stilton,” or “it’s not the stilton,” i.e., that is1 quite the thing, or that is not quite the thing;—affected rendering of “that is not the cheese,” which see.
  • Stingo - strong liquor.—Yorkshire.
  • Stink - a disagreeable exposure. “To stir up a stink” is to make a disclosure which is generally unpleasant in its effect.
  • Stinkomalee - a name given to the then New London University by Theodore Hook. Probably because some cow-houses and dunghills stood on the original site. Some question about Trincomalee was agitated at the same time. It is still applied by the students of the old Universities, who regard it with disfavour from its admitting all denominations.
  • Stipe - a stipendiary magistrate.—Provincial.
  • Stir - a prison, a lock-up; “in stir,” in gaol. Anglo-Saxon, styr, correction, punishment.
  • Stock. “To stock cards” is to arrange cards in a certain manner for cheating purposes.
  • Stock - “to take stock of one,” to scrutinize narrowly one whom you have reason to suspect, or one with whom you are likely to have business transactions; taken from the tradesmen’s term for the annual examination and valuation of their stock of goods.
  • Stockdollager - a heavy blow, a “finisher.” Italian, stoccado, a fencing term. Also (in a general sense), a disastrous event.—Americanism.
  • Stodge - to surfeit, gorge, or clog with food. Stodge is in some places bread and milk.
  • Stoll - to understand.—North Country Cant.
  • Stomach - to bear with, to be partial to. Mostly used in a negative character,—as, “I can’t stomach that.”
  • Stone-jug - a prison.
  • Stook - a pocket-handkerchief. A stook-hauler, or “buzzer,” is a thief who takes pocket-handkerchiefs.
  • Stop thief - beef.
  • Story - a falsehood,—the soft synonym for a lie, allowed in family circles and boarding-schools. A Puritanism that came into fashion with the tirade against romances, all novels and stories being considered as dangerous and false.
  • Stot - a young bullock. In Northumberland the term stot means to rebound.
  • Stotor - a heavy blow, a settler.—Old Cant.
  • Stow faking! leave off there, be quiet! faking means anything that may be going on.
  • Stow you [stow it], hold your peace.
  • Stow - to leave off, or have done; “stow it, the gorger’s leary.” Leave off, the person is looking. See stash, with which it is synonymous.—Ancient Cant.
  • Stow - to put away, to hide. A hungry man is said to stow his food rapidly. He is also said to hide it.
  • Straight - an American phrase peculiar to dram-drinkers; similar to our word neat, which see.
  • Strap - a barber. From Roderick Random.
  • Straw. Married ladies are said to be “in the straw” at their accouchements. The phrase is a coarse metaphor, and has reference to farmyard animals in a similar condition. It may have originally been suggested to the inquiring mind by the Nativity.
  • Strawing - “selling” straws in the streets (generally for a penny), and “giving” the purchaser a paper (indecent or political) or a gold (!) ring,—neither of which, the patterer states, he is allowed by Act of Parliament to sell.
  • Streak - to decamp, run away.—Saxon. In America the phrase is “to make streaks,” or “make tracks.”
  • Streaky - irritated, ill-tempered. Said of a short-tempered man who has his good and bad times in streak.
  • Street-pitchers - negro minstrels, ballad-singers, long-song men, men “working a board” on which have been painted various exciting scenes in some terrible drama, the details of which the street pitcher is bawling out, and selling in a little book or broadsheet (price one penny); or any persons who make a stand—i.e., a pitch—in the streets, and sell articles or contribute entertainments for a living.
  • Stretch, a walk.—University.
  • Stretch - abbreviation of “stretch one’s neck,” to hang, to be executed as a malefactor. As, “The night before Larry was stretched.”
  • Stretch - twelve months,—generally used to intimate the time any one has been sentenced by the judge or magistrate. One stretch is twelve months’ imprisonment, two stretch is two years, three stretch is three years, and so on.
  • Stretcher-fencer - one who sells braces.
  • Stretcher - a contrivance with handles, used by the police to carry off persons who are violent or drunk.
  • Stretcher - a falsehood; one that requires a stretch of imagination or comprehension.
  • Stretching match - an execution. Often called a “hanging match.”
  • Strike a jigger - to pick a lock, or break open a door.
  • Strike me lucky! an expression used by the lower orders when1 making a bargain, derived from the old custom of striking hands together, leaving in that of the seller a luck penny as an earnest that the bargain is concluded. In Ireland, at cattle markets, &c., a penny, or other small coin, is always given by the buyer to the seller to ratify the bargain.—Hudibras. Anciently this was called a “God’s penny.”
  • Strike - to steale.
  • Strills - cheating lies.—North Country Cant.
  • String - to hoax, to “get in a line.”
  • Strommel - straw.—Ancient Cant. Halliwell says that in Norfolk strummel is a name for hair.
  • Strommell - strawe.
  • Strong - “to come it strong.” See come.
  • Stuck-up - purse-proud—a form of snobbishness very common in those who have risen in the world, especially among those who have risen rather suddenly. Albert Smith wrote some amusing papers on the Natural History of stuck-up People.
  • Stuck - moneyless. See stick.
  • Stuff - money.
  • Stuff - to make false but plausible statements, to praise ironically, to make game of a person,—literally, to stuff or cram him with gammon or falsehood.
  • Stump up - to give one’s share, to pay the reckoning, to bring forth the money reluctantly.
  • Stump - to go on foot.
  • Stumped - bowled out, done for, bankrupt, poverty-stricken. From the cricketing term.
  • Stumps - legs, or feet.
  • Stumpy - money.
  • Stun - to astonish.
  • Stunner - a first-rate person or article.
  • Stunners - feelings of great astonishment; “it put the stunners on me,” i.e., it confounded me.
  • Sub - a subaltern officer in the army.
  • Sub - all.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Sub - to draw money in advance; a term in use among workmen generally, and those with casual employment in particular. Most likely from subsidize.
  • Sublime rascal - a lawyer.
  • Suck the monkey - to rob a cask of liquor by inserting a straw through a gimlet-hole, and sucking a portion of the contents. Originally, as Captain Marryatt states, to suck the monkey, was to suck rum from cocoa-nuts, which spirit had been inserted in place of the milk, for the private use of the sailors. See tap the admiral.
  • Suck the mop - to be the victim of an omnibus nursing exploit. When an omnibus is being nursed, the driver of the hindmost vehicle keeps so close to his opponent that the horses get their heads almost into the doorway. The nursed omnibus is then said to suck the mop. Nursing is, thanks to tramways and the Metropolis Streets Act, almost a thing of the past. At the East-end, however, it still goes merrily on.
  • Suck up - “to suck up to a person,” to insinuate oneself into his good graces.
  • Suck-casa - a public-house.—Lingua Franca.
  • Suck - a parasite, a flatterer of the “nobs.”—University.
  • Suck - to pump, or draw information from a person.
  • Sudden death. In tossing, to be decided by the first call is to “go sudden death,” as distinguished from the longer forms of “best two out of three,” and “first three.” At the Universities a crumpet, or Sally Lunn, is so called.
  • Sufferer - a tailor; the loser at any game.
  • Sugar and honey - money.
  • Sugar-candy - brandy.
  • Sugar - money.
  • Suicide - four horses driven in a line. See harum-scarum.
  • Sulky - a one-horse chaise, having only room for one person. Used nowadays only in trotting matches.
  • Sumsy - an action of assumpsit.—Legal Slang.
  • Sun in the eyes - too much drink. A person who is tipsy is said to have the sun in his eyes. He is also said to have been “standing too long in the sun.”
  • Supe - or super, abbreviation of supernumerary.—Theatrical.
  • Super - a watch; super-screwing, stealing watches.
  • Surf - an actor who frequently pursues another calling.—Theatrical. Surf, or serf, is also a term much in use among the lower orders to denote a crawling or sycophantic wretch.
  • Suspicion - a scarcely perceptible flavour; as, “There was just a suspicion of oil in the mixture.” French, soupçon.
  • Swab - an epaulet.—Sea.
  • Swack-up - a falsehood.
  • Swadder - or pedler [a man who hawks goods].
  • Swaddler - see souper.
  • Swaddy - or coolie, a soldier. The former was originally applied to a discharged soldier, and perhaps came from shoddy, which is made1 from soldiers’ and policemen’s worn-out coats. The term was one of opprobrium, and was probably the result of a long peace, for it became obsolete as soon as the Crimean War commenced.
  • Swag-shop - a warehouse where “Brummagem” and general wares, fancy trinkets, plated goods, &c., are sold. Jews are the general proprietors; and the goods are very low-priced, trashy, and showy. Swag-shops were formerly plunder depôts.—Old Cant.
  • Swag - a lot or plenty of anything, a portion or division of property. In Australia the term is used for the luggage carried by diggers. Scotch, sweg, or swack; German, sweig, a flock. Old cant for a shop.
  • Swagsman - one who carries the booty after a burglary.
  • Swank - to boast or “gas” unduly.
  • Swankey - cheap or small beer. Any weak fermented beverage.
  • Swap - to exchange. Grose says it is Irish cant, but the term is now included in most dictionaries as an allowed vulgarism.
  • Swarry - a boiled leg of mutton and trimmings. Sam Weller’s adventure with the Bath footmen originated the term. See trimmings.
  • Swatchel-cove - the master of a Punch-and-Judy exhibition who “fakes the slum,” and does the necessary squeak for the amusement of the bystanders. See Schwassle box. The orthography of many of these colloquial expressions differs. It was thought best to give the various renderings as collected.
  • Sweat - to extract money from a person, to “bleed.” Also, to squander riches.—Bulwer.
  • Sweat - to violently shake up a lot of guineas or sovereigns in a leathern bag for the purpose of benefiting by the perspiration.
  • Sweater - common term for a “cutting” or “grinding” employer,—one who sweats his workpeople. A cheap tailor, who pays starvation wages.
  • Sweep - a contemptuous term for a low or shabby man.
  • Sweet - loving or fond; “how sweet he was upon the moll,” i.e., what marked attention he paid the girl.
  • Sweetener - a person who runs up the prices of articles at an auction. See jollying, bonnet, &c.
  • Swell hung in chains - said of a showy man in the habit of wearing much jewellery.
  • Swell street - the West-end of London.
  • Swift’s coarser pieces abound in vulgarities and Slang expressions.
  • Swig - a hearty drink.
  • Swig - to drink. Saxon, swigan.
  • Swill - to drink inordinately. Swill, hog-wash. From which the verb has possibly been derived.—Norfolk.
  • Swim - “a good swim,” a good run of luck, a long time out of the policeman’s clutches.—Thieves’ term. Among anglers “a good swim” is a good pitch for a part where fish are plentiful—that is, because a lot of fish keeping together are called a swim. Thus one who is in luck, is well connected, or is doing a good business, is said to be in a good swim.
  • Swindler - although a recognised word in standard dictionaries, commenced service as a slang term. It was used as such by the poor Londoners against the German Jews who set up in London about the year 1762, also by our soldiers in the German war about that time. Schwindeln, in German, signifies to cheat.
  • Swing. To have one’s swing is to have a full turn at anything.
  • Swing - to be hanged; “if you don’t do what’s right, I’ll swing for you,” i.e., take your life,—a common threat in low neighbourhoods.
  • Swingeing - large, huge, powerful. As a swingeing blow, swingeing damages, &c.
  • Swipe - at cricket, to hit hard with a full swing of the bat. Most probably a condensation of “wipe swingeing” or “swinging wipe.”
  • Swipes - sour or small beer. Swipe, to drink.—Sea.
  • Swipey (from swipes), intoxicated.
  • Swish - to flog, derived perhaps from the sound. Maybe, a corruption of switch.
  • Swished - or switched, married.
  • Swivel-eye - a squinting eye.
  • Swizzle - small beer, drink.
  • Swot - mathematics; also, a mathematician; as a verb, to work hard for an examination, to be diligent in one’s studies.—Army.
  • Syce - a groom.—Anglo-Indian.
  • T - “to suit to a T,” to fit to a nicety.—Old. Perhaps from the T-square of carpenters, by which the accuracy of work is tested.
  • Tabby party - a party consisting entirely of women, a tea and tattle gathering. In America, a gathering of men only is called a “stag party.”
  • Tabooed - forbidden. This word, now very common, is derived from a custom of the South-Sea islanders, first noticed in Cook’s Voyages.
  • Tach - a hat.
  • Tack - a taste foreign to what was intended; a barrel may get a tack upon it, either permanently mouldy, sour, or otherwise.
  • Tacked - tied down. When a man has another vanquished, or for certain reasons bound to his service, he is said to have “got him tacked.”
  • Tackle - clothes.—Sea. Also to encounter a person in argument.
  • Taf - fat. A taf eno is a fat man or woman, literally A fat one.
  • Taffy (corruption of David), a Welshman. Compare Sawney (from1 Alexander), a Scotchman; Paddy (from Patrick), an Irishman; and Johnny (from John Bull), an Englishman.
  • Tag-rag-and-bobtail - a mixed crowd of low people, the lower orders generally.
  • Tail-block - a watch.—Sea.
  • Tail-buzzer - a thief who picks coat-pockets.
  • Tail-down - “to get the tail down,” generally means to lose courage. When a professional at any game loses heart in a match he is said to get his tail down. “His tail was quite down, and it was all over.” The origin is obvious.
  • Take a fright - night.
  • Take beef - to run away.
  • Take in - a cheating or swindling transaction,—sometimes termed “a dead take in.” Shakspeare has take in in the sense of conquering. To be “had,” or to be “spoken to,” were formerly synonymous phrases with to be taken in.
  • Take it out - to obtain value for money, labour, &c. A rich man is said to “take it (i.e., his money) out in fine footmen, fine feeding,” &c. A poor man “takes it (i.e., his trouble) out in drink.”
  • Talk shop - to intrude oneself or one’s private business too freely into conversation. Any one who does this is said to be shoppy.
  • Talking - a stable term, of a milder kind, applied to those horses which are addicted to roaring. See the latter expression.
  • Tall - extensive, exaggerated,—generally applied to conversation, as “loud” is to dress, or personal appearance; “tall talk that,” i.e., conversation too boastful or high-flown to be true. Among pedestrians a great rate of speed is spoken of as tall.
  • Tally - five dozen bunches of turnips.—Costermongers’ term.
  • Tally - “to live tally,” to live in a state of unmarried impropriety; tally-wife, a woman who cohabits with a man to whom she is not married.
  • Tallyman - an accommodating salesman who takes payment by instalments to suit the convenience of the purchaser, but who is anything but accommodating when payments are irregular. Tallymen are the cause of much misfortune to the working classes, from their high and1 exorbitant rates, and the temptations they offer to weak-minded women, who purchase in haste and repent at leisure.
  • Tan - an order to pull.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Tan - to beat or thrash; “I’ll tan your hide,” i.e., I’ll give you a good beating.
  • Tanner - a sixpence. Perhaps Gipsy, tawno, little, or Latin, tener, slender.
  • Tanny - or teeny, little. Gipsy, tawno, little.
  • Tantrems - pranks, capers, frolicking; from the Tarantula dance. See account of the involuntary frenzy and motions caused by the bite of the tarantula in Italy.—Penny Cyclopædia.
  • Tantrums - ill-tempers. “He’s in his tantrums this morning,” is often said of a peevish, querulous man. They are not peculiar to the one sex, however.
  • Taoc-tisaw - a waistcoat.
  • Taoc - a coat. “Cool the delo taoc” means, “Look at the old coat,” but is really intended to apply to the wearer as well, as professors of mixed slangs might say, “Vardy his nibs in the snide bucket.”
  • Tap the Admiral - to suck liquor from a cask by means of a straw, said to have been done with the rum-cask in which Lord Nelson’s body was brought to England, to such an extent as to leave the gallant Admiral dry.
  • Tap-tub - the Morning Advertiser,—so called by vulgar people from the fact that this daily newspaper is the principal organ of the London brewers and publicans. Sometimes termed the Gin and Gospel Gazette, though this title is fast fading out since the paper has been in the hands of its present editor.
  • Tape - gin,—term with female servants. Also, a military term used in barracks when no spirits are allowed. See ribbon.
  • Taper - to give over gradually, to run short.
  • Tar-brush - a person whose complexion indicates a mixture of negro blood, is said to have had a lick of the tar-brush. Sometimes a man of this description is said to have been dipped in the black-pot, and he is often reminded that “another dip would have done it,” i.e., another dip would have made a negro of him.
  • Tar-out - to punish, to serve out.
  • Taradiddle - a falsehood.
  • Tarpaulin - a sailor.
  • Tartar - a savage fellow, an “ugly customer.” To “catch a Tartar,” is to discover somewhat unpleasantly that a person is by no means so mild or good-tempered as he or she at first appeared.
  • Tat-box - a dice-box.
  • Tater - “s’elp my tater,” an evasion of a profane oath, sometimes varied by “s’elp my greens.”
  • Tatler - a watch; “nimming a tatler,” stealing a watch.
  • Tats - dice.
  • Tats - old rags; milky tats, white rags.
  • Tatterdemalion - a ragged fellow.
  • Tatting - gathering old rags.
  • Tattoo - a pony.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Taw - a large or principal marble; “I’ll be one on your taw,” I will pay you out, or be even with you,—a simile taken from boys aiming always at winning the taw when playing at marbles.
  • Te-he - to titter, “Upon this I te-he’d.”—Madame d’Arblay. As an interjection it is as old as Chaucer. See Miller’s Tale:—
  • Tea-fight - an evening party, alias a “muffin-worry.”
  • Tea-spoon - five thousand pounds. See spoons.
  • Teagueland - Ireland. From the national character of the name Teague.
  • Teaich-gir - right, otherwise tadger.
  • Teddy Hall - St. Edmund Hall.—Oxford University.
  • Teeth-drawing - wrenching off knockers. Medical students’ term.
  • Teeth - “he has cut his eye teeth,” i.e., is old and ’cute enough.
  • Teetotaller - a total abstainer from alcoholic drinks. The origin of this term is not known. It is said to be from the expression of a fanatical and stuttering enthusiast in the cause of total abstinence. It has nothing to do with tea.
  • Teetotally - amplification of totally.
  • Tell on - to tell about, to talk of, to inform against. (This is formed by a simple misuse of the preposition.)
  • Ten commandments - a virago’s fingers, or nails. Often heard in a female street disturbance. “I’ll leave the ten commandments marked on his chump,” shows that the term may be applied to either the fingers or the scratchings. It would be a strange hand, however, that, with the best opportunity, could made five marks simultaneously.
  • Tench - the Penitentiary, of which it is a contraction. See steel.
  • Tenip - a pint.
  • Tenpence to the shilling - a vulgar phrase denoting a deficiency in intellect.
  • Testamur - the slip of paper on which the examiners testify (testari) to the fact that the candidate has satisfied their requirements.—University.
  • Tester - sixpence. From testone, a shilling in the reign of Henry VIII., but a sixpence in the time of Queen Elizabeth.—Shakspeare. French, teste, or tête, the head of the monarch on the coin.
  • Teviss - a shilling. Costermongers’ and tramps’ term.
  • Thatch - the human hair. “He’s well thatched,” is said of a man with a good head of hair.
  • The Tavern - New Inn Hall.—Oxford University.
  • The Triumph of Wit - or Ingenuity displayed in its Perfection, being the Newest and most Useful Academy, Songs, Art of Love, and the Mystery and Art of Canting, with Poems, Songs, &c., in the Canting Language, 16mo.J. Clarke, 1735.
  • The Triumph of Wit - or the Canting Dictionary, being the Newest and most Useful Academy, containing the Mystery and art of Canting, with the original and present management thereof, and the ends to which it serves and is employed, illustrated with Poems, Songs, and8 various Intrigues in the Canting Language, with the Explanations, &c., 12mo.Dublin, n. d.
  • The Whole Art Of Thieving and Defrauding Discovered: being a Caution to all Housekeepers, Shopkeepers, Salesmen, and others, to guard against Robbers of both Sexes, and the best Methods to prevent their Villanies; to which is added an Explanation of most of the Cant terms in the Thieving Language, 8vo, pp. 46.1786.
  • The high pad - the highway.
  • The ruffian cly thee - the devil take thee.
  • The thing - the style, the proper proportion. Application varied. A good appearance, a decent dinner, or a fair bottle of wine, is said to be “the thing,” sometimes “the correct thing.”
  • Theg (or teaich) gen, eight shillings.
  • Theg (or teaitch) yanneps, eightpence.
  • Thick un - a sovereign; originally a crown piece, or five shillings.
  • Thick; “to lay it on thick,” to flatter unduly, to surfeit with praise or adulation.
  • Thick - intimate, familiar. The Scotch use the word “chief” in this sense, as, “the two are very chief now.”
  • Thimble-twisters - thieves who rob persons of their watches.
  • Thimble - or yack, a watch.—Prison Cant.
  • Thin-skinned - over-nice, petulant, apt to get a “raw.” See that term.
  • Thingumy - thingumbob, expressions used for the name of a thing which cannot be recollected at the instant.
  • Thomas (I.), My Thought Book, 8vo.1825.
  • Three sheets in the wind - unsteady from drink.—Sea.
  • Three-cornered scraper - a cocked hat.—Sea.
  • Three-quarters of a peck - the neck,—in writing, among experts, expressed by the simple “¾,” as it is pronounced.
  • Through - finished. In America, where this word is most used in the sense now given, a guest who has had enough will, when asked to take more, say, “I’m through,” which is certainly preferable to the other Americanism, “crammed.”
  • Thrummer - a threepenny bit.
  • Thrums - threepence. Also, in Coventry, remnants and waste pieces of silk.
  • Thrups - threepence. See the preceding, which is more general.
  • Thud - the dull, dead sound made by the fall of a heavy body, or the striking of a bullet against any soft, fleshy substance.
  • Thumper - a magnificently constructed lie, a lie about which there is no stint of imaginative power.
  • Thumping - large, fine, or strong.
  • Thunderbomb - an imaginary ship of vast size. See Merry Dun of Dover.
  • Thunderer - the Times newspaper, sometimes termed “the Thunderer of Printing House Square,” from the locality where it is printed.
  • Thundering - large, extra-sized.
  • Tib - a bit, or piece.
  • Tibbing out - going out of bounds.—Charterhouse.
  • Tibby - the head. Street slang, with no known etymology. To drop on one’s tibby is to frighten or startle any one, to take one unawares.
  • Tib’s eve - “neither before Christmas nor after,” an indefinite period; like the Greek Kalends, Tib’s eve has a future application; an indefinite period of past time is sometimes said to be “when Adam was an oakum-boy in Chatham Dockyard.” “The reign of Queen Dick” is another form of this kind of expression, and is used to indicate either past time or future.
  • Tick - credit, trust. Johnson says it is a corruption of “ticket,”—tradesmen’s bills being formerly written on tickets or cards. On tick, therefore, is equivalent to on ticket, or on trust. In use in 1668, and before, as follows:—
  • Ticker - a watch. Formerly cant, now street slang.
  • Ticket - “that’s the ticket,” i.e., that’s what is wanted, or what is best. Probable corruption of “that’s etiquette,” or, perhaps, from ticket, a bill or invoice. This phrase is sometimes extended into “that’s the ticket for soup,” in allusion to the card given to beggars for immediate relief at soup kitchens. See tick.
  • Tickle - to puzzle; “a reg’lar tickler” is a poser.
  • Tiddlywink - slim, puny; sometimes tillywink.
  • Tidy - tolerably, or pretty well; “How did you get on to-day?”—“Oh, tidy.”—Saxon.
  • Tie - a dead heat. A game of any kind, in which the possibility exists, is said to end in a tie, if the markings are level on each side at the finish. In racing parlance, all level finishes are called dead-heats.
  • Tied up - given over, finished; also married, in allusion to the hymeneal knot, unless a jocose allusion be intended to the “halter” (altar). See buckled, term in use among costermongers and street folk generally.
  • Tiff - a pet, a fit of ill humour.
  • Tiffin - a breakfast, déjeûner à la fourchette.—Anglo-Indian Slang.
  • Tiffy - easily offended, apt to be annoyed.
  • Tiger - a parasite; also a term for a ferocious woman; a boy employed to wait on gentlemen—one who waits on ladies is a page.
  • Tiger - a superlative yell. “Three cheers, and the last in tigers.”—American. To “fight the tiger” is also American, and refers to gambling with professionals—dangerous pastime.
  • Tight - close, stingy; hard up, short of cash; tight, spruce, strong, active; “a tight lad,” a smart, active young fellow; tight, drunk, or nearly so, generally the result of “going on the loose;” “tight-laced,” puritanical, over-precise. Money is said to be tight when the public, from want of confidence in the aspect of affairs, are not inclined to speculate.
  • Tightener - a dinner, or hearty meal. See Spitalfields’ breakfast.
  • Tike- - or buffer-lurking, dog-stealing.
  • Tile - a hat, a covering for the head.
  • Timber merchant - or spunk fencer, a lucifer-match seller.
  • Timber-toes - a wooden-legged man. Also at the East-end one who wears clogs, i.e., wooden soled boots.
  • Time o’ day - a dodge, the latest aspect of affairs; “that’s your time o’ day,” i.e., that’s well done; to put a person up to the time o’ day, or let him know “what’s o’clock,” is to instruct him in the knowledge needful for him.
  • Time - cabman’s slang for money. If they wish to express 9s. 9d. they say that “it is a quarter to ten;” if 3s. 6d., half-past three; if 11s. 9d. a quarter to twelve. Cab-drivers can hardly have originated a system which has been in existence as long as the adage, “Time is money.” They have, however, the full use of the arrangement, which is perhaps the simplest on record.
  • Time - to do, to work out a sentence of imprisonment. Time is the generic term for all quantities of incarceration, whether short or long. Sometimes stir-time (imprisonment in the House of Correction) is distinguished from the more extended system of punishment which is called “pinnel (penal) time.”
  • Tin-pot - “he plays a tin-pot game,” i.e., a low, mean, or shabby game. In the Contes d’Eutrapel, a French officer at the siege of Chatillon is ridiculously spoken of as Captain Tin-pot—Capitaine du Pot d’Etain. Tin-pot, as generally used, means worthless. As applied to billiards and kindred games, it means pretentious and inferior play.
  • Tin - money,—generally applied to silver.
  • Tinge - the per-centage allowed by drapers and clothiers to their assistants upon the sale of old-fashioned articles. See spiffs.
  • Tinkler - a bell. “Jerk the tinkler,” ring the bell. Refined or affected slangists sometimes say, “Agitate the communicator,” which, though it represents “ring the bell,” should more properly mean “pull the cord.”
  • Tip the double - to “bolt,” or run away from any one.
  • Tip-top - first-rate, of the best kind.
  • Tip-topper - a “swell,” or dressy man, a “Gorger.”
  • Tip - a douceur; “that’s the tip,” i.e., that’s the proper thing to do. “To miss one’s tip,” to fail in a scheme.—Old Cant.
  • Tip - advice or information respecting anything, but mostly used in reference to horse-racing, so that the person tipped may know how to bet to the best advantage. The “straight tip” is the tip which comes direct from the owner or trainer of a horse. Of late years a “straight tip” means a direct hint on any subject.
  • Tip - to give, lend, or hand over anything to another person; “come, tip up the tin,” i.e., hand up the money; “tip the wink,” to inform by winking; “tip us your fin,” i.e., give me your hand; “tip one’s boom off,” to make off, or depart. From the seafaring phrase.
  • Tipper - a kind of ale brewed at Brighton. Mrs. Gamp preferred the “Brighton tipper.”
  • Tipster - a “turf” agent who collects early and generally special information of the condition and racing capabilities of horses in the training districts, and posts the same to his subscribers to guide their betting.
  • Tit for tat - an equivalent.
  • Tit - a favourite name for a horse.
  • Titivate - to put in order, or dress up. Originally tidy-vate.
  • Titley - drink, generally applied to intoxicating beverages.
  • Titter - a girl; “nark the titter,” i.e., look at the girl.—Tramp’s term.
  • Tizzy - a sixpence. Corruption of tester.
  • To bowse - to drinke.
  • To cant - to speake.
  • To cly the gerke - to be whipped.
  • To couch a hogshead - to lie down and slepe.
  • To cut bene whyddes - to speake or give good words.
  • To cut benle - to speak gentle.
  • To cutte quyer whyddes - to giue euil words or euil language.
  • To cutte - to say.
  • To dup ye gyger [jigger], to open the dore.
  • To fylche - to robbe.
  • To heue a bough - to robbe or rifle a boweth [booth].
  • To maunde - to aske or require.
  • To mill a ken - to robbe a house.
  • To nyp a boung - [nip, to steal], to cut a purse.
  • To skower the crampringes - to weare boltes or fetters.
  • To stall - to make or ordain.
  • To the nines - to the dodges of the day. “He’s up to the nines,” means he’s up to everything. “Dressed to the nines,” means dressed loudly, or, as it is more generally known now, “dressed to death.”
  • To the ruffian - to the Devil.
  • To towre - to see.
  • To-do (pronounced quickly, and as one word), a disturbance, trouble; “here’s a pretty to-do,” here is an unpleasant difficulty. This exactly tallies with the French, affaire (à faire).—See Forby’s Vocabulary of East Anglia.
  • To-rights - excellent, very well, or good.—Low London slang.
  • Toad-in-the-hole - a kind of pudding, consisting of small pieces of meat immersed in batter, and baked. Also, a term applied to perambulating advertising mediums. See sandwich.
  • Toasting-fork - a regulation sword, indicative of the general uselessness of that weapon.
  • Toby - the road. The highwayman or swell robber was in old days said to be on the high toby, from the high or main road, while those meaner fellows, the footpad and the cutpurse, were but “low toby-men,” from their frequenting the by-ways.
  • Toddle - to walk as a child.
  • Toe - to kick. “I’ll toe your backside.” Common in London.
  • Toff - a dandy, a swell of rank. Corruption probably of tuft. See toft.
  • Toffer - a well-dressed “gay” woman. One who deals with toffs.
  • Tofficky - dressy, showy.
  • Toft - a showy individual, a swell, a person who, in a Yorkshireman’s vocabulary, would be termed “uppish.” See tuft.
  • Tog - a coat. Latin, toga.—Ancient Cant.
  • Tog - to dress, or equip with an outfit; “togged out to the nines,” dressed in the first style.
  • Togemans [tog], cloake.
  • Toggery - clothes, harness, domestic paraphernalia of any kind.
  • Togman - a coate.
  • Togs - clothes; “Sunday togs,” best clothes. One of the oldest cant words—in use in the time of Henry VIII. See cant.
  • Toke - dry bread. Sometimes used to denote a lump of anything.
  • Toko for yam - a Roland for an Oliver. Possibly from a system of barter carried on between sailors and aborigines.
  • Tol-lol - or tol-lollish, tolerable, or tolerably.
  • Tol - lot, stock, or share.
  • Toll-shop - a Yorkshire correspondent gives this word as denoting in that county a prison, and also the following verse of a song, popular at fairs in the East Riding:—
  • Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress, with a Preface, Notes, and Appendix by one of the Fancy [Tom Moore, the Poet], 12mo.1819.
  • Tom Toppers - a waterman, from a popular song, entitled, Overboard he vent.
  • Tom Tug - a mug (a fool).
  • Tom Tug - a waterman. From the small stage-play. Also rhyming slang for a flat, or rather a “mug.”
  • Tom and Jerry shop - a low drinking shop. Probably some allusion to Pierce Egan’s famous characters in his Life in London. Generally contracted to Jerry shop.
  • Tom-fool’s colours - scarlet and yellow, the ancient motley. Occasionally, as a rhyme of quality suitable to the subject,
  • Tom-tom - a street instrument, a kind of small drum beaten with the2 fingers, somewhat like the ancient tabor; a performer on this instrument. “Hark! ’tis the Indian drum.”
  • Tom - e.g., “after Tom,” after the hour at which Big Tom of Christchurch rings. At its last stroke the gates are closed, and undergrads entering after have to pay an increasing sum for each hour up to twelve. To be out after that involves an interview with the Master.—Oxford University.
  • Tomboy - a hoyden, a rude romping girl.
  • Tombstone - a pawn-ticket—“In memory of” whatever has been pawned,—a well-known slang expression with those Londoners who are in the habit of following “my uncle.”
  • Tomfoolery - nonsense; trashy, mild, and innocuous literature.
  • Tommy Dodd - in tossing when the odd man either wins or loses, as per agreement. A phrase in frequent use in London. A music-hall song has been given with this title and on this subject.
  • Tommy Tripe - to pipe; that is, to observe. “Tommy Tripe his plates of meat.”
  • Tommy o’Rann - scran,—vulgar term for food.
  • Tommy-master - one who pays his workmen in goods, or gives them tickets upon tradesmen, with whom he shares the profit.
  • Tommy-shop - a shop where wages are paid to mechanics or others, who are expected to “take out” a portion of the money in goods. Also, a baker’s shop.
  • Tommy - See dickey.
  • Tommy - bread,—food generally. Sometimes applied by workmen to the supply of food which they carry in a bag or handkerchief as their daily allowance. Tommy-bag is the term for the bag or handkerchief in which the “daily bread” is carried.
  • Tommy - truck, barter, the exchange of labour for goods, not money. Both term and practice, general among English operatives for half-a-century, are by a current fiction supposed to have been abolished by Act of Parliament.
  • Tongue - “to tongue a person,” i.e., to talk him down. Tongued, talkative.
  • Tony Lumpkin - a young, clownish country fellow. From She Stoops to Conquer.
  • Tonygle [coition].
  • Tool - a very little boy employed by burglars to enter at small apertures, and open doors for the larger thieves outside.
  • Tool - as “a poor tool,” a bad hand at anything.
  • Tool - to drive a coach, or any other vehicle. To “handle the ribbons” in fine style.
  • Tooler - a pickpocket. Moll-tooler, a female pickpocket.
  • Tooley Street tailor - a self-conceited, vainglorious man. The “three tailors of Tooley Street” are said to have immortalized themselves by preparing a petition for Parliament—and some say, presenting it—with only their own signatures thereto, which commenced, “We, the people of England.”
  • Tooth - “he has cut his eye tooth,” i.e., he is sharp enough, or old enough, to do so; “old in the tooth,” far advanced in age,—said often of old maids. From the stable term for aged horses which have lost the distinguishing marks in their teeth.
  • Tootsies - feet, those of ladies and children in particular. In married life it is said the husband uses this expression for the first six months; after that he terms them “hoofs.”
  • Top Jint (vulgar pronunciation of joint), a pint—of beer.
  • Top up - a finishing drink. “He drank two bottles of claret and one of port, which he topped up with half a bottle of brandy.”
  • Top-dressing - in journalism, is the large-type introduction to a report, generally written by a man of higher literary attainments than the ordinary reporter who follows with the details.
  • Top-heavy - drunk.
  • Top-sawyer - the principal of a party, or profession. “A top-sawyer signifies a man that is a master-genius in any profession. It is a piece of Norfolk slang, and took its rise from Norfolk being a great timber county, where the top sawyers get double the wages of those beneath them.”—Randall’s Diary, 1820.
  • Top-yob - a potboy.
  • Top - the signal among tailors and sempstresses for snuffing the candle; one cries top, and all the others follow; he who last pronounces the word has to snuff the candle.
  • Topped - hanged, or executed.
  • Topper - anything or person above the ordinary; a blow on the head. “Give him a topper and chance it,” “Let him have a topper for luck.”
  • Topper - the tobacco which is left in the bottom of a pipe-bowl—lucus a non lucendo; or the stump of a smoked cigar. Topper-hunters are men who pick up cigar ends and odd pieces of stale tobacco, which they mix and chop up for home consumption or sale.
  • Tormentors - the large iron flesh-forks used by cooks at sea.
  • Torpids - the second-class race-boats at Oxford, answering to the Cambridge “sloggers.”
  • Torrac - a carrot. “Ekat a torrac.”
  • Toshers - men who steal copper from ships’ bottoms in the Thames.
  • Toss - a measure of sprats.—Billingsgate.
  • Tot-up - to add together,—as columns of figures, £ s. d. From total-up, through the vulgarism tottle.
  • Tot - a small glass; a “tot o’ whisky” is the smallest quantity sold.
  • Totting - bone-picking, either peripatetically or at the dust-heaps. “Tot” is a bone, but chiffoniers and cinder-hunters generally are called tot-pickers nowadays. Totting also has its votaries on the banks of the Thames, where all kinds of flotsam and jetsam, from coals to carrion, are known as tots.
  • Touch-and-go - an expression often applied to men with whom business arrangements should be of the lightest possible character. Thus, “He’s a touch-and-go sort of fellow. Be careful of him.”
  • Toucher - “as near as a toucher,” as near as possible without actually2 touching.—Coaching term. The old Jarveys, to show their skill, used to drive against things so closely as absolutely to touch, yet without injury. This they called a toucher, or touch-and-go, which was hence applied to anything which was within an ace of ruin.
  • Touchy - peevish, irritable. Johnson terms it a low word.
  • Tout. In sporting phraseology a tout signifies an agent in the training districts, on the look-out for information as to the condition and capabilities of those horses entering for a coming race. Touts often get into trouble through entering private training-grounds. They, however, are very highly paid, some making 40l. or 50l. a week during the season. Now frequently called horse-watchers.
  • Tout - to look out, or watch.
  • Touter - a looker out, one who waits at railway stations and steamboat piers, and touts for customers; a hotel runner. Term in general use.
  • Touzle - to romp with or rumple.—Scotch.
  • Tow-pows - grenadiers. From the bearskins, most likely, unless it was originally tall-pows, the grenadiers being the tallest men in the company.
  • Towel - to beat or whip. In old English phraseology a cudgel was termed an oaken towel—whence, perhaps, the verb.
  • Towelling - a rubbing down with an oaken towel, a beating.
  • Town and Gown. The fight which used to come off every 5th of November between the undergrads and the “cads.” The sides used to shout respectively “town!” and “gown!” as war-cries.—Oxford University.
  • Town-lout - a derogatory title at Rugby School for those pupils who reside with their parents in the town, in contradistinction from those who live in the boarding-houses.
  • Towzery gang - swindlers who hire sale-rooms, usually in the suburbs, for mock auction sales of cheap and worthless goods, and who advertise their ventures as “Alarming Sacrifices,” “Important Sales of Bankrupts’ Stock,” &c. The American name for a mock auctioneer is a “Peter Funk.”
  • Tracks - “to make tracks,” to run away. See streak.
  • Tradesman - one who thoroughly understands his business, whatever it may be. No better compliment can be passed on an individual, whether his profession be housebreaking, prizefighting, or that of a handicraftsman, than the significant “He’s a regular tradesman.”
  • Translator - a man who deals in old shoes or clothes, and refits them for cheap wear. These people generally live in or about Dudley Street, Seven Dials.
  • Translators - second-hand boots mended and polished, and sold at a low price.
  • Trap - a “fast” term for a carriage of any kind. Traps, goods and chattels of any kind, but especially luggage and personal effects; in Australia, “swag.”
  • Trapesing - gadding or gossiping about in a slatternly way. Generally applied to girls and women in low neighbourhoods, who wander from2 public-house to public-house, and whose clothes are carelessly fastened, causing them to trail on the ground.
  • Traveller - name given by one tramp to another. “A traveller at her Majesty’s expense,” i.e., a transported felon, a convict.
  • Triangles - a slang term for delirium tremens, during a fit of which everything appears out of the square.
  • Tripes - the bowels.
  • Trollies - or trolly-carts, term given by costermongers to a species of narrow carts, which can either be drawn by a donkey or driven by hand.
  • Trolling - sauntering or idling, hence troll and trollocks, an idle slut, a “moll,” which see.
  • Trollop - a slatternly woman, a prostitute.
  • Trork - a quart.
  • Trosseno - literally, “one sort,” but professional slangists use it to imply anything that is bad. Tross, among costermongers, means anything5 bad. It is probably a corruption of trash. Possibly, however, the constant use of the words “dab-tros” may have led them in their unthinking way to imagine that the latter word will do by itself.
  • Trot out - to draw out or exploit, to show off the abilities of a companion; sometimes to roast for the amusement and with the assistance of an assembled company.
  • Trot - to “run up,” to oppose, to bid against at an auction. Private buyers at auctions know from experience how general is the opposition against them from dealers, “knock-outs,” and other habitués of sales, who regard the rooms as their own peculiar domain. “We trotted him up nicely, didn’t we?” i.e., we made him (the private buyer) pay dearly for what he bought.
  • Trotter cases - shoes.
  • Trotter - a tailor’s man who goes round for orders.—University.
  • Trotters - feet. Sheep’s trotters, boiled sheep’s feet, a favourite street delicacy.
  • Truck - a hat—from the cap on the extremity of a mast.—Sea.
  • Truck - to exchange or barter.
  • Trucks - trousers.
  • Trull - corruption of “troll” or “trollop,” a dirty, slatternly woman, a prostitute of the lowest class.
  • Trump - a good fellow; “a regular trump,” a jolly or good-natured person—in allusion to a trump card; “trumps may turn up,” i.e., fortune may yet favour me.
  • Trunks - short trousers worn above hose or tights.—Theatrical.
  • Try it on - to make attempt, generally applied to an effort at imposition. An extortionate charge or a begging-letter is frequently described as “a regular try-on.”
  • Tryning - hanging.
  • Tub-thumping - preaching or speech-making, from the old Puritan fashion of “holding forth” from a tub, or beer barrel, as a mark of their contempt for decorated pulpits.
  • Tub - the morning bath. To tub has now become a regular verb, so far as colloquialism is concerned, though no one uses a tub as the word was originally understood.
  • Tubs - nickname for a butterman.
  • Tuck - a schoolboy’s term for fruit, pastry, &c. Tuck in, or tuck out, a good meal.
  • Tuft-hunter - a hanger on to persons of quality or wealth—one who seeks the society of wealthy people. Originally University slang, but now general.
  • Tufts - at the University, noblemen, who pay high fees and are distinguished by golden tufts, or tassels, in their caps.
  • Tumble to pieces - to be safely delivered, as in childbirth.
  • Tumble - to comprehend or understand. A coster was asked what he thought of Macbeth, and he replied, “The witches and the fighting was all very well, but the other moves I couldn’t tumble to exactly; few on us can tumble to the jaw-breakers; they licks us, they do.”
  • Tune the old cow died of - an epithet for any ill-played or discordant piece of music. Originally the name of an old ballad, referred to by dramatists of Shakspeare’s time.
  • Tuns - a name at Pembroke College, Oxford, for small silver cups, each containing half a pint. Sometimes a tun had a handle with a whistle, which could not be blown till the cup was empty.
  • Turf - horse-racing, and betting thereon; “on the turf,” one who occupies himself with race-horse business; said also of a street-walker, or nymph of the pavé.
  • Turkey merchants - dealers in plundered or contraband silk. Poulterers are sometimes termed turkey merchants in remembrance of Horne Tooke’s answer to the boys at Eton, who wished in an aristocratic way to know what his father was: “A turkey merchant,” replied Tooke—his father was a poulterer. Turkey merchant, also, was formerly slang for a driver of turkeys or geese to market.
  • Turn it up - to quit, change, abscond, or abandon; “Ned has turned it up,” i.e., run away; “I intend turning it up,” i.e., leaving my present abode or employment, or altering my course of life.
  • Turn up - a street fight; a sudden leaving, or making off. An unexpected slice of luck. Among sporting men bookmakers are said to have a turn up when an unbacked horse wins.
  • Turn up - to appear unexpectedly. Also to happen; “Let’s wait, and see what will turn up.”
  • Turn up - to make sick. People are said to be turned up by sea-sickness, or when they are made ill by excessive smoking or drinking.
  • Turn-out - personal show or appearance; a man with a showy carriage and horses is said to have a good turn-out.
  • Turn-over - an apprentice who finishes with a second master the indentures he commenced with another, who has died or become bankrupt.
  • Turned over - remanded by the magistrate or judge for want of evidence.
  • Turned up - to be stopped and searched by the police. To be discharged from a police-court or sessions-house; to be acquitted.
  • Turnip - an old-fashioned watch, so called from its general appearance, if of silver. Also called “a frying-pan.” Old-fashioned gold watches are called “warming-pans.”
  • Turnpike sailors - beggars who go about dressed as sailors. A sarcastic reference to the scene of their chief voyages.
  • Turtle doves - a pair of gloves.
  • Tusheroon - a crown piece, five shillings. Otherwise a bull or cartwheel.
  • Tussle - a row, struggle, fight, or argument.
  • Tussle - to struggle, or argue.
  • Twelve godfathers - a jury, because they give a name to the crime the prisoner before them has been guilty of, whether murder or manslaughter, felony or misdemeanor. Consequently it is a vulgar taunt to say, “You will be christened by twelve godfathers some day before long.”
  • Twelver - a shilling.
  • Twice-laid - a dish made out of cold fish and potatoes.—Sea. Compare bubble and squeak, and resurrection pie.
  • Twig - style. Prime twig, in good order and high spirits.
  • Twig - to comprehend, as, “Do you twig?” Also, “Hop the twig,” to decamp.
  • Twist - brandy and gin mixed.
  • Twist - capacity for eating, appetite; “He’s got a capital twist.”
  • Twitchety - nervous, fidgety.
  • Twitter - “all in a twitter,” in a fright or fidgety state.
  • Two to one - the pawnbroker’s sign of three balls. So called because it is supposed by calculating humourists to be two to one against the redemption of a pledged article.
  • Two-eyed-steak - a red-herring or bloater. Otherwise “Billingsgate pheasant.”
  • Two-foot rule - a fool.
  • Two-handed game - a game or proposal in which the chances are fairly even; as, “I’ll punch your head;” “Ah, that’s a two-handed game—you’ll get no good at that.”
  • Two-handed - expert at fisticuffs. Ambidextrous generally.
  • Twopenny rope - a lodging-house of the lowest kind, where tramps and cadgers sleep on sacking stretched by means of ropes. Sleeping at these places is called having “twopenn’orth of rope.”
  • Twopenny-halfpenny - paltry, insignificant. A twopenny-halfpenny fellow, a not uncommon expression of contempt.
  • Twopenny-hops - low dancing rooms, the price of admission to which was formerly twopence. The clog hornpipe, the pipe dance, flash jigs, and hornpipes in fetters, à la Jack Sheppard, were the favourite movements, all entered into with great spirit.
  • Twopenny - the head; “tuck in your twopenny,” bend down your head.
  • Tyb of the butery - a goose.
  • Tyburn tippet - in the old hanging days, Jack Ketch’s rope.
  • Tyburnia - the Portman and Grosvenor Square district. It is facetiously divided by the Londoners into “Tyburnia Felix,” “Tyburnia Deserta,” and “Tyburnia Snobbica.” The old gallows at Tyburn stood near the N.E. corner of Hyde Park, at the angle formed by the Edgware Road and the top of Oxford Street. In 1778 this was two miles out of London.
  • Tye - or tie, a neckerchief. Proper hosiers’ term now, but slang thirty years ago, and as early as 1718.
  • Tyke - a Yorkshireman. Term used by themselves, as well as by Southerners, in reference to them.
  • Typo - a printer.
  • U.P. - United Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
  • Ugly - wicked, malicious, resentful.—American.
  • Ullages - the wine of all sorts left in the bottoms of glasses at a public3 dinner. This is emptied into a measure, and drunk behind the screen or in any convenient place by the waiters, which accounts for their stony glare and fishy appearance late in the evening. Maybe from Lat. ullus, any.
  • Unbleached American - Yankee term, since the war, for coloured natives of the United States.
  • Uncle - the pawnbroker. See my uncle.
  • Under a cloud - in difficulties. An evident reference to shady circumstances.
  • Under the rose. See rose.
  • Understandings - the feet or boots. Men who wear exceptionally large or thick boots, are said to possess good understandings.
  • Understudy - to study a part for the stage, not with the view of playing it at once, but so as to be ready in the event of anything happening to its present representative. Some actors of position, who suffer from delicate health, or mental weakness, have always other and inferior, but more robust, artists understudying their parts.
  • Unfortunate - a modern euphuism for a prostitute, derived from Thomas Hood’s beautiful poem of The Bridge of Sighs:—
  • Unicorn - a style of driving with two wheelers abreast and one leader—termed in the United States a “spike team.” “Tandem” is one wheeler and one leader. “Random,” three horses in line. “Manchester” means three horses abreast. See harum-scarum.
  • Unlicked - ill-trained, uncouth, rude, and rough; an “unlicked cub” is a loutish youth who has never been taught manners; from the tradition that a bear’s cub, when brought into the world, has no shape or symmetry until its dam licks it into form with her tongue. Possibly said of a boy who has been petted, i.e., who has been insufficiently thrashed or licked. Case of spared rod and spoilt child.
  • Unparliamentary - or unscriptural, language, words unfit for use in ordinary conversation.
  • Unutterables - or unwhisperables, trousers. See inexpressibles.
  • Upper Benjamin - or Benjy, a great coat; originally “Joseph,” but, because of the preponderance of tailors named Benjamin, altered in deference to them.
  • Upper storey - or upper loft, a person’s head; “his upper storey is unfurnished,” i.e., he does not know very much. “Wrong in his upper storey,” crazy. See chump.
  • Uppish - proud, arrogant.
  • Used up - broken-hearted, bankrupt, fatigued, vanquished.
  • Vakeel - a barrister.—Anglo-Indian.
  • Vamos - vamous, or vamoosh, to go, or be off. Spanish, vamos, “Let us go!” Probably namus, or namous, the costermonger’s word, was from this.
  • Vamp - to spout, to leave in pawn. Also to cobble, as, “a vamped play,” and “a vamped accompaniment,” both terms reflecting discredit on the work, but not necessarily upon the musician.
  • Vamps - old, or refooted stockings. From vamp, to piece.
  • Vardo - to look; “vardo the carsey,” look at the house. Vardo formerly was old cant for a waggon. This is by low Cockneys generally pronounced vardy.
  • Vardy - verdict, vulgarly used as opinion, thus, “My vardy on the matter is the same as yourn.”
  • Varmint. “You young varmint, you!” you bad, or naughty boy. Corruption of vermin.
  • Varnisher - an utterer of false sovereigns. Generally “snide-pitcher.”
  • Vaux’s (Count de, a swindler and pickpocket) Life, written by himself, 2 vols., 12mo, to which is added a Canting Dictionary.1819.
  • Velvet - the tongue; especially the tongue of a magsman. Also, men who have succeeded in their speculations, especially on the turf, are said to stand on velvet.
  • Veneer - the artificiality of society, conventionality. Dickens expressed his dislike for certain forms of veneer repeatedly, and especially by means of his Veneerings in Our Mutual Friend.
  • Vet - colloquial term for veterinarian.
  • Vic - the Victoria Theatre, London. Also the street abbreviation of the Christian name of her Majesty the Queen.
  • Village - or the village, i.e., London. Birmingham is called “the hardware village.” Also a Cambridge term for a disreputable suburb of that town, viz., Barnwell, generally styled “the village.”
  • Ville - or vile, a town or village—pronounced phial, or vial.—French.
  • Vinnied - mildewed, or sour.—Devonshire.
  • Voker - to talk; “can you voker Romany?” can you speak the canting language?—Latin, vocare; Spanish, vocear.
  • Vowel. “To vowel a debt” is to acknowledge with an I O U.
  • Vulpecide - one who shoots or traps foxes, or destroys them in any way other than that of hunting. A foxhunter regards a vulpecide as rather worse than an ordinary murderer.
  • W. P. - or warming-pan. A clergyman who holds a living pro tempore, under a bond of resignation, is styled a w. p., or warming-pan rector, because he keeps the place warm for his successor. Warming-pan was a term first popularly applied to a substitute in the reign of James II.
  • Wabble - or wobble, to move from side to side, to roll about. Johnson terms it “a low, barbarous word.”
  • Walk into - to overcome, to demolish; “I’ll walk into his affections,” i.e., I will scold or thrash him. “He walked into the grub,” i.e., he demolished it. Walk into also means to get into the debt of any one, as “He walked into the affections of all the tradesmen in the neighbourhood.”
  • Walk your chalks - be off, or run away,—spoken sharply by any one who wishes to get rid of a troublesome person. See chalks.
  • Walk-over - a re-election without opposition.—Parliamentary, but derived from the turf, where a horse which has no rivals walks over the course. See dead heat.
  • Walker - a letter-carrier or postman. From an old song, called, “Walker, the twopenny postman.”
  • Walking morte - womene [who pass for widows].
  • Walking the pegs - a method of cheating at the game of cribbage, by a species of legerdemain, the sharper either moving his own pegs forward, or those of his antagonist backward, according to the state of the game.
  • Wallabee-track - Colonial slang for the tramp. When a man in Australia is “on the road” looking for employment, he is said to be on the wallabee-track.
  • Wallflower - a person who goes to a ball and looks on without dancing, either from choice or through not being able to obtain a partner. From the position.
  • Wallflowers - left-off and “regenerated” clothes exposed for sale on the bunks and shop-boards of Seven Dials. See reach-me-downs.
  • Wallop - to beat, or thrash. John Gough Nichols derives this word from an ancestor of the Earl of Portsmouth, one Sir John Wallop, Knight3 of the Garter, who in King Henry VIII.’s time distinguished himself by walloping the French; but it is more probably connected with wheal, a livid swelling in the skin after a blow. See pot-walloper.
  • Walloping - a beating or thrashing; sometimes used in an adjective sense, as big, or very large.
  • Wapping [coition].
  • Wapping - or whopping, of a large size, great.
  • War-paint - evening dress. When people go out in full costume they are often said to have their war-paint on. Also, military “full-fig.”
  • Warm - rich, or well off.
  • Warm - to thrash or beat; “I’ll warm your jacket.” To warm the wax of one’s ear is to give a severe blow on the side of the head. To warm is also to rate or abuse roundly. Also varied, as, “to make it hot” for any one.
  • Warming-pan - a large old-fashioned gold watch. A person placed in an office to hold it for another. See w.p.
  • Wash - “It wont wash,” i.e., will not stand investigation, will not “bear the rub,” is not genuine, can’t be believed.
  • Waster - a useless, clumsy, or ill-made person.
  • Watch and seals - a sheep’s head and pluck.
  • Watchmaker - a pickpocket or stealer of watches. Often called “a watchmaker in a crowd.”
  • Water gunner - a marine artilleryman.
  • Water the dragon - or water one’s nag, a hint for retiring.
  • Water-bewitched - very weak tea, the third brew (or the first at some houses). Sometimes very weak tea is called “husband’s tea,” in allusion to the wife taking the first brew, and leaving the rest for her husband. Also grog much diluted.
  • Water-dogs - Norfolk dumplings.
  • Waterman - a blue silk handkerchief. The friends of the Oxford and Cambridge boats’ crews always wear these—light blue for Cambridge, and a darker shade for Oxford.
  • Wattles - ears.
  • Wax - a rage. “Let’s get him in a wax.” Waxy, cross, ill-tempered.
  • Wayz-goose - a printers’ annual dinner, the funds for which are collected by stewards regularly appointed by “the chapel.”
  • Weather eye - the cautious eye. Any one who is supposed to have an extra good knowledge of things in general, or to be hard to impose on or cheat, is said to have his weather eye well open.
  • Weather-headed - so written by Sir Walter Scott in his Peveril of the Peak, but it is more probably wether-headed, as applied to a person having a “sheepish” look.
  • Weaving - a notorious card-sharping trick, done by keeping certain cards on the knee, or between the knee and the under side of the table, and using them when required by changing them for the cards held in the hand.
  • Webster’s (Noah) Letter to the Hon. John Pickering, on the Subject of his Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases supposed to be peculiar to the United States, 8vo, pp. 69.Boston, 1817.
  • Wedge-feeder - a silver spoon.
  • Wedge - a Jew. This may look strange, but it is exact back slang.
  • Wedge - silver.—Old Cant.
  • Weed - a cigar; the weed, tobacco generally.
  • Weed - a hatband.
  • Wejee - a chimney-pot. Often applied to any clever invention, as, “That’s a regular wejee.”
  • Well - to pocket, to save money. Any one of fair income and miserly habits is said to “well it.”
  • Welt - to thrash with a strap or stick. Probably meaning to raise wheals.
  • Wet Quaker - a man who pretends to be religious, and is a dram-drinker on the sly.
  • Wet un - a diseased cow, unfit for human food, but nevertheless sold to make into sausages. Compare staggering-bob.
  • Wet - a drink, a drain.
  • Wet - to drink. Low people generally ask an acquaintance to wet any recently purchased article, i.e., to stand treat on the occasion. “Wet (originally whet, to sharpen,) your whistle,” i.e., take a drink; “wet the other eye,” i.e., take another glass. See shed a tear.
  • Whack - a share or lot. “Give me my whack,” give me my share.—Scotch, sweg, or swack.
  • Whack - or whacking, a blow, or a thrashing.
  • Whack - to beat.
  • Whacker - a lie of unusual dimensions, sometimes called a “round un.”
  • Whacking - large, fine, or strong.
  • Whacks - to go whacks, to divide equally; to enter into partnership.
  • Whale - “very like a whale,” said of anything that is very improbable. A speech of Polonius’s in Hamlet.
  • What d’yecall’em - a similar expression to “thingumy.”
  • Wheeze - a joke, an anecdote, or dialogue, not strictly connected with a piece that is being played, but introduced by an actor, sometimes with the assistance and for the benefit of others. The dialogues which take place between the songs at nigger entertainments are also known as wheezes. The word actually means a new notion as applied to dialogue.
  • Wherret - or worrit, to scold, trouble, or annoy.—Old English.
  • Whid - a word. Sometimes, a fib, a falsehood, a word too much.—Modern Slang, from the ancient cant.
  • Whiddle - to enter into a parley, or hesitate with many words, &c.; to inform, or discover. See wheedle.
  • Whim-wham - an alliterative term, synonymous with fiddle-faddle, riff-raff, &c., denoting nonsense, rubbish, &c.
  • Whip the cat - when an operative works at a private house by the day. Term used amongst tailors and carpenters.
  • Whip - after the usual allowance of wine is drunk at mess, those who wish for more put a shilling each into a glass handed round to procure a3 further supply. Whip-round is now a common term for a subscription of a similar kind to that described.
  • Whip - the member of the House of Commons whose duty it is to collect and keep together his party to vote at divisions. To give him greater influence, the ministerial whip holds, or is supposed to hold, the minor patronage of the Treasury.
  • Whip - to “whip anything up,” to take it up quickly; from the method of hoisting heavy goods or horses on board ship by a whip, or running tackle, from the yard-arm. Generally used to express anything dishonestly taken.
  • Whipjack - a sham shipwrecked sailor, called also a turnpike-sailor.
  • Whipper-snapper - a waspish, diminutive person.
  • Whisper - a tip given in secret, a rumour which is spread under the pretence of its being a secret. To “give the whisper,” is to give a quick tip to any one. An owner’s final instruction to his jockey is called “the whisper at the post.”
  • Whisper - to borrow money—generally small sums—as, “He whispered me for a tanner.”
  • Whisperer - a constant borrower.
  • Whistle - “as clean as a whistle,” neatly, or “slickly done,” as an American would say; “To whet (or more vulgarly wet) one’s whistle,” to take a drink. This last is a very old expression. Chaucer says of the Miller of Trumpington’s wife (Canterbury Tales, 4153)—
  • Whistling-Billy - or puffing-Billy, a locomotive engine.
  • Whistling-shop - a place in which spirits are sold without a licence.
  • White eye - military slang for a very strong and deleterious kind of whisky, so called because its potency is believed to turn the eyes round in the sockets, leaving the whites only visible.
  • White feather - “to show the white feather,” to evince cowardice. In times when great attention was paid to the breeding of game-cocks, a white feather in the tail was considered a proof of cross-breeding.
  • White horses - the foam on the crests of waves, seen before or after a storm.
  • White lie - a harmless lie, one told to reconcile people at variance. “Mistress is not at home, sir,” is a white lie often told by servants.
  • White prop - a diamond pin.—East London.
  • White satin - gin,—term amongst women. See satin.
  • White serjeant - a man’s superior officer in the person of his better half.
  • White tape - gin,—term used principally by female servants. See ribbon.
  • White un - a silver watch.
  • White wine - the fashionable term for gin.
  • White-livered - or liver-faced, cowardly, much afraid, very mean.
  • Whitechapel fortune - a clean gown and a pair of pattens.
  • Whitechapel or Westminster brougham, a costermonger’s donkey-barrow.
  • Whitechapel - anything mean or paltry. Potting one’s opponent at billiards is often known as “Whitechapel play.”
  • Whitechapel - in tossing, when “two out of three wins.” See sudden death.
  • Whitewash - a glass of sherry as a finale, after drinking port and claret.
  • Whitewash - to rehabilitate. A person who took the benefit of the Insolvent Act was said to have been whitewashed. Now said of a person who compromises with his creditors.
  • Whittle - to nose or peach.—Old Cant. To cut and hack as with a pocket-knife.—American.
  • Whop-straw - cant name for a countryman; Johnny Whop-straw, in allusion to threshing.
  • Whop - to beat, or hide. Corruption of whip; sometimes spelt wap.
  • Whopper - a big one, a lie. A lie not easily swallowed.
  • Whyddes - wordes.
  • Widdle - to shine. See oliver.
  • Wide-awake - a broad-brimmed felt or stuff hat,—so called because it never had a nap, and never wants one.
  • Wido - wide awake, no fool.
  • Wife - a fetter fixed to one leg.—Prison.
  • Wiffle-woffles - in the dumps, sorrow, stomach-ache.
  • Wig - move off, go away.—North Country Cant.
  • Wigging - a rebuke before comrades. If the head of a firm calls a clerk into the parlour, and rebukes him, it is an earwigging; if done before the other clerks, it is a wigging.
  • Wild Irishman - the train between Euston and Holyhead, in connection with the Kingstown mail-boats.
  • Wild oats - youthful pranks. A fast young man is said to be “sowing his wild oats.”
  • Wild (Jonathan), History of the Lives and Actions of Jonathan Wild, Thieftaker, Joseph Blake, alias Blueskin, Footpad, and John Sheppard, Housebreaker; together with a Canting Dictionary by Jonathan Wild, woodcuts, 12mo.1750.
  • Wild - a village.—Tramps’ term. See vile.
  • Wild - vexed, cross, passionate,—said to be from willed (self-willed), in opposition to “tamed” or “subdued.” In the United States the word “mad” is supplemented with a vulgar meaning similar to our Cockneyism wild; and to make a man mad on the other side of the4 Atlantic is to vex him, or “rile” his temper—not to render him a raving maniac, or a fit subject for Bedlam.
  • William - a bill. The derivation is obvious.
  • Willow - a cricket-bat. From the material of which it is made. The great batsman, W. G. Grace, is often called “champion of the willow.”
  • Wilson (Professor), contributed various Slang pieces to Blackwood’s Magazine; including a Review of Bee’s Dictionary.
  • Wind - “I’ll wind your cotton,” i.e., I will give you some trouble. The Byzantine General, Narses, used the same kind of threat to the Greek Empress,—“I will spin a thread that they shall not be able to unravel.”
  • Wind - “to raise the wind,” to procure money; “to slip one’s wind,” a coarse expression, meaning to die. See raise.
  • Windows - the eyes, or “peepers.”
  • Winey - intoxicated.
  • Winged - hurt, but not dangerously, by a bullet. Originally to be shot in the arm or shoulder. To slightly wound birds is to wing them.
  • Winkin - “he went off like winkin,” i.e., very quickly. From wink, to shut the eye quickly.
  • Winks - periwinkles.
  • Winn - a penny—Ancient Cant. See introductory chapter.
  • Wipe-out - to kill or utterly destroy. This is an Americanism, but is in pretty general use here.
  • Wipe - a blow. Frequently sibilated to swipe, a cricket-term.
  • Wipe - a pocket-handkerchief.—Old Cant.
  • Wire-in - a London street phrase in general use, which means to go in with a will. In its original form of “wire-in, and get your name up,” it was very popular among London professional athletes. The phrase is now general, and any one who has a hard task before him, knows he must wire-in to bring matters to a successful issue.
  • Wire-pullers - powerful political partisans, who do their work from “behind the scenes.”
  • With and without - words by themselves, supposed to denote the existence or non-existence of sugar in grog. Generally “warm with” and “cold without.”
  • Witherspoon’s (Dr., of America,) Essays on Americanisms, Perversions of Language in the United States, Cant phrases, &c., 8vo, in the 4th vol. of his works.
  • Wobble-shop - a shop where beer is sold without a licence.
  • Wobbler - a foot soldier, a term of contempt used by cavalrymen.
  • Wobbly - rickety, unsteady, ill-fitting.
  • Wolf - to eat greedily.
  • Wooden spoon - the last junior optime who takes a University degree; denoting one who is only fit to stay at home, and stir porridge.—Cambridge. The expression is also parliamentary slang, and is applied to the member of the ministry whose name appears in the division lists least frequently. At the ministerial dinner annually held at Greenwich, such member sometimes has a wooden spoon presented to him.
  • Wooden surtout - a coffin, generally spoken of as a wooden surtout with nails for buttons.
  • Wool-gathering - said of any person’s wits when they are wandering, or in a reverie.
  • Wool-hole - the workhouse.
  • Wool - bravery, pluck. Term much in use among pugilists and their admirers. The highest praise that can be bestowed on a man of courage in lower-class circles is that which characterizes him as being “a reg’lar wooled un,” or “a rare wool-topped un.” Derived from the great pluck and perseverance shown by many pugilists of whole or partial colour, from Molyneux down to Bob Travers.
  • Wool - courage, pluck; “you are not half-wooled,” term of reproach from one thief to another.
  • Woolbird - a lamb; “wing of a woolbird,” a shoulder of lamb.
  • Woolly - a blanket.
  • Woolly - out of temper.
  • Wor-rab - a barrow.
  • Worm. See pump.
  • Worm - a policeman.
  • Worming - removing the beard of an oyster or mussel.
  • Wrinkle - an idea, or a fancy; an additional piece of knowledge.
  • Write - as “to write one’s name on a joint,” to leave the impression of one’s handiwork thereon, to have the first cut at anything; to leave visible traces of one’s presence anywhere.
  • Wylo - be off.—Anglo-Chinese.
  • Wyn - a penny. [A correspondent of Notes and Queries suggests the connexion of this word with the Welsh, gwyn, white—i.e., the white silver penny. See other examples under blunt, in the Dictionary; cf. also the Armorican, “gwennek,” a penny.]
  • X. - or letter x, a method of arrest used by policemen with desperate ruffians,—by getting a firm grasp on the collar, and drawing the captive’s hand over the holding arm, and pressing the fingers down in a peculiar way—the captured person’s arm in this way can be more easily broken than extricated.
  • Yack - a watch; to “church a yack,” to take it out of its case to avoid detection, otherwise to “christen a yack.”
  • Yad - a day; yads, days.
  • Yadnarb - brandy.
  • Yaffle - to eat.—Old English.
  • Yahoo - a person of coarse or degraded habits. Derived from the use of the word by Swift.
  • Yannam - bread.
  • Yannep a time - a penny each. Costermongers say “a time” for many things. They say a “bob a time,” meaning a shilling each for admission to a theatre, or any other place, or that certain articles are charged a shilling each. The context is the only clue to the exact meaning.
  • Yannep-flatch - three halfpence,—all the halfpence and pennies continue in the same sequence, as for instance, owt-yannep-flatch, twopence-halfpenny.
  • Yannep - a penny.
  • Yap pu - pay up.
  • Yappy - soft, foolish; mostly applied to an over-generous person, from the fact that it originally meant one who paid for everything. Yap is back slang for pay, and often when a man is asked to pay more than he considers correct, he says, “Do you think I’m yappy?” do you think I’m paying mad? Thus slang begets slang.
  • Yard of clay - a long, old-fashioned tobacco pipe; also called a churchwarden.
  • Yarmouth capon - a bloater, or red herring.
  • Yarmouth mittens - bruised hands.—Sea.
  • Yarn - a long story, or tale; “a tough yarn,” a tale hard to be believed; “spin a yarn,” to tell a tale.—Sea.
  • Yay-nay - “a poor yay-nay” fellow, one who has no conversational power, and can only answer yea or nay to a question.
  • Yeknod - or jerk-nod, a donkey.
  • Yellow-Jack - the yellow fever prevalent in the West Indies.
  • Yellow-belly - a native of the fens of Lincolnshire, or the Isle of Ely—in allusion to the frogs and yellow-bellied eels caught there.
  • Yellow-boy - a sovereign, or any gold coin.
  • Yellow-gloak - a jealous man.
  • Yellow-man - a yellow silk handkerchief.
  • Yellows - a term of reproach applied to Bluecoat and other charity school boys.
  • Yenork - a crown piece, or five shillings.
  • Yenork - a crown.
  • Yid - or yit, a Jew. Yidden, the Jewish people. The Jews use these terms very frequently.
  • Yob - a boy.
  • Yokel - a countryman. Probably from yoke, representative of his occupation. Some fancy, however, that the word was originally yowkel, in imitation of the broad tones of country labourers.
  • Yokuff - a chest, or large box.
  • Yorkshire compliment - a gift of something useless to the giver. Sometimes called a North-country compliment.
  • Yorkshire estates; “I will do it when I come into my Yorkshire estates,”—meaning if I ever have the money or the means.
  • Yorkshire reckoning - a reckoning in which every one pays his own share.
  • Yorkshire - “to Yorkshire,” or “come Yorkshire over any person,” to cheat or cozen him. The proverbial over-reaching of the rustics of this county has given rise to the phrase, which is sometimes pronounced Yorshar. To put Yorshar to a man, is to trick or deceive him. This latter is from a work in the Lancashire dialect, 1757.
  • Younker - in street language, a lad or a boy. Term in general use amongst costermongers, cabmen, and old-fashioned people. Barnefield’s Affectionate Shepherd, 1594, has the phrase, “a seemelie younker.” Danish and Friesic, jonker. In the navy, a naval cadet is usually termed a younker.
  • Your nibs - yourself. See nibs.
  • Yoxter - a convict returned from transportation before his time.
  • Zeb - best.
  • Ziff - a juvenile thief.
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