|BABES IN THE WOOD. Criminals in the stocks, or pillory.
BABBLE. Confused, unintelligible talk, such as was used at the building
the tower of Babel.
BACK BITER. One who slanders another behind his back, i.e. in his absence.
His bosom friends are become his back biters, said of a lousy man.
BACKED. Dead. He wishes to have the senior, or old square-toes, backed; he
longs to have his father on six men’s shoulders; that is, carrying to the
BACK UP. His back is up, i.e. he is offended or angry; an expression or
idea taken from a cat; that animal, when angry, always raising its back.
An allusion also sometimes used to jeer a crooked man; as, So, Sir, I see
somebody has offended you, for your back is up.
BACON. He has saved his bacon; he has escaped. He has a good voice to beg
bacon; a saying in ridicule of a bad voice.
BACON FED. Fat, greasy.
BACK GAMMON PLAYER. A sodomite.
BACK DOOR (USHER, or GENTLEMAN OF THE). The same.
BAD BARGAIN. One of his majesty’s bad bargains; a worthless soldier, a
BADGE. A term used for one burned in the hand. He has got his badge, and
piked; he was burned in the hand, and is at liberty.
BADGE-COVES. Parish Pensioners. .
BADGERS. A crew of desperate villains who robbed near rivers, into which
they threw the bodies of those they murdered. .
BAG. He gave them the bag, i.e. left them.
BAG OF NAILS. He squints like a bag of nails; i. e. his eyes are directed
as many ways as the points of a bag of nails. The old BAG OF NAILS at
Pimlico; originally the BACCHANALS.
BAGGAGE. Heavy baggage; women and children. Also a familiar epithet for a
woman; as, cunning baggage, wanton baggage, &c.
BAKERS DOZEN. Fourteen; that number of rolls being allowed to the
purchasers of a dozen.
BAKER-KNEE’D. One whose knees knock together in walking, as if kneading
BALDERDASH. Adulterated wine.
BALLOCKS. The testicles of a man or beast; also a vulgar nick name for a
parson. His brains are in his ballocks, a saying to designate a fool.
BALUM RANCUM. A hop or dance, where the women are all prostitutes. N. B.
The company dance in their birthday suits.
BAM. A jocular imposition, the same as a humbug. See HUMBUG.
TO BAM. To impose on any one by a falsity; also to jeer or make fun of any
TO BAMBOOZLE. To make a fool of any one, to humbug or impose on him.
BANAGHAN. He beats Banaghan; an Irish saying of one who tells wonderful
stories. Perhaps Banaghan was a minstrel famous for dealing in the
BANDBOX. Mine a-se on a bandbox; an answer to the offer of any thing
inadequate to the purpose for which it is proffered, like offering a
bandbox for a seat.
BANBURY STORY OF A COCK AND A BULL. A roundabout, nonsensical story.
BANDOG. A bailiff or his follower; also a very fierce mastiff: likewise, a
BANG UP. (WHIP.) Quite the thing, hellish fine. Well done. Compleat.
Dashing. In a handsome stile. A bang up cove; a dashing fellow who spends
his money freely. To bang up prime: to bring your horses up in a dashing
or fine style: as the swell’s rattler and prads are bang up prime; the
gentleman sports an elegant carriage and fine horses.
TO BANG. To beat.
BANGING. Great; a fine banging boy.
BANG STRAW. A nick name for a thresher, but applied to all the servants of
BANKRUPT CART. A one-horse chaise, said to be so called by a Lord Chief
Justice, from their being so frequently used on Sunday jaunts by
extravagant shop-keepers and tradesmen.
BANKS’S HORSE. A horse famous for playing tricks, the property of
BANTLING. A young child.
BANYAN DAY. A sea term for those days on which no meat is allowed to the
sailors: the term is borrowed from the Banyans in the East Indies, a cast
that eat nothing that had life.
BAPTIZED, OR CHRISTENED. Rum, brandy, or any other spirits, that have been
lowered with water.
BARBER’S CHAIR. She is as common as a barber’s chair, in which a whole
parish sit to be trimmed; said of a prostitute.
BARBER’S SIGN. A standing pole and two wash balls.
BARGAIN. To sell a bargain; a species of wit, much in vogue about the
latter end of the reign of Queen Anne, and frequently alluded to by Dean
Swift, who says the maids of honour often amused themselves with it. It
consisted in the seller naming his or her hinder parts, in answer to the
question, What? which the buyer was artfully led to ask. As a specimen,
take the following instance: A lady would come into a room full of
company, apparently in a fright, crying out, It is white, and follows me!
On any of the company asking, What? she sold him the bargain, by saying,
BARGEES. Barge-men on the river.
BARKER. The shopman of a bow-wow shop, or dealer in second hand clothes,
particularly about Monmouth-Street, who walks before his master’s door,
and deafens every passenger with his cries of—Clothes, coats, or
gowns—what d’ye want, gemmen?--what d’ye buy? See BOW-WOW SHOP.
BARKSHIRE. A member or candidate for Barkshire, said of one troubled with
a cough, vulgarly styled barking.
BARKING IRONS. Pistols, from their explosion resembling the bow-wow or
barking of a dog. IRISH.
BARN. A parson’s barn; never so full but there is still room, for more.
Bit by a barn mouse, tipsey, probably from an allusion to barley.
BARNABY. An old dance to a quick movement.
BARNACLE. A good job, or snack easily got: also shellfish growing at the
bottoms of ships; a bird of the goose kind; an instrument like a pair of
pincers, to fix on the noses of vicious horses whilst shoeing; a nick name
for spectacles, and also for the gratuity given to grooms by the buyers
and sellers of horses.
BARREL FEVER. He died of the barrel fever; he killed himself by drinking.
BARROW MAN. A man under sentence of transportation; alluding to the
convicts at Woolwich, who are principally employed in wheeling barrows
full of brick or dirt.
BARTHOLOMEW BABY. A person dressed up in a tawdry manner, like the dolls
or babies sold at Bartholomew fair.
BASKET. An exclamation frequently made use of in cock-pits, at cock-fightings,
where persons refusing or unable to pay their losings, are adjudged by
that respectable assembly to be put into a basket suspended over the pit,
there to remain during that day’s diversion: on the least demur to pay a
bet, Basket is vociferated in terrorem. He grins like a basket of chips: a
saying of one who is on the broad grin.
BASKET-MAKING. The good old trade of basket-making; copulation, or making
feet for children’s stockings.
BASTARD. The child of an unmarried woman.
BASTARDLY GULLION. A bastard’s bastard.
TO BASTE. To beat. I’ll give him his bastings, I’ll beat him heartily.
BASTING. A beating.
BASTONADING. Beating any one with a stick; from baton, a stick, formerly
BAT. A low whore: so called from moving out like bats in the dusk of the
BATCH. We had a pretty batch of it last night; we had a hearty dose of
liquor. Batch originally means the whole quantity of bread baked at one
time in an oven.
BATTNER. An ox: beef being apt to batten or fatten those that eat it. The
cove has hushed the battner; i.e. has killed the ox.
BATCHELOR’S FARE. Bread and cheese and kisses.
BATCHELOR’S SON. A bastard.
BATTLE-ROYAL. A battle or bout at cudgels or fisty-cuffs, wherein more
than two persons are engaged: perhaps from its resemblance, in that
particular, to more serious engagements fought to settle royal disputes.
BAWBEE. A halfpenny. Scotch.
BAWBELS, or BAWBLES. Trinkets; a man’s testicles.
BAWD. A female procuress.
BAWDY BASKET. The twenty-third rank of ers, who carry pins, tape, ballads,
and obscene books to sell, but live mostly by stealing. .
BAWDY-HOUSE BOTTLE. A very small bottle; short measure being among the
many means used by the keepers of those houses, to gain what they call an
honest livelihood: indeed this is one of the least reprehensible; the less
they give a man of their infernal beverages for his money, the kinder they
behave to him.
BAY FEVER. A term of ridicule applied to convicts, who sham illness, to
avoid being sent to Botany Bay.
BAYARD OF TEN TOES. To ride bayard of ten toes, is to
walk on foot. Bayard was a horse famous in old romances,
BEAK. A justice of-peace, or magistrate. Also a judge or chairman who
presides in court. I clapp’d my peepers full of tears, and so the old beak
set me free; I began to weep, and the judge set me free.
BEAN. A guinea. Half bean; half a guinea.
BEAR. One who contracts to deliver a certain quantity of sum of stock in
the public funds, on a future day, and at stated price; or, in other
words, sells what he has not got, like the huntsman in the fable, who sold
the bear’s skin before the bear was killed. As the bear sells the stock he
is not possessed of, so the bull purchases what he has not money to pay
for; but in case of any alteration in the price agreed on, either party
pays or receives the difference. Exchange Alley.
BEAR-GARDEN JAW or DISCOURSE. Rude, vulgar language, such as was used at
BEAR LEADER. A travelling tutor.
BEARD SPLITTER. A man much given to wenching.
BEARINGS. I’ll bring him to his bearings; I’ll bring him to reason. Sea
BEAST. To drink like a beast, i.e. only when thirsty.
BEAST WITH TWO BACKS. A man and woman in the act of copulation.
Shakespeare in Othello.
BEATER CASES. Boots. .
BEAU-NASTY. A slovenly fop; one finely dressed, but dirty.
BEAU TRAP. A loose stone in a pavement, under which water lodges, and on
being trod upon, squirts it up, to the great damage of white stockings;
also a sharper neatly dressed, lying in wait for raw country squires, or
BECALMED. A piece of sea wit, sported in hot weather. I am becalmed, the
sail sticks to the mast; that is, my shirt sticks to my back. His prad is
becalmed; his horse knocked up.
BECK. A beadle. See HERMANBECK.
BED. Put to bed with a mattock, and tucked up with a spade; said of one
that is dead and buried. You will go up a ladder to bed, i.e. you will be
hanged. In many country places, persons hanged are made to mount up a
ladder, which is afterwards turned round or taken away, whence the term,
BEDFORDSHIRE. I am for Bedfordshire, i.e. for going to bed.
BEDIZENED. Dressed out, over-dressed, or awkwardly ornamented.
BED-MAKER. Women employed at Cambridge to attend on the Students, sweep
his room, &c. They will put their hands to any thing, and are generally
blest with a pretty family of daughters: who unmake the beds, as fast as
they are made by their mothers.
BEEF. To cry beef; to give the alarm. They have cried beef on us. .—To be
in a man’s beef; to wound him with a sword. To be in a woman’s beef; to
have carnal knowledge of her. Say you bought your beef of me, a jocular
request from a butcher to a fat man. implying that he credits the butcher
who serves him.
BEEF EATER. A yeoman of the guards, instituted by Henry VII. Their office
was to stand near the bouffet, or cupboard, thence called Bouffetiers,
since corrupted to Beef Eaters. Others suppose they obtained this name
from the size of their persons, and the easiness of their duty, as having
scarce more to do than to eat the king’s beef.
BEETLE-BROWED. One having thick projecting eyebrows.
BEETLE-HEADED. Dull, stupid.
BEGGAR MAKER. A publican, or ale-house keeper.
BEGGAR’S BULLETS. Stones. The beggar’s bullets began to fly, i.e. they
began to throw stones.
BEILBY’S BALL. He will dance at Beilby’s ball, where the sheriff pays the
music; he will be hanged. Who Mr. Beilby was, or why that ceremony was so
called, remains with the quadrature of the circle, the discovery of the
philosopher’s stone, and divers other desiderata yet undiscovered.
BELCH. All sorts of beer; that liquor being apt to cause eructation.
BELCHER. A red silk handkerchief, intermixed with yellow and a little
black. The kiddey flashes his belcher; the young fellow wears a silk
handkerchief round his neck.
BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE. They cursed him with bell, book, and candle; an
allusion to the popish form of excommunicating and anathematizing persons
who had offended the church.
TO BEAR THE BELL. To excel or surpass all competitors, to be the principal
in a body or society; an allusion to the fore horse or leader of a team,
whose harness is commonly ornamented with a bell or bells. Some suppose it
a term borrowed from an ancient tournament, where the victorious knights
bore away the BELLE or FAIR LADY. Others derive it from a horse-race, or
other rural contentions, where bells were frequently given as prizes.
BELLOWS. The lungs.
BELLOWER. The town crier.
BELLOWSER. Transportation for life: i.e. as long.
BELLY. His eye was bigger than his belly; a saying of a person at a table,
who takes more on his plate than he can eat.
BELLYFULL. A hearty beating, sufficient to make a man yield or give out. A
woman with child is also said to have got her belly full.
BELLY CHEAT. An apron.
BELLY PLEA. The plea of pregnancy, generally adduced by female felons
capitally convicted, which they take care to provide for, previous to
their trials; every gaol having, as the Beggar’s Opera informs us, one or
more child getters, who qualify the ladies for that expedient to procure a
BELLY TIMBER. Food of all sorts.
BELL SWAGGER. A noisy bullying fellow.
BELLWETHER. The chief or leader of a mob; an idea taken from a flock of
sheep, where the wether has a bell about his neck.
BENE. Good—BENAR. Better. .
BENE BOWSE. Good beer, or other strong liquor. .
BENE COVE. A good fellow. .
BENE DARKMANS. Goodnight. .
BENE FEARERS. Counterfeiters of bills. .
BENE FEAKERS OF GYBES. Counterfeiters of passes. .
BENESHIPLY. Worshipfully. .
BEN. A fool. .
BENISON. The beggar’s benison: May your * and purse never fail you.
BERMUDAS. A name for certain places in London, privileged against arrests,
like the Mint in Southwark, Ben. Jonson. These privileges are abolished.
BESS, or BETTY. A small instrument used by house-breakers to force open
doors. Bring bess and glym; bring the instrument to force the door, and
the dark lantern. Small flasks, like those for Florence wine, are also
BESS. See BROWN BESS.
BEST. To the best in Christendom: i.e. the best * in Christendom; a health
formerly much in vogue.
BET. A wager.—TO BET. To lay a wager.
BETTY MARTIN. That’s my eye, Betty Martin; an answer to any one that
attempts to impose or humbug.
BETWATTLED. Surprised, confounded, out of one’s senses; also bewrayed.
BEVER. An afternoon’s luncheon; also a fine hat; beaver’s
fur making the best hats,
BEVERAGE. Garnish money, or money for drink, demanded of any one having a
new suit of clothes.
BIBLE. A boatswain’s great axe. Sea term.
BIBLE OATH. Supposed by the vulgar to be more binding than an oath taken
on the Testament only, as being the bigger book, and generally containing
both the Old and New Testament.
BIDDY, or CHICK-A-BIDDY. A chicken, and figuratively a young wench.
BIDET, commonly pronounced BIDDY. A kind of tub, contrived for ladies to
wash themselves, for which purpose they bestride it like a French poney,
or post-horse, called in French bidets.
BIENLY. Excellently. She wheedled so bienly; she coaxed or flattered so
BILL AT SIGHT. To pay a bill at sight; to be ready at all times for the
BILBOA. A sword. Bilboa in Spain was once famous for well-tempered blades:
these are quoted by Falstaff, where he describes the manner in which he
lay in the buck-basket. Bilboes, the stock; prison. .
TO BILK. To cheat. Let us bilk the rattling cove; let us cheat the hackney
coachman of his fare. . Bilking a coachman, a box-keeper, and a poor
whore, were formerly, among men of the town, thought gallant actions.
BILL OF SALE. A widow’s weeds. See HOUSE TO LET.
BILLINGSGATE LANGUAGE. Foul language, or abuse. Billingsgate is the market
where the fishwomen assemble to purchase fish; and where, in their
dealings and disputes, they are somewhat apt to leave decency and good
manners a little on the left hand.
BING. To go. . Bing avast; get you gone. Binged avast in a darkmans; stole
away in the night. Bing we to Rumeville: shall we go to London?
BINGO. Brandy or other spirituous liquor. .
BINGO BOY. A dram drinker. .
BINGO MORT. A female dram drinker. .
BINNACLE WORD. A fine or affected word, which sailors jeeringly offer to
chalk up on the binnacle.
BIRD AND BABY. The sign of the eagle and child.
BIRD-WITTED. Inconsiderate, thoughtless, easily imposed on.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER. Rogues of the same gang.
BIRTH-DAY SUIT. He was in his birth-day suit, that is, stark naked.
BISHOP. A mixture of wine and water, into which is put a roasted orange.
Also one of the largest of Mrs. Philips’s purses, used to contain the
BISHOPED, or TO BISHOP. A term used among horse-dealers, for burning the
mark into a horse’s tooth, after he has lost it by age; by bishoping, a
horse is made to appear younger than he is. It is a common saying of milk
that is burnt too, that the bishop has set his foot in it. Formerly, when
a bishop passed through a village, all the inhabitants ran out of their
houses to solicit his blessing, even leaving their milk, &c. on the fire,
to take its chance: which, went burnt to, was said to be bishoped.
TO BISHOP the balls, a term used among printers, to water them.
BIT. Money. He grappled the cull’s bit; he seized the man’s money. A bit
is also the smallest coin in Jamaica, equal to about sixpence sterling.
BITCH. A she dog, or doggess; the most offensive appellation that can be
given to an English woman, even more provoking than that of whore, as may
he gathered from the regular Billinsgate or St. Giles’s answer—“I may be a
whore, but can’t be a bitch.”
TO BITCH. To yield, or give up an attempt through fear. To stand bitch; to
make tea, or do the honours of the tea-table, performing a female part:
bitch there standing for woman, species for genius.
BITCH BOOBY. A country wench. Military term.
BITE. A cheat; also a woman’s privities. The cull wapt the mort’s bite;
the fellow enjoyed the wench heartily. .
TO BITE. To over-reach, or impose; also to steal.—.
* Biting was once esteemed a kind of wit, similar to the humbug. An
instance of it is given in the Spectator: A man under sentence of death
having sold his body to a surgeon rather below the market price, on
receiving the money, cried, A bite! I am to be hanged in chains.—To bite
the roger; to steal a portmanteau. To bite the wiper, to steal a
handkerchief. To bite on the bridle; to be pinched or reduced to
difficulties. Hark ye, friend, whether do they bite in the collar or the
cod-piece? Water wit to anglers.
BITER. A wench whose * is ready to bite her a-se; a lascivious, rampant
BLAB. A tell-tale, or one incapable of keeping a secret
BLACK AND WHITE. In writing. I have it in black and white; I have written
BLACK ART. The art of picking a lock. .
BLACK A-SE. A copper or kettle. The pot calls the kettle black a-se. .
BLACK BOOK. He is down in the black book, i.e. has a stain in his
character. A black book is keep in most regiments, wherein the names of
all persons sentenced to punishment are recorded.
BLACK BOX. A lawyer. .
BLACK EYE. We gave the bottle a black eye, i.e. drank it almost up. He
cannot say black is the white of my eye; he cannot point out a blot in my
BLACK FLY. The greatest drawback on the farmer is the black fly, i.e. the
parson who takes tithe of the harvest.
BLACK GUARD. A shabby, mean fellow; a term said to be derived from a
number of dirty, tattered roguish boys, who attended at the Horse Guards,
and Parade in St. James’s Park, to black the boots and shoes of the
soldiers, or to do any other dirty offices. These, from their constant
attendance about the time of guard mounting, were nick-named the
BLACK JACK. A nick name given to the Recorder by the Thieves.
BLACK JACK. A jug to drink out of, made of jacked leather.
BLACK JOKE. A popular tune to a song, having for the burden, “Her black
joke and belly so white:” figuratively the black joke signifies the
monosyllable. See MONOSYLLABLE.
BLACK INDIES. Newcastle upon Tyne, whose rich coal mines prove an Indies
to the proprietors.
BLACKLEGS. A gambler or sharper on the turf or in the cockpit:
so called, perhaps, from their appearing generally in boots; or else from
game-cocks whose legs are always black.
BLACK MONDAY. The first Monday after the school-boys holidays, or breaking
up, when they are to go to school, and produce or repeat the tasks set
BLACK PSALM. To sing the black psalm; to cry: a saying used to children.
BLACK SPICE RACKET. To rob chimney sweepers of their soot, bag and soot.
BLACK SPY. The Devil.
BLACK STRAP. Bene Carlo wine; also port. A task of labour imposed on
soldiers at Gibraltar, as a punishment for small offences.
BLANK. To look blank; to appear disappointed or confounded.
BLANKET HORNPIPE. The amorous congress.
BLARNEY. He has licked the blarney stone; he deals in the wonderful, or
tips us the traveller. The blarney stone is a triangular stone on the very
top of an ancient castle of that name in the county of Cork in Ireland,
extremely difficult of access; so that to have ascended to it, was
considered as a proof of perseverance, courage, and agility, whereof many
are supposed to claim the honour, who never atchieved the adventure: and
to tip the blarney, is figuratively used telling a marvellous story, or
falsity; and also sometimes to express flattery.
A BLASTED FELLOW or BRIMSTONE. An abandoned rogue or prostitute. .
To BLAST. To curse.
BLATER. A calf. .
BLEACHED MORT. A fair-complexioned wench.
BLEATERS. Those cheated by Jack in a box. .—See JACK IN A BOX.
BLEATING CHEAT. A sheep. .
BLEATING RIG. Sheep stealing. .
BLEEDERS. Spurs. He clapped his bleeders to his prad; be put spurs to his
BLEEDING CULLY. One who parts easily with his money, or bleeds freely.
BLEEDING NEW. A metaphor borrowed from fish, which will not bleed when
BLESSING. A small quantity over and above the measure, usually given by
hucksters dealing in peas, beans, and other vegetables.
BLIND. A feint, pretence, or shift.
BLIND CHEEKS. The breech. Buss blind cheeks; kiss mine a-se.
BLIND EXCUSE. A poor or insufficient excuse. A blind ale-house, lane, or
alley; an obscure, or little known or frequented ale-house, lane, or
BLIND HARPERS. Beggars counterfeiting blindness, playing on fiddles, &c.
BLINDMAN’S BUFF. A play used by children, where one being blinded by a
handkerchief bound over his eyes, attempts to seize any one of the
company, who all endeavour to avoid him; the person caught, must be
blinded in his stead.
BLIND CUPID. The backside.
BLINDMAN’S HOLIDAY. Night, darkness.
BLOCK HOUSES. Prisons, houses of correction, &c.
BLOCKED AT BOTH ENDS. Finished. The game is blocked at both ends; the game
BLOOD. A riotous disorderly fellow.
BLOOD FOR BLOOD. A term used by tradesmen for bartering the different
commodities in which they deal. Thus a hatter furnishing a hosier with a
hat, and taking payment in stockings, is said to deal blood for blood.
BLOOD MONEY. The reward given by the legislature on the conviction of
highwaymen, burglars, &c.
BLOODY BACK. A jeering appellation for a soldier, alluding to his scarlet
BLOODY. A favourite word used by the thieves in swearing, as bloody eyes,
BLOSS or BLOWEN. The pretended wife of a bully, or shoplifter. .
TO BLOT THE SKRIP AND JAR IT. To stand engaged or bound for any one. .
BLOW. He has bit the blow, i.e. he has stolen the goods.
BLOWEN. A mistress or whore of a gentleman of the scamp. The blowen kidded
the swell into a snoozing ken, and shook him of his dummee and thimble;
the girl inveigled the gentleman into a brothel and robbed him of his
pocket book and watch.
BLOWER. A pipe. How the swell funks his blower and lushes red tape; what a
smoke the gentleman makes with his pipe, and drinks brandy.
TO BLOW THE GROUNSILS. To lie with a woman on the floor. .
TO BLOW THE GAB. To confess, or impeach a confederate.
BLOW-UP. A discovery, or the confusion occasioned by one.
A BLOWSE, or BLOWSABELLA. A woman whose hair is dishevelled, and hanging
about her face; a slattern.
BLUBBER. The mouth.—I have stopped the cull’s blubber;
I have stopped the fellow’s mouth, meant either by gagging or murdering
TO BLUBBER. To cry.
TO SPORT BLUBBER. Said of a large coarse woman, who exposes her bosom.
BLUBBER CHEEKS. Large flaccid cheeks, hanging like the fat or blubber of a
BLUE, To look blue; to be confounded, terrified, or disappointed.
Blue as a razor; perhaps, blue as azure.
BLUE BOAR. A venereal bubo.
BLUE DEVILS. Low spirits.
BLUE FLAG. He has hoisted the blue flag; he has commenced publican, or
taken a public house, an allusion to the blue aprons worn by publicans.
See ADMIRAL OF THE BLUE.
BLUE PIGEONS. Thieves who steal lead off houses and churches. . To fly a
blue pigeon; to steal lead off houses or churches.
BLUE PLUMB. A bullet.—Surfeited with a blue plumb; wounded with a bullet.
A sortment of George R—‘s blue plumbs; a volley of ball, shot from
BLUE SKIN. A person begotten on a black woman by a white man. One of the
blue squadron; any one having a cross of the black breed, or, as it is
termed, a lick of the tar brush.
BLUE TAPE, or SKY BLUE. Gin.
BLUE RUIN. Gin. Blue ribband; gin.
BLUFF. Fierce, surly. He looked as bluff as bull beef.
BLUFFER. An inn-keeper. .
BLUNDERBUSS. A short gun, with a wide bore, for carrying slugs; also a
stupid, blundering fellow.
BLUNT. Money. .
TO BLUSTER. To talk big, to hector or bully.
BOARDING SCHOOL. Bridewell, Newgate, or any other prison, or house of
BOB. A shoplifter’s assistant, or one that receives and carries off stolen
goods. All is bob; all is safe. .
BOB. A shilling.
BOBBED. Cheated, tricked, disappointed.
BOBBISH. Smart, clever, spruce.
BOB STAY. A rope which holds the bowsprit to the stem or cutwater.
Figuratively, the frenum of a man’s yard.
BOB TAIL. A lewd woman, or one that plays with her tail; also an impotent
man, or an eunuch. Tag, rag, and bobtail; a mob of all sorts of low
people. To shift one’s bob; to move off, or go away. To bear a bob; to
join in chorus with any singers. Also a term used by the sellers of game,
for a partridge.
BODY SNATCHERS. Bum bailiffs.
BODY OF DIVINITY BOUND IN BLACK CALF. A parson.
BOG LANDER. An Irishman; Ireland being famous for its large bogs, which
furnish the chief fuel in many parts of that kingdom.
BOG TROTTER. The same.
BOG HOUSE. The necessary house. To go to bog; to go to stool.
BOG LATIN. Barbarous Latin. Irish.—See DOG LATIN, and APOTHECARIES LATIN.
BOGY. Ask bogy, i.e. ask mine a-se. Sea wit.
BOH. Said to be the name of a Danish general, who so terrified his
opponent Foh, that he caused him to bewray himself. Whence, when we smell
a stink, it is custom to exclaim, Foh! i.e. I smell general Foh. He cannot
say Boh to a goose; i.e. he is a cowardly or sheepish fellow.
There is a story related of the celebrated Ben Jonson, who
always dressed very plain; that being introduced to the
presence of a nobleman, the peer, struck by his homely
appearance and awkward manner, exclaimed, as if in doubt,
“you Ben Johnson! why you look as if you could not say Boh to a goose!” “Boh!”
replied the wit.
BOLD. Bold as a miller’s shirt, which every day takes a rogue by the
BOLT. A blunt arrow.
BOLT UPRIGHT. As erect, or straight up, as an arrow set on its end.
TO BOLT. To run suddenly out of one’s house, or hiding place, through
fear; a term borrowed from a rabbit-warren, where the rabbits are made to
bolt, by sending ferrets into their burrows: we set the house on fire, and
made him bolt. To bolt, also means to swallow meat without chewing: the
farmer’s servants in Kent are famous for bolting large quantities of
BONE BOX. The mouth. Shut your bone box; shut your mouth.
BONE PICKER. A footman.
BONED. Seized. apprehended, taken up by a constable. .
BOLUS. A nick name for an apothecary.
BONESETTER. A hard-trotting horse.
BOOBY, or DOG BOOBY. An awkward lout, clodhopper, or country fellow. See
CLODHOPPER and LOUT. A bitch booby; a country wench.
BOOBY HUTCH. A one-horse chaise, noddy, buggy, or leathern bottle.
BOOKS. Cards to play with. To plant the books; to place the cards in the
pack in an unfair manner.
BOOK-KEEPER. One who never returns borrowed books. Out of one’s books; out
of one’s fevor. Out of his books; out of debt.
BOOT CATCHER. The servant at an inn whose business it is to clean the
boots of the guest.
BOOTS. The youngest officer in a regimental mess, whose duty it is to
skink, that is, to stir the fire, snuff the candles, and ring the bell.
See SKINK.—To ride in any one’s old boots; to marry or keep his cast-off
BOOTY. To play booty; cheating play, where the player purposely avoids
BO-PEEP. One who sometimes hides himself, and sometimes appears publicly
abroad, is said to-play at bo-peep. Also one who lies perdue, or on the
BORACHIO. A skin for holding wine, commonly a goat’s; also a nick name for
BORDE. A shilling. A half borde; a sixpence.
BORDELLO. A bawdy house.
BORE. A tedious, troublesome man or woman, one who bores the ears of his
hearers with an uninteresting tale; a term much in fashion about the years
1780 and 1781.
BORN UNDER A THREEPENNY HALFPENNY PLANET, NEVER TO BE WORTH A GROAT. Said
of any person remarkably unsuccessful in his attempts or profession.
BOTCH. A nick name for a taylor.
BOTHERED or BOTH-EARED. Talked to at both ears by different persons at the
same time, confounded, confused. IRISH PHRASE.
BOTHERAMS. A convivial society.
BOTTLE-HEADED. Void of wit.
BOTTOM. A polite term for the posteriors. Also, in the sporting sense,
strength and spirits to support fatigue; as a bottomed horse. Among
bruisers it is used to express a hardy fellow, who will bear a good
BOTTOMLESS PIT. The monosyllable.
BOUGHS. Wide in the boughs; with large hips and posteriors.
BOUGHS. He is up in the boughs; he is in a passion.
TO BOUNCE. To brag or hector; also to tell an improbable story. To bully a
man out of any thing. The kiddey bounced the swell of the blowen; the lad
bullied the gentleman out of the girl.
BOUNCER. A large man or woman; also a great lie.
BOUNCING CHEAT. A bottle; from the explosion in drawing the cork. .
BOUNG. A purse. .
BOUNG NIPPER. A cut purse. .—Formerly purses were worn at the girdle, from
whence they were cut.
BOOSE, or BOUSE. Drink.
BOWSING KEN. An ale-house or gin-shop.
BOWSPRIT. The nose, from its being the most projecting part of the human
face, as the bowsprit is of a ship.
BOW-WOW. The childish name for a dog; also a jeering appellation for a man
born at Boston in America.
BOW-WOW MUTTON. Dog’s flesh.
BOW-WOW SHOP. A salesman’s shop in Monmouth-street; so called because the
servant barks, and the master bites. See BARKER.
BOWYER. One that draws a long bow, a dealer in the marvellous, a teller of
improbable stories, a liar: perhaps from the wonderful shots frequently
boasted of by archers.
TO BOX THE COMPASS. To say or repeat the mariner’s compass, not only
backwards or forwards, but also to be able to answer any and all questions
respecting its divisions. SEA TERM.
TO BOX THE JESUIT, AND GET COCK ROACHES. A sea term for masturbation; a
crime, it is said, much practised by the reverend fathers of that society.
BRACE. The Brace tavern; a room in the S.E. corner of the King’s Bench,
where, for the convenience of prisoners residing thereabouts, beer
purchased at the tap-house was retailed at a halfpenny per pot advance. It
was kept by two brothers of the name of Partridge, and thence called the
BRACKET-FACED. Ugly, hard-featured.
BRAGGET. Mead and ale sweetened with honey.
BRAGGADOCIA. vain-glorious fellow, a boaster.
BRAINS. If you had as much brains as guts, what a clever fellow you would
be! a saying to a stupid fat fellow. To have some guts in his brains; to
BRAN-FACED. Freckled. He was christened by a baker, he carries the bran in
BRANDY-FACED. Red-faced, as if from drinking brandy.
BRANDY. Brandy is Latin for a goose; a memento to prevent the animal from
rising in the stomach by a glass of the good creature.
BRAT. A child or infant.
BRAY. A vicar of Bray; one who frequently changes his principles, always
siding with the strongest party: an allusion to a vicar of Bray, in
Berkshire, commemorated in a well-known ballad for the pliability of his
BRAZEN-FACED. Bold-faced, shameless, impudent.
BREAD AND BUTTER FASHION. One slice upon the other. John and his maid were
caught lying bread and butter fashion.—To quarrel with one’s bread and
butter; to act contrary to one’s interest. To know on which side one’s
bread is buttered; to know one’s interest, or what is best for one. It is
no bread and butter of mine;
I have no business with it; or rather, I won’t intermeddle, because I
shall get nothing by it.
BREAK-TEETH WORDS. Hard words, difficult to pronounce.
BREAKING SHINS. Borrowing money; perhaps from the figurative operation
being, like the real one, extremely disagreeable to the patient.
BREAD. Employment. Out of bread; out of employment.
In bad bread; in a disagreeable scrape, or situation.
BREAD BASKET. The stomach; a term used by boxers. I took him a punch in
his bread basket; i.e. I gave him a blow in the stomach.
BREAST FLEET. He or she belongs to the breast fleet; i.e. is a Roman
catholic; an appellation derived from their custom of beating their
breasts in the confession of their sins.
BREECHED. Money in the pocket: the swell is well breeched, let’s draw him;
the gentleman has plenty of money in his pocket, let us rob him.
BREECHES. To wear the breeches; a woman who governs her husband is said to
wear the breeches.
BREECHES BIBLE. An edition of the Bible printed in 1598, wherein it is
said that Adam and Eve sewed figleaves together, and made themselves
BREEZE. To raise a breeze; to kick up a dust or breed a disturbance.
BRIDGE. To make a bridge of any one’s nose; to push the bottle past him,
so as to deprive him of his turn of filling his glass; to pass one over.
Also to play booty, or purposely to avoid winning.
BRIM. (Abbreviation of Brimstone.) An abandoned woman; perhaps originally
only a passionate or irascible woman, compared to brimstone for its
BRISKET BEATER. A Roman catholic. SEE BREAST FLEET, and CRAW THUMPER.
BRISTOL MILK. A Spanish wine called sherry, much drunk at that place,
particularly in the morning.
BRISTOL MAN. The son of an Irish thief and a Welch whore.
BRITISH CHAMPAIGNE. Porter.
BROGANIER. One who has a strong Irish pronunciation or accent.
BROGUE. A particular kind of shoe without a heel, worn in Ireland, and
figuratively used to signify the Irish accent.
BROTHER OF THE BLADE. A soldier
BUSKIN. A player.
BUNG. A brewer
QUILL. An author.
STRING. A fiddler.
WHIP. A coachman.
BROTHER STARLING. One who lies with the same woman, that is, builds in the
BROUGHTONIAN. A boxer: a disciple of Broughton, who was a beef-eater, and
once the best boxer of his day.
BROWN BESS. A soldier’s firelock. To hug brown Bess; to carry a firelock,
or serve as a private soldier.
BROWN GEORGE. An ammunition loaf, A wig without powder; similar to the
undress wig worn by his majesty.
BROWN MADAM, or MISS BROWN. The monosyllable.
BROWN STUDY. Said of one absent, in a reverie, or thoughtful.
BRUISER. A boxer; one skilled in the ar of boxing also an inferior workman
BREWES, or BROWES. The fat scum from the pot in which salted beef is
TO BRUSH. To run away. Let us buy a brush and lope; let us go away or off.
To have a brush with a woman; to lie with her. To have a brush with a man;
to fight with him. The cove cracked the peter and bought a brush; the
fellow broke open the trunk, and then ran away.
BRUSHER. A bumper, a full glass. See BUMPER.
BUB. Strong beer.
BUBBER. A drinking bowl; also a great drinker; a thief that steals plate
from public houses. .
THE BUBBLE. The party cheated, perhaps from his being like an air bubble,
filled with words, which are only wind, instead of real property.
TO BUBBLE. To cheat.
TO BAR THE BUBBLE. To except against the general rule, that he who lays
the odds must always be adjudged the loser: this is restricted to betts
laid for liquor.
BUBBLY JOCK. A turkey cock. SCOTCH.
BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. Beef and cabbage fried together. It is so called from
its bubbling up and squeaking whilst over the fire.
BUBE. The venereal disease.
BUCK. A blind horse; also a gay debauchee.
TO RUN A BUCK. To poll a bad vote at an election.—IRISH TERM.
BUCK BAIL. Bail given by a sharper for one of the gang.
A BUCK OF THE FIRST HEAD. One who in debauchery surpasses the rest of his
companions, a blood or choice spirit.
BUCK’S FACE. A cuckold.
BUCK FITCH. A lecherous old fellow.
BUCKEEN. A bully. IRISH.
BUCKET. To kick the bucket; to die.
BUCKINGER’S BOOT. The monosyllable. Matthew Buckinger was born without
hands and legs; notwithstanding which he drew coats of arms very neatly,
and could write the Lord’s Prayer within the compass of a shilling; he was
married to a tall handsome woman, and traversed the country, shewing
himself for money.
BUDGE, or SNEAKING BUDGE. One that slips into houses in the dark, to steal
cloaks or other clothes. Also lambs’ fur formerly used for doctors’ robes,
whence they were called budge doctors. Standing budge; a thief’s scout or
TO BUDGE. To move, or quit one’s station. Don’t budge from hence; i.e.
don’t move from hence, stay here.
BUDGET. A wallet. To open the budget; a term used to signify the
notification of the taxes required by the minister for the expences of the
ensuing year; as To-morrow the minister will go to the house, and open the
BUFE. A dog. Bufe’s nob; a dog’s head. .
BUFE NABBER. A dog stealer. .
BUFF. All in buff; stript to the skin, stark naked.
BUFF. To stand buff; to stand the brunt. To swear as a witness. He buffed
it home; and I was served; he swore hard against me, and I was found
BUFFER. One that steals and kills horses and dogs for their skins; also an
inn-keeper: in Ireland it signifies a boxer.
BUFFER. A man who takes an oath: generally applied to Jew bail.
BUFFLE-HEADED. Confused, stupid.
BUG. A nick name given by the Irish to Englishmen; bugs having, as it is
said, been introduced into Ireland by the English.
TO BUG. A word among journeymen hatters, signifying the exchanging some of
the dearest materials of which a hat is made for others of less value.
Hats are composed of the furs and wool of divers animals among which is a
small portion of beavers’ fur. Bugging, is stealing the beaver, and
substituting in lieu thereof an equal weight of some cheaper
ingredient.—Bailiffs who take money to postpone or refrain the serving of
a writ, are said to bug the writ.
BUG-HUNTER. An upholsterer.
BUGABOE. A scare-babe, or bully-beggar.
BUGAROCH. Comely, handsome. IRISH.
BUGGY. A one-horse chaise.
BUGGER. A blackguard, a rascal, a term of reproach. Mill the bloody
bugger; beat the damned rascal.
BULK AND FILE. Two pickpockets; the bulk jostles the party to be robbed,
and the file does the business.
BULKER. One who lodges all night on a bulk or projection before
old-fashioned shop windows.
BULL. An Exchange Alley term for one who buys stock on speculation for
time, i.e. agrees with the seller, called a Bear, to take a certain sum of
stock at a future day, at a stated price: if at that day stock fetches
more than the price agreed on, he receives the difference; if it falls or
is cheaper, he either pays it, or becomes a lame duck, and waddles out of
the Alley. See LAME DUCK and BEAR.
BULL. A blunder; from one Obadiah Bull, a blundering lawyer of London, who
lived in the reign of Henery VII. by a bull is now always meant a blunder
made by an Irishman. A bull was also the name of false hair formerly much
worn by women. To look like bull beef, or as bluff as bull beef; to look
fierce or surly. Town bull, a great whore-master.
BULL. A crown piece. A half bull; half a crown.
BULL BEGGAR, or BULLY BEGGAR. An imaginary being with which children are
threatened by servants and nurses, like raw head and bloody bones.
BULL CALF. A great hulkey or clumsy fellow. See HULKEY.
BULL CHIN. A fat chubby child.
BULL DOGS. Pistols.
BULL HANKERS. Persons who over-drive bulls, or frequent bull baits.
BULL’S EYE. A crown-piece.
BULL’S FEATHER. A horn: he wears the bull’s feather; he is a cuckold.
TO BULLOCK. To hector, bounce, or bully.
BULLY. A cowardly fellow, who gives himself airs of great bravery. A bully
huff cap; a hector. See HECTOR.
BULLY BACK. A bully to a bawdy-house; one who is kept in pay, to oblige
the frequenters of the house to submit to the impositions of the mother
abbess, or bawd; and who also sometimes pretends to be the husband of one
of the ladies, and under that pretence extorts money from greenhorns, or
ignorant young men, whom he finds with her. See GREENHORN.
BULLY COCK. One who foments quarrels in order to rob the persons
BULLY RUFFIANS. Highwaymen who attack passengers with paths and
BULLY TRAP. A brave man with a mild or effeminate appearance, by whom
bullies are frequently taken in.
BUM. the breech, or backside.
TO BUM. To arrest a debtor. The gill bummed the swell for a thimble; the
tradesman arrested the gentleman for a watch.
BUM TRAP. A sheriff’s officer who arrests debtors. Ware hawke! the bum
traps are fly to our panney; keep a good look out, the bailiffs know where
our house is situated.
BUM BAILIFF. A sheriff’s officer, who arrests debtors; so called perhaps
from following his prey, and being at their bums, or, as the vulgar phrase
is, hard at their a-ses. Blackstone says, it is a corruption of bound
bailiff, from their being obliged to give bond for their good behaviour.
BUM BRUSHER. A schoolmaster.
BUM BOAT. A boat attending ships to retail greens,
drams, &c. commonly rowed by a woman; a kind of
floating chandler’s shop,
BUM FODDER. Soft paper for the necessary house or torchecul.
BUMFIDDLE. The backside, the breech. See ARS MUSICA.
BUMBO. Brandy, water, and sugar; also the negro name for the private parts
of a woman.
BUMKIN. A raw country fellow.
BUMPER. A full glass; in all likelihood from its convexity or bump at the
top: some derive it from a full glass formerly drunk to the health of the
pope—AU BON PERE.
BUMPING. A ceremony performed on boys perambulating the bounds of the
parish on Whit-monday, when they have their posteriors bumped against the
stones marking the boundaries, in order to fix them in their memory.
BUN. A common name for a rabbit, also for the monosyllable. To touch bun
for luck; a practice observed among sailors going on a cruize.
BUNDLING. A man and woman sleeping in the same bed, he with his small
clothes, and she with her petticoats on; an expedient practised in America
on a scarcity of beds, where, on such an occasion, husbands and parents
frequently permitted travellers to bundle with their wives and daughters.
This custom is now abolished. See Duke of Rochefoucalt’s
Travels in America,
BUNG UPWARDS. Said of a person lying on his face.
BUNG YOUR EYE. Drink a dram; strictly speaking, to drink till one’s eye is
bunged up or closed.
BUNT. An apron.
BUNTER. A low dirty prostitute, half whore and half beggar.
BURN CRUST. A jocular name for a baker.
BURN THE KEN. Strollers living in an alehouse without paying their
quarters, are said to burn the ken. .
BURNING SHAME. A lighted candle stuck into the parts of a woman, certainly
not intended by nature for a candlestick.
BURNER. A clap. The blowen tipped the swell a burner; the girl gave the
gentleman a clap.
BURNER. He is no burner of navigable rivers; i.e. he is no conjuror, or
man of extraordinary abilities; or rather, he is, but a simple fellow. See
BURNT. Poxed or clapped. He was sent out a sacrifice, and came home a
burnt offering; a saying of seamen who have caught the venereal disease
abroad. He has burnt his fingers; he has suffered by meddling.
BURR. A hanger on, or dependant; an allusion to the field burrs, which are
not easily got rid of. Also the Northumbrian pronunciation: the people of
that country, but chiefly about Newcastle and Morpeth, are said to have a
burr in their throats, particularly called the Newcastle burr.
BUSHEL BUBBY. A full breasted woman.
BUSK. A piece of whalebone or ivory, formerly worn by women, to stiffen
the forepart of their stays: hence the toast—Both ends of the busk.
BUSS BEGGAR. An old superannuated fumbler, whom none but beggars will
suffer to kiss them.
BUS-NAPPER. A constable. .
BUS-NAPPER’S KENCHIN. A watchman. .
BUSY. As busy is the devil in a high wind; as busy as a hen with one
BUTCHER’S DOG. To be like a butcher’s dog, i.e. lie by the beef without
touching it; a simile often applicable to married men.
BUTCHER’S HORSE. That must have been a butcher’s horse, by his carrying a
calf so well; a vulgar joke on an awkward rider.
BUTT. A dependant, poor relation, or simpleton, on whom all kinds of
practical jokes are played off; and who serves as a butt for all the
shafts of wit and ridicule.
BUTTER BOX. A Dutchman, from the great quantity of butter eaten by the
people of that country.
BUTTERED BUN. One lying with a woman that has just lain with another man,
is said to have a buttered bun.
BUTTER AND EGGS TROT. A kind of short jogg trot, such as is used by women
going to market, with butter and eggs.—he looks as if butter would not
melt in her mouth, yet I warrant you cheese would not choak her; a saying
of a demure looking woman, of suspected character. Don’t make butter dear;
a gird at the patient angler.
BUTTOCK. A whore.
BUTTOCK BROKER. A bawd, or match-maker.
BUTTOCK BALL. The amorous congress.
BUTTOCK AND FILE. A common whore and a pick-pocket.
BUTTOCK AND TWANG, or DOWN BUTTOCK AND SHAM FILE. A common whore, but no
BUTTOCK AND TONGUE. A scolding wife.
BUTTOCKING SHOP. A brothel.
BUTTON. A bad shilling, among coiners. His a-se makes buttons; he is ready
to bewray himself through fear. .
BUZMAN. A pickpocket.
BUZZARD. A simple fellow. A blind buzzard: a pur-blind man or woman.
BYE BLOW. A bastard.
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