The following definitions are from the “B” section of Captain Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811).
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 grave.
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 malingeror. See MALINGEROR.
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. Cant.
BADGE-COVES. Parish Pensioners. Cant.
BADGERS. A crew of desperate villains who robbed near rivers, into which they threw the bodies of those they murdered. Cant.
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 dough.
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 cant saying to designate a fool.
BALUM RANCUM. A hop or dance, where the women are
all prostitutes. N. B. The company dance in their
BAM. A jocular imposition, the same as a humbug. See
TO BAM. To impose on any one by a falsity; also to
jeer or make fun of any one.
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 marvellous.
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,
BANDOG. A bailiff or his follower; also a very fierce
mastiff: likewise, a bandbox. CANT.
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 a farmer.
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 one Banks. It is mentioned in Sir Walter
Raleigh’s Hist. of the World, p. 178; also by Sir
Kenelm Digby and Ben Jonson.
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, Mine a-e.
BARGEES. (CAMBRIDGE.) 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. See Cotton,
in his Virgil Travesti; where, speaking of Eolus he has
Bounce cry the port-holes, out they fly,
And make the world dance Barnaby.
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 spelt baston.
BAT. A low whore: so called from moving out like bats in
the dusk of the evening.
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 canters, who carry pins, tape, ballads, and obscene books to sell, but live mostly by stealing. Cant.
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 the bear-gardens.
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 term.
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. Cant.
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 ignorant fops.
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, “Turned off.”
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. Cant.—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
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 respite.
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. Cant.
BENE BOWSE. Good beer, or other strong liquor. Cant.
BENE COVE. A good fellow. Cant.
BENE DARKMANS. Goodnight. Cant.
BENE FEARERS. Counterfeiters of bills. Cant.
BENE FEAKERS OF GYBES. Counterfeiters of passes. Cant.
BENESHIPLY. Worshipfully. Cant.
BEN. A fool. Cant.
BENISON. The beggar’s benison: May your ***** and purse never fail you.
BERMUDAS. A cant 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 called betties.
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;
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 cleverly. French.
BILL AT SIGHT. To pay a bill at sight; to be ready at all
times for the venereal act.
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. Cant.
TO BILK. To cheat. Let us bilk the rattling cove; let us
cheat the hackney coachman of his fare. Cant. 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. Cant. 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. Cant.
BINGO BOY. A dram drinker. Cant.
BINGO MORT. A female dram drinker. Cant.
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 others.
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. Cant.
TO BITE. To over-reach, or impose; also to steal.—Cant.—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 wench.
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 evidence.
BLACK ART. The art of picking a lock. Cant.
BLACK A-SE. A copper or kettle. The pot calls the kettle black a-se. Cant.
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. Cant.
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 character.
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-guards.
BLACK JACK. A nick name given to the Recorder by the
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 them.
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. Irish.
A BLASTED FELLOW or BRIMSTONE. An abandoned rogue or prostitute. Cant.
To BLAST. To curse.
BLATER. A calf. Cant.
BLEACHED MORT. A fair-complexioned wench.
BLEATERS. Those cheated by Jack in a box. CANT.—See
JACK IN A BOX.
BLEATING CHEAT. A sheep. Cant.
BLEATING RIG. Sheep stealing. Cant.
BLEEDERS. Spurs. He clapped his bleeders to his prad;
be put spurs to his horse.
BLEEDING CULLY. One who parts easily with his money,
or bleeds freely.
BLEEDING NEW. A metaphor borrowed from fish, which
will not bleed when stale.
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 alley.
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 is ended.
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 coat.
BLOODY. A favourite word used by the thieves in swearing,
as bloody eyes, bloody rascal.
BLOSS or BLOWEN. The pretended wife of a bully, or
TO BLOT THE SKRIP AND JAR IT. To stand engaged or
bound for any one. Cant.
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
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 him.
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 whale.
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
BLUE PIGEONS. Thieves who steal lead off houses and
churches. Cant. 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 soldiers’ firelocks.
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. Cant.
BLUNDERBUSS. A short gun, with a wide bore, for carrying slugs; also a stupid, blundering fellow.
BLUNT. Money. Cant.
TO BLUSTER. To talk big, to hector or bully.
BOARDING SCHOOL. Bridewell, Newgate, or any other
prison, or house of correction.
BOB. A shoplifter’s assistant, or one that receives and carries
off stolen goods. All is bob; all is safe. Cant.
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
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 collar.
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 pickled pork.
BONE BOX. The mouth. Shut your bone box; shut your mouth.
BONE PICKER. A footman.
BONED. Seized, apprehended, taken up by a constable. CANT.
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
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 mistress.
BOOTY. To play booty; cheating play, where the player purposely avoids winning.
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 watch.
BORACHIO. A skin for holding wine, commonly a goat’s; also a nick name for a drunkard.
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
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 beating.
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. CANT.
BOUNG. A purse. CANT.
BOUNG NIPPER. A cut purse. CANT.—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.
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 Brace.
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 know something.
BRAN-FACED. Freckled. He was christened by a baker, he carries the bran in his face.
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 conscience.
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 breeches.
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 inflammability.
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
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
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 same nest.
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
BRUISER. A boxer; one skilled in the ar of boxing also
an inferior workman among chasers.
BREWES, or BROWES. The fat scum from the pot in
which salted beef is boiled.
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. CANT.
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
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. There are in London divers lodges or societies of Bucks, formed in imitation of the Free Masons: one was held at the Rose, in Monkwell-street, about the year 1705. The president is styled the Grand Buck. A buck sometimes signifies a cuckold.
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 spy.
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 budget.
BUFE. A dog. Bufe’s nob; a dog’s head. CANT.
BUFE NABBER. A dog stealer. CANT.
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 guilty.
BUFFER. One that steals and kills horses and dogs for
their skins; also an inn-keeper: in Ireland it signifies a
BUFFER. A man who takes an oath: generally applied to
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 cant 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
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
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 quarrelling.
BULLY RUFFIANS. Highwaymen who attack passengers
with paths and imprecations.
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.
BUNTLINGS. Petticoats. CANT.
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. CANT.
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 THAMES.
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. CANT.
BUS-NAPPER’S KENCHIN. A watchman. CANT.
BUSY. As busy is the devil in a high wind; as busy as a hen with one chick.
BUTCHER’S DOG. To be like a butcher’s dog, i.e. lie by the
beef without touching it; a simile often applicable to
BUTCHER’S HORSE. That must have been a butcher’s
horse, by his carrying a calf so well; a vulgar joke on an
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. CANT.
BUTTOCK BROKER. A bawd, or match-maker. CANT.
BUTTOCK BALL. The amorous congress. CANT.
BUTTOCK AND FILE. A common whore and a pick-pocket.
BUTTOCK AND TWANG, or DOWN BUTTOCK AND SHAM
FILE. A common whore, but no pickpocket.
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. CANT.
BUZMAN. A pickpocket. CANT.
BUZZARD. A simple fellow. A blind buzzard: a pur-blind man or woman.
BYE BLOW. A bastard.