Green’s Dictionary of Slang News

April 2018 Update + Hero of Slang 8: Billy Rowe

Welcome to the sixth and latest update to the online version of Green’s Dictionary of Slang.


As ever, some statistics: research over the last three months has added 301 new slang terms, 377 entries have been predated as to their currently recorded ‘first use’ and 2,775 new citations – including ante-dates, inter-dates and post-dates to reflect the continuing use of many terms –  have been uploaded. The database currently offers 54,873 headwords (within which are nested over 133,000 discrete words and phrases, underpinned by approximately 630,000 citations). All of this new material can be seen by subscribers; the changes that are reflected by the predates  are also shown in alterations in the approximate dating used in the absence of citations: for instance ‘late 19C’ to ‘early 19C’, ‘1980s+’ back to ‘1940s+’, and so on. But as ever, for those who want or need to access the detailed and continually evolving and expanding heart of the data, we have to recommend a subscription.


For an overview, with the fruits of the last quarter’s research in chronological order, all users of the dictionary can go here. This uses the same software as the Timelines of Slang. As usual the research has focused largely on newspaper databases, notably that held by the British Library, the US Library of Congress and, for Australia, Trove. These, by their nature, tend to look backwards in time, but there is also an on-going accretion of up-to-date slang.


New terms are marked in red, ante-dates in blue. The format has been improved: entries now link to the specific part of an entry, its sense and where pertinent its homonym number. Unfortunately the software does not permit click-through access (this is in development) , but users will be able to see which part of an entry has improved.



To celebrate the First Anniversary since the launch of Green’s Dictionary of Slang in October 2016 we offer a small competition.

The following text comes from a pamphlet The New Sprees of London, or, A guide to all the flash cribs of the metropolis detailed in a night’s spree of Harry Flashton and his cousin Giles : in this valuable work will be found general maxims for a night’s spree, … peep into the night houses from west to east, … description of the cadgers’ palace …, list of accommodation houses, … economical calculations of the expense of a night’s spree. Published in 1844 it was one of many such publications, a guide to ‘low life’ amusements in the capital. Harry and Giles tip their tiles to the pioneers of such exploits: Pierce Egan’s Tom and Jerry (and their pal Bob Logic). And like Egan’s best-seller, Life in London, the New Sprees was keen to demonstrate a through knowledge of current slang as proof of its authenticity. In this introduction the anonymous author addresses his readers directly:



There are approximately 70 slang terms here (some italicised, some in roman). For the purposes of our competition, the challenge is to ‘translate’ them all into standard English and, if possible, thereby to rewrite the text ‘in English’. If a translation proves too much, then a simple list will pass muster.

All the terms should be available in the free version of GDoS. If any have escaped, then try a bit of educated guesswork – it’s what slang researchers have to do all the time. (The spelling is inevitably shaky: manty, line 18, for instance, is in fact nanty as in line 2).

The fullest translation (and failing that the best shot at a comprehensive list) to arrive by Monday 13 November will receive a one-year free subscription to the dictionary. Five runners-up get a GDoS tote bag. Mr Slang will of course be amenable to bungs, dropsy, freemans, palm oil, straighteners and any other of the 64 terms whereby slang synonymizes the bribe.

Please email your solutions to

Go it, boots, and cushty bok!



The Heroes of Slang: A Short Introduction


In an attempt to add a third dimension to the lexicon (beyond, that is, the predictable team of ‘here’s a word or phrase’ and ‘here’s what it means’), GDoS is proposing a new series, lexico-biographies as it were: The Heroes of Slang. The bibliography behind this website is moving towards 10,000 sources; there is no chance, nor wish to cover them all (see here for a timeline of the most prolific). But the Heroes of Slang will be just that: a week-by-week go-round of those who have done most to bring slang into the limelight, whether creators, exploiters or collectors. The aim is to offer some back-story, some biography and a range of the slang that’s associated with their work. We can’t, again, look at everything — Irving Welsh, for instance, is cited for 1,400 terms — but these posts will show the flavour of each artist through the best of the slang they use.


The series will begin next week, with the ‘profane and lewd writings’ of Lord Rochester, a dissolute aristocrat and ‘one of the wittiest poets’ of the late 17th century who, to quote the Oxford Companion to English Literature, wrote ‘more frankly about sex than anyone in English before the 20th century.’ Slang’s version of lit. crit. is a little more focused: he offers some 200 early terms; and a good two-thirds of them referenced aspects of what in a very rare example of euphemism, he termed et-caetera


But first, a brief introduction.