A listing of 18th Century slang compiled by Leon Bienkowski and posted to the Revlist in 11 installments–last posting in June, 2000:


“The terms listed below were mostly gleaned from Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. There is a bit of a nautical bent to this list because of my own peculiar specialty, but there should be plenty of amusing and useful terms for everyone.


Your underly industrious servant,

Lee Bienkowski”




Abbess - a woman who is a brothel keeper

Abraham-sham - a feigned illness

Academician - a whore

Cast up one's accounts - to vomit

Admiral of the Blue - a publican

Admiral of the Narrow Seas - a drunk who vomits into a neighbor's lap

Adrift - discharged

Adzooks! - an expletive

Air and exercise - a flogging at the cart's tail

Akerman's hotel - Newgate prison

All Nations - a mixture of drinks from unfinished bottles

Amen-curler - a parish clerk

Amidships - the belly

Anatomy - a very skinny person

Bring one's ass to an anchor - sit down

Anne's fan - thumbing one's nose

Talk like an apothecary - talk nonsense

Apple-dumpling shop - a woman's bosom

Hang an arse - to hold back

Arse upward - in good luck

Ask bogy - an evasive reply

Avast! - Stop!




Not to know B from a bull's foot - to be ignorant

Bacon-faced - full-faced

Bacon-fed - fat and greasy

Empty the bag - to tell everything

Heavy baggage - women and children

Bagpipe - a long-winded talker

Bailed man - a man who has bribed the press gang for immunity

Baked – exhausted

Banbury story – nonsense

Bark at the moon - to agitate uselessly

Barnacles – spectacles

Barrel fever - ill health caused by excessive drinking

To grin like a basket of chips - to grin broadly

Bear - a very gruff person

Beer-garden jaw - rough or vulgar language

Bring to one's bearings - cause to see reason

Drink like a beast - to drink only when thirsty

Beau-Nasty - finely dressed but dirty

To go up a ladder to bed - to be hanged

Beef-head – idiot

Beggar-maker - a publican

Belly-gut - greedy, lazy person

Bender - a sixpence

Bird-spit - a small sword

Bit of red - a soldier

Black arse - a kettle

Black cattle - a parson

Give a bottle a black eye - empty a bottle

Blashy - rainy weather

Blood and 'ounds! - an exclamation

Blue as a razor - extremely blue

Blue stocking - a learned woman

Blue tape – gin

Shift one's bob - to move or go away

Bog orange - a potato

To marry old boots - to marry another man's mistress

Bosom friend - a body louse

To have some guts in one's brains - to be knowledgeable

Brandy-face - a drunkard

Brattery - a nursery

In bad bread - in a disagreeable situation

Break-teeth words - words hard to pronounce

Gold bridge - an easy and attractive means of escape

To be stabbed with a Bridgeport dagger - to be hanged

Broganeer - one with a strong Irish accent

Brown cow - a barrel of beer

Brown George - ship's biscuit

Buck fitch - an old lecher

Like bull beef - big and grim

Bull calf - a big clumsy fellow

Bull's eye - a crown piece (5 shillings)

Bung one's eye - drink heartily

Bung upwards - on his face

Butter-bag - a Dutchman

Buttock-ball - a dance attended by prostitutes




Calfskin fiddle - a drum

Cant a slug into your breadroom! - have a drink!

Caper - to be hanged

Captain Copperthorn's crew - all officers

Captain Grand - a haughty blustering man

Captain Tom - leader of a mob

Cat-sticks - thin legs

Caterpillar - a soldier

Caulker - a dram

Chalk - to strike someone's face

Chatter-broth – tea

Christened by a baker – freckled

Cinder-garbler - a female servant

Cite stage - the gallows

A house of civil reception - a brothel

Clapper-claw - to thrash someone soundly

Clicker - one who shares out the booty

Closh - Dutch sailors

Coach wheel - a crown piece

Cock and pie! - a mild oath

Coffee-house - a water-closet

Cold cook - an undertaker

Comb-brush - a lady's maid

Comb one's head - to scold

House of commons - a privy

Condiddle - to steal

Conveyancer - a thief

Cool crape - a shroud

Corinth - a brothel

Make a great harvest of a little corn - much ado about nothing

Corporation - a large belly

Cotswold lion - a sheep

Country-put - a silly rube

Covent Garden ague – VD

Crab lanthorn - a peevish fellow

Crinkums – VD

Crown-office - the head

Cucumber - a tailor

Cut throat - a dark lantern

Swear like a cutter - swear violently




The dam of that was a whisker - a great lie

Dangle in the sheriff's picture-frame - to be hanged

Dasher - showy harlot

Drunk as Davy's sow - very drunk

Deadly nevergreen - the gallows

The devil among the tailors - a row or disturbance

Devil-drawer - a bad artist

The Devil may dance in his pocket - he is penniless

Diddle – gin

Gone to the Diet of Worms - be dead and buried

Dilly - a coach

Dog Booby - an awkward lout

Enough to make a dog laugh - very funny

Dog-vane - a cockade

Dog's portion - a lick and a smell

Dog's soup – water

Go dot and carry - a person with a wooden leg

Double Cape Horn - be cuckolded

Roby Douglas with one eye and a stinking breath - the breech

Draggle-tail - a nasty, dirty slut

Draws straws - to feel sleepy

Drury Lane vestal - a whore

Duke of limbs - a tall awkward fellow

Dull-swift - a stupid fellow

Die dunghill - die cowardly

Drunk as an emperor - regally drunk

Dustman - a dead man

Dutch concert - everyone plays or sings a different tune

Dutch feast - the host gets drunk before the guests




Earwig - a malicious flatterer

Ensign-bearer - a drunkard

Eternity box - a coffin

Expended – killed

To have fallen down and trodden upon one's eye - to have a black eye




Hove no-one's face but one's own - to be penniless

Facer - a glass full to the brim

Make faces - to beget children

Faggot - a man hired to appear on a muster-roll

Fallen away from a horse load to a cart load - to become fat

Fantastically dressed - very shabby

Fegary - a prank

Fiddler's money - all small change

Fiddlestick's end – nothing

Finger-post - a clergyman

Fire a gun - introduce a subject unskillfully

To have been fed with a fire shovel - to have a big mouth

Fish-broth - salt water

Flag of defiance - a drunken roisterer

Flag of distress - the cockade of a half-pay officer

Flap with a fox tail - a rude dismissal

Flapdragon – VD

Flash the gentleman - pretend to be a gentleman

Flash it away - show off

Flats and sharps – weapons

Flawed – drunk

Flay the fox – vomit

Flump - an abrupt or heavy fall

Fly in a tar box - nervously excited

Foreman of the jury - one who monopolizes a conversation

Foul a plate - dine with someone

Frenchified - infected with VD

Frig-pig - a fussy trifler

Froglander - a Dutchman

Full as a goat - very drunk

Fustilugs - a dirty slattern




Gallied - hurried, vexed or over-fatigued

Gallows – enormous

Game pullet - a young whore

Gammon – nonsense

Gardy-loo - Look out! (Garde l’eau)

Gaskins - wide breaches

Gentleman in red - a soldier

Gentleman's companion - a louse

Melancholy as a gib cat – dispirited

Give one's head for washing - to submit to be imposed upon

Glass-eyes - person wearing spectacles

Glorious - ecstatically drunk

Glue-pot - a parson

God permit - a stage coach

Golden grease - a bribe

To find fault with a fat goose - grumble without cause

Play old gooseberry - play the devil

Gospel-shop - a church

Gotch-gutted - pot-bellied

Grapple-the-rails – whiskey

Green-bag - a lawyer

Greenwich goose - a Greenwich Hospital pensioner

The cat's uncle gringog - a grinning idiot

Groggified – tipsy

Ride grub - ill-tempered

Guinea-gold – dependable

In the gun – tipsy

Gundiguts - a fat pursy fellow

Gut-foundered - extremely hungry




Half an ounce - a half crown

Half seas over - half drunk

Hand like a foot - clumsy handwriting

Hang-gallows look - a villainous appearance

Hanktelo - a fool

Swallow a hare - to get exceedingly drunk

Under hatches – dead

Young hemp - a graceless boy

Hempen bridle - a ship's rigging

Hen-frigate - a ship bossed by the captain's wife

Herring-gutted - tall and very thin

To be on the high ropes - be very angry

Study the history of the four kings - to play cards

Old hock - stale beer

Hog in armor - a finely dressed lout

To drive one's hogs to market - to snore

Holiday - a spot left unpainted

It's all honey or all turd with them - they're either friends or bitter enemies

Off the hooks – peevish

Hopper-arsed - large bottomed

Send for a horse ladder - send on a fool's errand

Horse's meal - food without drink




Irish apricot - a potato

Irrigate - take a drink

Itchland – Scotland




Jack Adams - a fool

Jack in an office - an imperious petty official

Jack of legs - an unusually tall person

Jack Weight - a fat man

Jakes - a privy

Jaw-me-down - a very talkative fellow

Die like Jenkin's hen - die unmarried (Scottish)

Have been to Jericho - be tipsy

Jerrymumble - to shake

Going to Jerusalem - to be drunk

Jimmy Round - a Frenchman (from Je me rends)

Be laid up in Job's dock - be treated in hospital for VD

You are Josephus Rex - you're joking




Kerry security - breath the oath and keep the money

Kicksees – breeches

Kill-devil – rum

One of King John's men - a small man

Clip the King's English - to be drunk

Knob - an officer

Knock-down - strong liquor




Laced mutton - a whore

Ship the white lapel - be promoted from the ranks

Lazy as the tinker who laid down his budget to fart - very lazy

Cut one's leg - become drunk

Lay one's legs upon one's neck - run away

Lie with a latchet - tell a great lie

Light-timbered – weak

A line of the old author - a dram of brandy

Little house - a privy

Live lumber - passengers in a ship

Live stock - body vermin

Looking glass - a chamber pot

Lotman - a pirate

Louse-land – Scotland

Lumping pennyworth - a great bargain




Mab - to dress carelessly

Mag – chatter

Maltoot - a sailor

Man-a-hanging - a person in difficulties

Married to Brown Bess - enlisted in the army

Mauled - exceedingly drunk

Make mice-feet of - destroy utterly (Scottish)

Milk the pigeon - attempt the impossible

Load of mischief - a wife

Who put that monkey on horseback without tying his tail? - a very bad horseman

Monkey's allowance - more rough treatment than money

Mopus - a dull, stupid person

Morris - to decamp

Mourning shirt - a dirty shirt

Look like God's revenge against murder - look very angry




Eat one's nails - do something foolish

Navel-tied - to be inseparable

Born on Newgate steps - of criminal extraction

Nip-cheese - a purser

Dead as a nit - quite dead

Make a bridge of someone's nose - pass the bottle past someone

He numbers the waves - he's wasting time




Oaken towel - a cudgel

Give one his oatmeal - to punish

Off the hooks – crazy

Old Robin - an experienced person

Open lower-deckers - to use foul language

Overshoes, over boots – completely

Take the owl - become angry




Paddy-whack - an Irishman

Cut's one's painter - send a person away

Palette - a hand

Paper-skull - a fool

Parleyvoo - the French language

Parson Palmer - one who slows passing the bottle by talking

Make a pease-kill - to squander lavishly (Scottish)

Penny lattice-house - a low ale-house

To drop off the perch - to die

Peter-gunner - a bad shot

Peter Lug - one who drinks slowly

Pintle-merchant - a whore

Piper's wife - a whore

Tune one's pipes - begin to cry

Piss more than one drinks - said of a braggart

Pitt's picture - a bricked up window

When the plate-fleet comes in - when I get my fortune

Plump currant - in good health

Pontius Pilate - a pawn broker

Popper - a pistol

Prattle-broth – tea

Princod - a plump, round person (Scottish)

Alter the property - disguise oneself

Prow - a bumpkin

Public ledger - a whore

Pudding-bellied - very fat

Pump ship – urinate

Punch-house - a brothel




Rabbit hunting with a dead ferret - a pointless undertaking

Rag-water - bad booze

Rammaged - tipsy (Scottish)

Rapping – perjury

Red-letter man - a Catholic

Remedy-critch - chamber pot

Repository – a jail

Rib-roast - to thrash

Ride as if fetching the midwife - to go in haste

Ride the forehorse - to be early

Cry roast meat - boast of one's good fortune

Roast-meat clothes - holiday clothes

Rocked in a stone kitchen - a little weak-minded

Rogue in spirit - a distiller

Royal image - a coin

Rum gagger - one who tells false sea stories of hardship

Loose in one's rump – wanton

Rusty guts - a blunt, surly fellow

Buy the sack - become tipsy




Saddle the wrong horse - lay blame on the wrong person

Saddle one's nose - wear spectacles

Salamugundy - a cook

Salt eel - a thrashing with a rope's end

Sandy - a Scotsman

Sauce – VD

Sawney - a Scotsman

Sawny - to whine

Scald - infect with VD

Scandal-broth – tea

Scarlet horse - a hired horse

School of Venus - a brothel

Scotch casement - a pillory

Sea-crab - a sailor

Sea-lawyer - a shark

Settler - a parting drink

Shab-rag - very worn

Shake a cloth in the wind - be hanged

To have been dipped in the Shannon - to be very forward

Shapes - a name given an ill-made man

Keep sheep by moonlight - hang in chains

Sheep's head - a very talkative person

Shifting ballast - soldiers aboard ship

Shiners – money

Make children's shoes - to be occupied with trivia

Shreds - a tailor

Shut-up house - land headquarters of a press gang

Sick of the idles - a very lazy person

Silver-cooped - deserting for the merchant service

Sky-blue – gin

Snabbled - killed in battle

Smart as a carrot - very smartly dressed

Go a snail's gallop - move very slowly

Soldier's bottle - a large bottle

Solo player - a very bad musician

Sot-weed – tobacco

The Sovereign's parade - the quarterdeck of a man-of-war

Spanish trumpeter -a braying donkey

Spoil pudding - a long-winded preacher

Squire of the placket - a pimp

Stiff-rump - a haughty person

Take a stink for a nosegay - be very gullible

Stoupe - to give up

Strip-me-naked – gin

Sunburnt - having many children

Surly boots - a grumpy person

Surveyor of the highway - a reeling drunk

In deadly suspense – hanged

Keep a swannery - to boast

Purser's swipes - small beer

Swizzle – liquor




Tallow-breeched - having a large bottom

Tears of tankard - liquor stains on a waistcoat

Tea-voider - a chamberpot

Thornback - an old maid

Three skips of a louse - worth little or nothing

Tickle-pitcher - a drinking buddy

Tiff - thin or inferior liquor

Tilly-tally – nonsense

Tilter - a small sword

Swill like a tinker - drink immoderately

Make dead men chew tobacco - keep a false muster

Tol-lol - pretty good

Tongue enough for two sets of teeth - a very talkative person

Blast your toplights! - Blast your eyes!

Topping man - a rich man

Pay one's debts with the topsail - run off to sea leaving unpaid debts

Tripes and trillabubs - nickname for a fat man

Trunkmaker-like - more noise than work




Untwisted – ruined

The Urinal of the Planets – Ireland




Vaulting school - a brothel


W, X, Y, Z


As wise as Waltham's calf - very foolish

Wamble - an uneasiness in the stomach

War-caperer - a privateer

Water bewitched - weak beer

Water in one's shoes - a source of annoyance

You have been to an Irish wedding - you have a black eye

Whigland – Scotland

Whisk - an impertinent fellow

Whister-clister - a cuff on the ear

Whither-go-ye - a wife

Wife in water colors - a mistress

Windy – conceited

Wrapt in warm flannel – drunk

Yea-and-Nay man - a Quaker

Znees - frost