26 October 2009


Words often help make up one's style. One's manner of speaking is an important window through which one can see his personality. I myself enjoy using less common idioms and slang. It makes conversation all the more interesting. As a Neo-Victorian, a general knowledge of Victorian slang has been quintessential. I have compiled below, with the help of various sources, a sort of dictionary of Victorian slang. Enjoy!

Abbess: Female brothel keeper. A Madame.

Abbot: The husband, or preferred man of an Abbess.

Alderman: Half-Crown

Area: The below-ground servant's entrance in the front of many London town-houses.

Area Diving: A method of theft that necessitates sneaking down area steps, and stealing from the lower rooms of houses.

Bacca-pipes: Whiskers curled in small, close ringlets.

Barkers (Barking Irons): Guns. Pistols, esp. Revolvers.

Beak: Magistrate

Beak-hunting: Poultry stealing

Bearer up: Person that robs men who have been decoyed by a woman accomplice.

Beef: (1) (v) Raise hue-and-cry. (2) (n) Thief.

Bend: Waistcoat, vest

Betty: A type of lockpick

Billy: Handkerchief (often silk)

Bit Faker: A coiner. A counterfeiter of coins.

Blackleg: A person who will work, contrary to a strike.

Blag: To steal or snatch, usually a theft, often by smash-and-grab

Blob, on the (Blab): Begging by telling hardluck stories.

Bloke: This word has recently become popular to signify disrespectfully a man, a person, a party.

Blooming, Bloody (Blasted, etc.): are forms of profanity not heard in polite company

Blow: Inform.

Blower: Informer.

Bludger: A violent criminal; one who is apt to use a bludgeon.

Blue Bottle: A policeman

Boat, get the (Boated): To be sentanced to transportation. To receive a particularly harsh sentence.

Bone, Bene: Good or profitable.

Bonnet: A covert assistant to a Sharp

Brick: This expression implies the highest commendation of a man's character. "He's a regular brick," ie. the best of good fellows.

Broad Arrow: The arrow-like markings on a prison convict's uniform. "Wearing the broad arrow" = In prison.

Broads: Playing cards. Ex. "Spreading the broads" = playing a game of cards)

Broading: Cheating at cards

Broadsman: A card Sharper

Bruiser: A Boxer

Buck Cabbie: A dishonest cab driver

Bug hunting: Robbing, or cheating drunks. Esp. at night.

Bull: Five shillings

Bumper: A full glass or goblet.

Buor: A woman

Buttoner: A sharper's assistant who entices dupes.

Buzzing: Stealing, esp. Picking Pockets.

Cagg: To abstain for a certain time from liquor.

Candle to the devil, To hold a: To be evil

Cant: A present; a free meal or quantity of some article. Also the creole and jargon spoken by thieves and the "surplus population."

Cant of togs: A gift of clothing.

Caper: A criminal act, dodge or device.

Cash Carrier: A pimp, ponce or whore's minder.

Chapel, the: Whitechapel.

Chat: a Louse (a singular of Lice).

Chaunting: Singing; also informing

Chaunting lay: Street singing (hopefully for money)

Chavy: Child

Chink: Money

Chiv, shiv: Knife, razor or sharpened stick

Choker: Clergyman. "Gull a choker"

Christen: To remove identifying marks from, to make like new again. "Christen a watch."

Church: To remove identifying marks from, to make like new again. "Church a watch."

Cly faking: To pick a pocket, especially of its handkerchief (for which there was a ready market)

Cockchafer: An especially build treadmill in the 'Steel

Coiner: A coin counterfeiter

Cokum (n & adj): Opportunity, advantage, shrewd, cunning.

Cool: Look, look at this/it.

Coopered: Wornout, useless

Coopered Ken: A bad place for a stick up.

Cop, Copper: A policeman

Corned: Drunk, intoxicated

Corporal and Four, To mount a: to be guilty of onanism; the thumb is the corporal, the four fingers the privates.

Couter: Pound (money)

Cove: A man

Crabshells: Shoes

Cracksman: A Burgler, a safecracker. One who cracks or breaks locks. A whole genre of thief.

Crapped: hung, hanged.

Crib: A building, house or lodging. The location of a gaol.

Crimping shop: A waterfron lodging house, esp. one associated with the forcable impressment of seamen.

Crooked cross, to play the: To betray, swindle or cheat.

Crow: A doctor.

Crusher: A policeman

Dab: bed. "To dab it up with_____" = to engage in carnal acts with ___.

Dabeno: Bad

Daffy: A small measure, esp. of spiritous liquers.

Dander: To have one's dander up; to be incensed, angry, resolute, fierce.

Dark Cully: A married man that keeps a mistress, whom he visits only at night, for fear of discovery.

Deadlurk: Empty premises.

Deaner: A shilling. (Etymologially descended from the Dinarious, or ancient silver penny of Britain...)

Deb: Bed

Demander: One who gains monies through menace.

Derbies: (Pronounced Darbies). Handcuffed

Device: Tuppence

Deuce Hog (Duce Hog): 2 shillings

Devil's claws: The broad arrows on a convict's prison uniform.

Dewskitch: A beating

Didikko: Gypsies; half breed gypsies

Dillo: Old

Dimmick: A base coin, counterfeit

Ding: Throw away, pass on. Any object that has been so treated. Ex. "Knap the ding" or to take something that has been thrown out.

Dipper: Pickpocket

Dispatches: Loaded dice

Dobbin: Ribbon

Dollymop: A prostitute, often an amateur or a part-time street girl; a midinette.

Dollyshop: A low, unlicenced loan shop or pawn shop.

Don: A distinguished/expert/clever person; a leader

Dookin: Palmistry

Down: Suspicion. "To put down on someone" means to inform on that person's plans. While "To take the down of a ticker" means to Christen a watch.

Do Down: To beat someone badly, punishing them with your fists.

Downer: Sixpence.

Downy: Cunning, false.

Drag: (1) A three month gaol sentence. (2) A street

Dragsman: A thief who steals from carriages.

Drum: A building, house or lodging; the location of a gaol.

Dub: (1) Bad; (2) Key, lockpick

Duce: Tuppence

Duckett: A street hawker or vendor's licence.

Duffer: A seller of supposedly stolen goods. Also a Cheating Vendor or hawker.

Dumplin: A swindling game played with skittles

Dumps: Buttons and other Hawkers small wares.

Dunnage: Clothes

E.O.: A fairground gambling game

Escop (Esclop, Eslop): Policeman

Fadge: Farthing

Fakement: a Device or pretence (especially a notice or certificate to facilitate begging).

Fan: To delicately feel someone's clothing, while it is still being worn, to search for valuables.

Fancy, the: The brethren of the boxing ring.

Fawney: Ring

Fawney-dropping: A ruse whereby the villain pretends to find a ring (which is actually worthless) and sells it as a Possibly valuable article at a low price.

Fine wirer: A highly skilled pickpocket

Finny: Five pound note

Flag: An apron

Flam: A lie

Flash (v & adj): Show, Showy (as in "Show-off," or "Flashy"); smart; something special.

Flash house: A public house patronized by criminals.

Flash notes: Paper that looks, at a glance, like bank-notes

Flat: A person who is flat is easily deceived.

Flatch: Ha'penny

Flats: Playing cards, syn. Broads.

Flimp: A snatch pickpocket. Snatch stealing in a crowd.

Flue Faker: Chimney sweep

Flummut: Dangerous

Fly, on the: Something done quickly.

Flying the Blue Pidgeon: Stealing roof lead.

Flying the Mags: The game of "Pitch and Toss"

Fogle: A silk handkerchief

Fushme: Five shillings

Gaff: Show, exhibition, fair "Penny Gaff" - Low, or vulgar theatre.

Gallies: Boots

Gammon: Deceive

Gammy: False, undependable, hostile

Garret: Fob pocket in a waistcoat

Garrote: A misplaced piano wire, and how it was misplaced.

Gatter: Beer

Gattering: A public house

Gegor: Begger

Gen: Shilling

Giblets, To join: said of a man and woman who cohabit as husband and wife, without being married; also to copulate.

Glim: (1) Light or fire. (2) Begging by depicting oneself as having been burnt out of one's home. (3) Venereal Disease.

Glock: Half-wit

Glocky: Half-witted

Gonoph: A minor thief, or small time criminal

Granny: Understand or recognize

Gravney: A Ring

Grey, Gray: A coin with two identical faces

Griddling: Begging, peddling, or scrounging

Growler: A four wheeled cab

Gulpy: Gullible, easily duped.

Gum: Loud abusive language. "Let us have no more of your gum"

Half inch: Steal (From pinch)

Hammered for life: Married

Hard up: Tobacco

Haybag: Woman Haymarket

Hector: Pimp, ponce or whore's minder; especially around the areas of Haymarket and Leicester Squares.

Hoisting: Shoplifting

Holywater sprinkler: A cudgel spiked with nails.

Hookem-snivey: To feign mortal sickness, disease and infirmity of the body in the streets in order to excite compassion and obtain alms.

Hook it: be off!

Huey, Hughey: A town or village.

Huntley, to take the: Syn. To take the Cake or to take the Biscuit. Also to be most excellent, as in Huntley and Palmer's biscuits.

Hykey: Pride.

Ilted: Rejected by a woman who has encouraged one's advances.

Irons: Guns esp. Pistols or revolvers.

Jack: Detective

Jemmy: (1) Smart. (2) of Superior class. (3) an housebreaker's tool.

Jerry: A Watch

Jerryshop: Pawnbrokers

Joey: A fourpence piece

Jolly: Disturbance or Fracas

Judy: A woman, specifically a prostitute

Jug loops: Locks of hair brought over the temples and curled.Julking: Singing (as of caged songbirds)

Jump: A ground floor window, or a burglary committed through such a window.

Kanurd: Drunk

Kecks: Trousers

Ken: House or other place, esp. a lodging or public house.

Kennetseeno: Bad, stinking, putrid -- Malodorous.

Kennuck: Penny

Kidney, Of the same: alike, resemblant

Kidsman: An organizer of child thieves

Kife: Bed

Kinchen-lay (Kynchen-lay): Stealing from children

Kingsman: A coloured or black handkerchief.

Knap: To steal, take or receive

Knapped: Pregnant

Knob: "Over and under" a fairground game used for swindling.

Lackin, Lakin: Wife

Ladybird: A Prostitute

Lag: A convict or Ticket-of-leave man; To be sentenced to transportation or penal servitude.

Lamps: Eyes

Laycock, Miss (or Lady): Female sexual organs

Lavender, in: (1) To be hidden from the police, (2) to be pawned, (3) to be put away, (4) to be dead.

Lay: A method, system or plan

Left-Handed Wife: A concubine; an allusion to an ancient German custom, according to which, when a man married his concubine, or a woman greatly his inferior, he gave her his left hand.

Leg: A dishonest person, a sporting cheat or tout.

Lill: Pocketbook

London Particular: Thick London "Pea Soup" fog

Long-Tailed: A banknote worth more than 5 pounds is said to be "long tailed"

Luggers: Ear rings

Lumber: (1) Unused, or second-hand furniture. (2) To pawn. (3) To go into seclusion. (4) To be in lumber is to be in gaol.

Lump Hotel: Work House

Lurk: (1) A place of resorting to or concealment in. (2) A scheme or method

Lurker: A criminal of all work, esp. a begger, or someone who uses a beggar's disguise.

Lush: An alcoholic drink.

Lushery: A place where a lush may be had. A low public house or drinking den.

Lushing Ken: See Lushery

Lushington: A drunkard

Macer: A cheat

Mag: Ha'pence

Magflying: Pitch and toss

Magsman: An inferior cheat

Maltooler: A pickpocket who steals while riding an omnibus, esp. from women.

Mandrake: a Homosexual

Mary Blaine: to meet a train or to travel via railway.

Mauley: Handwriting, signature

Mecks: Wine or spirits

Milltag: Shirt

Miltonian: Policeman

Min: Steal

Mitting: Shirt

Mizzle: Quit, Steal, or Vanish

Mobsman: A swindler or pickpocket, usually well-dressed. Originally one of the "Swell Mob"

Mollisher: A woman, often a villain's mistress

Monkery: the Country

Monniker: Signature

Mot: Woman, esp. the proprietress of a lodging or public house

Moucher, Moocher: A rural vagrant. A gentleman of the road.

Mouth: (1) Blabber. (2) A Fool

Mug-hunter: A street robber or footpad. Hence the modern "Mugger"

Mumper: Begger or scrounger

Mutcher: A thief who steals from drunks

Muck Snipe: A person who is "down and out"

Nail: Steal

Nancy: Buttocks

Neb/Nib: The bill of a bird, and the slit of a pen. Figuratively, the face and mouth of a woman; as, She holds up her neb: she holds up her mouth to be kissed.

Nebuchadnezzar: Male sexual organs; "to put Nebuchadnezzar out to grass" means to engage in sexual intercourse.

Neddy: Cosh

Nemmo: Woman

Nethers: Lodging charges, rent

Newgate Knockers: Heavily greased side whiskers curling back to, or over the ears

Netherskens: Low lodging houses, flophouses

Nibbed: Arrested

Nickey: Simple in the head

Nobble: The inflicting of grievious bodily harm

Nobbler: (1) One who inflicts grevious bodily harm. (2) A sharper's confederate

Nommus!: Get away! Quick!

Nose: Informer or Spy

Nubbiken: A sessions courthouse

Nug: An endearing word; as, My dear nug; my dear love.

On the fly: While in motion or quickly

Onion: A watch seal

Out of twig: Unrecognized or in disquise

Outsider: An instrument, resembling needle nosed pliers, used for turning a key in a lock from the wrong side.

Pack: A night's lodging for the very poor

Paddingken: A tramp's lodging house

Pall: Detect

Palmer: Shoplifter

Patterer: Someone who earns by recitation or hawker's sales talk, esp. by hawking newspapers

Peter: A box, trunk or safe.

Pidgeon: A victim

Pig: A policeman, usually a detective

Pit: Inside front coat pocket

Pogue: A purse or prize

Prad: Horse

Prater: A bogus itinerate preacher

Prig: (1) A thief. (2) To steal

Prigstar: A rival in love

Puckering: Speaking in a manner that is incomprehensible to spectators

Punishers: Superior nobblers. Men employed to give severe beatings

Push: Money

Racket: Illicit occupation or tricks

Rampsman or Ramper: A tearaway or hoodlum

Randy, on the: On the Spree or otherwise looking for companionship

Ran-tan, To be on the: to be roaring drunk.

Rasher-wagon: Frying pan

Ray: 1/6 (one and six-pence)

Reader: Pocketbook or wallet

Ream: Superior, real, genuine, good.

Ream Flash Pull: A significant heist

Ream Swag: Highly valuable stolen articles

Reeb: Beer

Roller: A thief who robs drunks or a prostitute who steals from her clientele.

Rook: A type of jemmy

Rookery: Slum or ghetto

Rothschild, to come to the: To brag and pretend to be rich.

Rozzers: Policemen

Ruffles: Handcuffs

Saddle: Loaf

St. Peter's Needle: Severe discipline

Salt Box: The Condemned Cell

Sawney: Bacon

Scaldrum dodge: Begging by means of feigned, or self-inflicted wounds

Scran: Food

Screever: A writer of fake testimonials; a forger

Screw: Skeleton Key

Screwing: A sub-genre of Cracking; burglary by means of skeleton keys, waxing keys, or picking locks.

Screwsman: A burglar versed in screwing

Scroby: Flogging in gaol

Scurf: An exploitive employer or gang-leader

Servant's lurk: A lodging or public house used by shady or dismissed servants.

Shake lurk: Begging under the pretence of being a shipwrecked seaman.

Shallow, work the: Begging while half naked.

Shant: A pot or tumbler

Sharp: A (card) swindler

Shevis: A shift, a type of garment.

Shine: A disturbance, a row; "don't kick up a shine;" shindy, a domestic disturbance; a quarrel.

Shinscraper: The Treadmill

Shirkster: A layabout

Shiver and shake: A cake

Shivering Jemmy: A half naked begger

Shoful: (1) Bad or counterfeit. (2) An hansom cab Shofulman: A coiner or passer of bad money.

Skipper: One who sleeps in hedges and outhouses

Slang cove: A showman

Slap-Bang Job: A night cellar (pub) frequented by thieves, and where no credit is given.

Slate: To beat, a good slating, a severe beating.

Slum: (1) False, sham, a faked document, etc. (2) To cheat . (3) To pass bad money.

Smasher: Someone who passes bad money.

Smatter Hauling: Stealing Handkerchiefs

Snakesman: A slightly built (boy) criminal used in burglary and housebreaking.

Snells: A hawker's wares

Snide: Counterfeit; counterfeit coins or jewels.

Snide pinching: Passing bad money

Snoozer: A thief that specializes in robbing hotel rooms with sleeping guests.

Snowing: Stealing linen, clothes, etc, that have been hung out to dry.

Soft: Paper money (i.e., "to do some soft" means to pass bad paper money.)

Speeler: Cheat or a gambler

Spike: Workhouse

Sprat: Six pence

Spreading the Broads: Three card monte.

Square rigged: Soberly and respectfully dressed.

Swell: An elegantly, or stylishly dressed gentleman.

Tantrums: Violent fits of bad temper.

Tatts: Dice, False Dice

Tea Leaf: Thief

Terrier Crop: Short, bristly haircut (denoting a recent stay in a prison or a workhouse)

Teviss: Shilling

Thicker: A Sovereign or a Pound

Thick 'Un: A Sovereign

Tightener: A meal. "To do a Tightener," to take a Meal.

Titfer/Titfertat: Hat

Toff: An elegantly, or stylishly dressed gentleman.

Toffken: A house containing well-to-do occupants.

Toke: Bread

Tol: Lot, a Share.

Toolers: Pickpockets

Tooling: Skilled Pickpocket

Toper: Road

Topped: Hung

Topping: A hanging

Translators: Secondhand apparel, especially Boots.

Trasseno: An evil person

Tuppeny (Tuppeny Loaf): Head

Twiddle-Diddles: Testicles

Unrigged: Undressed, or stripped. Unrig the drab=strip the wench.

Twirls: Keys, esp skeleton keys.

Twist (Twist and Twirl): Girl

Vamp: To Steal or Pawn. "In for a vamp" to be jailed for stealing

Velvet, To tip the: to put one's tongue into a woman's mouth.

Voker: Speak. "Voker Romeny?" (Pardon me, but do you speak Thieve's Cant?)

Weeping Willow: Pillow

Whirlygigs: Testicles

Whistle and Flute: Suit

Whither-Go-Ye: A wife; wives being sometimes apt to question their husbands whither they are going.

Wife in Water Colours: A mistress, or concubine; water colours being, like their engagements, easily effaced, or dissolved.

Work Capitol: Commit a crime punishable by death.

Yack: A watch

Yennap: A Penny.


  1. Sir,

    As much as I admire and encourage an attempt to bring back some good old-fashioned Victorian values, I should like to point out that this language is that of the Lower Orders and Criminal Classes and therefore not befitting a Gentlemen, or Honest Burgher.

  2. Good sir,

    You are quite right and I thank you in full for pointing out that which I failed to mention. These words are indeed quite risqué and I should most certainly have posted a caveat in the introduction. While I myself do not use such words I felt the article would be a rather amusing addition, albeit a bit racy. Much obliged.



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