1920’s Slang Dictionary

At Capone's Dinner & Show, our staff commonly uses slang terms from the prohibition era. We've included some of these terms and phrases here so that you could brush up on your 1920's slang prior to coming to our show. Get into the era...when you leave our show, you'll be walkin' the walk and talkin' the talk!

Some of these terms have been used on products we offer in our Online Gift Shop. Be sure to check it out!


A
Alderman: A man's pot-belly.
Ameche: Telephone
Ankle: (n) Woman; (v) To walk


B
Babe: Woman
Baby: A person, can be said to either a man or a woman
Bangtails: Racehorses
Barber: Talk
Be on the nut: To be broke
Bean-shooter: Gun
Beef: Problem
Bee's Knees: An extraordinary person, thing or idea.
Beezer: Nose
Behind the eight ball: In a difficult position, in a tight spot
Bent Cars: Stolen cars
Big Cheese, Big Shot - The boss: Someone of importance and influence
Big House: Jail
Big One: Death
Big Sleep: Death
Bim: Woman
Bindle: the bundle in which a hobo carries all his worldly possessions
Bindle punk or bindle stiff: Chronic wanderers, migratory harvest workers, and lumber jacks.
Bing: Jailhouse talk for solitary confinement
Bird: Man
Bit: Prison sentence
Blip off: To kill
Blow: Leave
Blow one down: Kill someone
Blower: Telephone
Bluenose: A prude.
Bo: Pal, buster, fellow.
Boiler: Car
Boob: Dumb guy
Boozehound: Drunkard
Bop: To kill
Box: A safe or a bar
Box job: A safecracking
Brace (somebody): Grab, shake up
Bracelets: Handcuffs
Break it up: Stop that, quit the nonsense
Breeze: To leave, breeze off: get lost
Broad: Woman
Bruno: Tough guy, enforcer
Bucket: Car
Bulge, The: The advantage
Bulls: Plainclothes railroad cops; uniformed police; prison guards
Bum's rush, To get the: To be kicked out
Bump: Kill
Bump Gums: To talk about nothing worthwhile
Bump off: Kill; also, bump-off: a killing
Burn powder: Fire a gun
Bus: Big car
Butter and egg man: The money man, the man with the bankroll, a yokel who comes to town to
blow a big wad in nightclubs
Button: Face, nose, end of jaw
Button man: Professional killer
Buttons: Police
Butts: Cigarettes
Buzz: Looks person up, comes to persons door
Buzzer: Policeman's badge


C
C: $100, a pair of Cs = $200
Cabbage: Money
Caboose: Jail
Call copper: Inform the police
Can: Jail, Car
Can house: Bordello
Can-opener: Safecracker who opens cheap safes
Canary: Woman singer
Carry a Torch: Suffering from an unrequited love.
Case dough: Nest egg
Cat: Man
Cat's Meow: Something splendid or stylish
Cat's Pajamas: term of endearment as in "I think you are really really cool".
Century: $100
Cheaters: Sunglasses
Cheese it: Put things away, hide
Chew: Eat
Chicago lightning: gunfire
Chicago overcoat: Coffin
Chick: Woman
Chilled off: Killed
Chin: Conversation; chinning: talking
Chin music: Punch on the jaw
Chinese squeeze: Grafting by skimming profits off the top
Chippy: Woman of easy virtue
Chisel: To swindle or cheat
Chiv: Knife, "a stabbing or cutting weapon"
Chopper squad: Men with machine guns
Chump: person marked for a con or a gullible person.
Clammed: Close-mouthed (clammed up)
Clean sneak: An escape with no clues left behind
Clip joint: In some cases, a nightclub where the prices are high and the patrons are fleeced
Clipped: Shot
Close your head: Shut up
Clout: Shoplifter
Clubhouse: Police station
Con: Confidence game, swindle
Conk: Head
Cool: To knock out
Cooler: Jail
Cop: Detective, even a private one
Copped, to be: Grabbed by the cops
Copper: Policeman
Corn: Bourbon ("corn liquor")
Crab: Figure out
Crate: Car
Croak: To kill
Croaker: Doctor
Crush: An infatuation.
Crushed out: Escaped (from jail)
Cut down: Killed


D
Daisy: None too masculine
Dame: Woman
Dance: To be hanged
Dangle: Leave, get lost
Daylight, as in "fill him with daylight": Put a hole in, by shooting or stabbing
Deck, as in "deck of Luckies": Pack of cigarettes
Derrick: Shoplifter
Dib: Share (of the proceeds)
Dick: Detective (usually qualified with "private" if not a policeman)
Dingus: Thing
Dip: Pickpocket
Dip the bill: Have a drink
Dish: Pretty woman
Dive: A low-down, cheap sort of place
Dizzy with a dame, To be: To be deeply in love with a woman
Do the dance: To be hanged
Dogs: Feet
Dope fiend: Drug addict
Dope peddler: Drug dealer
Dough: Money
Drift: Go, leave
Drill: Shoot
Drop a dime: Make a phone call, sometimes meaning to the police to inform on someone
Droppers: Hired killers
Drum: Speakeasy
Dry-gulch: Knock out, hit on head after ambushing
Duck soup: Easy, a piece of cake
Dummerer: Someone who pretends to be deaf and/or dumb to appear a more deserving beggar
Dump: Roadhouse, club; or, more generally, any place
Dust out: Leave, depart


E
Egg: Man
Electric cure: Electrocution
Elephant ears: Police


F
Fade: Go away, get lost
Fakeloo artist: Con man
Fella: a man
Fin: $5 bill
Finder: Finger man
Finger, Put the finger on: Identify
Flaming Youth: Male counterpart to a flapper.
Flapper: A stylish, brash young woman with short skirts and shorter hair.
Flat Tire: A dull-witted or disappointing date.
Flattie: Flatfoot, cop
Flimflam: Swindle
Flippers: Hands
Flivver: A Ford automobile
Flogger: Overcoat
Flop: Go to bed or fallen through, not worked out
Flophouse: A cheap transient hotel where a lot of men sleep in large rooms
Fog: To shoot
Frail: Woman
Frau: Wife
Fry: To be electrocuted
Fuzz: police


G
Gal: Woman
Gams: A Woman’s Legs
Gasper: Cigarette
Gat: Gun
Get Sore: Get mad
Getaway sticks: Legs
Giggle juice: Liquor
Giggle Water: Liquor
Gin mill: Bar
Glad rags: Fancy clothes
Glaum: Steal
Goofy: Crazy
Goog: Black eye
Goon: Thug
Gooseberry lay: Stealing clothes from a clothesline
Gowed-up: On dope, high
Grab (a little) air: Put your hands up
Graft: Con jobs or cut of the take
Grand: $1000
Grift: Confidence game, swindle
Grifter: Con man
Grilled: Questioned
Gumshoe: Detective
Gumshoeing: Detective work
Gun for: Look for, be after
Guns: Pickpockets, Hoodlums
Guy: a man


H
Hack: Taxi
Half, a: 50 cents
Hard: Tough
Harlem Sunset: Some sort fatal injury caused by knife
Hash House: A cheap restaurant
Hatchet men: Killers, gunmen
Have the Bees: To be rich
Head doctors: Psychiatrists
Heap: Car
Heat: Police
Heater: gun
Heebie-Jeebies: The jitters.
Heeled: Carrying a gun
High-Hat: To snub.
High Pillow: Person at the top, in charge
Highbinders: Corrupt politician or functionary
Hinky: Suspicious
Hitting the pipe: Smoking opium
Hitting on all eight: In good shape, going well
Hock shop: Pawnshop
Hogs: Engines
Hombre: Man, fellow
Hooch: Liquor
Hood: Criminal
Hoofer: Dancer.
Hoosegow: Jail
Horn: Telephone
Hot: Stolen
Hotsy-Totsy: Pleasing.
House dick: House/hotel detective
House peeper: House/hotel detective
Hype: Shortchange artist


I
Ice : Diamonds
Ing-bing, as in to throw an: A fit
Iron: A car


J
Jack: Money
Jalopy: An old car.
Jam: Trouble, a tight spot
Jane: A woman
Java: Coffee
Jaw: Talk
Jerking a nod: Nodding
Jingle-brained: Addled
Jobbie: Man
Joe: Coffee, as in "a cup of joe"
Johns: Police
Johnson brother: Criminal
Joint: Place, as in "my joint"
Juice: Interest on a loanshark's loan
Jug: Jail
Jump, The: A hanging


K
Kale: Money
Keen: Attractive or appealing.
Kick off: Die
Kiss: To punch
Kisser: Mouth
Kitten: Woman
Knock off: Kill


L
Lammed off: Ran away, escaped
Large: $1,000; twenty large would be $20,000
Law, the: The police
Lead: "fill ya full of lead": the term used for bullets
Lead poisoning: To be shot
Lettuce: Folding money
Lid: Hat
Line: Insincere flattery.
Lip: (Criminal) lawyer
Looker: Pretty woman
Look-out: Outside man
Lousy with: To have lots of


M
Mac: a man
Made: Recognized
Map: Face
Marbles: Pearls
Mark: Sucker, victim of swindle or fixed game
Maroon: person marked for a con or a gullible person.
Meat wagon: Ambulance
Mickey Finn: A drink drugged with knock-out drops
Mill: Typewriter
Mitt: Hand
Mob: Gang (not necessarily Mafia)
Mohaska: Gun
Moll: Girlfriend
Monicker: Name
Mouthpiece: Lawyer
Mugs: Men (especially refers to dumb ones)


N
Nailed: Caught by the police
Nevada gas: Cyanide
Newshawk: Reporter
Newsie: Newspaper vendor
Nibble one:To have a drink
Nicked: Stole
Nippers: Handcuffs
Noodle: Head
Number: A person


O
Off the track, said about a person who becomes insanely violent
Op: Detective
Orphan paper: Bad checks
Out on the roof: To drink a lot, to be drunk
Oyster fruit: Pearls


P
Packing Heat: carrying a gun
Pal: a man
Palooka: Man, probably not very smart
Pan: Face
Paste: Punch
Patsy: Person who is set up; fool, chump
Paw: Hand
Peaching: Informing
Peeper: Detective
Peepers: Eyes
Pen: Penitentiary, jail
Peterman: Safecracker who uses nitroglycerin
Piece: Gun
Pigeon: Stool-pigeon
Pinch: An arrest, capture
Pins: Legs
Pipe: See or notice
Pipes: Throat
Plant: Someone on the scene but in hiding, Bury
Plug: Shoot
Plugs: People
Poke: Bankroll, stake
Pooped: Killed
Pop: Kill
Pro skirt: Prostitute
Puffing: Mugging
Pug: Pugilist, boxer
Pump: Heart
Pump metal: Shoot bullets
Punk: Hood, thug
Pushover: A person easily convinced of something.
Puss: Face
Put down: Drink
Put the screws on: Question, get tough with


R
Rags: Clothes
Ranked: Observed, watched, given the once-over
Rap: Criminal charge
Rappers: Fakes, set-ups
Rat: Inform
Rate: To be good, to count for something
Rats and mice: Dice, i.e. craps
Rattler: Train
Red-light: To eject from a car or train
Redhot: Some sort of criminal
Reefers: Marijuana cigarettes
Rhino: Money
Right: Adjective indicating quality
Ringers: Fakes
Ritzy: Elegant.
Rod: Gun
Roscoe: Gun
Rub-out: A killing
Rube: Bumpkin, easy mark
Rumble, the: The news


S
Sap: A dumb guy
Sap poison: Getting hit with a sap
Savvy: Get me? Understand?
Sawbuck: $10 bill (a double sawbuck is a $20 bill)
Schnozzle: Nose
Scram out: Leave
Scratch: Money
Scratcher: Forger
Send over: Send to jail
Shamus: (Private) detective
Sharper: A swindler or sneaky person
Sheba: A woman with sex appeal
Sheik: A man with sex appeal
Shells: Bullets
Shiv: Knife
Shylock: Loanshark
Shyster: Lawyer
Sing: Make a confession
Sister: Woman
Skate around: To be of easy virtue
Skid rogue: A bum who can't be trusted
Skirt: Woman
Slant, Get a: Take a look
Sleuth: Detective
Slug: a bullet or to knock unconscious
Smoked: Drunk
Snap a cap: Shout
Snatch: Kidnap
Sneeze: Take
Snitch: An informer, or to inform
Snooper: Detective
Speakeasy: An illicit bar selling bootleg liquor.
Spiffy: Looking elegant
Soak: To pawn
Sock: Punch
Soup: Nitroglycerine
Soup job: To crack a safe using nitroglycerine
Spill: Talk, inform
Spinach: Money
Spitting: Talking
Square: Honest
Squeeze: a female companion or girlfriend.
Squirt metal: Shoot bullets
Step off: To be hanged
Stiff: A corpse
Sting: Culmination of a con game
Stool-pigeon: Informer
Stoolie: Stool-pigeon
Stuck On: Having a crush on
Sucker: Someone ripe for a grifter's scam
Sugar: Money
Swanky: Ritzy
Swell: Wonderful


T
Tail: Shadow or follow
Take a powder: Leave
Take on: Eat
Take for a Ride: Drive off with someone in order to bump them off
Take the air: Leave
Take the bounce: To get kicked out
Take the fall for: Accept punishment for
That's the crop: That's all of it
Three-spot: Three-year jail term
Throw lead: Shoot bullets
Ticket: P.I. license
Tiger milk: Some sort of liquor
Tighten the screws: Put pressure on somebody
Tin: Badge
Tip a few: To have a few drinks
Tomato: Pretty woman
Tooting the wrong ringer: Asking the wrong person
Torpedoes: Gunmen
Trap: Mouth
Trigger man: Man whose job is to use a gun
Trouble boys: Gangsters
Twist: Woman
Two bits: $25, or 25 cents


U
Under glass: In jail


W
Weak sister: A push-over
Wear iron: Carry a gun
Wise head: A smart person
Wooden kimono: A coffin
Wop: derogatory term for an Italian
Worker, as in "She sizes up as a worker": A woman who takes a guy for his money
Wrong gee: Not a good fellow
Wrong number: Not a good fellow


Y
Ya Follow: do you understand?
Yap: Mouth
Yard: $100
Yegg: Safecracker who can only open cheap and easy safes


Z
Zotzed: Killed

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