128 Words with Senses that Started out as Underworld Slang

This list of words is good for writers writing about the mob/mafia and want to use the correct wordage for the time period.

**********

From Daily Writing Tips, August 10, 2017

The slang senses of many words we use in conversation and in informal writing originated in jargon employed by criminals, often coined to disguise the activities they were describing when they spoke among one another. This post lists and defines a number of those words.

action: bet, or betting, or criminal activity
aggro: aggressive behavior
angle: approach, or plan
bananas: crazy (originally, “sexually perverted”)
beat: escape, avoid
beef: quarrel
blow: leave
boob: stupid person
boost: steal
bought: bribed
break it up: stop argument or fight
broad: woman
buddy: man (as in addressing a person the speaker does not know)
bum’s rush: act of being forcibly removed
bump/bump off: kill
bunk: nonsense
buy: bribe
case: check the site of a potential robbery
chisel: cheat
clam up: stop talking, or refuse to talk, to avoid giving information
con: scheme to trick someone into relinquishing money
con man: person who steals through trickery
cop/copper: police officer or private detective
crew: group of rank-and-file criminals subordinate to a leader; by extension, a group of people with whom one associates
crumb: worthless person; originally, a noncriminal
deep-six: bury
dive: low-quality establishment, such as a dark, dingy bar
doll: attractive woman
dope: drugs, or information
dough: money
dump: see dive
Feds: federal law-enforcement personnel
fence: trade stolen items, or one who does so
finger: identify
fix: situation in which law-enforcement personnel have been bribed to overlook criminal activity
fruit: homosexual (derogatory)
fuzz: police
glom: steal (by extension, “grab”)
go straight: cease criminal activity
goofy: crazy (by extension, “silly”)
goon: low-level criminal
graft: see con
grand: thousand (dollars)
grease: see buy
grill: interrogate
grifter: see “con man”
haywire: mentally unbalanced
heat: attention from law-enforcement personnel, or a gun (by extension, “psychological pressure”)
heel: an incompetent criminal (by extension, “a villain or someone who takes on a villainous persona or role,” as in professional wrestling)
hit: planned murder (by extension, “an attack on someone’s reputation”)
hood(lum): see goon
horn: telephone
hot: stolen
hype: cheat by short-changing, or hypodermic needle
jam: trouble, or a troublesome situation
jaw: talk
joe: coffee
joint: place
junkie: drug user
keister: buttocks, or a safe
kisser: mouth
knock off: see bump/“bump off”
knock over: rob
large: see grand
lay low: remain out of sight so as to avoid attention after committing a crime
legit: pertaining to legal business activities
lit: drunk
loan shark: one who loans money at high rates of interest
looker: see doll
lug: stupid person (by extension, “clumsy person”—often used affectionately and jocularly)
mark: person targeted to be a victim of criminal activity
marker: IOU, note acknowledging a debt
mitt: hand
muscle: force, or intimidate, or someone who forces or intimidates
mug: face
nail: capture
nick: steal
nix: no, or say no to something
on the carpet: situation in which a criminal is called on the carpet, or disciplined, by a leader (by extension, pertains to any similar event)
on the lam: moving secretly to avoid arrest after committing a crime
on the spot: targeted for assassination (by extension, pertaining to being held accountable for a failure or mistake)
packing heat: armed with a gun
patsy: person framed for a crime (by extension, “fool”)
paw: hand
piece: share of the proceeds from criminal activity (see action), or a gun
pig: police officer
pinch: arrest
pop: see bump/“bump off”
punk: see goon (originally, a submissive homosexual)
put the screws on: see grill
queer: counterfeit
rap: criminal charge
rat: give information about associates’ criminal activities to law-enforcement personnel, or someone who does so
ringer: fake
rub out: see bump/“bump off”
rube: easy victim
sap: stupid person
score: succeed in obtaining stolen money or goods
scram: see blow
scratch: money
sing: see rat (verb)
skip out: leave without paying
skirt: woman
slug: punch, or knock unconscious, or a bullet
snatch: kidnap
sock: punch
spill: see rat (verb), or talk (verb)
square: honest
stiff: corpse
sting: see con (by extension, “a law-enforcement operation to prompt and observe criminal behavior”)
stir: jail
stir-crazy: mentally disturbed because of incarceration
stool pigeon/stoolie: see rat (noun)
straighten out: resolve a dispute
string along: deceive
sucker: see rube
swag: stolen goods (by extension, “gifts offered to promote through publicity”)
tag: designation (by extension, “graffiti signature”)
tail: track a criminal’s activities, or a law-enforcement official who does so
take: share of profits from criminal activity
take a powder: leave
take (someone) for a ride: see bump/“bump off”
take the fall: be targeted for blame for a crime
tighten the screws: pressure
trap: see kisser
two bits: twenty-five cents
vendetta: vow of vengeance (by extension, “a passionate, sustained effort to avenge oneself or one’s family or group”)
yap: see kisser

Advertisements

Comments Off on 128 Words with Senses that Started out as Underworld Slang

Filed under Authors, Books, Crime Fiction, Genre, Murder Mystery, Mystery, Writing

Comments are closed.