Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tap v.2

1. in senses of SE tap, to hit + tap, a valve.

(a) to hit and thus draw blood from a victim’s nose; spec. to throw stones at (see cite 1866).

[UK]C. Sedley Bellamira III i: bell.: I came to fight Sir; not to hear you prate. merr.: Then pluck out, that I may Tap thee presently (They go to Fight).
[UK]W. Kenrick Falstaff’s Wedding (1766) II ix: They roar’d out, on all sides, ‘Tap him, there – tap him.’.
[UK]Jack Randall’s Diary 63: Swift at Bob’s snotty-box, his white fist flew, And soon a shower of the claret hue, Tapp’d by Jack’s mauleys, from Bob’s smellers burst.
[US]J.C. Neal Charcoal Sketches (1865) 42: A blow given there [...] neither ‘bungs a peeper’ nor ‘taps a smeller.’.
[UK]Dickens Barnaby Rudge (2003) 423: Perhaps, sir, he kicked a county member, perhaps sir he tapped a lord [...] blood flowed from noses.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 11 Feb. 4/1: A man gets ‘his claret tapped’ and ‘his peepers bunged’ and ‘naps it on the conk’.
[Aus]Mercury (Hobart, Tas.) 5 Apr. 2/5: [H]e gave evidence [...] on a charge of stone-throwing, and as he was leaving the Court defendant in an undertone called him a foul name and threatened to ‘tap him again and warm him.’ ‘Tapping’ is the slang word for stone-throwing.
[UK]Daily Tel. 19 July in Ware (1909) 241/1: Before the magistrate one of them explained that they were simply engaged in a friendly, good-humoured contest, the one whose nose got ‘tapped’ first paying for a round of beer for the company.

(b) to deflower a woman; often as tap a girl v. [note sense 1e].

[UK] ‘A Ballad’ in Wilson Court Satires of the Restoration (1976) 103: [Anne] Hyde’s not yet tapp’d.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) To tap a girl; to be the first seducer; in allusion to a beer barrel.
[UK]‘Goody Burton’s Ale’ in Hilaria 79: Nightly at my door / Comes a gentle rapping, / ’Tis Miss Burton sure, / Who wants her barrel tapping.
[Scot] in Burns Merry Muses of Caledonia (1843) 132: Wert thou a hogshead of sparkling wine [...] I’d taste thee, and tap thee while potent and fine / And put in thy body my cock.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1788].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue [as cit. 1788].
[US]W. Brown Girls on the Rampage 127: You ain’t as green as you make out. You ever been tapped, kid?

(c) to obtain change.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: To Tap a Guinea, to Change it.

(d) (US) to exhaust one’s finances.

[US]Van Loan ‘Sporting Doctor’ in Taking the Count 12: Four-eighty-five just taps me.
[US]P.J. Wolfson Bodies are Dust (2019) [ebook] ‘It’s [the kids] I’m thinking of all the time.’ ‘Did you think about them when you “tapped”?’.
[US]L. Block When the Sacred Ginmill Closes 140: ‘For all I know he’s got another fifty tucked away, or maybe the thirty was enough to tap him’.

(e) (US Und.) to hit on the head.

[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 420: Tap. To hit. Tap on the bean – hit on the head.
[US]N. Davis ‘Kansas City Flash’ in Ruhm Hard-Boiled Detective (1977) 77: Get it off your chest before you get tapped on the conk.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]T. Thackrey Thief 19: Tapped the screamer over the head right quick to shut him up.

(f) to have sexual intercourse [note sense 1b].

[US]C. Willingham End as a Man (1952) 19: Is it true you once tapped your sister?
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 34: You ain’t never been tapped. But what are you saving it for?
[US]Current Sl. IV:1 16: Tap, v. To make a sexual conquest; to receive sexual favors.
[US](con. 1910s) F.M. Davis Livin’ the Blues 41: She kept begging me to take her on [...] Well, las’ night I broke down an’ tapped the thing.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr. 6: tap – have sex with: Look at that hottie. I could tap that ass.
[US]Burns & Mills ‘Soft Eyes’ Wire ser. 4 ep. 2 [TV script] I’m definitely tapping that pussy.
[US]J. Stahl Pain Killers 256: Want me to wiggle, Mister Man? You know you wanna tap that ay-uss!
K. Koke ‘I’m Nice’ 🎵 Come over here with that big butt / And shake that in front of me / And let me tap that properly.
[US]D. Winslow The Force [ebook] You and your brother cops tapping everything with a pussy.

(g) (drugs) to inject oneself with a hypodermic syringe.

[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972) 182: tap [...] Inject a drug by tapping the end of the syringe in order to release the drug slowly. It is similar to a sexual combination of pain and pleasure.

(h) to shoot (dead).

[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 12: You tapped him with a rifle from a hundred yards out.
[UK]Digga D. ‘Load Up’ 🎵 I went Mozart [i.e. a council estate] and tapped it.

2. (US Und.) to rob, to steal from; esp in phr. tap a till ; thus tapping n.

[US]A. Pinkerton Thirty Years a Detective 45: He inserts the first two fingers of his right hand [...] he draws the pocket-book up little by little, which is known as ‘reefing’ [...] the moment he is able to take hold of the pocket-book – called ‘tapping,’ he quietly calls out ‘Rouse!’ the victim receives a rough push from the stalls – and out comes the pocket-book.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 10: They’re careless, get that; because they’ve never been tapped.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 72: We sit in before some hustlers tap him.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 9: Tapped the quarter box on the washer in the basement.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 225: A burglar called it in. He was about to tap the house, then he saw the body.
W.D. Myers Dope Sick 29: [used of ‘skimming’ from a supply of narcotics] ‘We can tap this nice,’ Rico said. ‘You don’t be tapping Dusty’s stuff,’ I said. [...] I watched while Rico tapped a few bags from each load, enough to make a half bag for himself.

3. in senses of the lit. or fig. tap on the shoulder.

(a) to arrest; cite 1860 refers to the arrest of a debtor by a bailiff; thus tapper, a policeman.

[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford II 225: We are certainly scented here, and I walk about like a barrel of beer at Christmas, under hourly apprehension of being tapped!
[UK] ‘Love in the City’ in Bentley’s Misc. June 589: Your husband’s tapp’d by Tappington, the bum!
[UK]Sinks of London Laid Open 43: We were stopped by a policeman, and very nigh got tapped.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum.
[UK]R. Nicholson Rogue’s Progress (1966) 122: One firm [...] has paid me very great attention [...] and after the process of tapping was gone through, they have been kind enough to take me to their own home, and there safely keep me.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 84: Tappers, policemen.
[UK]D. Stewart Shadows of the Night in Illus. Police News 12 Oct. 12/3: ‘Sergeant Hicks may tap me at any time’.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Fly Paper’ Story Omnibus (1966) 49: We were waiting for you before we tapped her.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad.

(b) (also tap for, tap up) to beg for, to accost someone for something, to ask for a loan, whether of money or fig.; often in phr. tap someone for; thus tapping adj.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Feb. 22/3: A few days after this, old Mrs. Fussanfether and two other Little Bethel ladies called down to condole with the man who had lost his wife, and if possible tap him for a fiver, or see how he felt about fastening on to a second rib. [Ibid.] 27 Jun. 10/2: You boil the billy, and with the blessing of heaven, I will tap the township.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The English Ne’er-Do-Well’ in Roderick (1967–9) I 236: He ‘tapped the guv’ for money and disgraced his father’s name.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 278: The other one [i.e. a journalist] would have certainly tapped me for five.
[US]Ade ‘Lonesome Trolley-Riders’ in True Bills 5: Mrs. Gillespie, [...] had tapped the Bank for seven large, iron Dollars.
[UK]A. Binstead Mop Fair 153: He usually [...] taps the butler for a tenner.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 1 Mar. 4/7: Dead-beats waiting to tap Glowery’s affluent guests [...] Watch the unfinancial in the offing.
[Aus]E.S. Sorenson Dissertation of Travellers in Life in the Aus. Backblocks 78: The man, if he has no money and desires to tap the stations for rations, takes the precaution to hide his stock.
[Aus]Kia Ora Coo-ee 15 July 7/2: To show the unjust treatment I receive, / I’ve even tapped them for a marriage leave, / I’ve told them that my ‘lines’ I will produce; / But all ‘khalass’ it’s not a bit of use – / ‘Not approved.’.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 115: If you want to draw the cashier is just going to lunch, he said, pointing backward with his thumb. [...] Look sharp and you’ll catch him. / – Thanks, old man, Hynes said. I’ll tap him too.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 36: He went there to tap her and she wouldn’t come across, so he did her in and helped himself.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 25: She had sucessfully ‘tapped’ me for five shillings.
[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 268: I couldn’t tap you. I know you have it hard.
[WI]S. Selvon Lonely Londoners 25: He have a feeling that if he don’t tap the Galahad early he would never be able to do it later on.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 31: The things I’d picked up from her over hundreds of previous loot-tapping visits.
[Ire]J. Morrow Confessions of Proinsias O’Toole 31: I have only a hazy memory of ‘Bum’, who had tapped me for a quid.
[UK]P. Bailey Eng. Madam 79: When I tried to tap her for a loan.
[UK]Guardian Sport 25 Sept. 16: Vic never taps anyone for money.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 178: Slagging everyone [...] tapping up Mort for a few bob.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 133: May as well tap Fatty for a C-note!
[Scot](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 142: He pills a five spot ay his paokit [...] —Ah wisnae tryin tae tap ye up, ah’m pure protestin.
[Ire]L. McInerney Glorious Heresies 38: Breaking away from brothel employment didn’t mean that she was forbidden to tap her sources for coke.

(c) to obtain money (other than as a loan).

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 24 Mar. 13/4: Dead-beat (interrupting): ‘Oh! don’t waste my time if you ain’t goin’ to give us nothink. I want to tap this bloke a-comin’!’.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 216: He departed before the Estate was tapped for the Inheritance Tax.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Two Sharp Knives’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 185: I’ve been telling her she was a chump not to tap him.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 176: He let Harry tap him for a fiver.
[Scot](con. mid-1960s) J. Patrick Glasgow Gang Observed 131: Maws are fur tappin’, man. That’s aw aboot it. Fur buyin’ ye claes an geein’ ye money.
[Ire]J. Healy Grass Arena (1990) 142: Chas tapped him for a couple of quid, sending Wendy down the pub for more wine.

(d) (US) to interrogate, esp. using the ‘third degree’.

Jackson Dly News (MS) 1 Apr. 7/2: Crook Chatter [...] ‘We were recently “tapping” a crook [...] The third degree or sweating process is “tapping”’.

(e) (US) to select for a college fraternity or society; thus tapping n.

[US]F.S. Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise in Bodley Head Scott Fitzgerald III (1960) 44: Yale had a romance and glamour from the tales of [...] St. Regis’ men who had been ‘tapped for Skull and Bones.’.
[UK]P. Marks Plastic Age 283: The tapping took place in chapel the last week of classes.

(f) to select, to ‘line up’.

[US]T. Thursday ‘Art for Artie’ Argosy All-Story 30 Dec. 🌐 Bill gets into a corking jam with the villain [...] and it begins to look as how Bill was gonna be tapped for a trip to the next world.
[US](con. 1943–5) A. Murphy To Hell and Back (1950) 54: When I was tapped for the draft, I was about to become a family man.
[US]C. Himes Big Gold Dream 88: He’s got somebody tapped for the killings.
[US]B. Gutcheon New Girls (1982) 50: Have you heard anything about when we’ll be tapped for Glee?
[US]G. Pelecanos Shame the Devil 135: William Jonas had been tapped to dedicate a bronze plaque that served to memorialize the victims.

4. (also tap up) to defraud, to cheat.

[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 120: Wherever the Turks are involved, the potential for double-dealing exists. They’re notorious for it. They’re forever trying to tap up bagmen like YT.

In derivatives

In compounds

tap-man (n.)

(US Und.) a cheat, a swindler.

[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 102: The other man, the Greek [...] was a tap-man (cheat).

In phrases

on the tap

1. attempting to beg money.

[UK]B. Kops Dream of Peter Mann Act III: Already they’ve been on the tap talking about partnerships and singing ‘Buddy can you spare a diamond.’.

2. attempting to obtain something other than money.

[Scot]T. Black Gutted 99: Are ye on the tap for police intellgence?
tap a till (v.) (also tap a damper, till-tap) [sense 2 + SE till]

to rob, to steal, usu. from a cash register; thus till-tapper under till n.; till-tapping n. and adj.

[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 111: The youngsters are in for till-tapping. A Froglander grocery-keeper caught one of ’em with his hands in the money-till.
[US]Calif. Police Gazette 27 Mar. 1/6: [He] agreed to follow the more profitable business of ‘till-tapping.’.
[US]Night Side of N.Y. 80: Count Nocount is doing five years at Sing Sing for ‘tapping a till.’.
[US]A. Pinkerton Reminiscences 212: Prisoners were arrested in Chicago while in the act of ‘tapping’ the till.
[US]Lantern (N.O.) 29 Sept. 2: The policeman who was arrested for tapping a till.
[US]H.F. Wood ‘Justice in a Quandary’ in Good Humor 178: It’s clear enough—he was tapping the till.
[US]I.L. Nascher Wretches of Povertyville 209: Till-tapping has become unprofitable since the introduction of the cash register, still it is occasionally practiced in stores where there is no such safeguard.
[US]J. Tully Beggars of Life 136: I can’t tap the till. The boss knows how much dough he’s got.
[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 5: He had taught me how to tap a till (rob a cash drawer) [...] They would take me out till-tapping.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Capricorn (1964) 104: The time that little Jewish clerk was fired for tapping the till?
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 234: tap a till To steal from a cash register.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 220/1: Tap, v. 1. To open and empty of money, as a cash register, or strongbox. ‘I’ll throw the spot in the air (hold the place up at pistol point) and you tap the damper (cash-register).’.
[US]‘Paul Merchant’ ‘Sex Gang’ in Pulling a Train’ (2012) [ebook] He knew how to to tap a till, how to mug a lush, stiff-arm a mark and lead a rumble.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 92: But since you’ve been out you’ve learned new names for the game, / such as till-tapping, the carpet, the rope, and the drag, [all con games] which all leads up to one thing.
[UK]R.L. Pike Mute Witness (1997) 167: The Rossi brothers are tapping the Syndicate till and putting the money away in different countries.
[US]R. Barrett Lovomaniacs (1973) 365: One of our own people is tapping the till.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 12: He [...] was nonchalantly till tapping (rifling through a cash register).
[US]Courtwright & Des Jarlais Addicts Who Survived 113: Dusty [...] was born in a Philadelphia suburb in 1918. He went as far as the eighth grade but then left school and got in trouble with the law for stealing and till-tapping.
[US]M. Baker Bad Guys 17: Strictly speaking, Howard is a till-tapping creeper.
tap for (v.)

see sense 3b above.

tap off (v.) [on model of cop off v.3 (1)]

to pick up or seduce.

[UK]Reeves & Mortimer Vic Reeves Big Night Out n.p.: I nearly tapped off with a lass, mind.
[UK]Guardian Guide 31 July–6 Aug. 81: This is as nothing compared to Tracie and Lisa, who manage to tap off with the married strippers at their local club. Talk about falling for the wrong man.
tap someone’s claret (v.)

see under claret n.

tap up (v.)

1. see sense 3b above.

2. see sense 4 above.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

tap a kidney (v.) (also squeeze...)

(US) to urinate.

[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 27: I tapped a kidney in the ladies room.
[SA]K. Cage Gayle 96/1: squeeze a kidney v. urinate, also occasionally squeeze a Tampax.
tap the admiral (v.) [according to Hotten (1864), the practice originated when sailors sucked out the liquor from the barrel in which Admiral Horatio Nelson’s body had been preserved on the journey home after his death at the battle of Trafalgar, ‘to such an extent as to leave the gallant Admiral high and dry’]

to suck liquor through a straw from the ship’s barrel which has been bored with a gimlet.

[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]W.C. Russell Sailors’ Lang. 145: Tap the admiral— Said of a man who would drink anything.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 84: Tap the Admiral, an expression which is said to have its origin in the action of the sailors who sucked with a straw the rum in the barrel in which Nelson’s remains were being preserved.
tap up (v.)

(drugs) to tap a vein in order to make it stand out from the surrounding flesh preparatory to an injection of narcotics.

[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 88: The few months off-a skag [...] geyv me poor fuckin veyns a rest. Now eyl tap up in no time.