Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tap v.2

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

(a) [mid-18C–19C] to hit and thus draw blood from a victim’s nose; spec. to throw stones at (see cite 1866).

(b) [late 17C–early 19C] to deflower a woman; often as tap a girl v. [note sense 1e].

(c) [late 18C] to obtain change.

(d) [1910s] (US) to exhaust one’s finances.

(e) [1920s+] (US Und.) to hit on the head.

(f) [1940s+] to have sexual intercourse [note sense 1b].

(g) [1960s–70s] (drugs) to inject oneself with a hypodermic syringe.

(h) [2000s] to shoot (dead).

2. [mid-19C+] (US Und.) to rob, to steal from; esp in phr. tap a till ; thus tapping n.

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

(a) [mid-19C–1940s] to arrest; cite 1860 refers to the arrest of a debtor by a bailiff.

(b) [late 19C+] (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.

(c) [20C+] to obtain money (other than as a loan).

(d) [1910s] (US) to interrogate, esp. using the ‘third degree’.

(e) [1920s+] (US) to select for a college fraternity or society; thus tapping n.

(f) [1920s+] to select, to ‘line up’.

4. [1920s+] (also tap up) to defraud, to cheat.

In compounds

tap-man (n.)

(US Und.) a cheat, a swindler.

In phrases

on the tap

1. [1930s+] attempting to beg money.

2. attempting to obtain something other than money.

tap a till (v.) (also tap a damper, till-tap) [sense 2 + SE till]

[mid-19C+] to rob, to steal, usu. from a cash register; thus till-tapper under till n.; till-tapping n. and adj.

tap for (v.)

see sense 3b above.

tap someone’s claret (v.)

see under claret n.

tap up (v.)

1. see sense 3b above.

2. see sense 4 above.

title-tapper (n.)

one who forges deeds.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

tap-lash (n.) [lit. ‘beat the tap’, i.e. thump it in order to extract the very last drips from the cask or barrel]

1. [17C–early 19C] inferior liquor, esp. its dregs.

2. [mid-17C–early 18C] a publican.

3. attrib. use of sense 2.

tap-tub (n.)

[early–mid-19C] the Morning Advertiser newspaper, also known as the Gin and Gospel Gazette.

In phrases

tap a house (v.)

[late 19C] to burgle a house.

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

[1970s+] (US) to urinate.

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’]

[mid–late 19C] to suck liquor through a straw from the ship’s barrel which has been bored with a gimlet.

tap up (v.)

[2000s] (drugs) to tap a vein in order to make it stand out from the surrounding flesh preparatory to an injection of narcotics.