Green’s Dictionary of Slang

butch n.1

[abbr. SE butcher, seen fig. in senses 2–5 and sense 7 as a ‘man of blood’, a violent person]

1. [mid-19C] (US) a butcher’s knife.

2. (US) a butcher.

3. [1910s] (Aus.) a doctor.

4. [1930s+] (orig. US) a nickname for a tough man, e.g. the hero of Damon Runyon’s short story ‘Butch Minds the Baby’ (1930); a nickname for a large, tough woman (not a lesbian).

5. [1940s] (US milit.) the commanding officer.

6. [1940s+] (orig. US) a masculine lesbian.

7. [1940s+] (orig. US, also butch haircut) a short, ‘macho’ haircut (used for either gender).

8. [1950s+] (orig. US) a masculine male homosexual.

9. [1960s] (US gay) a heterosexual male.

10. [1990s+] (Aus. teen) a promiscuous young woman.

In phrases

butch down on (v.)

[1980s] (US) to act in a physically aggressive manner.

butch in (v.)

[2000s] (US prison) to force a fellow prisoner to give oral sex in return for favours, protection etc.

butch (it) up (v.)

1. [1950s] to get a military, i.e ultra-short, haircut; thus butched up adj., having such a haircut.

2. [1960s+] (US gay) of a homosexual male, to accentuate a spurious masculinity in order to hide one’s actual homosexuality; of a lesbian, to accentuate one’s ‘maleness’.

3. [1980s+] as sense 2 but in non-homosexual contexts.

glamour butch (n.)

[1990s+] (US gay) a masculine lesbian or homosexual who wears formal clothes.

soft butch (n.)

[1990s+] (gay) a ‘masculine’ lesbian with a soft side and gentle character.