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. (US) a butcher’s knife.

[US] (ref. to 1820s) ‘Skitt’ Fisher’s River 72: I [...] jerked out old Butch [HDAS].
[US] (ref. to c.1840) J.C. Duval Adventures of Big-Foot Wallace 65: I loosened ‘old butch’ in the sheath.
[US] in Botkin Treasury Amer. Folklore (1944) 349: Whar’s big butch little butch, ole case, cob-handle, granny’s knife and the one I handled yesterday!

2. (US) a butcher.

[US]Sun (NY) 12 Oct. 18/2: As I rubbered into the meatshop I saw Dippy’s wife . She was swinging the butch for a chop or so for supper.

3. (Aus.) a doctor.

[Aus]W.H. Downing Digger Dialects 14: butch — Doctor.
[Aus](con. WWI) A.G. Pretty Gloss. of Sl. [...] in the A.I.F. 1921–1924 (rev. t/s) n.p.: butch. Doctor – abbreviation of Butcher.

4. (orig. US) a nickname for a tough man; a nickname for a large, tough woman (not a lesbian).

[US]D. Runyon [story title] Butch Minds the Baby.
[UK] in Campbell & Campbell War Paint 19: [aircraft nose art] Butch.
[US](con. 1944) J.H. Burns Gallery (1948) 91: She told us to call her Butch. She was from Dorchester and she was the biggest gal I’d ever seen.
[UK]Willans & Searle Complete Molesworth (1985) 234: O.K. Work him over, butch.
[US]Trimble 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 39: butch [...] 2. (’40s) nonhomosexual man whose virile appearance both draws and repels the homosexual.
[US]T. Fontana ‘Gray Matter’ Oz ser. 4 ep. 5 [TV script] Excuse me there, butch.

5. (US milit.) the commanding officer.

[US]Phila. Eve. Ledger 20 July n.p.: ‘Butch’ and ‘old man’—commanding officer.
[US]P. Kendall Dict. Service Sl. n.p.: Butch . . . friendly term for commanding officer [...] Used in his absence of course.

6. (orig. US) a masculine lesbian.

[US]J.H. Burns Lucifer with a Book 69: Betty Blanchard to us. On dates she answers to Butchie.
[UK]F. Norman in Encounter n.d. in Norman’s London (1969) 64: We will call the queer Tangerine (who is an old queen), and the brass Chechee, and the lez we will call Butch, which is just another way of saying lez.
[UK]Observer Review 20 May 27/5: Toni, a domnant type who I believe would be known in lesbian slang as a butch.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 219: One of the butches [...] stepped in to breach the custom of noninterference.
[US]E. Torres After Hours 162: A stone butch, she had a cute li’l chick, Sarita.
[US]‘Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 92: The lady warden, whose name is Miz Terry but who oughta be named Butch, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 58: Butch A female who looks and acts like a male and assumes the dominant, active role in a lesbian relationship.
[UK]Guardian Editor 25 June 5: The Daily Star’s ‘tennis totty’ double spread: ‘Butches versus Babes’.
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Hot-Prowl Rape-O’ in Destination: Morgue! (2004) 297: Donna said, ‘Back off, Butch – it’s [i.e. lesbianism] not my scene.’.

7. (orig. US, also butch haircut) a short, ‘macho’ haircut (used for either gender).

[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 137: His white-blond hair disfigured by a butch haircut.
[US]E. Hunter Blackboard Jungle 46: The boys filed in [...] still wondering what sort of a duck this new bird with the Butch haircut was.
[US]H. Ellison ‘Final Shtick’ in Gentleman Junkie (1961) 18: Jack Wheeldon, whose head is square and whose hair is cut in a butch.
[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson A Garden of Sand (1981) 421: Jack took a dime to the nearest Barber College and bought himself a butch, a real Army job, a crew cut that left a quarter-inch of stubble on his pale scalp.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Spring 2: butch – a very short hair-cut.

8. (orig. US) a masculine male homosexual.

[US]D.W. Cory Homosexual in America 113: A camp is also a bitch; but change the vowel, and one has the antonym, a butch.
[US]Lavender Lex. n.p.: butch:–The masculine appearing homosexual. He is the insertor in any sexual relationship. This cannot be defined by means of dress or habits or any other method.
[US]J.P. Stanley ‘Homosexual Sl.’ in AS XLV:1–2 56: butch 1: n Aggressor in any homosexual relationship.
[US]A. Maupin More Tales of the City (1984) 7: I will not call anyone nellie or butch, unless that is his name.

9. (US gay) a heterosexual male.

[US]Homosexuality & Citizenship in Florida 23: Glossary of Homosexual Terms [...] butch: [...] (b) Term used by homosexuals to describe a normal person .

10. (Aus. teen) a promiscuous young woman.

[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 104: Disapproving terms for females included butch, slut, tramp, mole, and cow, all used in the wider Lingo.

In phrases

butch down on (v.)

(US) to act in a physically aggressive manner.

[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 128: Shuggie, you figure we’ll have to butch down on this tush hog Gillette?
butch (it) up (v.)

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

[US]N.Y. Times Mag. 4 Aug. 9/1: It is difficult to pinpoint the exact date at which the military haircut became both cause celebre and a source of humor. [...] The newest example, of course, is Airman Donald Wheeler, who refused to get himself butched up and got away with it.

2. (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’.

[US]Lavender Lex. n.p.: butch it up:–An admonition to act less faggotty. Often is spoken in jest, and may be heard as, ‘Butch it up, Mary’, meaning to cut out the obvious homosexual talk and action.
[US]Guild Dict. Homosexual Terms 6: butch it up (v.): The act or effort of assuming the characteristics of one who is butch (q. v.); said of one who must do so in an effort to hide his homosexuality from his heterosexual friends.
M. Crowley Boys in the Band in 3 Plays (1996) 24: I butched it up quite a bit. And I didn’t think I was lying to myself. I really thought I was straight.
[US]Maledicta VI:1+2 (Summer/Winter) 138: Butch it up = ‘to make an effort or pretence to be[ing] butch’.
[SA]K. Cage Gayle.

3. as sense 2 but in non-homosexual contexts.

[UK]Guardian 28 May [Nexis] You must make special efforts to catch her attention. Try some sexy surprises – wear a cosy woolly cardi that brings out the boy in you, just the thing to play smacky lips and huggy bear. Cook something sexy, husky and he-man. Butch up your little world, schmuck.
Tradeswomen (S.F.) 31 Oct. [Proquest] 51: [written by a female auto mechanic who became a trades teacher] Over the next several months I studied hard, asked a lot of questions, butched-up even more than usual (a feat thought by some to be impossible) and began pulling a share of the teaching load.
glamour butch (n.)

(US gay) a masculine lesbian or homosexual who wears formal clothes.

[US]R. Scott Rebecca’s Dict. of Queer Sl. [Internet] glamour butch — a butch who likes to wear fancy suits, tuxedos, etc, frequently.
soft butch (n.)

(gay) a ‘masculine’ lesbian with a soft side and gentle character.

[US]R. Scott Rebecca’s Dict. of Queer Sl. [Internet] soft butch — a butch lesbian who is, perhaps, not so stereotypically masculine as a stone.
[US]Gaymart.com Queer Sl. in the Gay 90s [Internet] Soft Butch – A butch lesbian with a soft side and gentle demeanor.