Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dona n.

also donah, done, doner, doney, donie, donna, donnah, donner, donnie, donny, donor, dony
[Polari donah; ult. Ital. donna, a woman]

1. (Ling. Fr./Polari) a woman, often attractive.

[UK]New Sprees of London 3: I’ll introduce you to the [...] flash and slang Mots, Donners, and Cullies that's faking the slums on the cross.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 59: Pipe this donna and swell paddling here. S’elp me squeese! – send I may live! – hang me high up! if it arn’t a Wild-street shickster.
[UK]Yokel’s Preceptor 31: Donner, Woman, either Mot or not.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 47/2: ‘Fiela’ is a child; ‘Homa’ is a man; ‘Done’, a female.
[UK]T. Frost Circus Life and Circus Celebrities 277: Dona (lady) is so constantly used that I have seldom heard a circus man mention a woman by any other term.
[UK]London Life 5 July 3/2: ‘Hullo, here comes a “donah.” How are you, Miss?’.
[Scot]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 6 May 7/3: Your ‘doner’ may get clear, but the old beak [...] never lets off a tramp.
[Scot]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 1 Sept. 7/3: ‘Who’s that, George,’ whispered Polly. ‘That’s my “donor”’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 Mar. 17/1: With him a spade was never called a spade, / A man or woman was a ‘bloke’ or ‘donah,’ / For all drinks fierier than lemonade / He was even as the whale that swallowed Jonah.
[UK]‘Dagonet’ ‘A Plank Bed Ballad’ (in Referee 12 Feb.) n.p.: Oh, donnys and omees, what gives me the spur, – / Is, I’m told by a mug (he tells whoppers), / That I ought to have greased to have kept out of stir / The dukes of the narks and the coppers.
[UK]J.W. Horsley Jottings from Jail 3: Donny (dona) for woman, and omee (uomo) for man.
[UK] ‘’Arry in Parry’ in Punch 29 June in P. Marks (2006) 93: Dark-eyed donas in shawl-patterned togs.
[UK]Music Hall & Theatre Rev. 5 July 7/2: I saw how it tickled his marrow / To ogle the doners.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Wheels’ in Punch 7 May 217/2: Don’t I jest discumfuddle the donas, and bosh the old buffers as prowl / Along green country roads.
[UK]P.H. Emerson Signor Lippo 55: He used to go to the toff carsies to shave and dress the swell’s hair and the toff donahs heads.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 28 Jan. 5/3: Never despoil an ostrich to adorn a donah.
[UK]Belfast Wkly News 21 Dec. 3/2: Your bloke in the corner [...] is a mush-faker [...] but his doner [...] tells fortunes, and so he don’t work much’.
Shaw letter inEllen Terry and Bernard Shaw: A Correspondence (1932) Sept. n.p.: He shall be a west end gentleman and she an east end dona in an apron and three orange and red ostrich feathers.
[UK]J. Tabrar [perf. Vesta Victoria] Bid me good-bye forever 🎵 Think of the 'eart you've gone and broke / Of the donah you used to adore.
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 130: These Whitechapel donners [girls] wants picter-like ones, ’n’ we don’t always get ’em.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘A Dangerous Dad’ Sporting Times 3 Feb. 1/4: The ‘’ome sweet’ wot I’d got together / With an eye to me splicin’ a donah I knowed.
[UK]T. & G. LeBrunn [perf. Marie Lloyd] Come Along, Let’s Make Up 🎵 ‘Straight, you are a blooming “slap-up” little donah’.
[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands vii: From the smallest prim office boy in the stationery warehouse below to the most frivolous ‘donah’ deftly manufacturing fruit bags in the higher flights.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 162/2: ‘That dona’s dotty,’ said Obadiah, as he gazed upon his half-a-dollar, and put it carefully away in his only kick; ‘and now for a jolly spree.’.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 1 Oct. 4/7: Every ‘donah,’ every ‘tart’ / Knows the whole thing off by heart.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 29: dony [...] A female member of the demi-monde.
[US]Charley Patton ‘Revenue Man Blues’ 🎵 Oh, a doney loves her saltwater, well, she always wants a drink.
[UK]P. Allingham Cheapjack 190: Take sights. Screw th’ donah’s groinies.
[US]Robert Johnson ‘I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom’ 🎵 I don’t want no woman, wants every downtown man she meet / She’s a no good doney, they shouldn’t allow her on the street.
[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 27 Apr. 7/6: Lesson 1: How to Collar a Chic. If the fowl is fly and doesn’t gum beat so sporty, try to drift to the donnie’s castle and skin-shake with the raisers.
[US]Elmore James ‘Dust My Broom’ 🎵 Man, she’s a no good doney, / they shouldn’t allow her on the street, yeah.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 181: Donnah An attractive woman.
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 104: Caricatures of larrikinesses (or ‘donahs’) of the 1890s–1900s period show the hats worn by them.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 44: Prize-fighting was a religion to larrikins, who would travel miles [...] to watch a bout, accompanied by their female donahs. This word is variously said to be derived from Spanish, Portuguese, Italian or the earliest European pidgin, Polari.
[UK]P. Baker Fabulosa 291/2: dona, donner, donah, doner a woman.

2. a wife or girlfriend.

[UK]Albert Chevalier ‘A Coster’s Courtship’ 🎵 I ’adn’t much myself, it ain’t exactly in my line, But wot I ’ad, I used, and now that coster donna’s mine!
[UK] ‘’Arry and the [...] Lady Cyclists’ Punch 15 June 285/1: ’Er as flower-mounts Clerkenwell way, an’ was donah to young Iky Crisp.
[UK]A. Chevalier Before I Forget (1901) 232: If I buys cheap an’ sells dear, I’m a-goin’ to take the doner to the theatre to-night to see Nell Perry act – an’ she can act!
[UK]A.N. Lyons Arthur’s 42: It’s the same to me, ye know, young man [...] whether you got a donah or whether you ain’t.
[US]L.W. Payne Jr ‘Word-List From East Alabama’ in DN III:iv 306: dony, n. Girl, sweetheart. [...] My dony don’ wear no drawers,’ a line from a popular negro song.
[UK]Sporting Times 15 Feb. 2/5: ’Erbert, a gentleman of the coster persuasion, and Em., his donah, have just been into the big pub to change their breaths.
[Ind]P.C. Wren Dew & Mildew 350: [He] addressed t [...] Sturling as ‘Donah,’ as his Sorcy Little Kipper, and eke as ‘ Kite’.
[UK]‘R. Andom’ Neighbours of Mine 148: ’Arry, come and ’ave a look at Bill’s new donah!
[UK]E. Pugh Cockney At Home 138: Me an’ Emma was gettin’ that pally I kep’ callin’ her by my real donah’s name.
[US]DN IV 411: Doney... Sweetheart. Also doneygal.
[US] ‘Off From Richmond’ in T.W. Talley Negro Folk Rhymes 15: I slips off from Mosser widout pass an’ warnin’ / Fer I mus’ see my Donie wharever she may stay.
[UK]Wodehouse Clicking of Cuthbert 45: Never introduce your donah to a pal.
[Ire](con. 1900s) S. O’Casey Drums Under the Windows 142: An hour ago today I and my donah celebrated our diamond wedding in the church of the twelve pathrons.
J. Lomax Adventures of a Ballad Hunter n.p.: He also called the young woman he was courting, in the hope that she would consent to becoming his fourth wife, his ‘doney’ (donna, woman). Sometimes he made it ‘doney gal’.
[Scot]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 4 Sept. 5: The costers’ wives and sweethearts, called ‘donahs’, [...] wear wide-brimmed hats, adorned with ostrich feathers.

3. a landlady.

[UK]Kendal Mercury 17 Apr. 6/1: The ‘donna’ [...] politely offered the gentlemen a drinking glass.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 404: Digs up near the Mater. Buckled he is. Know his dona? Yup, sartin I do. Full of a dure.

4. (UK Und.) the ‘lady’, the queen in a game of three-card monte.

[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 181: Donnah [...] the queen in a pack of playing cards, particularly in the three-card trick.

5. (W.I.) an attractive woman.

[WI]Francis-Jackson Official Dancehall Dict. 14: Donna general name for all look-able females.

In compounds

donna of the cas(s)ey (n.)

(UK Und.) a landlady.

[UK]New Sprees of London 14: The gorger takes it easy; the donna of the casey is inclined to be crabby, and rather too fond of new faces.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 65: It is common for the donna of the cassey to patter thus to the tramp: – ‘Vot pad vould you like, sir?’ ‘Oh, a two win dodge,’ (a twopenny bed).
[UK]Kendal Mercury 3 Apr. 6/1: The hostess, or ‘donna of the casey,’ as she is termed by the cadgers, is generally either a decayed prostitute, or a woman of debauched habits.
[UK]Kendal Mercury 17 Apr. 6/1: The ‘donna of the cazy’ has taken a candle in her hand as a signal for a general march to the ‘dosing lumber’ (sleeping apartment).
[UK]Western Dly Press 24 Oct. 4/3: In general use is the expression the dona of the Karzer, or ‘the lady of the house’.
J.C. Clough On the Existence of Mixed Languages 110: To scarper with the feele of the donna of the casey, is scappare colla figlia della donna della casa.
[US]C.G. Leland Gypsies 221: Seven Dials has been heard to say he would ‘scarper with the feele of the donna of the cassey;’ which means, run away with the daughter of the landlady of the house.

In phrases