Green’s Dictionary of Slang

stiff ’un n.

also stiff one

1. a corpse, thus do a stiff un, to die [ext. stiff n.1 (1)].

[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: stiff ones Of no use, dead men.
[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 242: Tommy has been [...] a boner of stiff ones§ [§ A resurrection man, or a body-snatcher].
[UK]R. Nicholson Cockney Adventures 13 Jan. 87: Yer brought here for boneing a stiff ’un, and it was found in yer possession [...] ‘What do you mean by a stiff ’un?’ asked Miss Nancy. ‘Vy,’ replied the stocking stealer, ‘a deceased.’.
[Ire]W.H. Maxwell Rambling Recollections of a Soldier of Fortune 51: I met the chap from Guy’s, in the Borough-road this morning, and he offered to stand twelve pounds for a fresh stiff-un.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 59: I’d pad the road with barkers and fake the denarley from the stiffum’s cly.
[Aus][A. Harris] (con. 1820s) Settlers & Convicts 357: This new hand, also quite a youngster, was at the Euryalus hulk [...] along with him, and had almost made ‘a stiff ’un’ of him.
[UK]Western Times 6 Nov. 8/1: They sold the unburied ‘stiff ’un’ to a sawbones.
[UK]Yokel’s Preceptor 31: Stiff ’un, Dead body.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 14 Aug. 3/3: Although habituated to the cold society of ‘stiff ’uns’, Mr Thomas is happily not a stiff one himself.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 228: Stiff ’un a corpse. ― Term used by undertakers.
[UK]Manchester Eve. News 6 Dec. 4/2: When it was seen that his wife was in a dangerous state, the prisoner said, with infamous indifference, ‘Let the — cat do a stiff un. I can do a “twelver” for her’.
[UK]J. Keane On Blue Water 52: When we looked at him at eight bells (4 A.M.) he was a stiff ’un.
[UK]Leics. Chron. 17 May 12/2: What do you think I found? A stiff ’un! [...] and didn’t it stink!
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 28 Mar. 20/1: Then followed the funeral reform alluded to. The body was put in a ‘piner’ laid on a hand-truck, and given over to four prisoners and a warder. These men had a rare old time with the ‘stiff ’un.’.
[UK]Sporting Times 11 Jan. 5: When with the stiff ’uns I am laid, / In short, when I am scratched.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 2 Dec.. 1/2: Depriving the members of the ‘Corps-case Makers and Stiff ’un Packers Union’ of a job.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘An Authority on War’ Sporting Times 15 Sept. 1/4: I’ve often on my napper copped the butt end of a gun, / Until I’ve been left a stiff ’un on the field!
[UK]D. Stewart Tragedy of White House in Illus. Police News 13 Aug. 12/1: ‘The report has got about the old stiff ’un’s ghost haunts the bloomin’ premises’.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘War’ in Moods of Ginger Mick 25: An’ fightin’ foul, as orl the rules forbids, / Leavin’ a string uv stiff-uns in their track.
[UK]‘Bartimeus’ ‘The Crusher’ in Great Security 161: It’s a corp! Oh Gawd, it’s a stiff ’un!
[UK]Western Dly Press 30 Nov. 6/7: Alleged to have called his mother a ‘rat,’ struck her, [...] and to have threatened to strangle her and make her a ‘stiff un’.

2. one who is unconscious (esp. through drink).

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 30 Apr. 3/3: Our hero [...] quaffed it to the dregs [...] and in a minute afterwards was a ‘stiff ’un’ himself.

3. a heavy drinker.

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 249/2: ‘For nineteen years and three months of that time he was a hard drinker, – a regular stiff ’un,’ he said.
[UK]H. Mayhew London Characters 419: He was a hard drinker – ‘a regular stiff ’un,’ said he.
[UK]Tamworth Herald 2 Sept. 3/4: There he met with two men named North and Harrison, alias ‘Stiff un’.

4. (also stiff) a strong alcoholic drink.

[UK]T. Hood ‘Ode to Admiral Gambier’ Works (1862) II 432: A man may like a stiff ’un, / And yet not be a Burke!
[UK]Marryat Snarleyyow II 22: He must be in real arnest, otherwise he would not ha’ come for to go for to give me a glass of grog [...] and such a real stiff ’un too.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 123/1: We had put in a good ‘stiff-un’ before leaving the public-house, and cared little about the soaking we were receiving outside while we had a heavy wet within.
[UK] ‘The Rival Toasts’ in Pearl I July 33: Captain B. [...] said quietly: ‘You can beat that, can’t you, Jack?’ ‘Ay! Aye! Sir! If you fill me a stiff’un.’.
[US]J. London ‘The Princess’ Complete Short Stories (1993) III 2475: He jolted up with a couple more stiff ones of gin.
[UK]E. Blair in College Days (Eton) 4 1 Apr. in Complete Works X (1998) 64: Hi, you, Mose [...] bring me a stiff — a big stiff, and put it down to this guy.
[US](con. 1899) H.P. Bailey Shanghaied Out of Frisco 18: Ben [...] ordered from Calico Jim two more ‘stiff ’uns’.
[US]‘R. Scully’ Scarlet Pansy 195: Fay poured out a stiff one for each of the men and suggested bottoms up, and then another and another.
[US]H.A. Smith Rhubarb 132: Willy, fix a good stiff one for everybody.
[US]H. Miller Sexus (1969) 467: Here, take a good stiff one.
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 189: He pours a stiff one.
[US]A. James America’s Homosexual Underground 44: Carl had taken very few drinks. After finishing that part of his story he poured a stiff one.
[US]R. Barrett Lovomaniacs (1973) 41: He has had six stiff ones.
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 186: You go straight home [...] Mix yourself a stiff one —.

5. a large, sturdy individual.

[UK]Gloucester Citizen 27 May 3/3: Walter Emms, known to ‘the fancy’ as the ‘Stiff Un’ and Arthur Shaw, of Norwich, professional pugilists.
[UK]Morpeth Herald 29 July 5/5: Both [boxers] were stiff un’s averaging thirteen stone apiece.

6. a difficult racecourse [stiff adj. (3)].

[UK]Sporting Times 11 Jan. 3: The course was a very ‘stiff ’un,’ and the brook had to be jumped twice.

7. (Aus.) a general term of abuse [SE stiff formal + ext. stiff n.1 (1)] .

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 2 Aug. 14/1: It happened that a kid-gloved predecessor had been soaping down the tabs with ‘A great work being done’ and similar tommy-rot, but the new man wrote that it was all humbug – half a dozen common women lectured by a dozen stiff-’uns.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 29 Oct. 4/7: I was approached by the free and independent stiff-’uns of Karrakatta.

8. a forgery [stiff n.1 (4c)].

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues VI 365/2: Do not invest money Until you read The Rialto. Never on stiff ’uns, wrong ’uns, or dead ’uns.
A. Griffiths Criminals I have Known 228: He had been ‘took’ with the ‘stiff uns’ on him, and was sent to the ‘boat’ (penal servitude).
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 26 Jan. 263: He got me to make that bill a stiff ’un because he wanted to get you to borrow money off him.
[US]Sat. Eve. Post 4 Apr. 18/3: ‘I put over a couple of stiff ones,’ is the way a paperhanger describes an operation.

9. (horseracing) usu of a horse, a second-rate, losing contender and thus an erroneous, losing wager [fig. use of stiff n.1 (1)].

[UK]Hawk’s-eye Turf Notes 11: Most assuredly it is the bookmakers that profit by the safe uns, or stiff uns, as, in their own language, horses that have no chance of winning are called [F&H].
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Jan. 14/3: Good authorities declare that the proper place to spot a winner of a coming handicap, is to plant oneself down in the home turn at a previous meet, and then note the gallant army of ‘waiters,’ or stiff ’uns just sent out for a flutter to fool all future handicappers. [Ibid.] 16 May 9/2: Sir Fulke Pettigrew […] is the baronet. Backing ‘stiff ’uns’ and buying diamond bracelets for retiring females have reduced his once broad lands to the size of a circus ring.
[UK]Sporting Times 8 Mar. 3/3: On a ‘stiff un’’ am I, / and Lincoln is nigh; / and then I’ll have to part / With oof!
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 15 Mar. 1/4: Early Bird says there are more stiff ’uns running in the human race than there were twenty years ago.
[UK]Sporting Times 23 June 1/1: We have weighed in with a few stiff ’uns in the forecast line.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 6 Mar. 4/1: [of a boxer] If [...] either man was ‘dead,’ the ‘stiff ’un’ would get no share of the prize money.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 13 Nov. 4/8: You're backing stiff ’uns in the Cup, / And when they finish in the ruck / You curse at your infernal luck.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘The Cost Of Living’ Sporting Times 25 June 1/3: He backed paddock snips occasionally, tipped by other Jays, / But he found that backing stiff ’uns was the very worst of ways / To net oof.
[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 10 May 20/3: Or if yer goes out racein’ / An’ a spieler ‘bites yer lug,’ / An' puts yer on a ‘stiff-'un,’ / Well, yer calls yerself a ‘mug’.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks.