Green’s Dictionary of Slang

big one n.

also big ’un

1. as quality or quantity.

(a) an important person.

[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 42: Then up rose Ward, the veteran Joe, / And ’twixt his whiffs, suggested briefly / That but A few at first, should go / And those, the light-weight Gemmen chiefly; / As if too many ‘Big ones’ went, / They might alarm the Continent!!
[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Tom and Jerry I iv: You’ve been sadly miss’d among the big ones since you’ve been away.
‘The Charity Boy’ Mr and Mrs. Jim Crow’s Collection of Songs 6: When I’m a bad boy, I’m stuck on a stool, / And like some of the big ’uns I look like a fool.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open [as cit. 1835].
[UK]C. Hindley Vocab. and Gloss. in True Hist. of Tom and Jerry 158: Big ones. Men of consequence.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 47: He wanted to be the Big One in fact as well as fancy.
[US]J. Berryman 77 Dream Songs 7: Now Henry is unmistakably a Big One. / Fu’nnee; he don’t fe’el so. / He just stuck around.

(b) (orig. US) a tall story, an exaggerated tale.

[UK]Marvel III:57 2: Lies is lies [...] and you know you’re planting a big one.
[US]L.R. Dingus ‘A Word-List From Virginia’ in DN IV:iii 181: big one, n. An incredible story; whopper. ‘Now tell us a big un, the biggest ’n you know.’.

(c) anything important.

[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 28: The first big crooked job I did in Chi was with Dora Donegan. It turned out to be a big one for me.
[US]D. Dressler Parole Chief 265: He took off the big one [i.e. a robbery], got himself a stake.
[US]R. Prather Always Leave ’Em Dying 61: This would be a big one, hot copy, a nice gruesome subject for shocked conversations.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 68: A big, fat one [i.e. winning bet] on the first try!
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 198: I hoped I could have that much class when I lost a big one.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 193: I do believe that this could be the big one.
[UK]J. Cameron Vinnie Got Blown Away 5: George I’m in a big one here.
[UK]Guardian 12 Nov. 35: You’ll be thrilled to hear I landed the big one.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 21: Most criminals go through their careers never even getting a sniff of the Big One.

2. as monetary denominations and amounts.

(a) £20, £100, £1000.

[US]H.L. Williams Ticket-of-Leave Man 26: Converting the twenty-pound ‘flash’ into cash, or as Jem would have said: ‘Planting the big ’un!’.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘To Hull and Back’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Alright Del twelve grand. Just think of it Del Boy twelve big ’uns.
[Aus]M. Walker How to Kiss a Crocodile 98: ‘We collected two big ones (I think they meant thousands) after the first hour’.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 26: If these aristos wanted to give him five big ones for a couple of sets [...] then that was fine by him.

(b) (US) $100, $1000.

[US]K. McGaffey Sorrows of a Show Girl Ch. xx: Wilbur’s got the wise guys so leary for fear he will tip his mitt and they naturally slip him a big one every time they get a chance.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Big ’un, a $1000.00 bill.
[US]Q. Reynolds Police Headquarters (1956) 283: Are you kidding? A half kilo of pure H would be worth at least fifteen big ones.
[US]P. Sann in N.Y. Post 12 Jan. n.p.: [He] lost, picking up 42 Big Ones ($42,000 that is) in consolation money [W&F].
[US]J. Scarne Complete Guide to Gambling 686: One big one – gambler’s term for $1000. [...] Other bookies may use these code words differently. A ‘big one’ might mean $100.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 238: We’ll take nine big ones [i.e. $9000] apiece and leave you the overlay.
[US]C. Loken Come Monday Morning 236: Paid me off five thou. Five big ones.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 165: One hundred big ones, Pete.
[US]J. Wambaugh Finnegan’s Week 82: The guy [...] jist handed us an envelope with five big ones in it.
[US]F.X. Toole Pound for Pound 142: It’ll cost you five big ones.

(c) (US Und.) a major and extremely lucrative coup.

[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 25: Some get ‘the big one’ (extraordinarily large theft).
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 123: Sorry, baby, I can’t take you out tonight. I got a big ’un on.

(d) (US) $1 million.

M. Spillane Delta 18: If you guarantee I can keep the forty big ones.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 44: ‘Three big ones, baby! And final cut!’ ‘Three million? You’re kidding.’.
[UK]Observer Rev. 2 Apr. 1: He’s gone walkies, they say, with five (very) big ones [...] They say he’s gone off with $5 million.

(e) (Aus.) A$1000.

[Aus]Canberra Times (ACT) 28 Oct. 40/1: Strapper Barry David Becker told the Big Philou jury, today that Leslie Edward Lewis had ‘flicked’ a note, to him in prison which read, ‘10 big ones to nod your head or know anyone who will, OK’.

(f) a large – unspecified – amount of money.

[US]D. Goines Street Players 179: I knew I’d get a big one for you, honey.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 23: I hated to disappoint him, so I tossed him a bone. After all, he was tossing me a big one.
[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 56: I can’t think of better cover for a fella who’s going to land a big ’un next week.

(g) (US) one dollar.

[US](con. 1970) J.M. Del Vecchio 13th Valley (1983) 75: My mother got ten grand for my brother. Ten thousand big ones.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skinny Dip 212: Half a million big ones ain’t a very appetizin’ option.

3. (US prison) a year in jail.

[US]M. Bodenheim Georgie May 130: Poah gal, still got three big ones to go.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 211: ‘How long you been in?’ he asked. ‘Two years.’ ‘You mean you’ve built two big ones in this jailhouse and you still don’t know when to leave your cell partner alone for a few minutes?’.

4. the penis, esp. a large penis.

[US]R. McAlmon Companion Volume 133: He looked like he’d have a big one.
[Aus](con. 1940s–60s) Hogbotel & ffuckes ‘The Good Ship Venus’ in Snatches and Lays 87: The first mate’s name was Wiggun, by God he had a big ’un.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 183: He reckoned I sucked big ones.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 73: You’re handsome man? You have big one?

5. in pl., large female breasts.

[US](con. 1920s) ‘Harry Grey’ Hoods (1953) 251: ‘I got a private party tonight.’ ‘Oh, the one with the nice – big ones.’.
[US]G. Wolff Duke of Deception (1990) 138: His wife – who wore lots of lipstick and had big ones – came around to ask for money.

6. (Aus./US prison/Und., also the big one) a long sentence; a life sentence.

[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 278: ‘Red Eye’ caught the big one in Pittsburgh [...] He’s doing it all.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 37: I knew that if I went under on the heroin charge I was in for a big one.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read How to Shoot Friends 131: His older brother Shane is in Risdon, doing the big one for murder.

7. as the big one.

(a) (US) death.

implied in get the big one
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 218: What if he still goes for his piece? I’ll hit him for the big one, in the head.

(b) a major operation.

[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 227: With the big one I’d have to mark time, more or less, until the war was over.
[UK]M. Amis Experience 246: He is going in for ‘the big one’.

(c) (US) World War I or World War II.

[US](con. early 1950s) J. Peacock Valhalla 60: Here were the offspring of those other mercenaries who had fought in Big Two who were the offspring of the mercenaries who fought in Big One.
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 186: I was in the Big One myself.
[US]T. Dorsey Stingray Shuffle 140: You ungrateful little prick! I fought in the Big One for you!...

(d) nuclear war.

[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 88: Such a great world [...] why is everyone waiting for the big one? You know, the blast.

(e) (US) a heart attack.

[US]Sanford and Son [NBC-TV] This is it! I’m havin’ the big one! [HDAS].
[US]Lyle & Golenbock Bronx Zoo 101: My mother almost had the big one when she saw me [...] flippin’ the bird in front of 40,000 people.

(f) (US) cancer.

[US]Philadelphia Inquirer (PA) 6 Feb. 19/1: The Irish belters [...] never thought they would see old Shoosh Novelli banging down a shot and a beer again. The old man has the Big One. The doctors found it in his jawbone.

(g) a very large bomb.

implied in eat the big one

In phrases

bite the big one (v.) (also suck the big one)(US)

1. to be distasteful, unpleasant, second-rate.

[US]D. Mamet Sexual Perversity in Chicago (1994) 82: I’m a big fan of society ... but this bites the big one.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Mar. 1: bite the big one – a negative expression: We’re going to have weekly quizzes – that bites the big one.
[Aus]L. Redhead Cherry Pie [ebook] I’d forgotten how awful dishpiggin’ was. It sucked alright. It sucked the big one and the huge dishwasher didn’t make it any easier.

2. to die, to suffer harm.

[US]F. Zappa ‘Filthy Habits’ [lyrics] Larry’s not with us any more. He went on. He bit the big one.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall 1: bite the big one – get injured or lose.
[US]J. Lansdale Freezer Burn 6: He’d jumped on those scamps two days after the old lady bit the big one.
Wendy Whitebread [comic bk] 7: I’m afraid I have some bad news, Wendy. Paul went and bit the big one!
buy the big one (v.)

(US) to die.

[US]J. Lansdale Savage Season (1996) 175: Old Chub [...] he bought the big one standing up for me.
eat the big one (v.)

(US) to die.

Naked Truth 31 May [Internet] Like all Americans, I wanted to see this mass murderer brought to justice (as our President had promised) and was anxiously awaiting the moment when Osama was going to eat the big one. The ‘big one’ being that 2,000lb. laser guided bomb the U.S. Air Force was about to donate to the cause of his martyrdom.
get the big one (v.)

(US) to die.

[US]D. Hammett Maltese Falcon (1965) 320: Pull a chair around. So Miles got the big one last night?
give it the big one (v.)

1. to act in a verbally aggressive manner.

[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 65: To give it the big one – 1. to boast. 2. to intimidate.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 282: Don’t be givin it the big ’un, yer greasy little arse-wipe.
[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 32: Let on [...] Just give it the big one. Really fucking let on!
[UK]I. Welsh Decent Ride 200: The Poof’s giein it the big yin aboot Jinty. — One of our scrubbers is missing, Tez .

2. to celebrate, to act in an excessive manner.

[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 111: No matter how much you feel like you want to give it the big one and that, just don’t do it.

In exclamations

eat the big one! [var. on eat me! excl.]

(US) to hell with you!

[US]Breathed Bloom County (2) n.p.: Perspicuously speaking, eat the big one, boys [HDAS].