Green’s Dictionary of Slang

balls n.

[the shape]

1. [16C+] the testicles; occas. in sing.

2. [17C; 1950s–60s] (US) the female breasts.

3. [late 19C+] courage, bravery; supposedly quintessential male qualities, but now as often applied to women.

4. [20C+] rubbish, nonsense.

5. [1930s–40s] (orig. US) nothing, absolute zero.

6. [1930s+] (US) constr. with the, a superlative, either good or bad according to context.

7. [1950s+] substance, power, strength.

8. [1950s+] synon. with arse n., e.g. work one’s balls off, put one’s balls on the line.

9. [1960s+] effrontery, gall, audacity.

10. [2000s] (US black) something excellent, wonderful; one’s preference [on bad = good model].

11. see balls-up n.

In derivatives

ball-less (adj.) [sfx -less]

[1950s+] weak, emasculated; thus ball-less wonder n., an especially weak individual.

ballsy (adj.)

1. [1960s+] tough, courageous; despite ety., used of either gender.

2. [1990s+] absurd, ridiculous.

In compounds

ball-bag (n.) (also baw-bag, baw-sack) [SE bag/bag n.1 (1a)]

[late 19C+] the scrotum; also as a term of abuse.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

ball-clanker (n.) [SE clanker]

[1960s] (US) a man who boasts, prob. groundlessly, of his sexual prowess.

ball-crusher (n.)

1. [1960s+] a dominating woman who ‘emasculates’ her partner, usu. a husband.

2. [1960s+] anything that is excessively hard or frustrating, or impressive; thus ball-crushing adj.

3. [1980s+] a sexually voracious woman who exhausts her partner’s virility.

ball-cutter (n.)

[1960s+] (US) a nagging, domineering or demanding woman.

ball-faced (adj.)

[1990s+] a general term of derision, lit. ‘testicle-faced’.

ball-gripper (n.)

[1970s+] (Aus.) something amazing, excellent.

ball-licker (n.)

[2010s] the tongue.

ball naked (adj.)

see separate entry.

balls-ache (v.)

[20C+] to nag, to whinge; thus balls-aching adj., nagging, demanding; also balls-achingly adv.

balls-ass (adj.) [-ass sfx]

[1960s+] (US) tough, masculine, courageous.

ball slap (v.)

[1990s+] of a man, to have sexual intercourse.

balls naked (adj.)

see separate entry.

balls out (adv.) [the implication is that one is willing to risk injuring the genitals]

[1940s+] at full tilt, absolutely committed, all out; thus as adj.

ball-tearer (n.)

1. [1950s+] (orig. US) usu. of a woman, esp. a wife, a nag.

2. [1950s+] anything spectacular or notably impressive.

3. [1960s+] (Aus.) a physically demanding task.

4. [1970s] (Aus.) a violent person.

5. an admirable individual.

6. [1980s] (Aus.) a major problem, an exasperation.

In phrases

all balls (and bang-me-arse) (n.)

[1940s+] nonsense.

as balls (adv.)

[2000s+] (US) in lit. or fig. use, a general intensifier.

balls and all

[20C+] (orig. US) a general intensifer; everything; completely.

balls it (v.)

[2000s] (UK drugs) to hide drugs beneath the scrotum.

balls to the wall(s) [seen as a coarse version of SE back(s) to the wall; but actually from US Air Force sl.: see article by Jesse Sheidlower at]

1. [1960s+] all-out, at maximum speed, with one’s greatest effort; as a general exhortative phr. but also as an adv. and adj.

2. [1970s+] (US campus) of a situation or period of time, tense or frantic.

3. [2000s] (US campus) drinking with the intention of getting drunk.

balls-to-the-wind (adv.)

[1980s+] (US) at top speed.

bet one’s balls (v.) (also bet one’s hairy balls)

[1940s–80s] (Aus./US) to be very certain.

blue balls (n.)

1. [1910s+] a feeling of intense sexual frustration, also attrib.; thus have blue balls, of a man, to be very sexually frustrated; cite 1956 used of a woman.

2. [1920s+] a venereal bubo.

3. [1920s+] (US) gonorrhoea.

break one’s balls (v.) (also bust one’s balls) [1960s+] (orig. US)

1. to make a great effort; to work very hard, esp. at a physically demanding task (cf. bust a nut under nut n.3 ).

2. to meet with disaster.

break someone’s balls (v.) (also bust someone’s balls) [1940s+] (orig. US)

1. (also break balls) to attack verbally, to persecute, to harass.

2. to attack physically.

3. (also break balls) to complain to someone, to nag someone.

4. to exhaust sexually.

5. to exhaust physically.

de-ball (v.) (also de-balls) [SE pfx de-]

[1950s+] to castrate, lit. and fig.; thus deballed adj.

do one’s balls (v.)

[2010s] (Aus.) to gamble, the implication being to lose.

do one’s balls on (v.)

[late 19C+] of a man, to fall obsessively in love with.

dry balls (n.)

[1920s–40s] (US) an impotent man [i.e. they have ‘dried up’].

get one’s balls in an uproar (v.)

[1910s+] to become excited or agitated.

get one’s balls off (v.)

[1970s+] (orig. US) of a man, to achieve orgasm.

have balls (on one) like a scoutmaster (v.)

[1930s+] (Can./N.Z.) to have large testicles.

have one’s balls in the fire (v.)

1. [1960s] (US) to be in serious trouble.

2. [1970s+] (US) to take a major risk.

have one’s balls twisted (v.)

[1970s] to be stupid but outspoken.

have one’s balls under one’s chin (v.)

[1930s–60s] (US) to be terrified.

have someone/something by the balls (v.) (also have someone/something by the ass, the ballocks, the bollix, the bollocks, the cobblers, the crotch, the knackers, …by the left tit, the leg, the nuts, …by the screws, …by the seat/slack of their pants, hold by the balls)

[late 19C+] to have someone at one’s mercy, at a complete disadvantage.

have someone’s balls (for a game of pool) (v.) (also have someone’s balls for a bow tie, have someone’s balls for breakfast, have someone’s balls sautéed, have someone’s butt on a biscuit for breakfast)

[1960s+] to treat very harshly, to punish comprehensively.

have swollen balls for (v.)

[1980s+] (US prison) to lust after.

his balls are bigger than his brains (also more balls than brains)

[1940s+] said of a man who rushes into situations without thinking.

knock someone’s balls off (v.)

[1960s+] to astonish, to amaze.

man with the fuzzy balls (n.) [note the theory that fuzz n.1 derives from this] [1950s–80s]

1. (US black) a white man.

2. (US) an expert, an accomplished person.

no sweat off one’s balls

see under sweat n.

old balls (n.)

[1940s] a man, not always pej.

one-ball (adj.)

[1960s] (US gang) of a man, weak, worthless.

on someone’s balls (adj.)

[2000s+] (Uk black teen) scolding, pressurizing.

put balls on (v.) (also put hair on)

[1950s+] to make more emphatic, more effective.

put someone’s balls in a knot (v.)

[1930s+] (Aus.) to discomfit, to embarrass, to irritate.

put someone’s balls in the fire (v.)

[1960s] (US) to agitate or excite someone.

shoot balls (v.)

[20C+] (W.I.) to talk nonsense.

swing on someone’s balls (v.)

[2000s] (US black) of a woman, to be sexually obsessed with a man.

to the balls (adv.)

[1930s+] (US) completely, to the utmost.

wear someone’s balls for a necktie (v.)

[1920s+] used as a threat of violence, e.g. try that again and I’ll wear...