Green’s Dictionary of Slang

patsy n.1

[the stock minstrel show character Patsy Bolivar/Bolliver etc., orig in mid 19C; Patsy is the school dunce who in skits is regularly scapegoated for the sins of others, and duly punished; prob. underpinned by the popular Irish name Patrick; hence negative stereotyping]

1. a fool, a dupe, a scapegoat.

[US]W.J. Kountz Billy Baxter’s Letters 54: Well, that thing you get in your breast is what we experts call the love lump, and you were placing yourself in a position to later on become a kind of Patsy to that girl.
[US]Ade Girl Proposition 54: Among the Town Boys he was regarded as a hot Patsy. [Ibid.] 122: He was getting good and sore on the Patsy Bolivar Job.
[UK]Sporting Times 15 Apr. 2/3: Although old Daddy Mills had been a warmish patsy all his life, he had always contrived to steer clear of the police.
[US]Ade Knocking the Neighbors 122: [They] hailed him as the Champion Patsy.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 76: Sometimes they ask him to come back and be the Village Patsy once more.
[US]J. Lait Put on the Spot 59: You give me the toughest job, blowing up that plant [...] I’m the patsy for the mob.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 152: You are known [...] as a patsy, a quick push, a big softie.
[US]R. Prather Always Leave ’Em Dying 116: Who did the Guardians accuse? Me, the made-to-order patsy.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn 207: Harry, in addition to all the other functions he served, was their builtin patsy.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 122: We know they used you as a patsy.
[US]R. Campbell Alice in La-La Land (1999) 127: You’re every hustler’s patsy.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 3 July 10: The ‘mark’ is the victim, the target, the patsy, that poor trusting fool.
Emerson Damerson in Dusted Mag. at 🌐 As capitalism and debauchery proceeded from flirtation to full-tilt codependency, the media needed a patsy. The dew was scapegoated for political reasons outside the scope of, uh, a record review.
[US]W. Ellis Crooked Little Vein 233: Ronald Reagan was no goddamned good to anyone [...] He was only ever useful as a patsy.
[US]J. MacArthur ‘Jack Rabbit Slim’s Cellar’ in Pulp Ink [ebook] Patsy. Uncle Jack was the only one I’d ever heard use that term. After he came home from being whipped at bingo.
[US]D. Winslow Border [ebook] I’m not interested in sending a few patsies to Club Fed for a few years.
[UK]J. Meades Empty Wigs (t/s) 326: [T]he last thing I wanted was letting on I’d been taken for a patsy.

2. a novice, an incompetent; thus attrib.

[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ You Should Worry cap. 1: We're not a couple of Patsys with the pumps! We can learn enough in two lessons to make good in this Boob community.
J.B. Holway Josh & Satch xi: And this is not against patsy black pitching. Josh hit five homers in 61 at bats against Dizzy Dean, Johnny VanderMeer and other white big leaguers.

3. attrib. use of sense 1.

[UK]A. Christie Murder Is Announced (1958) 51: The kind of little patsy thief who might easily lose his nerve.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 22 July 4: The Daily Mail did not live up to its reputation as the blue party’s patsy paper.

4. (US und.) in ext. use of sense 1, the confederate who poses as a simpleton/member of the public at corrupt games of chance.

[US]‘John Eagle’ Hoodlums (2021) 138: [T]o Kirk he was the pimp in all the doorways, the patsy at the sideshows, the shill over the green baize tables.