Green’s Dictionary of Slang

square adj.

1. [mid-17C+] of a thing, honest, truthful, fair [prior use SE from 16C].

2. [19C+] of a person, honest, respectable, upright.

3. [mid-19C+] (UK/US Und.) dependable, honest; as sense 1 but from a criminal standpoint.

4. [mid-19C] (US) substantial.

5. [mid-19C] (US) of a drink, unadulterated by water.

6. [mid-19C–1910s] (Aus.) safe.

7. [mid-19C+] (also squared) sorted out, dealt with, settled, even.

8. [late 19C+] sober.

9. [1910s] (Aus.) of a woman, ostensibly respectable but occasionally indulging in extra-marital or commercial sex.

10. [1930s+] correct, real.

11. [1930s+] (orig. US black) conventional, conservative, naïve, dull.

12. [1940s] (US black campus) cheap.

13. [1960s] heterosexual.

In derivatives

squaredom (n.)

[1950s+] (orig. US) the world of the unsophisticated, the unworldly; the state of being in that world.

squareness (n.)

1. honesty.

2. [1930s+] (orig. US black) conventionality, dullness.

squaresville (n.) [square n. (3b) + -ville sfx1 ]

1. [1950s+] (US black/teen) a conventional and thus boring place, person or event.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

In compounds

square affair (n.) (also square bit, square piece) [SE affair/bit n.1 (2a)/piece n. (1a)]

[late 19C–1910s] one’s regular girlfriend.

square article (n.)

[early 19C] (UK Und.) anything one has purchased or otherwise acquired honestly.

square-ass (adj.) (also square-assed) [-ass sfx/-assed sfx]

[1940s+] (US black) unsophisticated, naïve, ‘straight’; also as n., a ‘straight’ person.

square-ball (adj.)

[1950s] (US) conventional.

squarebrain (n.) [sfx -brain]

[1940s–50s] (US black) a conventional person, a fool, a dullard, with overtones of conservatism.

square business (n.) (also square biz)

[1970s+] (US black/prison) honesty, truth; often affixed to a declaratory sentence as a means of emphasizing the speaker’s sincerity.

square concern (n.)

1. [early 19C] (UK Und.) anything one has purchased or otherwise acquired honestly.

2. honest dealings .

square deal (n.) (also square dealing) [SE deal; see Asbury Sucker’s Progress (1938): ‘An extraordinary number of the terms, technical and otherwise, which were employed by Faro players in the palmy days of the game have passed into the language [...] Square deal — Twenty-five turns in which the dealer used a pack with squared edges. With these cards the chances of a crooked deal were minimized’]

[mid-19C+] (orig. US) honest treatment, a proper business deal, a good bargain etc.


see separate entries.

square john

see separate entries.

square ken (n.)

[late 19C] (UK tramp) a private house whose owners are known to be generous to vagrants.

square plug (n.) [SE plug, which does not ‘fit in the round hole’ of criminality]

1. [1910s–40s] (US Und.) a ‘civilian’ who admires and mingles with criminals but lacks the courage or desire actually to commit a crime.

2. [1920s+] (US Und.) a prisoner who is not a professional criminal.

square rigger/-rigged

see separate entries.

square setting (n.) [set n.2 (1b)]

[1950s–60s] (US black) a respectable party, without drugs, loud music etc.

square shake (n.) [SE shake (of the dice)]

[1930s+] (US) a fair deal, honest treatment.

square shooter/-shooting

see separate entries.

In phrases

get square (with) (v.)

[late 19C] to get even (with).

on the square (also upon the square) [? Masonic jargon]

1. [mid-19C+] honest, truthful, fair.

2. [mid-17C+] in an honest manner, truthfully.

3. [late 17C+] living an honest, law-abiding (and tedious) life.

4. [late 17C–early 19C] having revenged oneself, ‘even’ with someone.

5. [early 19C] having settled all debts with someone.

6. [mid-19C+] (US Und.) trustworthy (to condone or perform illegal acts).

7. [20C+] (Aus.) conducting a regular monogamous relationship.

8. [1920s] accurate.

square as a billiard ball (adj.) (also square as a brick, ...a golf ball, ...a tennis ball)

[1940s–50s] (Aus.) anything but honest or ‘square’, whether morally, sexually or otherwise.

square as a brick (adv.)

[mid-19C] (US) in an exemplary manner.

square Jane, non nonsense (adj.)

[1910s-40s] (Aus.) orderly, lacking adornment (possibly through poverty); emotionally cold; also as n.

square to the wood (adj.)

[1940s+] (US black) extremely respectable, conservative, naïve.

square with (adj.) [19C+]

1. honest, honourable.

2. making amends with, made up with, even with.

turn square (v.) (also turn square-guy)

[mid-19C–1940s] of a criminal, to reform, to join the world of the law-abiding.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

square eyes (n.)

[1960s+] one who watches an excess of TV and who, supposedly, develops eyes the same shape as the screen; thus square-eyed adj., obsessed with watching television.

square face (n.) [the shape of the bottle]

1. [late 19C–1920s] gin.

2. [late 19C] (US) rum.


see separate entries.

square mackerel (n.) [sea-borne smuggling of marijuana]

[1980s+] (drugs) marijuana.

square pair (n.) (also windows) [i.e. ‘four by four’]

[2000s] (US) the throw of double-four (eight) in craps dice.

square party (n.) [the four sides of the ‘square’]

[1920s] two pairs of married people indulging in a wife-swapping party.

square rigger (n.)

see separate entry.

square toes (n.) [his chosen, old-fashioned style of footwear]

[mid-18C–mid-19C] an old man; a father.