Green’s Dictionary of Slang

claw n.

1. a hand, a finger.

[UK]Tom Tyler & his Wife (1661) in Farmer Two Tudor ‘Shrew’ Plays (1908) 40: When I come in her claws, She guides me for ever.
[UK]Fletcher Chances V iii: Now the Devil indeed Lay his ten Claws upon thee.
[UK]J. Taylor ‘World runnes on Wheeles’ in Works (1869) II 239: If I saw any of my acquaintance [...] I would stand vp, vailing my Bonnet, kissing my right claw, extending my armes as if I had been swimming.
[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds ‘The House Breaker’s Song’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 122: Let Davy’s dust and a well-faked claw / For fancy coves be the only law.
[UK]R. Barham ‘The Merchant of Venice’ Ingoldsby Legends (1842) 51: But Antonio, like most of those sage ‘Johnny Raws’ [...] They have never experienced a gripe from his claws.
[US]R.G. Porter ‘The Snapping Turtle’ Southern Journal Monticelllo, Missip. 13 Mar. 1: You didn’t know I carried a snappin turtle in my pocket, did you? I guess you didn’t, or you wouldn’t ha’ poked your dirty claw right into its mouth that ere way!
[UK]E.B. Christy Box and Cox in Darkey Drama 6 9: Nuff ced – gib us yer claw (they shake hands).
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 458: I’ll make’em eat their pistols and bowie-knives ef I gets my claws on’em.
[UK]Sporting Times 8 Mar. 2/1: That grabber’s claw went out for those six nice little fivers, but simultaneously there shot out three nice little hard boxwood rakes from our side of the table.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Crab’ Big League (2004) 11: The old Crab was on the bench with ossification of the right claw.
[US]F. Packard Adventures of Jimmie Dale (1918) I ix: Who’s ter know youse gets yer claws on it?
[UK]P. Cheyney Dames Don’t Care (1960) 128: I am just goin’ to do a little quiet house-bustin’ just to see if i can get my claws on somethin’ that I would like very much to find.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Seraph on the Suwanee (1995) 614: She reached up a freckled old claw and flung back the bib part of her floppy calico bonnet.
[US]J. Thompson Getaway in Four Novels (1983) 61: Get that red paint off your claws. It’s making me sick.
[US]M. Rumaker Exit 3 and Other Stories 109: Take your clammy claw off me, blueboy.
[Aus]J. Alard He who Shoots Last 96: Wot d’ya wants me to do? Stand in da corner wif a glass of mudder and daughter in me claw?
[Aus]B. Humphries Traveller’s Tool 36: Most of us appreciate cash in the claw.
[UK]D. Jarman letter 22 May Smiling in Slow Motion (2000) 130: Then he got his claws round the mirror and ripped it clean off the wall.

2. (UK prison) a blow with a whip; usu. as claws for breakfast

[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.

3. (US Und.) the member of a pickpocket team who actually steals.

[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 24: claw [...] Current amongst pickpockets. The [...] expert operator in a ‘gun mob’ who lifts the money and valuable collateral from the victim’s person. Example: ‘Our mob is working under one of the speediest claws in the country.’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 44/2: Claw. The skilled pickpocket in a gang.

4. (US Und.) a police officer.

[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.

In compounds

claw-back (n.) [he or she metaphorically ‘claws’ at one’s back. Note obs. SE claw, to flatter, to wheedle, to cajole]

a sycophant, a toady.

H. Latimer 2nd Sermon before Edward VI (Arb.) 64: These flattering clawbackes are originall rotes of all mischyue .
[UK]J. Higgins et al. Mirror for Magistrates (1815) 73: And I had clawbackes even in Court full rife, / Which sought by mine outrages gaines to winne.
[UK]Davies of Hereford Vpon Eng. Prouerbes 49/2: Whores are still Clawbacks to knaues but for lack: Who stil claw their bellyes as they claw their backe.
[UK]J. Hall Discovery of New World Bk 2 184: Your Spanish Mimike is a meere ninnihammer vnto these Clawback-courtiers.
[UK]J. Withals Dictionarie in Eng. and Latine 314: A Pick-thank, or claw-back, Adulator.
[UK]Urquhart (trans.) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1927) I Bk III 451: These are my Flatterers, [...] my Clawbacks, my Saluters.
[UK]R. Nares Gloss. (1888) I 165: claw-back. One who scratches another’s back. Metaphorically, a flatterer.
claw-buttock (n.)

the penis.

[UK]Urquhart (trans.) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1927) I Bk I 44: And some of the other women would give these names, my Roger, my cockatoo, my nimble-wimble, bush-beater, claw-buttock, evesdropper, pick-lock, pioneer, bully-ruffin, smell-smock, trouble-gusset, my lusty live sausage.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
claw-poll (n.) [he or she metaphorically ‘claws’ at one’s SE poll, hair. Note obs. SE claw, to flatter, to wheedle, to cajole]

a sycophant, a toady.

[UK]R. Grafton Chronicle at Large (1809) I 601: Certeine Claw-poules & Parasites, commonly called Titiuils, and tale tellers.

In phrases

claws for breakfast (n.)

(UK prison) a judicial whipping.

[UK]J. Greenwood Seven Curses of London 89: Whipping while in prison – scroby or claws for breakfast.
[UK]J. Greenwood In Strange Company 131: A ruffian, being uncertain as to the morning when he is to have, as he himself would say, ‘claws for breakfast,’ is in the habit of lying night after night in a sweat of terror.
[UK]J. Greenwood Tag, Rag & Co. 222: No day or hour is mentioned for it at the time at which a man receives his sentence when he is to have ‘claws for breakfast,’ as it is called.
[Aus]D.V. Lucas Aus. and Homeward 335: Some of their slang may be interesting [...] whipping while in prison, claws for breakfast.
have the claw (v.)

(Aus.) to be ruined, to be finished, to be irreparably damaged.

[Aus]R. Beckett Dinkum Aussie Dict. 28: Had the claw: Something or someone is buggered. Normally used in reference to a piece of machinery which will no longer work as in, ‘Sorry, mate, but your washing machine’s had the bloody claw.’ Pieces of machinery can also be deemed to have had the ‘sword’, ‘Richard’ or ‘Dick’.