Green’s Dictionary of Slang

little adj.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

Little Africa (n.)

(US) the black area of a town or city.

[US]Tunkhannock Republican (PA) 6 May 3/4: ‘Little Africa’ was shaken to its very centre [...] on the occasion of a grand dance at the house of Chauncey Wright. The ‘boys’ did not behave very well.
[US]Brooklyn Dly Eagle (NY) 18 Aug. 4/4: The central portion of Thompson street, New York, known as little Africa, on account of the number of negroes who inhabit [...] the street.
[US]Sedalia Democrat (Sedalia, MS) 8 Oct. 4/3: It consists of a town of some three or four humndred colored people , and it rejoices in several euphenious and classic appellations, such as Lincolnville, Niggertown, Darkeytown, and Little Africa.
[US]Dallas Morning News 25 Nov. 6: The French colony [...] is situated below Washington Square [NYC], in and about Bleecker street and very near to ‘Little Africa,’ where the colored people reside.
[US]Phila. Inquirer (PA) 31 May 4/8: [O]n Bainbridge street in ‘Little Africa’ had been a funeral from one of the many homes of colored people [and] a group of pickaninnies [...] repeated the performance.
[US]N.Y. Times 12 July 9/5: [headline] Disinfecting Corps of Health Department in ‘Little Africa’ / Colored Tenants in Houses Give No Trouble.
[US]Brooklyn Dly Eagle (NY) 6 July 19/3: Chicago, July 6 — ‘Little Africa’ [...] was so boisterous Monday night after news of Jack Johnson’s victory.
[US]Morn. Tulsa Dly World (OK) 5 Dec. A7/1: [headline] Uplift Work in Little Africa / Colored people Receive Good Measure of Attention.
[US]Delaware Co. Dly Times (Chester, PA) 1 Aug. 6/3: ‘Little Africa,’ as the northwestern section of the Borough of manhattan is now known (the older New Yorkers still call it Harlem).
[US]Cincinnati Enquirer (OH) 20 Mar. 2/5: [of Lousiville, KY] ‘I represent more than 200,000 people in my district, including a section known as little Africa.
[US]Courier-Jrnl (Louisville, KY) 30 May sect. 4 6/6: A large amount of vacant land, including many cvaguely titled shacks and shanties, is available in ‘Little Africa’ in Southwest Louisville.
Little Barbary (n.)

see separate entry.

little black book (n.)

1. (US Und.) police files, kept secret.

[US]C.G. Givens ‘Chatter of Guns’ in Sat. Eve. Post 13 Apr.; list extracted in AS VI:2 (1930) 133: little black book, n.phr. Secret police records.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

2. the volume in which every bachelor supposedly keeps lists of available and willing women; also fig. as any address book.

[US]E. Gilbert Vice Trap 24: The heat working off my little black book you know, all those numbers.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 170: Joyless bed-hopping? Tell that to the hundreds of conquests noted in the little black book I now liked to keep.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 140: People of your type know people who know people [...] I want to see your little black book.
little black father (n.)

a quart jug.

[UK]Vidocq Memoirs (trans. W. McGinn) III 55: Come here daddy Guillotin; a little black father, four year old, for eight mag (A four quart jug for eight sous).
little boys’ room (n.) (also little boys’)

(orig. US) a coy euph. for a men’s lavatory.

Indianapolis News 26 Mar. sect. 2 7/4: The tinest member of the troupe was not quite housebroken [...] so before every performance he was escorted to the little boys’ room.
[US](con. 1944) J.H. Burns Gallery (1948) 155: It burns me to haveta shell out five francs to some old doll every time I take a notion to relieve myself in the little boys’ room.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1968) 246: I am returning from The Lulu or Johny or Little Boy’s Room.
[US]L. Bruce How to Talk Dirty 152: Excuse me, where’s the little boys’ room?
[US]K. Brasselle Cannibals 343: I excused myself to leave for the little boys’ room.
[UK]J. McDonald Dict. of Obscenity etc.
[US]S. King Dreamcatcher 495: We had better hurry along to the little boys’ room.
[US]J. Stahl Pain Killers 33: Scuse me, the little boys’ is this a-way.
little breeches (n.) (also little britches) [UK use ends/US commences in mid-19C]

an affectionate term of address to a small boy; or a term of abuse.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Little breeches, a familar appellation.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]W.J. Neale Paul Periwinkle 337: What! you mean Little-breeches, the skipper, what I call Mounseer?
[UK]Bradford Obs. 5 Jan. 6/3: We looked in [...] and thar sot Little Breeches [...] As pert as ever you see.
[US]G.D. Chase ‘Cape Cod Dialect’ in DN II:v 299: little breeches, Epithet of a small boy.
little britches (n.) [ety. unknown]

1. (US gambling) the point of three in craps dice or a three in cards.

[US]Z.N. Hurston Mules and Men (1995) 140: A frenzied slapping of cards on the table. ‘Ha! we caught little britches!’ (low) ‘Pull off again!’.

2. see little breeches

little brother (n.)

see separate entry.

little casino (n.)

see separate entry.

little deers (n.) [double pun on little dear and deer as a fem. version of stag n.4 (1), i.e. the single men who frequent the theatre]

young women who are involved in some way with the stage.

[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 169/1: Little deers (Soc. Anglo-American). Young women – generally associated, or declaring themselves to be associated, with the stage. New spelling of ‘ dears’ to form a feminine to stags.
little Dick (n.)

(US gambling) in craps, the point of four.

[UK]C. Cotton Compleat Gamester 170: [of Hazzard] Four and Five to Seven is judged to have the worst on’t, because Four (called by the Tribe of Nickers little Dick-Fisher) and Five have but two chances, Trey Ace and two Deuces, or Trey Deuce and Quarter Ace.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Little Dick, a 4 in craps.
[US] ‘Animated Dominoes, Dice’ at Old and Sold [Internet] Some of the best-known nicknames in dice are: [...] Little Dick, Little Joe, Little Joe from Baltimore, Little Joe from Kokomo: the total of four.
Little Dublin (n.)

see separate entry.

little eight (n.)

(Aus.) a regular per diem payment.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Feb. 12/3: The publican must take his chance; / The church some one must pay, / You know the parson’s got to get / His ‘little eight’ a day. [Ibid.] 28 Feb. 12/1: Droop not; for, till the fatal fray, / You’ll get your ‘little eight’ a day; / Your rum and beer to warm each heart, / And not a single cent to part.
little eva (n.)

1. (US black) a loud-mouthed white woman.

[US]C. Major Juba to Jive.

2. (US) used to reinforce a negative statement [f. sense 1].

[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 368: Oh sure, the Commandant is watching this outfit . . . bullcrap, little Eva.
little four (n.)

(US gambling) the point of four in craps dice.

[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 6: Little Four has little going for him.
little friend (n.) [the ref. is to the welcome appearance of a period as a sign that, had one been worried, one was not pregnant]

(orig. Can./Aus.) menstruation; thus my little friend has come, I am menstruating.

[US]Trimble 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.
[US]J. Randall ‘A Visit from Aunt Rose’ in Verbatim XXV:1 Winter 25: Generally the period takes on the identity of a friend or relative, usually female, who comes for a visit: my friend, my little friend, my aunt, my grandmother, Mother Nature.
little girls’ (room) (n.) (also l.g.r.)

a coy euph. for the ladies’ lavatory.

[US] in P. Smith Letter from My Father (1978) 323: Being in the ‘little girls room’ with a female.
[US]W.P. McGivern ‘Manchu Terror’ in Goodstone Pulps (1970) 27/1: The little girl’s room is up there.
[US]J.D. Salinger Catcher in the Rye (1958) 79: She kept saying these very corny, boring things, like calling the can the ‘little girls’ room’.
[UK]J. Orton Diaries (1986) 18 Dec. 102: I [...] woke up to hear an American woman saying ‘I’m going to the ‘little girls’.’.
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 49: ‘Going to Mary’s room’ or ‘going to visit Mary’ or ‘aunty’ are examples of a range of euphemisms used by some women [...] The ‘little girls’ room’ is still heard of.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall 5: LGR – little girls’ room.
Tom of Cheyenne ‘Flo Flea’s Wild Ride’ BarnYarns [Internet] Well, the man’s old lady was just coming from the little girl’s room when she saw her old man get whomped.
little go (n.)

see separate entries.

little grey cells (n.) (also little gray cells) [coined by crime writer Agatha Christie in The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) and always associated with her fictional sleuth Hercule Poirot]

the human brain.

[UK]A. Christie Mysterious Affair at Styles (1954) 145: ‘The affair must all be unravelled from within.’ He tapped his forehead. ‘These little grey cells. It is “up to them” – as you say over here.’.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 23 June 11/3: ‘It would seem that derangement of the little grey cells is not confined to one person in this room,’ commented Dr Phillippe.
[UK]A. Christie Murder in the Mews (1954) 36: I always thought it was the little grey cells of the brain.
[UK]Post 18 Aug. 8/3: How many seconds might be expected to elapse before the Lieutentant-Colonel’s little grey cells began to work.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves in the Offing 30: Being fairly well fixed with the little grey cells.
[US]K. Brasselle Cannibals 106: Ballantine has the balls and the little gray cells.
[UK]‘John le Carré’ Smiley’s People 231: Just working it, you see, George [...] Just getting my ducks in a row. Haven’t got your little grey cells.
little house (n.)

see separate entry.

Little India (n.)

see separate entry.

little Joe (n.) (also joe, little Joe from Baltimore, little Joe from Kokomo)

(US gambling) the point of four in craps dice, esp. as two twos.

[US]J.P. Quinn Fools of Fortune 540: The quaint expressions of [...] ‘little Joe,’ ‘big Dick from Boston,’ and the like.
[US]Ade Pink Marsh (1963) 219: I had ’em comin’ good, but little Joe use me bad, an’ somebody get in hosses.
[US]Crowe & Chase Pat Crowe, Aviator 87: You probably recall the thrilling adventures of Snake Eyes, Little Joe, Phoebe Snow, Ada from Decatur, Richard the Great, and Box Cars.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 13 Nov. 9/4: In the language of the [craps] players four is ‘Little Joe’.
[US]Bridgeport (CT) Telegram 21 Nov. 4/5: De dice am clickin’ so fast you’d think you was in a telegraph office, and Nappy makes ebery point on de dice and some dat wasn’t on ’em – Little Joe, Feber in de South, Five and a Half, Sixty Days, Two Months and a Half, Eighter From Decatur, Eight and Three Quarters, Three Boxcars and the Caboose.
[US]Wash. Post 3 oct. B8/6: Two is ‘Snake-eyes,’ and four is ‘Little Joe.’.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 11: There it was, Little Joe or Phoebe, Big Dick or Eighter from Decatur, double trey the hard way.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 26: Little Joe for poppa, once, dice.
[US]Hughes & Bontemps Book of Negro Folklore 202: 4 – Little Joe.
[US]J. Scarne Complete Guide to Gambling 684: Little Joe or Little Joe from Kokomo – Craps: the point four.
[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 6: Joe, of course, is the lowest point on the dice. Above it are Phoebe Five (a hard gal to know), Easy Six (three combinations) [etc.].
[US]‘Richard Hooker’ M*A*S*H (2004) 133: ‘The Duke’s trying to make a four.’ [...] ‘Little Joe,’ Duke begged the dice.
[US]Ice Cube ‘It Was a Good Day’ [lyrics] Shake em up, shake em up, shake em up, shake em [...] do’ lil Joe I picked up the cash flow .
[US]Word for the Wise 31 Aug. [US radio script] Next on our countdown is a roll of five [...] Then comes four, with the mysterious nickname Little Joe.
[US] ‘Animated Dominoes, Dice’ at Old and Sold [Internet] Some of the best-known nicknames in dice are: [...] Little Dick, Little Joe, Little Joe from Baltimore.
little john (n.) [ety. unknown]

(N.Z. drugs) a cannabis cigarette made from two papers.

Stoners’ Dict. [Internet] Little John [NZ] a two-paper joint.
little joker (n.)

(US) the pea or similar object used in the shell game.

[US]N.Y. Daily Trib. 7 June 2/5: One verdant [...] lost $290 and his gold watch on the ‘little joker,’ [...] but . . . there was very little sympathy expressed for one fool enough to risk his money on the thimbles.
[US]Calif. Police Gazette 16 Jan. 3/2: We are of the opinion that there was some hocus pocus in the case, but we did not see where the ‘little joker’ was, at least not closely enough to swear to it.
little josie (n.) (also little josephine) [var. on little Joe ]

(gambling) the point of four in craps dice.

A. Baer in Atlanta Constitution 23 Nov. A2/4: The girls have their own labels for the points. Four is Little Josephine.
R. Chandler Notebks (1976) 59: 4 Little Josie 5 Five in the South.
little mama (n.)

(US black) an attractive black woman.

[US]Joe Du’Ambra [song title] Come Back A-Little Mama.
[US]Roy Orbison [song title] Mean Little Mama.
[US]Aaron Neville ‘Sweet Little Mama’ [lyrics] There’s a new girl in my neighborhood / She’s a sweet little thing, she looks real good / She gets everybody’s attention around / They call her sweet little mama.
[US]C. Major Juba to Jive 286: Little mama n. (1800s–1950s) a black girl, usually attractive.
little man (n.)

see separate entry.

[? rhy. sl. little Mary Kelly = belly] little Mary (n.)

the stomach.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 7 May 4/7: ‘Little Marys’ on Sundays will suffer, alack, / They won’t be well lined as they uster.
[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 31 Jan. 8/8: So if you’d your little Mary / Give a gastronomic treat [etc.].
[Aus]Central Qld Herald (Rockhampton) 6 Sept. 12/2: Tummy, bingey, bread-basket, Little Mary for stomach.
little nigger (n.)

(US) in poker, a game in which the low spade splits the pot.

[US]Maledicta III:2 170: nigger, little n Poker game in which low spade splits the pot.
little one (n.)

(US) the penis.

[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 184: The girl makes my little one stand up. [...] And salute!
little pal (n.)

(US) a pretty young woman.

[US]R.J. Fry Salvation of Jemmy Sl. II i: I got a date tonight with the swellest little jane in this town — a regular good little pal — a humdinger — a peach!
little ploughman (n.) [? pun on SE plough/plough v. (1)]

the clitoris.

[US]Maledicta IV:2 (Winter) 1834: Some terms that have survived this ignorance include little man in the boat (or boy in the boat), little ploughman.
little (red) wagon (n.)

1. (US tramp) a dump truck.

[US]‘Dean Stiff’ Milk and Honey Route 209: Little red wagon — a dump wagon.

2. (US black, also red wagon) a problem, a difficulty; usu. in the phr. that’s your little red wagon.

Yazoo Herald (MS) 30 Dec. 3/1: ‘One of the men at the plant got arrested’ [...] ‘That wasn’t your little red wagon,’ I announced rather cooly.
[US]R. Fisher Conjure-Man Dies (1992) 20: ‘Why’ and ‘who’ — those’ll be your little red wagon. ‘How’ right now is mine.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 284: DeWitt was too busy hauling that little red wagon of piled-up woes.
[US](con. 1930s) R. Wright Lawd Today 18: That’s just your little red wagon then!
[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2 33: Little red wagon, n. Social problem — Living in Watts is your little wagon.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 17: I don’t believe you got no five kids, neither, but if you do that’s your red wagon.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 210: Okay, tiger, it’s your red wagon.
[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 220: If you go out there and git a big belly, it’ll be your lil’ red wagon.
little shot (n.) [reverse of big shot n. (1)]

(US) an insignificant person.

[US]A.B. Reeve Golden Age Crime 115: The millennium of Prohibition has passed for the Little Shots [DA].
[US]Time 19 Sept. 11/1: Maragon ‘continued to live like a little shot in a lower-middle-brow home in McLean, Va.’ [DA].
little snakesman (n.) (also little nake, snake) [SE little + snakesman under snake n.1 ; the twisting and turning of the boy in his actions]

(UK Und.) a small boy in a gang of burglars who is put through a narrow opening into a house, then lets the gang in.

[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 82: Little Snakes-Man is a rig practised in the following manner. A very small boy is carried by a gang of fellows in the dead of night to a house, the sink-hole of which they have already observed open. When this gang is pretty certain that the family is in bed, they dispatch their ambassador, the boy, or Little Snakesman, to obtain their admittance [...] After the robbery is completed, the Little Snakesman fastens the door thro’ which the gang have departed; and then turns, winds, and twists himself out in the same manner that he entered.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 82: snake A fellow that glides into a store or warehouse, and conceals himself for the purpose of letting in his companions.
[UK]Worcs. Chron. 3 Oct. 4/1: A little thief who passes through a small hole to let in the gang — little snakesman.
[UK]J. Greenwood Seven Curses of London 89: A boy thief, lithe and thin and daring, such a one as housebreakers hire for the purpose of entering a small window at the rear of a dwelling house – a little snakesman.
[Aus]Australiasian (Melbourne) 17 July 8/5: A crowbar is a jemmy and jilt. The boy who is put in at the window to open the door is called a little snake.
[UK]Sussex Advertiser 23 June 4/6: Well, there’s a little snakesman wanted for a job out at Morningside, and I’ve agreed to supply you, Sparrow.
[US]Dly Dispatch (Richmond, VA) 1 Nov. 3/3: A ‘snake’ sneaks into a house and conceals himself.
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]R.T. Hopkins Life and Death at the Old Bailey 63: The following crook’s words and phrases date from the days of the old Old Bailey: [...] a little thief passed through a small hole to let in the gang – little snakes-man.
little whack (n.) [SE little + whack n.2 (1)]

a small measure of spirits.

[UK]Besant & Rice Golden Butterfly I 95: He was accustomed to call at the house every day about noon, accompanied by two gentlemen, who had their little whack. [...] ‘Little whack!’ thought Phyllis, ‘Little glass!’.
little wheel (n.) [play on big wheel under big adj.]

(US) a secondary rank of gang leader; one who has power but remains less important than an actual boss.

[US]Call (Schuylkill Haven, PA) 12 Sept. 3/1: You are only a little wheel in the rotation of the state machine.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 35: A Back Room for big and little wheels.

In phrases

little bit of eyes right (n.) [milit. play on bit of all right, a phr.]

(Aus.) a woman, usu. attractive.

[Aus]W.H. Downing Digger Dialects 32: little bits [sic] of eyes right — A girl.
[Aus]Table Talk (Melbourne) 1 Jan. 5/1: [I]f you meet Billjim coming along the Block with a damsel he may perhaps bestow upon your the pleasure of acquaintance with the little bit of ‘eyes right’ who accompanies him.
[Aus](con. WWI) A.G. Pretty Gloss. of Sl. [...] in the A.I.F. 1921–1924 (rev. t/s) n.p.: little bit of eyes right. A girl.
little boy blue (n.)

see separate entry.

little end of nothing (n.)

(US) anything very insignificant, utterly unimportant; also intensified as little end of nothing sharpened/whittled down (to a point).

‘Nobody’ ‘Nothing of Consequence’ Maine Monthly Mag. I:3 Sept. 117: If it [i.e. nothing] has neither form or shape, how is it that we hear so often in the mouth of every one, the expression the ‘little end of nothing’.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 70: He actilly looked as small as the little eend of nothin’ whittled down.
[US]N.Y. Daily Express 12 May 1/4: Bowyer [...] felt something like ‘the little end of nothing whittled down’.
little end of the horn (n.) (also small end of the horn) [the Horn of Plenty, which in mythology was one of the horns of the goat Amalthea by which the infant Zeus was suckled, and hence a symbol of fruitfulness and plenty. Its large end is depicted as pouring forth its bounty]

(US) failure; usu. in the phr. come out of the little end of the horn; thus as opposite, the big end of the horn.

Baltimore Eve. Post July 5 2/5: I am very much afraid I shall come out at the little end of the horn.
[US]Mass. Spy Feb. 19 n.p.: If the farmers and the traders, instead of attending closely to their proper callings, are busy here and there, they will assuredly ‘come out of the little end of the horn.’.
Yankee 237: [The Portland Argus] has fairly worked itself out of the little end of the horn.
[US]S. Smith Major Downing (1834) 123: Some have laughed at me, and said I come out at the little end of the horn about it.
[US]W.T. Porter Quarter Race in Kentucky and Other Sketches 24: Everywhere I touched was pizen, and I came out at the leetle end of the horn.
[US]R. Hicks Lady Killer 22: You must be strong and right-hearted, and you will come out at the big end of the horn.
[US]Wilmington Jrnl (NC) 29 Mar. 5/3: Abolitionists [...] have forced them out at ‘the little end of the horn’.
[US]Forest Republican (Tionesta, PA) 29 Sept. 1/5: I got some orders, buy shimmy, und you gome de little end dat horn oud.
[US]Salt Lake Herald (UT) 23 Mar. 4/2: It is hoped the present strike will not develop the properties of the Silver Reef affair, for as surely as it does the workmen will come out of the ‘little end of the horn’.
[UK]Era (London) 7July 16/1: Acute brokers devote their energies to taking special care of No. 1, and rarely come out ‘at the small end of the horn’.
[US]F. Harris ‘Gulmore, the Boss’ in Elder Conklin & Other Stories (1895) 173: ’Tain’t the first time Hutchin’s has run for mayor [...] and come out at the little end of the horn.
[US]Central Record (Lancaster, KY) 25 Sept. 1/3: Danville, with all her long-tail coats and bee-gum hats, may make a big parade, but for once in her life she is coming out the little end of the horn.
[US] ‘Central Connecticut Word-List’ in DN III:i 13: little end of the horn, n. phr. ‘To come out the little end of the horn’ is to get the worst of a bargain.
[US]Seattle Repub. (WA) 20 Dec. 6/1: It is a hard-hearted merchant that will refuse one of his customers a gallon of ‘wet’ for Christmas, even though he did come out at the little end of the horn.
[US] ‘Half Way Doings’ in T.W. Talley Negro Folk Rhymes 121: But w’en you sees a lazy Nigger / Stop workin’, shore’s you’re born, / You’se gwineter see him comin’ out / At de liddle end of de horn.
[US]P.G. Brewster ‘Folk “Sayings” From Indiana’ in AS XIV:4 263: If he loses financially on a deal, ‘comes out at the little end of the horn’.
little man (in the boat) (n.)

see separate entry.