Green’s Dictionary of Slang

graft n.1

[? link to graft n.2 or fig. use of SE graft, to insert or fix in or upon something]

1. any form of illicit, underhand – but not necessarily criminal – money-making.

[US]National Police Gaz. (NY) 8 July 1/3: ’Twas handy that we were so related, as, when about a ‘graft’, or ‘doing stur’, both sisters could keep each other company .
[UK]W. Newton Secrets of Tramp Life Revealed 14: This ‘Guide’ cannot work this ‘graft’ alone, for he has to have a good supply for stock, a bag of ‘snide’ or base coins.
[US]Sun (NY) 16 Nov. 2/6: You can make $10 to $15 a day on the side without interrupting your graft.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 42: He was coming round as usual [...] to organize the day’s graft.
[US]J. Washburn Und. Sewer 28: One of the most profitable grafts was the money they drew from the unfortunate women of the city. During the twelve years I was in ‘business’ there I paid a monthly fine of from $14.70 up to $29.70.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ From Coast to Coast with Jack London 80: The numerous ‘missions’ — establishments that were the rankest graft of them all as the professional begging was skillfully shrouded with the cloak of charity and religion.
[US]N. Putnam West Broadway 17: I will say of New York that the administration is fierce, and they say there's lots of graft going on; but that don’t affect the wonderful department stores any, does it?
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 122: Maybe he could muscle in on the North Side graft.
[US]R. Whitfield Green Ice (1988) 29: He was taking graft without splitting – on the wet stuff.
[US]N. Davis Rendezvous with Fear 26: Why, all cops take honest graft!
[UK]C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners 15: I shall now disclose my graft, which is peculiar.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 69: The neatest climax to a piece of graft I’ve seen.
[UK]G.F. Newman Sir, You Bastard 8: Publicity wasn’t egotism, but graft and the quickest route to higher office.
[SA]Frontline (S.Afr.) Oct. 61: The skate has his own dialect [...] ‘I got a graft, a cabbie, I got stukkies, booze, and I got zol. I tune you, mate, if I can get one mamba chow a day, I scheme life is kif.’.
[UK]N. Barlay Hooky Gear 6: It was just for one night’s graft anyway.
[Scot]I. Welsh Dead Man’s Trousers 67: ‘Ah’ve got a wee bit ay graft, if yir interested’.

2. (UK Und.) one’s criminal speciality.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 7/2: One half of the ‘cross-blokes’ there had ‘molls’ along with them, who did their ‘graft’ in the evening.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 15 Nov. 14/3: There are [...] such combinations as ‘dashboards’ and ‘whips’ but I am not well enough up in this particular ‘graft’ to clearly define its technicalities.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 16 Nov. 4/4: I gone back to my old graft [i.e. pickpocketing].
[US]S.F. Call 2 Apr. 25/5: ‘Graft’ is a rogue’s line of business.
[US]J. Flynt World of Graft 4: In regard to the word ‘graft,’ which is used freely in the text, I desire to state that it is a generic slang term for all kinds of theft and illegal practices generally.
[US]St Paul Globe (MN) 3 June 5/6: ‘What’s Jimmie butler’s graft now?’ ‘Jimmie’s a stall for a dip’.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘The Poet and the Peasant’ in Strictly Business (1915) 76: Wish you success at your graft, whatever it is.
[US]J. Lait ‘The Gangster’s Elegy’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 246: We know Buck wasn’t in it when the shootin’ was pulled off, becus Buck was a quiet party an’ that wasn’ his graft.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 89: Graft. — A generic term for any criminal activity or for any practice frowned on by the law.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 120: A crook may change his ‘graft’ [...] but invariably there is a modicum of modus operandi attached to the new love to link him up with it.
[UK]J. Curtis Look Long Upon a Monkey 186: He had to show the swede-bashing sods he was wide and knew his graft.
[UK]S. Berkoff East in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 47: Him that went so humble ’bout his nightly graft.

3. (US) an easy job or sinecure.

[UK]Sporting Times 22 Feb. 2/3: His graft is thusly: he has to come in at stated hours and sit and badiner with the damsel, as per arrangement between the two sets of parents and guardians.
[US]E. Townsend Chimmie Fadden and Mr Paul 86: Why don’t she rig some graft she can woik [...] instead of sitting into a game where she can’t cut de cards.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ Snare of the Road 85: I was getting ready to brace the ex-bo who makes his kippings here for a chance to tell of the doings of the bums, when you moosed in and now are trying to spoil the graft.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 406: Graft [...] Easy graft – easy way of making money.
[US]C.W. Willemse Cop Remembers 114: Taking their pedigrees was my job and I also helped make out bail bonds, a very lucrative graft in the old days.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

4. corruption; also attrib.

[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 64: The politicians ’a’ got the State by the throat, an’ you know as well as I do, that where they get their graft in guns can too.
[UK]Wodehouse Psmith Journalist (1993) 203: It’s all graft here. You’ve got to let half a dozen brutes dip into every dollar you earn, or you don’t get a chance.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 208: The experiences of Sam Weller’s old man with the shyster-lawyer, who pretended to have a pull with the judges, and had no pull at all, except for petty graft, was a scream.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ in Red Wind (1946) 112: A big flattie who was taking graft money from the gang.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 126: Its activity [...] is not confined to shaking down prostitutes or taking graft from gambling.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 71: The boodle and graft make the waterside-take penny ante stuff by comparison.
[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 117: He had his fingers in every pie of vice and graft.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 112: The American situation, where political graft is an [...] accepted fact.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 39: Taking over all the [...] daylight graft of an entire redneck town — that was something big.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 182: What we’re talking here is bent coppers [...] the best way to find out whether he was on the graft was like ask him.
[UK]Guardian 4 May 22: Bogus mileage claims and illegible lunch receipts can lead quickly to more serious graft.
[Aus]L. Redhead Peepshow [ebook] He got a lot opf young coppers into the graft [...] and made sure he had proof of them doing it.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 19 Dec. 63/3: A street-fighting lawyer who may his way up by graft.

5. (US Und.) an act of theft.

[US]Snares of N.Y. 66: Some of them look after graft but more of them for cops.
[US]‘Number 1500’ Life In Sing Sing 260: The gun had just lifted his mitt when the conny fell to the graft and tipped the sucker to the lay.
[US]I.L. Nascher Wretches of Povertyville 205: The pickpockets whose ‘graft’ or dishonest work is to rob women are called ‘moll buzzers’ or ‘moll wires’.
[US]C. Brossard Bold Saboteurs (1971) 226: She has brought home a pocketful of those miniature bars of perfumed soap. [...] Petty graft.

6. work, esp. in the context of working to take up or waste time; thus out of graft, unemployed.

[UK]Worcester Herald 26 Dec. 4/3: Graft, work; I’ll peck the graft, I’ll never work any more.
[UK]W.E. Henley ‘Villon’s Straight Tip’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 177: For nix, for nix the dibbs you bag / At any graft, no matter what / Your merry goblins soon stravag.
[Aus]Clipper (Hobart, Tas.) 11 July 3/4: A few pore devils out of graft, / Sum other idlers, too.
[Aus]W.T. Goodge ‘Great Aus. Slanguage’ in Baker Aus. Lang. (1945) 117: And when looking for employment / He is out o’ blooming graft.
[US](con. 1875) F.T. Bullen Cruise of the ‘Cachalot’ 330: I kin do my bit o’ grawft wiv enny on ’em – don’t chu make no bloomin’ herror.
[UK]Leigh et al. [perf. Alec Hurley] ‘The best little woman in the world’ 🎵 When I get home from my graft of an evening / There she’s a waiting to give me my tea.
[UK]Alec Hurley [perf. ] ‘’E’s Takin’ a Mean Advantage’ 🎵 When ’e fell out ’o graft, ‘Jim, my lad’ says I / ‘I can put you up while for work you looks about’.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ In Bad Company 9: Some [...] don’t care for ‘hard graft’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 22 May 2nd sect. 9/1: They Say [...] That a dozen of Jones’s Comer cadgers have gone to graft. That a score more are looking anxiouslv in the direction of a shovel.
[US]Ade Knocking the Neighbors 150: The Graft had developed until the whole Outfit moved to an Apartment where Goods had to be delivered in the Rear.
[UK]J. Hargrave At Suvla Bay Ch. ix: The ‘graft’ (work) was fearful. All day long we were at it.
[UK](con. WWI) Fraser & Gibbons Soldier and Sailor Words 108: Graft: Work. (An old Army term).
[UK]Thieves Slang ms list from District Police Training Centre, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwicks 5: Graft: work.
[UK]J. Curtis Gilt Kid 117: Here’s your graft for to-night.
[UK]K. Amis letter 7 Mar. in Leader (2000) 228: He has had a poem accepted by the NS&N, not a very good one I think, but a poem all the same. It’s all graft, of course.
[UK]C. MacInnes Mr Love and Justice (1964) 191: He’s bound to speak against me, honey. After all why shouldn’t he? It’s his graft.
[UK]G.F. Newman Sir, You Bastard 117: All the DI said amounted to nothing more than graft while he awaited his turn to fit one.
[UK]F. Taylor Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 107: I’ve got a team of lads and we’re doing a hard day’s graft, six days a week.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Real Life 16 Jan. 11: Entertaining clients over three-course dinners hardly sounds like tough graft to me.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 139: We put a lot of graft in on that [robbery].
[Scot]I. Welsh Decent Ride 178: Ah [...] banged her back tae sleep, but it wis some graft.

7. the proceeds of corruption, political bribery etc.

[US]A.H. Lewis Confessions of a Detective 48: The noble sergeant on the desk gets five of it every time. That’s his graft — his perquisite.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘Past One at Rooney’s’ in Strictly Business (1915) 272: You had your usual five-dollar graft at the usual corner at ten.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 317: He receives additional ‘graft’ from the construction of buildings and streets, schools and playgrounds.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 167: Even the ordinary patrolman on his beat in all the cities thro’ the U.S.A. is getting his little graft every week or month.
[US]C.R. Bond 20 Jan. in A Flying Tiger’s Diary (1984) 77: We got in a good bull session about the graft in China [...] Everyone seems to get his cut – ‘cumshaw’.
[US]H. Whittington Forgive Me, Killer (2000) 81: You’re not the first cop ever accepted graft.
[US]C. Hiaasen Strip Tease 65: The female [...] was his life’s passion, graft being a close second.
[US]F. Kellerman Stalker (2001) 488: So what if they [...] pocket a little graft to look the other way.

8. influence.

[UK]J. Buchan Thirty-Nine Steps (1930) 74: I thought he probably had some kind of graft with the constabulary.
[UK]J. Buchan Greenmantle (1930) 210: Once again we were alone in the carriage. Stumm must have had some colossal graft, for the train was crowded.
[US]Dos Passos Three Soldiers 14: ‘But you’re in luck.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Bein’ from New York. The corporal, Tim Sidis, is from New York, an’ all the New York fellers in the company got a graft with him.’.