Green’s Dictionary of Slang

boss n.2

[Du. baas, master, in which form it first appeared in the American colonies in mid-17C. The term did not arrive in the UK until the mid-19C and has always been sl. or colloq.]

1. (also bosshead, bossman, bozz) the master (or mistress), the manager, the person in charge.

M. Philipse Early Voyage New Netherlands in Schele De Vere (1872) 91: Here they had their first interview with the female boss or supercargo of the vessel.
[[UK]Sporting Mag. Aug. VI 236/2: A dog fight [...] between Mr. Sparrow’s dog, Boss, and Mr. Trovey’s dog, Cubit.].
W. Irving letter May 26 Life and Letters (1862) I 171: By the time I had finished the letter, I had completely forgotten the errand I was sent on; so I had to return, make an awkward apology to boss, and look like a nincompoop.
[US] in H.B. Fearon Sketches of America 59: Now I reckon you do not know that my boss would not have a single ugly or clever gentleman come to his store, if he cut coloured men; now my boss, I guess, ordered me to turn out every coloured man from the store right away, and if I did not he would send me off slick.
[US]Owl (NY) 14 Aug. n.p.: [T]hose base deceivers, called bosses.
[US]Congressional Globe 13 July 191: The boss had been in for a few moments; but, finding his hands absent, he had left.
[US] in J. Blassingame Slave Testimony (1977) 297: Master’s name was Sowers; we used to call him ‘old Boss’.
[Aus]Melbourne Punch 20 Nov. 3/2: Boss —Noun. A cove, a beak, a guvnor, a nob, an old ’un, a big-wig etc.
[US]N.Y. Times 2 Aug. 3/8: The ‘boss,’ or madam looks on smilingly as the bar is patronized, or the ‘bob’ handed up by the male dancer.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 361: We have had such a Dowry of Parny that it completely Stumped Drory the Bossman’s Patter.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 189: Little Jemmy, the master-tailor, was a principal warder, as was also the master-shoemaker, and they were each ‘Boss’ over their own shops.
[Aus]S. James Vagabond Papers (3rd series) 78: The Jews, who supply them with their finery, [...] are in league with the ‘bossees’ of the ‘gay houses.’.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 11: I told my story to the boss, and he took sides with me.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 14 Sept. 7/4: The wife of one of the ‘bosses’ of the Chinese Six Companies of San Francisco.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Bogg of Geebung’ in Roderick (1972) 22: The boss bully unbuttoned his coat.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 38: It’s very kind of you to symperfise wiv us, boss.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 30: The ladies who came to afternoon tea or to late suppers with ‘the boss’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘His Unconquerable Soul’ in Roderick (1972) 811: His ‘boss’ [...] used to come and see him occasionally.
[US]M.E. Smith Adventures of a Boomer Op. 31: The boss told him was fired.
[US]G. Milburn ‘The Hobo’s Last Lament’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 75: And when you wants a ride, / The Boss Con says, a-smilin’, / ‘Podner, won’t you get inside?’.
[US]J. Weidman What’s In It For Me? 218: Say, Harry, where’s at the boss of the joint?
‘Marienne’ ‘Solid Meddlin’’ in People’s Voice (NY) 14 Mar. 33/2: A hint to Bossman Smalls that Jimmy Mordecai wouldn’t be a bad insertion [...] as MC.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 149: The bosses [...] soon put some tables and chairs down in the cellar.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Tomboy (1952) 111: You can take it from there, Tomboy. You’re the boss.
B. McGhee ‘Keep on Walkin’’ 🎵 The bossman was so mean, you know, I worked just like a slave.
[Aus]W. Dick Bunch of Ratbags 39: Now that old Robbie was gone we would have to keep really sweet with this boss-bloke.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 30: Hip showed these qualities only when the boss was around.
[US]D. Goines Inner City Hoodlum 204: He had never known his boss to run out on trouble.
[UK]T. Wilkinson Down and Out 37: The Trusty had told me she was his ‘boss’, and she was all right.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 110: ‘Don’t worry,’ some bosshead offered, ‘we’ll pull her out of there. Everybody else just get back to work.’.
[Ire]P. Howard The Joy (2015) [ebook] A huge guy who seemed to be the bossman.
[Ire]P. McCabe Breakfast on Pluto 18: I loved that, for some reason — her being the boss.
[UK]Guardian Editor 7 Jan. 12: The gang bosses are history.
[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 28/1: the boss 1 the head prison officer currently on duty. 2 the prison Site Manager (formerly the Superintendent).
[US]T. Robinson Hard Bounce [ebook] ‘Who’s the boss-man on this cluster fuck?’.
[UK]Guardian G2 3 July 6/3: I’m the boss [...] the boss of the whole operation. ‘Guide to London Slang 10 Jan. 🌐 Boss man – normally how someone greets a corner shop owner.
[UK]T. Thorne (ed.) ‘Drill Slang Glossary’ at Forensic Linguistic Databank 🌐 Bozz - leader.
[Ire]A. Killilea Boyo-wulf at 20 Mar. 🌐 [P]ulling the mead-seats out from under their arses, scaring the shit out of the boss-men.
[UK]R. Milward Man-Eating Typewriter 232: [T]o scrape by without having to bow before the Boss Man.

2. (US) an exceptional person; often in context of fashion.

[Aus]Bird o’ Freedom (Sydney) 21 Mar. 5/1: He’s but an M.P. of the usual brand / But a boss at litigation.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS 87: Boss A sexually attractive person. A well-dressed person.
[US]C. Eble (ed.) UNC-CH Campus Sl. 2011 1: BOSS — someone stylish, in the know: ‘You are such a boss rocking those shoes and hat together’.

3. (orig. US, also bossman) a term of address, esp. to a man whose name one does not know.

[US]C.F. Briggs Adventures of Harry Franco I 31: ‘Why don’t you get in, boss?’ said one of the men on the dock.
[UK]H. Kingsley Recollections of G. Hamlyn (1891) 195: ‘So, boss,’ began the ruffian, not looking at him, ‘we ain’t fit company for the likes of that kinchin, — eh?’.
[US]St Louis Globe-Democrat 19 Jan. n.p.: The young man of today, when he enters a saloon [...] is liable, as his first demonstration, to salute the bar-keeper with some such remark as, ‘Hello Boss.’ This is often varied , and such highsounding names as ‘Senator,’ ‘Governor,’ ‘General,’ ‘Colonel’, ‘Major’, ‘Captain’, ‘Judge’, ‘Duke’, ‘Deacon’ made to rtake the place of the word ‘Boss’.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Life on the Mississippi (1914) 497: You’ll be in plenty time, boss.
‘Jack the Ripper’ letter Sept. to ed. of Central News Agency in Evans & Skinner Jack the Ripper (2001) 16-17: Dear Boss, I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they won’t fix me just yet. [...] I am down on whores and I shant quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last job was. I gave the lady no time to squeal.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 July 9/2: Traveller: ‘I say, boss, is there any empty hut a cove could camp in to-night? It looks like rain.’ Squatter: ‘Well, yes, there’s the Chinamen’s hut down there; you can doss with them if they’ll let you – I don’t object.’.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 49: So long, boss. Come and see us again!
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘A Municipal Report’ in Strictly Business (1915) 150: Well, boss, I don’t really reckon there’s anything at all doin’ after sundown.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 595: Take a bit of doing, boss, retaliated that rough diamond palpably a bit peeved in response to the foregoing truism.
[UK]R.T. Hopkins Life and Death at the Old Bailey 291: ‘Strike me dead, boss!’ said the cabby.
[US](con. 1910s) J. Thompson Heed the Thunder (1994) 145: Yes, sir, boss. Now you want something cold?
[UK]K. Howard Small Time Crooks 89: ‘Which way are you headin’?’ ‘Uptown, boss. But I’m hired.’.
[US]C. Himes Big Gold Dream 137: It began like this, boss.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 64: A taxi draws up alongside them. ‘A’right, boss?’.
[UK]V. Headley Yardie 16: You get off here, boss.
[US]F.X. Toole Rope Burns 88: ‘You could go to school. I’d drive you.’ Maggie would nod. ‘I know you would, boss.’.
[US]C. Eble (ed.) UNC-CH Campus Sl. Spring 2014 2: BOSSMAN — friend: ‘What’s up, bossman?’ Often used in greeting.
[US]J. Ellroy Widespread Panic 7: I’m beefcake, boss, and bangin’ them bonaroo bitches.

4. a ‘criminal mastermind’.

[UK]Besant & Rice Golden Butterfly I 193: You may scheme for it like a Boss in a whisky-ring.
[UK]E.W. Hornung Black Mask (1992) 199: This old sinner Corbucci turns out to have been no end of a boss in the Camorra – says so himself.
[UK]E. Pugh City Of The World 259: He’s the Boss.
[US]‘Goat’ Laven Rough Stuff 205: Two gorillas came and cornered me [...] and told me that if I wanted to work this racket I should have to see the big Boss.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 39: The biggest thieves’ kitchen in the East End, controlled by a person referred to as ‘The Boss’.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 171: I’ve only to pass the word to some of the boss’s boys, and you won’t find this such a good sitting-place either.
[UK]Guardian Guide 2–8 Oct. 89: See you when I’m the boss and you’re the champ.

5. (Aus./US prison) a prison warder.

[Aus]Eve. News (Sydney) 27 Apr. 7/3: He ran into the wing and told one of the ‘bosses.’ Four of the warders came out and asked me to go into the wing.
Blind Lemon Jefferson ‘Prison Cell Blues’ [lyics] Got a red-eyed captain and a squabblin’ boss / Got a mad-dog sergeant, honey, and he won’t knock off.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 32/2: Boss. (P) A term used by inmates to address any prison official.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 155: The sign on the gate said Huntsville State, / with bullring of brass that glossed like glass. / Now, she wondered, was it real, all that cement and steel, / the machine gun, the picket, the boss?
[US]Jackson & Christian Death Row 121: You can walk around and talk to the bosses and the warden.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. 🌐 Boss. Usually referring to prison officers, but a form of address by prisoners to almost anyone not wearing prisoner’s clothes. Has insincere overtones because it is employed by prisoners when addressing staff but not when discussing them.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 95: Boss also Boss Man A prison guard.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July 🌐 Boss: An officer — some say in it is ‘sorry son of a bitch’ spelled backwards.
[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 28/1: boss n. 1 a prison officer.

6. (UK tramp) a farmer, thus boss-crib, farmhouse.

[UK]Birmingham Dly Post 31 Mar. 3/4: I append a few cant words and expressions as a curiosity for those who take an interest in the subject: [...] boss-crib (farm-house), boss (farmer).

7. (UK prison) a prison governor.

[UK]M. Marshall Tramp-Royal on the Toby 212: When our name was called we had to step briskly up to the desk, behind which stood the Big Brass Boss.

8. a heroin wholesaler.

[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 164: Most of them were ‘junkies’ selling for the ‘bosses’ – non-users who employed addicts to distribute heroin.

9. (US black) female-to-male fellatio [the dominant role of the male as ‘boss’].

[US]Ebonics Primer at 🌐 boss Definition: to have a bitch suck yo dick Example: Yo bitch, bring yo hood-rat azz ove’ here and gimme some boss.

10. (US black) a man.

[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 82: A bitch like me can't be stuck on chuck, the boss is lost, for nada.

In compounds

boss-bitch (n.)

(US black) the senior member of a pimp’s ‘stable’ of whores.

[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 210: When his boss bitch turns sour [...] all the other bitches in the stable flee.
[UK]L. Theroux Call of the Weird (2006) 181: He’d married his ‘boss bitch’.
boss boy (n.) [S.Afr. derog. boy, an African, usu. a servant or labourer]

(S.Afr.) a black foreman or overseer in charge of subordinate black workers.

Daily Chronicle (UK) 11 Apr. 3: One white man in the mine is expected to ‘boss’ forty blacks or Chinese, which he cannot do with safety, in fact the black ‘boss-boy’ is left to do much of the blasting [DSAE].
[[SA]D. Blackburn Leaven 262: I am Bulalie, the baas’s head boy] .
A.L. Ridger A Wanderer’s Trail 235: A miner may do it once, might do it twice, but the third time will surely see him and his boss-boy getting a quick despatch to Kingdom Come.
[UK]G.H. Nicholls Bayete! 119: Munyati was the boss-boy on the farm, a man of forty-five years of age.
B.J. Mathews Consider Africa 41: With fifteen others he is put under an African foreman called a boss-boy who takes his orders from a white overseer.
S.W. Reed Making of Modern New Guinea 219: The average plantation has four boss boys to carry out the instructions of the white manager.
J.P. Packer Apes and Ivory 187: The [...] boss boy, who was alone in a seam when he saw a figure with a light running towards a drop of a thousand feet to certain death.
S.N. Eisenstadt Comparative Social Problems 358: The term ‘boss boy’ is used on the Copperbelt to describe an African who has been placed in charge of a gang of African labourers.
[SA]M. Dikobe Marabi Dance 41: Rooiveldt Daries opened new branches [...] and July was sent as ‘boss-boy’ to the East London branch.
[[SA]F. Dike First South African 42: Even that job now, being a baas boy, you got under false pretences].
V.N. Benjamin Ants 24: BOSS-BOY Ja, baas. We are happy to serve the masters. 6th SENATOR Why do you beat your friends? BOSS-BOY It pleases the masters. They are very lazy, master.
[SA]M. Melamu Children of Twilight 43: Ou Johannes had been Ferreira’s ‘boss-boy’ in the old days.
A. La Guma In the Fog of the Seasons’ End 69: ‘The company pay me to do my job.’ ‘Ah, so youse a boss-boy, hey?’.
D. Lee Nothing Rhymes with Silver 66: And then, I want that bastard of a Zulu boss-boy beaten up for taking such such advantage of those girls.
Boss Charlie (n.) (also …Charley) [generic use of proper name Charlie]

(US black) a white man, esp. in authority.

[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 278: You’re a glorified stool pigeon for Boss Charlie.
[US]L. Bruce Essential Lenny Bruce 32: Nor would they send their children to tap-dancing school to entertain Boss Charley.
[UK]J. Colebrook Cross of Lassitude 333: Baby, you know how them old ‘Boss Charlie’ whiteys are ... ?
boss cocky (n.) (also boss cockie) [cocky n.2 (2)]

1. (Aus.) a farmer who employs labour and still works.

‘Doctor Doric’ Unsophisticated Rhymes 5: The iron heel you know; ’Tis Boss-Cokie Law Fit for an Indian squaw [AND].
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Dec. 5: (caption) The Boss Cockie Deputation (To The Land Minister): – ‘Now you mustn’t pass this Land Bill.’.
[Aus]Tocsin (Melbourne) 11 Nov. 6/3: ‘Boss cockies’, or prosperous farmers, with unencumbered freeholds, grab the holdings of the small fry, and deprive them of a living [AND].
[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 24: [...] a boss cockie is almost equivalent with gentleman farmer. A boss cockie is often a large capitalist and employer of labour and approaches at times very close to the dignity of squatter.
[Aus]J. Doone Timely Tips For New Australians 16: boss-cockie. — A small farmer who works himself but also employs labour.
[Aus]G. Casey Snowball 12: The chief stock-and-station agent, and the head officials of the local Road Board were often linked up with some of the boss-cockies from round about to form a clique.

2. (Aus.) a person in authority.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 29 Aug. 4/1: But the horde of ignorant, bumptious, back-block publicans and boss-cockies who [...] are from year to year foisted on to the Bench before an election by the Ministry of the day, should be wiped out in one act with a scratch of the pen.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 19 Oct. 4/8: He might be the grand high boss cocky in Australia’s political world, but he was no friend of Queensland’s [AND].
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 28 Aug. 4/7: The scanty scalp-locks of a brand new Bishop [...] turned chalk-white on the morning following his elevation to the boss-cocky-ship of the diocese.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Oct. 18/4: On behalf of the S. Australian Government, he has just engaged Professor Lowrie to boss the Agricultural Department at a salary of £1250. Lowrie, who is the usual Scotchman, was boss cocky in S. Australia once before.
[Aus]Kia Ora Coo-ee Nov. 18/1: I’ll easy be able to hold down a job as boss cocky of a restaurant.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 55: Boss cocky, a leader or organizer.
A. Groom I saw Strange Land 50: Abel is a sort of boss cocky, leader of the native evangelists, bell-ringer in chief, organizer and community foreman.
[US](con. WWII) J.O. Killens And Then We Heard The Thunder (1964) 420: And how was the chief boss-cocky?
ad. for Qantas Airlines (Aus.) [caption] Our boss cocky dreamed up this Qantas noggin and it’s a bobby-dazzler.
[Aus]D. Maitland Breaking Out 11: When it comes to discipline, I’m the boss-cocky of this jail.
[Aus]J. Byrell (con. 1959) Up the Cross 166: Gilbert [a racing pigeon] [...] was boss cocky to a loft of about seventy well-bred fliers.
I. Forno at 16 Jan. 🌐 He did agree that the words BOSS COCKY comprised an Australian colloquialism but this was somewhat negated because that phrase still meant just that – the ‘boss’, or the person in charge.
posting at 21 Sept. 🌐 There are far too many sheilas on this site, who think they are the boss cocky.
[Aus]Bug (Aus.) July 🌐 But, Bash, you gotta understand you don’t get to be boss cocky of any tinpot Aussie outpost dunny unless you are as cunning as a shithouse rat.
boss dog (n.)

1. (US) an important person or one who poses as such.

[US]Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA) 30 Apr. 10/3: Who besides a blooming idiot would n’t be boss dog if he could?
[UK]B. Lubbock Bully Hayes 170: This meant he was boss-dog.

2. (US prison) a prison rapist; one who exploits weaker prisoners, esp. sexually.

[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Whoreson 193: My nickname while I was in prison shows...what kind of man I was becoming: Boss Dog.
boss game (n.)

(US black) an important person, usu. in ironic use.

[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Whoreson 223: ‘You got nineteen, Bossgame,’ I said harshly.
boss lady (n.)

1. a female superior.

[[US]Seattle Republican (WA) 3 Nov. 2/2: Mrs William Partridge [...] has gained the soubriquet of ‘Lady Boss’ from the men who work under her directions].
[US]Eve. Star (Washington, DC) 20 Oct. 35/1: M‘issy Olivah know plenty,’ retorted Bung, resenting the slight on his boss-lady’s judgement.
[US]Eve. Star (Washington, DC) 13 Apr. 72/4: The boss woman has a face in which friendliness blendsa with business alertness.
[US]Wkly Jrnl-Miner (Prescott, AZ) 19 Oct. 5/5: The boss lady there has balked over this proposition.
[US]C. McKay Banjo 55: Bam! Biff! And the big boss-lady was undertaker’s business before you could squint.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Weed (1998) 160: My bosslady, all the time she’s [...] tryin to give me airs.
[US]Business Week 1 Apr. [headline] Commentary: Goodbye, Boss Lady. Hello, Soccer Mom — High-profile bailouts from corporate life bring women’s conflicts into sharp focus.

2. (US, also boss-woman) a wife who dominates her husband.

[US]Eve. Star (Wshington, DC) 5 June 31/3: Men who wink and calmly think / They boss their Kates and Sals / [...] Ere Homer smote or Plato wrote / Boss Woman ruled the roost.
[US]D. Dressler Parole Chief 117: He married a winsome slip of a girl [...] and she became boss lady in the house.
[US]in DARE I 345/2: (Joking expressions [...] about a wife who gives orders) [...] Boss-woman [...] (Joking names that a man may use to refer to his wife) [...] Boss-lady.
boss man (n.)

1. (US) the overseer, foreman, employer, chief prison guard, anyone in authority; also as a term of address.

[US] ‘Roll on, Johnnie!’ in J.F. Dobie Rainbow in Morning (1965) 168: I asked that boss-man for to gimme my time.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ Mother of the Hoboes 58: The ‘boss man’ of every colored family [...] drove to town for a settlement with his creditors.
[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 46: Let the boss-men stick them jobs up.
[US]L. Hughes Mulatto in Three Negro Plays (1969) Act I: He’s acting like a fool – just like he was boss man round here.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 131: ‘Sorry,’ the bossman said, not even bothering to get up.
[US]R. Prather Scrambled Yeggs 145: He’s what’s left of the kill syndicate, the hit-and-run artists. He’s the boss-man.
[US]A. Baraka Slave in Three Negro Plays (1969) Act I: Uh, yeah. Another title, boss man.
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 52: What is it, Boss Man?
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 281: ‘Now just shut up,’ the bossman roared.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 47: A guilty wave of laughter spread through the workers. None of the bossmen appeared at all amused.
Bazarov A Rube’s Story 🌐 Shit man, I’m the boss-man a’ motherfuckers.
[UK]R. Antoni Carnival 183: Laurence told one of the doormen [...] ‘Go ask your boss-man!’.

2. a farmer.

[UK]Exeter & Plymouth Gaz. 15 Oct. 6/4: They buy both the horses [...] for which the ‘bossman,’ a farmer, originally asked £25.

3. a pimp.

[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 58: They know I’m a boss-man and they figure here’s a chance to bust a daddy-o.

4. (US gay) the ‘masculine’ member of a homosexual couple.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 110: partner in a stable gay relationship who assumes the more dominant, masculine role [...] bossman.

In phrases

whip boss (n.) [he carries a whip]

(US prison) the chief officer on a prison farm.

[US]N. Algren ‘El Presidente de Méjico’ in Texas Stories (1995) 82: Crying Tom, whip boss of the Huntsville pea farm, was tougher on horse thieves than anyone.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 17: He learnt that the whip boss at Hunstville was named Crying Tom.