Green’s Dictionary of Slang

brother n.

1. a general form of address to an unnamed male or self-reflexively; cit. 1942 refers to a white man talking to the statue of a black boy.

[UK] H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: brother. a term used among thieves acknowledging each other.
[UK]Bird o’ Freedom 22 Jan. 3: Hold on a minute, brother [...] you find fault with that parable, do you?
[US]J.W. Carr ‘Words from Northwest Arkansas’ in DN III:ii 128: brother, n. A term of supposed affection much used by the unco’ good to and of acquaintances and to strangers. ‘We would be glad to see Brother Phillips and Brother Nation come to some understanding between themselves, without having another election.’.
[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 572: brother, n. A title applied to a stranger in addressing him. ‘Say, brother, can you tell me how far it is to Veedersburg?’.
D. Runyon in Durham Morn. Herald (NC) 3 July 10/1: Willard is ready, brother. Still wearing both of those legs that have caused so much parlaay-voo.
[US]D. Hammett ‘$106,000 Blood Money’ Story Omnibus (1966) 323: Honest, brother, I haven’t killed a millionaire in weeks.
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 51: All the same, brother, you know what dirty minds some people have.
[US]R. Chandler High Window 21: [I] patted the little Negro on the head again. ‘Brother, it’s even worse than I expected,’ I told him.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 103: They’re good for writin’ in blackouts, brother.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 215: Oh brother, what a pushover he’ll be, Terry was thinking.
[US]A. James America’s Homosexual Underground 77: Brother, have I got a story for you?
[Aus] in K. Gilbert Living Black 233: Brother, gee I like to be like you.
[UK]J. Cameron Vinnie Got Blown Away 150: How long it all takes brother?
[US]K. Anderson Night Dogs 184: ‘You’re only showing disrespect for yourself, brother’.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 113: Fuckin cool it, brother, you gotta chill.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 6: Inmates exchange intrixcate handshakes and formal titles: OG, young G, boo, bro, baby boy, brutha, dude, cuz, dawg, P, G, daddy, pimpin’, nigga, man, thug thizzle, my boy, my man, homie.

2. (also brotha) a black male.

[[US]Flash (NY) 11 Sept. n.p.: Emma Jones, one of her boarders, who was formerly so partial to ‘black’ [...] We presume she is too well engaged with these brothers].
[[UK]Mirror of Life 17 Mar. 11/2: Green finished shaving one-half of his coloured brother's queershaped head].
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 31 Aug. 2/3: Charles Pope, a very real coon, leads a band of brothers who sing and dance, to beat the band.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in N.Y. Eve. Journal 13 Feb. 14: Those meerschaum-colored brothers in the South.
[US]Negro in Chicago (Chicago Comm. Race Relations) 563: The poor proprietor of the place, if he or she is one of the ‘brothers’ or ‘sisters’, is almost helpless in the matter.
[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 14 Nov. 20/1: Monte Hawley [...] is working in several white quickies as a pale brother.
[US]M.H. Boulware Jive and Sl. 2: Brother in Black [...] Negro.
[US]C. Himes Crazy Kill 14: Doing a skit about a colored brother coming home drunk.
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 256: It seemed to be the ordinary animosity that a cat would have for a brother who was strung out.
[US]D. Goines Inner City Hoodlum 63: Here was a brown-skinned brother, caught in the web of the law.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 287: Martin said ‘One a da brothers,’ giving an Irish rendition of a black accent.
[US]Hip-Hop Connection Dec. 20: It’s just a situation where a brother chooses one way for his life.
[US]J. Lethem Fortress of Solitude 429: A stoney-eyed brother in net muscle-shirt and doo-rag.
[UK]A. Wheatle Dirty South 2: Every second brother seems to be packed with a gun.
[UK]K. Richards Life 157: I was feeling so ragged [...] and these brothers were so together.
[SA]IOL News Western Cape) 10 May 🌐 Can only black guys be brothers?
[US]C. Stella Rough Riders 11: You’re out of your element here [...] Brothers don’t like the cold much, do you?
B. Kroeber ‘Be My Alibi’ in ThugLit Sept. [ebook] You’re the dude to help a brotha out.
[US]S.A. Crosby Blacktop Wasteland 6: ‘That old Duster got some get-up-and-go!’ said a heavyset brother with a wide nose.
[US]J. Hannaham Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit 20: Demodocus Johnson [...] He look too light to be a brotha.

3. a form of address to a fellow black male.

[US]E.C.L. Adams Congaree Sketches 15: Brother, you know hell is a bad place when dey got generations of ole sisters pen up together.
[US]Blanche Calloway ‘Louisiana Liza’ 🎵 This Southern maid, I’m afraid, is sure to make you fall, / She knows her stuff, calls your bluff, and brother, that ain’t all!
[UK]K. Howard Small Time Crooks 7: Move on brother. Here’s the cop.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 86: Brother, you are as lucky as a shit-house rat.
[US]‘Soulful Spider’ ‘Pimp in a Clothing Store’ in Milner & Milner (1972) 288: Young blood, where you at, man?’ [...] ‘Oh here I am, brother, I’m right here, right here, right under you, brother, right under you, I’m on my job.’.
[WI]M. Thelwell Harder They Come 142: ‘Hol ’awn, breddah,’ Jose warned.
[Scot]I. Welsh ‘Stoke Newington Blues’ in Acid House 37: Hey brother, you hang around with this trash, you get what comes around to you.
[UK]Guardian Guide 1–6 Jan. 18: Peace brother.

4. (orig. US black) in pl., constr. with the, black people, orig. in 1960s black radical use, now used by both black and white speakers with only residual political overtones.

[US]U. Hannerz Soulside 25: Especially among some younger people, a motive occasionally offered for remaining in the ghetto is racial solidarity. Leaving less fortunate ‘brothers’ behind is ‘copping out’.
[US]D. Jenkins Semi-Tough 189: Jimmy Keith Joy said, ‘Say, baby. That dark side of pro football you gonna jive about. You ain’t talkin’ about brothers, are you?’ .
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 64: Let your natural get that look that Whitey thinks all militant brothers wear.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines xvii: The brothers up dere [...] they okay.
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 172: He couldn’t see her enjoying a long second wind, a year, six months, poncing vodkas off the brothers.
[UK]J. Hoskison Inside 134: Back in the realm of peeer pressure, ‘whitey’ was unable to mix with the brothers.
[US]D. Winslow ‘Broken’ in Broken 23: ‘They didn’t used to let the brothers buy [i.e. housing] out here’.

5. in pl., constr with the, one’s intimates, one’s close friends.

[UK]T. Keyes All Night Stand 48: As far as the brothers are concerned there is not much worse than letting a woman get the upper hand.

6. a non-black male accepted in the black community.

[US]D. Claerbut Black Jargon in White America 59: brother n. […] 2. any male accepted by black people: What’s happening, brother?
[US]H. Gould Double Bang 187: A chunky brother [...] was coming through the archway. Looked like a Cubano.
[US]M. Ribowsky Don’t Look Back 49: Rube counted only one NNL owner as white—the Kansas City Monarchs’ J.L. Wilkinson, who was considered a sort-of ‘brother’ .

In compounds

brotherman (n.) (also brother man)

(US black) a fellow black man, usu. as a form of address.

[US] Isaac Hayes ‘Theme from Shaft’ 🎵 Who’s the man who would risk his neck for his brother-man?
[US]V.E. Smith Jones Men 165: How you doing, brother man?
[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 5: There’s somethin’ you can do, brother-man….
[US]UGK ‘Feds in Town’ 🎵 Goin all out of tact on the local bird slaggin brothaman.
[US]‘Master Pimp’ Pimp’s Rap 110: Brother man, you can move a lot of weed every Sunday.
[US]P. Beatty Tuff 87: You hear this nigger, brother man. How much you think them rims is worth?
brother one (n.)

1. (N.Z. prison) an outstanding, much-admired inmate.

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 31/1: brother one n. 1 the most highly esteemed inmate in the prison or prison wing.

2. ()

In phrases

brother in black (n.)

(US black) a form of address from one black man to another; a black man; thus sister in black, n., a black woman.

[US]Z.N. Hurston Mules and Men (1995) 76: Dat’s de reason de sister in black works harder than anybody else in the de world. De white man tells de nigger to work and he takes and tells his wife. [Ibid.] 120: But you know how it is wid de brother in black. He got a big mouf and a stambling tongue.
[US]M.H. Boulware Jive and Sl. n.p.: Brother in Black ... Negro.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

brother chip (n.)

1. a carpenter.

[UK]Northampton Mercury 24 July 47/4: A Journeyman Ship-Carver, for the Sake of the Bounty informed [...] against a brother Journeyman of the same Trade [...] The Man [...] went to the Lieutenant, who told him that he had been informed against by a young fellow who was a Brother Chip.
J. Clare Poems of Rural Life, Familiar Epistle 3: And, brother chip, I love ye dearly, poor as ye be! [F&H].
[US]Bartlett Dict. Americanisms.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Young Tom Hall (1926) 278: Mr Dweller [...] having ferreted out Guinea’s early career, had the impudence to talk of him [...] as a brother chip — ‘one of us’.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 2 July 2/7: A ‘brother chip’ had introduced Mr Walter Prichard to him.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

2. a fellow professional of any sort.

[UK]Wkly Vistor 1 200: [He] was lately introduced by a brother chip.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: Chip. A brother chip; a person of the same trade or calling.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.
[US]N.-Y. Eve. Post 25 Sept. 2/2: An industrious mechanic [...] was robbed [...], but by whom, no one could tell. Suspicion, however, was lately fixed upon a brother chip.
[Aus]N.-Y. National Advocate 3 Aug. 2/4: The Editor whereof is a brother chip of mine, having been brought up to the profession of a Baker [...] I do hereby request [him] to meet me any time he may think proper, at Mr. John Notter’s bake oven, armed with his own peel or swob, or any other instrument belonging to our trade… .
[UK]Satirist (London) 29 May 61/3: ‘[W]e are brother chips; we are both goldsmiths’ (meaning they were both members of the Goldsmiths’ Company).
Eve. Star (NY) 6 Dec. 2/3: Is there any Editor in this city who is well off, and has no little-uns of his own, and who would help a brother chip by taking two or three of the little batch off his hands?
[US]N.Y. Aurora 7 Sept. n.p.: Will not our brother chips here be jealous — savage!
[US]Broadway Belle (N.Y.) 15 Oct. 4/3: A compositor employed on the Broadway Belle [...] meeting a brother chip in Broadway.
Penny Newsman n.p.: ‘Mr. Bernal Osborne on Pigs and Politics’ [...] I could have wished, gentlemen, that there had been a larger show to-day. At the same time as a brother chip (a laugh) – Oh, gentlemen, I am a farmer (hear) [...] [F&H].
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
brother starling (n.) (also brother socket) [SE brother + starling; ? the characteristics of the bird/socket n.]

one who shares a friend’s mistress.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Brother-starling that Lies with the same Woman, or Builds in the same Nest.
[UK]T. Brown Letters from the Dead to the Living in Amusements Serious and Comical in Works (1927) 232: The greatest monarch of the universe and I are brother-starlings, [...] the eldest son of the church, and the little Scarron have fished in the same hole. [Ibid.] 378: I hear you kept the poor titmouse under such slavish subjection that a peer of the realm could not so much as come in to be brother-sterling [sic] with you.
[UK]New Canting Dict.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Brother starling, one who lies with the same woman, that is, builds in the same nest.
[UK] H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: Brother starling or socket one that lays with another man’s wife or whore.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.

In phrases

brother (of the)... (n.)

see separate entry.

brother-where-are-you? (n.) (also brother-where-art-thou?) [his being ‘blind’ drunk]

a drunkard.

[UK]J. Manchon Le Slang.