Green’s Dictionary of Slang

ponce n.

[ety. unknown. OED suggests SE pounce. Hancock, ‘Shelta and Polari’ (1984), notes Fr. argot pont (d’Avignon) or pontonnière, a prostitute (who works from the arches of a bridge); Partridge offers Fr. pensionnaire, a lodger and thus poss. link to earlier pensioner (at the petticoat) n. Note that many ‘ponce’ usages show the very different status of such a man in the UK compared with the US pimp]

1. one who lives off the earnings of one or more prostitutes.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 69: ponce A man who is kept by a woman. poncess A woman that keeps a man by prostitution.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 354/1: The ‘pounceys,’ (the class I have alluded to as fancy-men, called ‘pounceys’ by my present informant) are far the worst [...] It’s the pounceys, too, that mostly go gagging where the girls walk.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 258: Ponce a degraded man who lives upon a woman’s prostitution. Low-class East-end thieves even will ‘draw the line’ at ponces, and object to their presence in the boozing-kens.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. 7: Ponce - A degraded man who lives on a woman.
[UK]W.E. Henley ‘Villon’s Good-Night’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 174: You judes that clobber for the stramm, / You ponces good at talking tall.
[UK]Reynold’s Newspaper (London) 12 Dec. 2/2: Among the crowd are many slouching slips of men [...] with complexions of tallow-candle colour, and dull, malicious eyes. These are the ‘paunces’.
[UK]Manchon Le Slang 230: ponce, s. V. maquereau, marlou.
[UK]J. Franklyn This Gutter Life 179: The ponce filches from the prostitute and she in turn robs the roué!
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 176: A meeting place for pouffs, ponces and prostitutes.
[Aus]Argus (Melbourne) 21 Nov. 11/2: But not one Returned from Active Service badge graced in a hundred the lapels of the petty thieves and standover men, ponces and lairs who followed Pretty Nellie Cameron to her grave.
[UK]F. Norman Bang To Rights 101: Ther are bookmakers, snout barrons, ponses, and plenty of geezers on the fiddle.
[UK]J. Barlow Burden of Proof 5: A man who’d tie a Maltese ponce to a lamp-post and cut off his testicles.
[SA]H.C. Bosman Street-Women in Gray Theatre One 15: I say that a ponce stinks, and a man that lives on a woman selling herself on the streets is the lowest kind of rat there is.
[UK]A. Payne ‘Senior Citizen Caine’ in Minder [TV script] 15: Bastard ponce! Parasite!
[UK](con. 1960s) A. Frewin London Blues 55: Maltese ponces. Retired spivs. Trainee thugs and crazy self-styled hoodlums in suits that are two sizes too big.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. [Internet] ponce n. [...] 2. (trad.) male living off earnings of prostitute.

2. a derog. epithet for any man or woman, incl. the police; the inference is of affectation and for men, effeminacy, if not actual homosexuality.

[UK]J. Franklyn This Gutter Life 127: If little Ivy hadn’t come and bailed me out I’d be sitting in the cell now [...] But she did, so I’m free to go hustling for the bloody two pounds to pay the ponces in the morning!
[UK]A. Sillitoe Sat. Night and Sun. Morning 176: That bit fat-bellied union ponce.
[UK]C. Lee diary 20 Nov. in Eight Bells & Top Masts (2001) 184: Third Mate’s really nice [...] Ainslie says he’s a rich ponce. I think that’s because he wears suede desert boots .
[UK]D. Abse In the Cage (1967) 124: A ponce he is, a foaming ponce.
[UK]N. Dunn Up the Junction 54: What’s that to you – you fifth-rate ponce?
[UK]Galton & Simpson ‘Cuckoo in the Nest’ Steptoe and Son [TV script] Dad, he’s a con man. He’s a ponce.
J. O’Grady Aussie Etiket (1976) 37: He’d reckon you were a bit of a ponce if you got dressed up for him.
[UK]B. Chatwin Songlines 147: Silly ponce!
[UK]D. Lodge Therapy (1996) 27: He’s tall, dark and handsome enough to wear his hair in a ponytail without looking like a ponce.
[UK]K. Lette Mad Cows (1997) 168: Bentleys said ‘smug ponce’. Four-wheeled Land Cruisers said ‘pretentious wanker’.
[UK]N. Griffiths Stump 168: Readin about how some fat southern ponce stabbed some cunt or glassed some cunt.
[Aus]L. Redhead Thrill City [ebook] A poxy movie where some middle-class ponce restores a gorgeous manor in Tuscany.
[UK]Times Mag. 30 Apr. 50/2: ‘Oi,’ some local urchins shouted, ‘it’s him, that bloke, Kaja-whatsit. You f****** ponce!’.
[Aus]mX (Sydney) 31 July 2/1: All in favour of more horses being forced into awkward movements by top-hatted ponces, such as royal Zara Phillips, above, for the sake of a metal disc on a ribbon say yea.

3. (Aus./US) a male homosexual.

[Aus]J. O’Grady Aussie Eng. (1966) 71: QUEEN: A ‘queer’, a ‘pansy’ a ‘poofter’, a ‘ponce’. A male homosexual. Known to be ‘camp’. ‘Camp as a row o’ tents’.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 165: homosexual [...] ponce [punce] (Aus & Brit sl).
[Aus]J. Ramsay Cop It Sweet 72: POONCE: Effeminate male homosexual. Sometimes PONCE.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Ponce. 1. A homosexual.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. [Internet] ponce n. 1. derogatory word for an effeminate male homosexual.
[US]J. McCourt ‘Vilja de Tanquay Exults’ in Queer Street 394: A tart who’ll squat and take a bit o’ rabbit / From any ponce in the ’Dilly.

4. one who lives off beggars’ collections.

[UK]Observer Escape 27 Feb. 19: Your hearts are touched – until you see their ‘ponces’ in the background, ready to scoop up all they have collected.