Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cut the painter v.

[all f. naut. use, the painter is the rope that secures a small boat to a larger ship]

1. to dismiss or send away a person.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: I’ll Cut your Painter for ye, I’ll prevent ye doing me any Mischief.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Painter, I’ll cut your painter for you, I’ll send you off.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.

2. to slip away clandestinely.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Jan. 14/1: Teemer has cut the painter from Morris and Soulson, the backers whom he alleges played him false over the recent race with Gaudaur, and will in future manage himself.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 4 Mar. 1/3: Fiddle-de-dee / That might have caused, were’t even written fainter, / Australian provinces to ‘cut the painter’.
[Aus](con. 1830s–60s) ‘Miles Franklin’ All That Swagger 85: There were women who had cut the painter because they were ‘loose’.

3. to die.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 283/2: naut. from ca. 1850.

4. to bring something to an irrevocable conclusion.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Apr. 20/3: Public enthusiasm is a queer thing. A few years ago in Queensland M’Ilwraith propounded his National policy and talked big things about cutting the painter, and Bananaland roared itself hoarse with applause. Now a man who talks about cutting the painter gets stoned in the streets.
[UK]Wodehouse Psmith in the City (1993) 141: There was no doubt that he had cut the painter once and for all.