Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cow n.1

[on model of bitch n.1 (1a); sow n.1 (1)]

1. [mid-16C+] a woman, esp. an obese or unattractive one.

2. [17C; mid-19C+] a prostitute.

3. [late 18C; late 19C+] (Aus./N.Z.) an objectionable thing, a horrendous situation; also in phr. a cow of a thing [note 1901 Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Dec. 30/2: ‘All the cussedness of the bovine race is centred in the cow. In Australia, the most opprobrious epithet one can apply to a man or other object is “cow.” In the whole range of a bullock-driver’s vocabulary there is no word that expresses his blistering scorn so well as “cow.” To a species of feminine perversity a cow adds a fiendish ingenuity in making trouble’].

4. (orig. Aus.) an objectionable individual (occas. of other living creatures).

5. [late 19C–1960s] (Aus./US) an awkward or stupid person.

6. [late 19C+] (US) milk, cream.

7. [late 19C] (Aus.) a horse.

8. [1900s] (US Und.) a female beggar.

9. (US short-order) butter.

10. [1910s] a joc. term of address.

11. [1910s–60s] (US) beef.

12. [1920s] a tramp’s or criminal’s female companion.

13. [1950s] (US gay) an effeminate male homosexual.

14. [1950s] (UK prison) £1; thus cow and calf, £1 10s.

15. [1960s] any animal.

16. [1960s+] (orig. Aus. teen) a promiscuous young woman.

17. [1970s–80s] (UK black) a double-sized audio speaker box, as used by sound systems.

In compounds

cowbay (n.)

see separate entry.

cow-crazy (adj.) [-crazy sfx]

[1920s] (US) foolishly obsessed with a woman or with women in general.

cow-simple (adj.)

[1920s–70s] (US) foolishly obsessed with a woman or with women in general; in a homosexual context, heterosexual.

cowyard (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

black cow (n.)

1. [mid-19C] (UK) a pump.

2. [1910s–50s] (US teen/campus) chocolate milk shake.

3. root beer (and milk).

cow (it) (v.)

[1970s–80s] to work as a prostitute.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

cow-banger (n.) (also cattle-conker) [SE bang or bang v.1 (1)]

1. [20C+] (Aus./N.Z./US) a dairy farmer or any employee of a dairy farm; thus cowbang v., to run a dairy farm.

2. [20C+] (Aus.) a bullock-driver.


see separate entries.

cow-car (n.)

[1910s] (US short-order) milk or a milk container.

cowcatcher (n.) [SE cowcatcher, an apparatus fixed in front of a locomotive engine, to remove straying cattle or other obstructions from the rails in front of a train] (US)

1. [mid-19C] a full moustache.

2. [1940s–60s] a large bosom.

3. [1950s] a prominent nose.

cow cocky (n.) [cocky n.2 (2)]

[20C+] (Aus./N.Z.) a dairy farmer or any employee of a dairy farm; thus cow cockying/cow cockyism n.

cow college (n.)

[late 19C+] (US) an agricultural college; occas. attrib.

cow conductor (n.)

[20C+] (Aus.) a bullock-driver.

cow-cunted (adj.) [cunt n. (1)]

[mid-19C+] having a large vagina.

cow daisy (n.)

[mid-19C] cow dung.

cow donick (n.) [donicker n.]

[1930s] (US tramp) cow excrement, used fig. of something unpleasant.

cow express (n.) [the cowhide provides leather]

[1940s] (US black) shoe leather.

cowface (n.)

[mid-19C+] a general term of abuse, aimed at a woman, thus adj. cow-faced.

cow gravy (n.)

[2000s] (N.Z.) cow manure, when fresh.

cow grease (n.) (also cow paste)

[mid-19C-1960s] butter, sometimes rated impure or second-rate.

cow gun (n.)

[1940s] (US) a revolver.

cowgut (n.) [? some resemblance]

[1940s] (W.I.) a tin lamp.

cow-handed (adj.)

[late 18C–early 19C] clumsy, awkward.

cow-hearted (adj.)

[mid-17C–early 19C] cowardly.

cow-jerker (n.) (also cow-juice jerker) [jerker n.1 (1)]

[20C+] (N.Z./US) a cow hand, a milker.

cow jockey (n.) [jockey n.2 (3b)]

[20C+] (US) a farmer, a rustic; a dealer in cattle.

cow juice (n.) (also cow fluid, juice of the cow)

[late 18C+] milk; thus cow-juicery, a dairy.

cow-killer (n.) [he is barely safe with animals, let alone humans]

[late 19C] (US) a quack, a poor doctor.

In compounds

cow-neck (n.) [ety. unknown; ? play on the horse’s neck, a mixed drink]

[20C+] (W.I.) newly distilled white proof rum.

cow-persuader (n.) (also oxen-persuader)

[1900s] (Aus.) a cowboy; a herdsman.

cow pie (n.) (also cowcake, cow kipper)

[1970s+] (N.Z./US) a piece of cow dung.

cowpoke (n.) [SE cow + poke; orig. referred spec. to those men who used long sticks to push cows aboard cattle-trains, bound for the slaughterhouses]

1. [late 19C+] (US) a cowboy.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1.

cow-prodder (n.) (also cow-prod)

1. [1900s] (Aus.) a dairyman.

2. [1910s-30s] (US) a cowboy.

cow-puncher (n.)

see separate entry.

cow salve (n.)

[1940s–60s] (US) butter.

cow’s baby (n.) [lit./fig. ext. of SE]

1. [late 17C–mid-19C] a calf.

2. [mid-19C] an awkward, loutish person.

cow’s breakfast (n.) (also cow breakfast)

[late 19C-1920s] (Can./US) a large straw hat.

cow’s courant (n.) [SE cow + SE courant, coranto, a dance characterized by a running or gliding step]

[late 18C–early 19C] diarrhoea.

cow’s grease (n.)

[mid-19C] butter.

cowshaker (n.)

[1900s] (Aus.) a drover; thus used fig. to describe anyone who motivates or drives another; thus cow-shaking adj.

cowshit (n.)

see separate entry.

cowskin (n.)

see separate entries.


see separate entry.

cow-spanker (n.) (also cow-squeezer)

1. [late 19C+] (Aus./N.Z.) a dairy farmer or any employee of a dairy farm; thus cow-spanking n. and attrib., dairy-farming; v. cow-spank, to run a dairy farm, to milk cows.

2. [20C+] (Aus.) a bullock-driver.

cow’s spouse (n.)

[late 18C] a bull.

cow town (n.)

see separate entry.

cow-turd (n.) [turd n. (1); i.e. a derog. comparison]

[mid–late 18C] a cheap cigar.

cow waddie (n.) [waddie n. (2)]

[1920s–40s] (US) a cowboy, esp. a temporary cowhand.

cow water (n.)

[1940s] (US) milk.

In phrases

chase (up) a cow (v.) (also hunt up a cow, move a cow) [the ideal patch would have been literally used by a sleeping cow, and would thus be pre-warmed]

[1950s] (Aus.) of an amorous couple, to search out a secluded spot in a bush in order to have sexual intercourse.

cow to cover (n.)

[1940s] (US) a portion of butter.

cow with the iron tail (n.) (also iron-tailed cow) [the ref. is to the milkmen’s habit, before legislation passed in 1865, of watering the milk]

[mid-19C] a water pump.

have a (hairy) cow (v.)

[1960s+] (US) to lose emotional control, to have a fit.

I’ll be cow-kicked

[late 19C+] (US) a euph. for I’ll be damned! Often ext. as cow-kicked by a jackass or cow-kicked by a mule.

lay down some cow (v.) [the leather soles]

[1940s+] (US black) to walk, esp. to walk so much that one’s shoes are worn out.

like cow buss rope [Carib.E.; buss = SE burst/bust]

[20C+] (W.I.) very angrily, highly enraged.

make a cow’s backside of (v.)

[1970s+] to make a mess of.

stare that cow in the face (n.)

[late 19C] (US short order) a corned (UK salt) beef sandwich.

who’s milking this cow?

[late 19C+] a phr. meaning mind your own business, usu. in response to someone interfering.