Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bilk n.

[cribbage jargon balk, to spoil an adversary’s score in their crib ]

1. an empty, meaningless statement.

[UK]Jonson Tale of a Tub I i: tub: He will have the last word, though he talk bilk for’t. [...] hugh: Bilk! What’s that? tub: Why, nothing: a word signifying Nothing.
[UK]T. Blount Glossographia 83: Bilk is said to be an Arabick word, and signifies nothing: Cribbidge-players understand it best.
[UK]R. North Examen 213: Bedloe was questioned over and over, [...] still swore the same bilk.

2. a hoax; an act of cheating.

[UK]S. Butler Hudibras Pt II canto 3 line 376: Spells, / Which over ev’ry month’s blank-page. / I’ th’ Almanack strange bilks presage.
[UK]Congreve Double-Dealer III iii: There he’s secure from danger of a bilk, / His fare is paid.
[UK]T. Brown Amusements Serious and Comical in Works (1744) III 70: I put the bilk upon a pick-pocket, who measured my estate by the length and bulkiness of my new wig (which God knows is not paid for).
[UK]R. North Lives of the Norths (1826) I 260: After this bilk of a discovery was known, it was reported, and by many really expected or believed, that Bedloe’s wife was coming to town.
[UK]New Cheats of London Exposed 14: Having [...] promised, on detection of the bilk, to give him immediate notice.
[UK]New Sprees of London 19: [T]he singing is good —I wish as much could be said for the grog; this is most detrimental to many of these cribs; it is a bad policy, and a villanous bilk into the bargain.
[UK]T. Taylor Ticket-Of-Leave Man Act I: A regular case of bilk—.
Pioche Record (NV) 28 Apr. 3/2: Tell them I think it is a ‘bilk’ [...] probably some men will make money, whilst most will leave poorer.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 3 Feb. 1/1: The trail of bilk is over the late Government subsidised Exhibition [and] repudiation in this instance is simply a squalid and shrieking scandal.
[Aus]E. Dyson ‘At the Opera’ Benno and Some of the Push 94: ‘It’s a bilk,’ he said. ‘This ain’t no play. The cows ’re makin’ it up ez they go along.’.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 5 June [synd. col.] All this on the street of slickers with a game that was a bilk when the 49-ers swarmed the Yukon.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 8/1: Bilk [...] defrauding a prostitute of her pay.

3. (US Und.) a swindler or cheat.

[UK]John F---g Epistle of a Reformed Rake 30: To prevent the Trade being distrest by Sharpers, or what are generally understood by the Technical-name of Bilks.
[UK]Midnight Spy 124: Behold a gang of right honourable pickpockets. The venerable company is composed of the Duke of Odds, the Earl of Bilk, Lord Viscount Cogem, Baron Jockey, Sir Samuel Snatchall, [...] and Mr. Live-by-wit.
[UK]Sheridan in Sheridaniana 109: Johnny W[i]lks, Johnny W[i]lks, Thou greatest of bilks [F&H].
[UK]Beppo in London lxxiv: Tongues are fluent and expert, When Bilk or Dandy wounds their reputation.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 557: The bilk†† is in such a hurry, can’t spare time to go to a shop to have the articles valued [†† A swindler or cheat].
[UK] ‘Poll Of Drury’ in Lummy Chaunter 60: No thought had I to be a bilk.
[UK]Marryat Japhet 38: After a little delay, the waggoner drove off, cursing him for a bilk, and vowing that he’d never have anything more to do with a ‘larned man’.
[UK]W.J. Neale Paul Periwinkle 400: ‘Bilk – Cheat – Runaway’ and other terms of endearment that seem especially to belong to the vocabulary of ’pike men.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Young Tom Hall (1926) 127: Fourpence! [...] why don’t you pay your pike, you dirty bilks?
[US] ‘Tricks of Tradesmen’ in Bob Smith’s Clown Song and Joke Bk 50: Taps you plenty of chalk in your score – what a bilk.
[UK]A.K. McClure Three Thousand Miles through the Rocky Mountains 211: A ‘bilk’ is a man who never misses a meal and never pays a cent.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[US]A. Garcia Tough Trip Through Paradise (1977) 245: What did he take me for, a damn bilk.
[US]G.W. Peck Peck’s Bad Boy and His Pa (1887) 156: You are a high-toned, gentlemanly sort of a bilk.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) III 435: ‘Oh!’ thought I, ‘she is a whore diseased, and a bilk.’.
[UK]A. Binstead Houndsditch Day by Day 86: They knows what these young Yiddisher bilks is capable of.
[US]A.G. Field Watch Yourself Go By 393: The boss [...] swore he would not allow a cheap poker player to do him. ‘Fix the olly! I gave him broads to the show! He’s right as a guinea! Fix him! Have this cheap Greene County bilk pinched.’.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 404: You larn that go off of they there Frenchy bilks? Won’t wash here for nuts nohow.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 8/1: Bilk, a cheat; swindler.

4. (US) a disappointment.

[UK]F. Whymper Travel and Adventure in Alaska 310: If the thing has disappointed, it may be, ‘We got down to the “bed rock,” and found it a “bilk”’ – Californian for a humbug.

5. (US) a form of swindle worked on a brothel madam.

[US]D. Maurer Big Con 290: The bilk. A short-con swindle worked on a brothel-madam.

In phrases

on the bilk

cheating, swindling.

[UK] ‘So, I Said to Myself’ in Rakish Rhymer (1917) 47: So I said to myself, as I’m quite out of luck, / On the bilk I must go.