Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hustler n.

[hustle v.]

1. (US Und.) one of a pickpocket gang.

[UK]R. Fabian Anatomy of Crime 193: Hustler: A pickpocket’s jostler.

2. (US) a racetrack tout.

[US] in Outing (N.Y.) July 263: From the many times millionaire in the members’ stand to the coatless, penniless ‘hustler’ in the infield [etc.] [HDAS].
[US]Van Loan ‘Levelling with Elisha’ in Old Man Curry 13: The bald-faced Kid was a hustler, a free lance of the turf, playing a lone hand against owner and bookmaker [...] operating upon the wheedled capital of the credulous. He was sometimes called a tout.
[US]D. Runyon ‘The Lily of St. Pierre’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 140: Bob the Bookie, who is a hustler around the race-tracks, gets to talking to me.

3. (US) a hard-working, ambitious person, also an energizer, one who exhorts his fellows to harder work, greater commitment.

[US]Publishers’ Weekly 18 Dec. 965/1: Young man, a ‘hustler’ in every respect, wants a strictly first-class position with a ‘live’ book house [DA].
[US]Courier (Lincoln NE) 21 Sept. 10/1: The hustler [...] has a proclivity for concocting schemes whereby he will make millions.
[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 250: ‘Gee, but this is Tame!’ said the Retired Hustler.
[UK]Derby Dly Teleg. 31 Aug. 4/5: The hustler is an American creation [...] a person totally incapable of leisure [...] the incarnation of haste and hurry [...] proud of the fact that he is overdriven, and overdrives himself.
[US]H. Hapgood Types from City Streets 281: As city editor he tried the difficult task of being a ‘hustler’ and at the same time an expresser of what is, from a newspaper point of view, inexpressible.
[US]T. Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel (1930) 125: ‘That boy’s a hustler. He’ll make his mark,’ said all the men in town.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks.
[US]E. De Roo Young Wolves 5: Roy watched her thin fingers fly back and forth. Some hustler, he thought. Got to hand it to Ma.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 804: hustler – A grafter.
[US](con. 1960s) R. Price Wanderers 47: He was [...] one hell of a broken-field runner. The best hustler in the league.
[Can]Maclean’s (Toronto) 9 Jan. 62: Of all the clichés about west coast living [...] the most offensive is that life out here is ‘laid-back’, as if even the most aspiring members of the artistic community are sitting around waiting for someone to peel them a grape while the real hustlers are back east getting things done.

4. anyone who makes a living through their wits and ingenuity, rather than accepting the restraints of a conventional job; their occupations are often, but not invariably, criminal or virtually so.

[US]Lantern (N.O.) 6 Oct. 3: Mike was a hustler from the start, and where a dollar was to be earned he made it.
[US]Ade Doc’ Horne 238: In the United States of America a hustler is one who is busy, persistent, resourceful and combative, usually that he may accumulate money .
[US]J. London Road 183: In any camp of men there will always be found a certain percentage of shirks, of helpless, of just ordinary, and of hustlers.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 27 Jan. 4/7: He’s a soprano-voiced little hustler with about as much sentiment in him as is contained in the vitals of a steam roller.
[UK]Marvel 1 Mar. 6: He’s business all through, and a red-hot hustler.
[US]V.W. Saul ‘Vocab. of Bums’ in AS IV:5 341: Hustler—One who lives by his wits and illegitimately.
[US]R. Chandler ‘The King in Yellow’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 48: One of those hustlers Quillan registered in Eight-eleven is out there truckin’ for them.
[US]C. Himes ‘Let Me at the Enemy’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 36: Every cat looks to get hooked some time or other, even a hustler as slick as me.
[US]C. Himes Crazy Kill 55: It was strictly a hangout for the upper-class Harlem hustlers, those in the gambling and prostitution professions.
[US]L. Block ‘Badger Game’ in One Night Stands (2008) 22: Somebody with a little more on the ball might have made him for a hustler in the Organization — not a muscle boy, but somebody with an angle.
[US]D. Goines Inner City Hoodlum 67: The hustlers, pimps and whores had all started to congregate.
[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 90: All the hustlers sneered as they heard his name smeared / And trampled and dragged through the mud.
[UK]V. Headley Yardie 27: The [...] newly arrived Jamaican youths in the area had adversely affected the local hustlers.
[US]G. Pelecanos Shame the Devil 199: Wilson looked at the skinny, greasy-lookin’ hustler with the yellow eyes.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 226: Pimps and hustlers were a natural [...] group from which to draw [for a creative writing class].
[US]D. Winslow The Force [ebook] [H]ot, smelly, noisy, dangerous, fun, interesting, stimulating, infuriating Harlem with the real people and [...] the hustlers, the slingers, the whores.

5. (W.I.) a confidence man, a well-dressed beggar.

[US]Source Aug. 94: Real hustlers don’t talk about shit they did. Game is to be sold, not told.

6. (US Und.) a pimp.

[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 47: Hustler, [...] a grafter; a pimp who steals betimes. The genteel thief is designated a ‘hustler’.
[US] ‘Hectic Harlem’ in N.Y. Amsterdam News 8 Feb, sect. 2: HUSTLER. – A pimp, procurer and person who generally lives without working.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 93: Hustlers, gambling house steerers and junk pushers find prospects in them.
[UK]C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners 77: You’re not that kind of hustler.
[US]D. Goines Street Players 79: If Fay hadn’t disrespected him so in front of all the other pimps and hustlers.
[US]Ebonics Primer at www.dolemite.com [Internet] hustler Definition: 1. a pimp [...] Example: The king of all hustlers is Youngblood Priest.

7. (US) a prostitute of either sex.

[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 408: Hustler. Prostitute.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 159: I hear the hustlers are yum-yum in France, too.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 150: All you can knock around is that beat-out hustler John brushed off.
[US]Kerouac On the Road (The Orig. Scroll) (2007) 113: Allen was queer in those days [...] and Neal saw that, and a former boyhood hustler himself in the Denver night. [Ibid.] 231: It is also the hustler’s bar, the boys who make a living among the sad old homos of the Eighth Avenue night.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 86: The son of a nameless father, his mother a hustler in a whorehouse.
[US]Homosexuality & Citizenship in Florida 14: Such young people as this, known as hustlers, will frequently become ‘fairies,’ intersted only in sex with any man, or ‘dirt,’ willing to be passive in a homosexual act but given to robbing the homosexual of all money and clothing at its conclusion.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 165: What she appears to be, a hustler makin’ a pipeline.
[US]J. Rechy Numbers (1968) 27: Johnny spots a male hustler here, an interested man there, a potential queen.
[US]D. Goines Street Players 33: How can you tell a real good hustler from one that’s just fair?
[US]L. Kramer Faggots 46: The ass handkerchiefs and keys [...] green for hustler.
[US]H. Gould Fort Apache, The Bronx 101: That dumb bitch used to be the best hustler in New York City.
[US](con. 1940s) C. Bram Hold Tight (1990) 92: Sash was a ridiculously proper hustler – despite the heat, he wore a necktie tonight.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 433: Well, your sweetie pie here was a known associate of a known fruit hustler named Bobby Inge.
[US]D. Simon Homicide (1993) 260: The Meat rack [...] where hustlers sold themselves outside the gay pickup bars.
[US]E. White My Lives 119: I liked the notion behind the English term rent boy rather then our hustler, since the American word suggested something dishonest and on the make.

8. a gambler or player of pool, bowling etc, who uses skill and poss. cheating to make a living against lesser opponents.

[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 257: One of the town bullies was playing pool with a hustler and losing.
[US]H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 17: Stool-pigeon [...] came into general use among American gamblers to designate a capper or a hustler for a Faro bank.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 156: A couple of hustlers from the poolroom [...] were eating at the counter.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 150: He had been there for about ten minutes, talked to a couple of hustlers, made a phone call, had a few more drinks and left.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Weed (1998) 133: That was the way most pool hustlers got cut down.
[US](con. 1960s) R. Price Wanderers 165: Every Friday night the Wanderers bowled as house hustlers at Galasso’s Paradise Lanes.
[US] ‘The Open Book’ in G. Logsdon Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing (1995) 112: A tinhorn card hustler and discard cunt rustler, / a throw back to some ancient age.
[US]G. Hayward Corruption Officer [ebk] cap. 1: I love taking a 9 to 5 nigga’s money, but taking a hustler’s money is like winning $10,000 dollars on one of those scratch tickets!

9. (US campus) a man who succeeds in seducing women, a womanizer.

[US]Baker et al. CUSS.
[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L:1/2 61: hustler n Playboy, someone who has great success with females.
[US]Ebonics Primer at www.dolemite.com [Internet] hustler Definition: [...] 3. a sexually successful male. One who can score easily.

10. a tout.

[UK]T. Keyes All Night Stand 69: At that moment [...] the poncy Greek-looking doorman hustler stepped out.

In phrases

hustlers don’t call showdowns

(US black) a phr. meaning one who is on the receiving end of a hand-out does not cause trouble because that might terminate the flow of free gifts.

[US]H.E. Roberts Third Ear n.p.: hustlers don’t call showdowns an expression almost equivalent to ‘beggars can’t be choosers’.