Green’s Dictionary of Slang

needle v.

1. to haggle, esp. if one takes advantage of the other person.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 254: needle (see nail) to needle a person, is to haggle with him in making a bargain, and, if possible, take advantage of him, though in the most trifling article.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.

2. vi, to irritate, to annoy; thus needled

[UK]Sl. Dict. 235: Needle To annoy.
[UK] ‘’Arry on Harry’ in Punch 24 Aug. 90/1: What’s needled my nabs, it appears, / Is being mistaken for Me!!!
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘A Dangerous Dad’ Sporting Times 3 Feb. 1/4: Oh, it do needle me / That, as old as ’e is, ’e can out me!
[US]Phila. Eve. Bulletin 5 Oct. 40/4: Here are a few more terms and definitions from the ‘Racket’ vocabulary: [...] ‘Needle,’ to irritate, as a person.
[US]Mencken Amer. Lang. (4th edn) 580: Some of their inventions, indeed, were adopted by the whole population, e.g., [...] to needle.
[UK]Observer Rev. 4 July 14: It is about the new, and the new is always needling.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 6 Feb. 39: It needles him that in another universe entertainers are earning millions for making films.

3. vtr, to annoy someone, to tease maliciously.

[US]Topeka Journal 2 Feb. n.p.: Lewis bitterly resented this pressure and [...] developed considerable personal heat against Roosevelt for ‘needling’ him.
[US](con. 1944) J.H. Burns Gallery (1948) 34: Nothing was easier than to lash McCloskey into mania by needling.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 140: They needle Mexicans in Mexico with the old song of racial inferiority, to turn them against their northern neighbors.
[UK]J. Gosling Ghost Squad 157: The ‘needling’ went on all the time [...] I also paid him the final insult by asking him in public how he spelled his name!
[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Confessions 31: All I want to do is needle them [i.e. policemen] as I best I can.
[US]R.D. Pharr S.R.O. (1998) 108: Many of the less fortunate inmates [...] went out of their way to needle Suzie.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 47: They made funny faces behind my back: you can needle an oldster!
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 156: Ever since she’d made the mistake of telling him the details of her previous major fling he’d needled her about it.

4. to become annoyed.

[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 39: You must needle easy if this punk can do it. Who took the cuffs off ?

5. (US) to add alcohol or ether to a non-alcoholic beer or drink, usu. by injection through the cork, thus needleman, one who does this.

[US]Phila. Eve. Bulletin 5 Oct. 40/4: Here are a few more terms and definitions from the ‘Racket’ vocabulary: [...] ‘Needle,’ to strengthen, as a liquor.
[US]Eve. Sun (Baltimore, MD) 9 Dec. 31/5: Needleman — one who doctors beer.
[US]D. Runyon ‘For a Pal’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 573: The beer is not real, and by no means nice, being all needled up with alky.
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 93: The thirsty patrons soon made the position easier by ‘needling’ the tame stuff with liquor from their hip flasks.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 144/1: Needle. [...] 2. To inject ether or alcohol into beer.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 809: needle – To treat a soft drink or ‘near beer’ with some form of alcohol, ether, etc., to give it a ‘kick,’ making it intoxicating.

6. to insinuate oneself.

[US]Topeka Journal 21 Mar. 4/2: Whilst Mussolini has been losing influence with Franco in Spain, Hitler has been needling in rapidly.

7. to encourage, to ‘prod’.

[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 37: A part of him was trying to needle his courage to look over the edge of his hole.

8. (Irish) to scrounge.

[Ire]P. Boyle At Night All Cats are Grey 66: He makes bloody few mistakes as far as needling for drink is concerned, even the Scroggy-man would be put to the pin of his collar to best him.
[Ire]Share Slanguage.

9. (US Und.) to drill a hole, e.g. in a safe.

[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 96: I needled and blew the crib inside of fifteen minutes.

In derivatives

needled (adj.)

1. upset, annoyed.

[UK]G.R. Sims Dagonet Ballads 77: There, he’s off! the young varmint, he’s needled!
[UK] ‘’Arry in Switzerland’ in Punch 5 Dec. in P. Marks (2006) 97: I wasn’t much ’urt, mate, thanks be — only needled a bit in my pride.
[UK] ‘’Arry on the Sincerest Form of Flattery’ in Punch 20 Sept. 144/2: You are needled along o some parties.
[UK]J.D. Brayshaw Slum Silhouettes 219: Blowed if she didn’t git fair needled. She ain’t scarcely spoke to me since.
[UK]J. Curtis Look Long Upon a Monkey 190: He had been waiting for this wide boy to get needled.
[UK]G. Lambert Inside Daisy Clover (1966) 96: He’s distinctly needled now.
[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell Plays Solomon (1976) 104: I allowed myself to get needled.

2. (US) intoxicated.

[US]J. O’Connor Broadway Racketeers 253: Needled—Charged with dope.

3. adulterated.

[US] ‘Und. “Lingo” Brought Up-to-Date’ L.A. Times 8 Nov. K16: NEEDLED: Near beer, or a beverage into which alcohol or ether has been injected.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Hottest Guy in the World’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 355: He [...] gets out some pretty fair beer, though it is needled a little.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Dead Don’t Dream’ in Hollywood Detective July 🌐 The fall was an accident [...] But the needled whisky wasn’t.
[UK]I, Mobster 60: Keep on their tail to see they didn’t hand you nothing but needled slop.

In compounds

needle beer (n.) (also needled beer, ...brew, shot beer)

(US) beer that has been strengthened by pure alcohol or ether.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 59: I hear there’s good stuff down at Al’s. Naw. He’s got that needle beer. One shot and you’re numb.
[US]Phila. Eve. Bulletin 5 Oct. 40/4: Here are a few more terms and definitions from the ‘Racket’ vocabulary: [...] ’needled beer,’ beer containing more than one-half of one per cent alcohol. [...] ‘shot beer,’ same as ‘needled’ beer.
[US]W.N. Burns One-Way Ride 71: The O’Donnells slipped over on him a few barrels of needle beer instead of the real stuff.
[US](con. 1920s) S. Longstreet Pedlocks (1971) 297: Peter [...] grew to love the needled beer of the New Jersey bootleggers.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 245: [They] go to cheap beer-dives where they get loaded on needled brew, then get rolled.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Best that Ever Did It (1957) 7: During Prohibition it was called the Grand Cafe Ice Cream Parlour and openly sold needle beer and very little ice cream.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 809: needle – To treat a soft drink or ‘near beer’ with some form of alcohol, ether, etc., to give it a ‘kick,’ making it intoxicating. needle beer – Beer treated as above.
[US]H. Roth From Bondage 129: Known to Jeffrey was a speakeasy [...] Bob and Ira would repair Saturday nights, after the store closed, and quaff ‘needle beer’.
needle-man (n.)

(US Und.) one who adulterates beer.

[US]J.L. Kuethe ‘Prison Parlance’ in AS IX:1 27: needle-man. One who doctors beer.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 144/1: Needle-man. [...] 2. (Especially prohibition era) One who doctors beer by charging it with ether or denatured alcohol.