Green’s Dictionary of Slang

works, the n.

also the whole works

1. [late 19C+] everything, the lot.

2. [1900s–20s] the leader, the ‘boss’.

3. [1910s+] the finest example.

4. [1920s] the situation.

5. [1930s–40s] a beating; the ‘third degree’; murder.

6. [1930s–40s] (US Und.) an informer; a confession.

7. [1930s–50s] (US gay) a passive homosexual.

8. [1930s+] sexual intercourse.

9. [1950s] (US teen) a machine.

10. [1980s+] in prostitution, the full range of a prostitute’s services.

In phrases

big works (n.)

[1910s] (US) an important person.

get the works (v.)

1. [1920s–50s] to suffer, to be punished, to be killed.

2. [1920s+] (US prison) to receive a death sentence, to receive a very long sentence.

give someone the works (v.)

1. [1920s–40s] to reveal everything.

2. [1920s+] (also put the works on) to harm, ranging from beating up to actual murder.

3. [1920s+] to put all one’s efforts into communicating something, typically a sermon or political oration, or doing something, criticizing or selling something etc.

4. [1930s+] (US tramp) to be given a job by a social agency.

5. [1920s+] (also put the works into) to make sexual advances towards.

6. [1930s+] to engage in sexual intercourse.

7. [1950s] to make a thorough medical inspection.

hand someone the works (v.)

[1940s] to spoil someone’s chances.

put the works on (v.)

1. [1900s] (US Und.) to beat up.

2. [1920s] (US) to direct one’s energies towards, e.g. in order to deceive or seduce.