Green’s Dictionary of Slang

works, the n.

also the whole works

1. everything, the lot.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 133: Costumes, street apparel, and the whole works for the presentation of ‘Shakespearian repertoire.’.
[US]C. M’Govern Sarjint Larry an’ Frinds 24: Oi [...] had de whole works clamped tight around his head.
[US]J. Lait ‘Felice o’ the Follies’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 76: There would be room at the table, and a room the size of a table, and the whole works would cost six dollars a week.
[US]D. Parker ‘Big Blonde’ in Penguin Dorothy Parker (1982) 195: I’m through with the whole works.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Cancer (1963) 267: More and more of it — until the whole fucking works is blown to smithereens.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 263: White beach, palm trees, tremendous luxury hotels [...] the works!
[Aus]Cusack & James Come in Spinner (1960) 20: Coming in here at five-thirty and throwing her weight round to get the whole works.
[US]Kerouac On the Road (The Orig. Scroll) (2007) 330: The fear if they caught me they’d really give it to me – I mean rubber hoses and the works.
[US]E. Dundy Dud Avocado (1960) 178: He looked like a Hollywood director out of New Yorker cartoon; full flowing foulard, red shirt and beret, the works except for riding boots and a megaphone.
[UK]R.L. Pike Mute Witness (1997) 53: Give it the full treatment – labels, luggage, clothes; everything. Linings and the works.
[US]E. Tidyman Shaft 5: Just testimony or the whole works with photographs and all that.
[UK]F. Norman Dead Butler Caper 11: Yes, yes, the whole works.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 219: We arrive with bells on – sirens, lights, the works.
[UK]J. Cameron Vinnie Got Blown Away 99: Give you the works Rameez.
[UK]J. Hawes Dead Long Enough 219: Me. Who has witnessed the whole bastard works.
S.J. Watson Before I Go to Sleep 258: I’d come over and see you and you’d be a mess. Crying, the works’.

2. the leader, the ‘boss’.

[US]Ade Girl Proposition 142–3: The only call that he made on her Intellect was to please regard him as The Works.
[US]D. Hammett ‘The Big Knockover’ Story Omnibus (1966) 319: If he hadn’t [...] been the works, how could he have so neatly turned the others over to me one at a time?

3. the finest example.

[US]T.A. Dorgan Silk Hat Harry’s Divorce Suit 14 May [synd. cartoon strip] She thinks that old Rumnmy is the whole works.
[US]R. Fisher Walls Of Jericho 181: This place was a flock o’ towns. It was the same thing to that part o’ the country that New York is to this. It was the works.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 486: She had a long, greyish coat which made her look like the works.
[US]T. Thursday ‘Sing Sing Sweeney’ in Crack Detective Jan. 🌐 I just come down to Miami for my health. [...] The quack told me that the Florida sunshine would be the works.
[Aus]A. Buzo Rooted II i: Let’s go out to dinner tonight. I’ll give you the works – cocktails, dinner by candle-light.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 49: Get yourself five outfits — the works, look like a boss.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘The Miracle of Peckham’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] You’ve gotta see this bird, she really is the works.

4. the situation.

[US]M. Levin Reporter 255: ‘Come on,’ growled Welsh Hogan, ‘I know the works.’.

5. a beating; the ‘third degree’; murder.

[US]C.W. Willemse Behind The Green Lights 278: He [...] must have demonstrated, if arrested, that he can ‘take the works’ at a police station without a squeal.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 239/2: Works. 1. A violent beating; murder.

6. (US Und.) an informer; a confession.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: He’s the works, he is a stool pigeon.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 239/2: Works. [...] 4. The complete details, as of a crime; a full confession. ‘You better lam (get out of town), Moe. I hear your broad (girl) got picked up (was arrested) and spilled the works (confessed everything).’.

7. (US gay) a passive homosexual.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: He’s the works [...] sexually perverted.
[US]D.W. Cory Homosexual in America 112: The passive [pederast] is defined by no less than sixty-eight different words or phrases, from apple-pie to works.

8. sexual intercourse.

[US]J.L. Kuethe ‘Johns Hopkins Jargon’ in AS VII:5 338: the works — [...] copulation.
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 71: This girl Connie was in for the works.

9. (US teen) a machine.

[US]Kramer & Karr Teen-Age Gangs 50: ‘Shoot the works.’ There was a whirl of the juke box record wheeling into place, the scratching of the record.

10. in prostitution, the full range of a prostitute’s services.

[US]Maledicta IX 150: The original argot of prostitution includes some words and phrases which have gained wider currency and some which have not […] the works (complete treatment, perhaps including around the world anilingus).

In phrases

big works (n.)

(US) an important person.

[US]G.R. Chester Five Thousand an Hour Ch. xiv: I’ d call to-night if I didn’ t have to be the big works at a Coney Island dinner party.
get the works (v.)

1. to suffer, to be punished, to be killed.

[US]R. Whitfield Green Ice (1988) 26: Who tipped you off to the fact that Wirt Donner was to get the works?
[UK]K. Mackenzie Living Rough 209: The poor niggers sure used to get the works.
[US]H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 145: When ordinary [...] politicians and officials bucked the tiger the dealers ‘protected the house’ at all times; in other words, these smaller fry got the works.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 140: I did something foolish and I got the works for it.

2. (US prison) to receive a death sentence, to receive a very long sentence.

[US]Mencken Amer. Lang. (4th edn) 581: In virtually all American prisons [...] To be sentenced to death is to get the works.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 97: get the works To be sentenced to death.
[Ire](con. 1945) S. McAughtry Touch and Go 127: Do you think he’ll get the works?
give someone the works (v.)

1. to reveal everything.

[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 425: Louis sure gave them the works. I’m wanted for murder.

2. (also put the works on) to harm, ranging from beating up to actual murder.

[US]J.E. Rendinell diary 10 July in One Man’s War (1928) 133: The calf did not want to go [...] We carried it alongside of a fence and gave it the works. It was some job skinning it.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Nightmare Town’ in Nightmare Town (2001) 36: Well, the rest of them [...] were all for giving Nova the works.
[US]Hostetter & Beesley It’s a Racket! 242: works — The ‘Third Degree’; the use of violence to obtain a confession; e.g. ‘The bulls gave me the works.’.
[US]D. Hammett Maltese Falcon (1965) 307: ‘I'm sorry I got up on my hind legs, but you coming in and trying to put the work on me made me nervous’.
[Scot]Dundee Courier 8 Oct. 11/6: The Treherne girl’s old man put the works on me.
[US]C.B. Yorke ‘Snowbound’ in Gangster Stories Oct. n.p.: ‘Give them the works if there‘s any funny business. Scram’.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Young Manhood in Studs Lonigan (1936) 249: If any bird on this team starts dirty work . . . give him the works!
[US]J. Tully Bruiser 28: At once Gill began to ‘give him the works.’.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 21: Sid [...] wobbled down to the police station to squawk about how some hoodlums gave him the works and hijacked all his whiskey.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 187: put the works on To employ violence.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Tomboy (1952) 117: The cops picked up twenty-three of us [...] and gave us the works.
[Aus](con. 1944) L. Glassop Rats in New Guinea 149: Then them an’ the tanks give the Nips the works.
[Ire]E. Mac Thomáis Janey Mack, Me Shirt is Black 148: Then Johnny went out to get the gang that gave his Da the works.

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

[US]K. Nicholson Barker I ii: Get this kid – hook, line an’ sinker – give him the works.
[US]J. Lait Put on the Spot 39: I got half a notion to give that big flatfoot the works. He’s hot for the front-page copy.
J. Davidman War Poems of the United Nations 85: Battle stations, give him the works, give him hell.
[NZ]I. Hamilton Till Human Voices Wake Us 11: [The magistrate] assumed the portentous air they nearly always do when they’re giving a chap the works.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 40: I [...] prepared to give her the works.
[Aus]‘Nino Culotta’ Gone Fishin’ 116: You pretend to be an inspector. Give him the works.

4. (US tramp) to be given a job by a social agency.

[US]‘Dean Stiff’ Milk and Honey Route 206: Give him the works – To be given a job by a social agency, or sent to the rock pile by the judge.

5. (also put the works into) to make sexual advances towards.

[US]Broadway Brevities Dec 11/2: After having the skids put under her by L. Lawrence Weber [...] she skipped to the coast and put the works into jack Dillon.
[US]San Diego Sailor 15: He took his hand out of his pocket and started giving me the works.

6. to engage in sexual intercourse.

[US]J.T. Farrell ‘Clyde’ in Short Stories (1937) 169: He handed her an additional dollar [...] Calling him dearie, she gave him the works.
[US]‘J.M. Hall’ Anecdota Americana II 30: The fairy then took his pants down and gave him the works in the ass.
[US]H. Miller Sexus (1969) 105: It was the signal to give her the works and spare nothing.
[NZ]G. Slatter Gun in My Hand 204: Well, your popsy’s not here, sport. Probably someone’s giving her the works on the front verandah.
[UK]B. Naughton Alfie Darling 173: Did you give her the works — the full treatment?
[US]Maledicta III:2 232: He also may or may not know the following words and expressions: [...] give him the shaft (the action, the rod, the works, etc.).

7. to make a thorough medical inspection.

[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Men from the Boys (1967) 29: ‘I’d say you’re in good shape — for an old man.’ ‘I’m only fifty-four, you punk.’ ‘Okay, pops, take off your shirt and I’ll give you the works.’.
hand someone the works (v.)

to spoil someone’s chances.

[UK]N. Marsh Final Curtain (1958) 124: ‘What’s he done?’ ‘Handed them the works.’.
put the works on (v.)

1. (US Und.) to beat up.

[US](con. 1900s) J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 31: Dat’s my goil [...] I’ve put the works on more than one mug fer trying to make her.

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

[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 140: Winnie [...] saw I was a regular eighteen-carat sap, so she preceeded to put the works on me.