Green’s Dictionary of Slang

down adv.2

[orig. Und. down cove, a potential victim of a robbery who is aware of being targeted. Originating among late-18C London criminals, the term survives mainly among US blacks]

1. (also downish) aware, conscious of, knowledgeable; thus be down upon, to be aware, to be knowledgeable; in 1940s+ use, to be part of the current (youth) fads and fashions.

[UK]Sporting Mag. June IV 180/1: Those downish means to thrive, by which you nap’d the quids.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 236: down: sometimes synonymous with awake, as, when the party you are about to rob, sees or suspects your intention, it is then said that the cove is down.
[UK]J. Burrowes Life in St George’s Fields 6: Dick, who was up to every thing, and down to every thing.
[UK] ‘Sam Weller’s Adventures!’ in C. Hindley James Catnach (1878) 278: ’Cos being to knowingness down.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Digby Grand (1890) 282: I saw a bailiff once [...] and I was down upon those birds in half no time.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 93/2: We had better go in separately for fear there should be a ‘fly cop’ here, and he might ‘granny’ our ‘mugs’ and get down on us.
[UK]J. Greenwood Dick Temple I 114: It was strange that [...] the second gentleman should have been ‘down on her’ in such a way.
[UK]W. Hooe Sharping London 35: Down, to be aware of.
[US]‘Old Sleuth’ Dock Rats of N.Y. (2006) 18: At the same time she ‘nipped’ a letter which the man dropped from his jacket, and thus got down on the whole business.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 77: A gang of college kids who just sat around [...] with expressions that showed how much they were wrapped up and down with it.
Huey ‘Piano’ Smith [song title] You’re Down With me.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 202: To be regular, to be ‘down,’ Hodden had to indulge.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 160: He’s supposed to be a schooled hustler, down with all games.
(con. 1960s) D.Wells Night People 95: Children a couple of years old can talk more mess than I would have dreamed of when I was ten. Talk about being down!
[US]Maledicta V:1+2 (Summer + Winter) 268: A person proficient at something is down, as in ‘He’s down in handball’.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 144: ‘That Murphy seems okay.’ ‘Yeah [...] Murphy’s down.’.
[US]G. Tate Midnight Lightning 18: He was trying to impress them with how down he could be with Ultra Blackness.

2. suspicious.

[UK] ‘Come All You Buffers Gay’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 53: For if the cull should be down / And catch you a fileing his bag / Then at the Old Bailey you’re found, / And d—n you, he’ll tip you the lag.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 27: Down [...] vindictive; to suspect another. ‘The copper cutty-eyed me and measured my mug, and is down on the job,’ the officer looked at me from the corners of his eyes, and examined my face; he suspects what we are about.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 132: Down ‘to be DOWN on one,’ to treat him harshly or suspiciously, to pounce upon him, or detect his tricks.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 9 June 7/4: Davis and I separated, as the police are down on two beggars together in London.

3. first-rate, excellent.

[US] ‘The Bullin Mr. Stavin’ Chain’ in J.F. Dobie Rainbow in Morning (1965) 179: Well, you kain’t make it down / Like the bullin’ Mr. Stavin’ Chain.
[US]Newport Jazz Festival: 1959 45: down: very good.

4. (US black) alert, keen to get on, tough, challenging in a fight.

[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 15: I’m down with the action to my own satisfaction.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 213: Hell, man, you down, I’m down. Now all we gotta do is get us—.
[US]T.R. Houser Central Sl. 19: down Bad or tough enough to be ready for anything. ‘I was down enough to hit-my-shit-up on the wall.’.
[US]K. Scott Monster (1994) 49: ‘I don’t want to see you again if you can’t kill them motherfuckers [...]’ Damn, she was down.
[UK]Guardian Editor 28 Jan. 10: That type of thinking, where black people equate being down, being real, and being black with just being stupid.

5. willing (to do something), enthusiastic.

Hal Ellson Rock 45: Are you down for some pool?
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 49: Hey, Vinnie, comeon. Lets throw a hump intaer. Shit man, Im down. Letsgo.
[US]H. Selby Jr Requiem for a Dream (1987) 16: Lets go where theres some life [...] Hey, baby, Im down.
[US]T. Fontana ‘God's Chillin’ Oz ser. 1 ep. 3 [TV script] I thought you said we not down with faggots.
[US]Source Aug. 100: He’s just a down brother; he’s down with helping brothers.
[US]C. Eble (ed.) UNC-CH Campus Sl. Spring 2014 5: DOWN — ready for, keen on, agreeable to: ‘I’m down to go to the game tonight.’ X: ‘You wanna go to the movies tonight?’ Y: ‘Yeah, I’m down’.

6. (US black) fashionably dressed, chic.

[US] ‘Mexicana Rose’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 36: I wore solid gold cufflinks – I knew I was down.
[US] ‘Honky-Tonk Bud’ in D. Wepman et al. Life (1976) 54: He was choked up tight in a white-on-white / And a cocoa front that was down.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Airtight Willie and Me 36: She was dap and down in a black chiffon chemise vine.
[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 86: [as cit. a.1964].
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 58: It was just plain difficult to look one hundred per cent down.

7. (US black) interesting, current.

[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 243: You been here before and are hep to what’s down.

8. (US) happening, going on.

[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 252: You’ve been here before and are hep to what’s down, so cop me a shank.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 23: The first thing down is a pimp [...] beating up on two of his whores.

9. worked out in a satisfactory manner, under control, going well.

[US]L.K. Truscott IV Dress Gray (1979) 248: He had the shit down.
[US]G. Tate ‘Santana’ in Flyboy in the Buttermilk (1992) 91: That Strauss ripoff they segued between ‘Black Magic Woman’ and ‘Gipsy Queen’ was baad, jim – twothousandandonespaceodeyssey down.
[US]Tarantino & Avery Pulp Fiction [film script] 14: I got my technique down.
[UK]Guardian Guide 5–11 Feb. 7: What I do when I sign autographs is add the very top of Bart’s head, the nine little spikes, and then I put the very tops of his eyeballs at the bottom of the page. I got that down!

10. (US) in a relationship.

[US]B. Gifford Night People 31: Luis and me is down, Mama! Get used to it!

11. (US gang) a member of a gang.

[US](con. 1990s) in J. Miller One of the Guys 55: ‘And hen my brother asked me, “Do you wanna be down or what?” ... and I was like “Fine, I’ll do it”’ [...] ‘I’m down for real, I’m down for life’.

12. (US black) feeling well, happy, at one with the world.

[US]‘Touré’ Portable Promised Land (ms.) 161: We Words (My Favorite Things) [...] Diss. Def. Down.

In derivatives

downish (adj.)

see sense 1 above.

In compounds

down-ass (adj.) [-ass sfx]

(US black) a general term of approval.

Ja Rule ‘Down Ass Bitch’ [lyrics] on Pain Is Love [album] Every thug needs a lady / Baby I’m convinced, you my down ass bitch.
downmouth (v.) [sense 2 above/down n.2 (2) + SE mouth]

(US) to attack verbally, to slander.

[US]W. Safire What’s The Good Word? 53: ‘To downmouth’ a blend of ‘bad-mouth’ (to derogate) or ‘poor mouth’ (to feign poverty) with ‘down-in-the-mouth’ (depressed) and ‘downplay’ (cable-ese for ‘play down’ [...]) with a soupcon of ‘downside risk’.

In phrases

ain’t down with

(US black/campus) used when referring to a situation one does not particularly like, e.g. I ain’t down with this idea!

[UK]Penn State U. Sl. Dict. [Internet] ain’t down with use when referring to a situation you don’t particularly like. example: ‘I ain’t down with this idea!’.
Promoguy.net 14 May [Internet] I ain’t down with PHP. But I know a lot of you are. And one day, I hope to be also. I mean, I can set up and configure pre-fab code, but when it comes to ‘rolling my own’ I am clueless.
down as a hammer/nail/trippet

very well aware.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 237: down as a hammer; down as a trippet: These are merely emphatical phrases, used out of flash, to signify being down, leary, fly, or awake to any matter, meaning, or design.
[UK]W. Perry London Guide 157: No sooner was he up to their message, than a shrill whistle raised the attention olf his companions [...] they were down as a nailin five seconds.
[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 44: Loud cheering at this speech of JOEY’S – / Who, as the dilettanti know, is / [...] Down as a hammer to the Arts!
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 315: ‘Down as a hammer, or Down as a nail,’ continued Sparkle, ‘are cant or slang terms made use of among gamblers, and are synonimous [sic] with being up.
[UK](con. 1703) W.H. Ainsworth Jack Sheppard (1840) 170: ‘Awake! to be sure I am, my flash cove,’ replied Sheppard; ‘I’m down as a hammer.’.
down by law (orig. US black)

1. expert, professional (within one’s occupation).

[US]World’s Famous Supreme Team ‘Hey DJ’ [lyrics] One thing’s for sure – you’re down by law.
[US]Ice-T ‘Radio Suckers’ [lyrics] Understand what I’m sayin’, they’re down by law!
[US]Source Nov. 64: Down by law with President Bill Clinton during his first term, George Stephanopoulos [...] now comments on Washington’s movers and shakers.
[Aus]Cypress Hill Sl. Gloss. [Internet] down by law: to be gifted.

2. describing a wholly admirable person, object or idea.

[US]‘Touré’ Portable Promised Land (ms.) 158: We Words (My Favorite Things) [...] Keep it real. Keep hope alive. Keep keepin on. Down by law.
down for

(US black) loyal to, committed to, in favour of.

[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 104: I nodded to Louie, and he came up to me like he was down for whatever I was down for.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 77: Myself, I’m down for the action anytime.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Mar. 3: down for – agreeable to.
[US]L. Bing Do or Die (1992) 23: He’s a bust; he ain’t down for his hood.
[US]W. Shaw Westsiders 32: Damn, he thought, there’s nobody down for me.
down for mine [mine n.]

(orig. US black) able to look after oneself.

[US]T.R. Houser Central Sl. 19: down for mine [...] ‘If you want to get bad, I’m down for mine’.
KAM ‘Down Fa Mine’ [lyrics] on Made in America [album] You shouldn’t speak with a weak heart / You gots to finish everything you start / That’s why I’m down for mine.
down on the case

(US black) fully aware, completely knowledgeable.

[US]H.E. Roberts Third Ear n.p.: down on the case fully aware of all of the aspects of a situation and taking necessary action.
down (up)on [sense 2 above/down n.2 (2)]

1. attacking physically.

[UK](con. 18C) W. Scott Guy Mannering (1999) 149: I think we should be down upon the fellow, one of these darkmans, and let him get it well.
[UK]J. Greenwood Little Ragamuffin 278: You dare so much as open your jaws [...] and he’ll be down on yer – certain.

2. annoyed with, disappointed in, holding a negative opinion of.

[US]A. Greene Glance at N.Y. II v: Look here, ladies and gentlemen – don’t be down on me ’cause I’m goin’ to leave you.
[UK]Dickens Martin Chuzzlewit (1995) 59: You are positively down upon her to too great an extent.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ G’hals of N.Y. 24: That’s a kind of business I’ve no desire ter be in, ’cos it involves the starvin’ principle, an’ I’m down on that!
[US]J.F. Brobst letter in Brobst Well Mary, Civil War Letters 90: They are down on Sherman because he makes them skedaddle for the south.
[UK]Wild Boys of London I 43/1: Perhaps if you had to go through a little of what I have suffered, you wouldn’t be quite so ready to be down on me.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 167: Let him only find out a man in some artful little game, and he would be ‘down on’ him and hunt his life out almost.
[UK]M.E. Kennard Girl in the Brown Habit III 95: ‘You are awfully down upon me,’ he stammered.
[Ire]Wkly Irish Times 5 Feb. 1/4: American Wit and Humour [...] She was down on slang.
[UK]‘Jack the Ripper’ letter 28 Sept. in Farson Jack the Ripper (1972) 39: Dear Boss, I keep hearing the police have caught me but they won’t fix me yet. [...] I am down on whores and I shan’t quit ripping them till I do get buckled. Grand work the last one was. I gave the lady no time to squeal.
[UK]Sporting Times 22 Feb. 2/3: When the French law is down on a man, it gives him biff; there is no forty bob or seven days, but forty bob and seven days.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 2 Mar. 360: I should have had my old mate [...] ‘down on me’ had I taken the boys away boating before the morning’s work was done.
[US]O. Johnson Varmint 36: You’ve got the whole darn house down on you already.
[UK]J. Buchan Thirty-Nine Steps (1930) 72: Those perishers are all down on a poor man.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 85: If ’e thought you was shirkin’ it, the Cap’n would be down on you.
[US]E. Anderson Thieves Like Us (1999) 96: I believe you are kinda down on people.
[NZ]F. Sargeson ‘They Gave Her a Rise’ in A Man And His Wife (1944) 19: I’m a Doolan myself, and Mrs. Bowman was always down on the churches.
[US]J. Thompson Alcoholics (1993) 54: Got the whole town down on him but good and wound up in jail.
[UK]F. Norman Guntz 221: Fortunately not all people are down on villains.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 43: Everyone down on the pusher.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 48: He had, for most of their time together, been down on Fran for her drugging.
down upon

aware, knowledgeable.

[UK]M. & R. Lovell Edgeworth Essays on Irish Bulls 138: Why, I was down upon him.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 316: ‘Why, your honour, only because you see as how I was up to him.’—’How do you mean, what is being up to him?’—‘Why, bless your heart, I was down upon him and had him bang’.
[UK]J. Miller Complete Jest Book 261: Stagging, my lord; why don’t you see I was down upon him.
down with (orig. US black)

1. through with.

[US]Cab Calloway New Hepsters Dict. in Calloway (1976) 254: down with it (adj.): through with it.

2. involved with, agreeable to.

[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 15: I’m down with the action to my own satisfaction.
[US]Down Beat 5 Oct. 51: I don’t know who the singer is, ’cause I’m not down with all the singers now.
[US]Beat Jokes Bop Humor and Cool Cartoons 57: The Ham wasn’t down with the action.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 118: You kin tell d’ dude righteously down with the pimp hustle just be lookin’ at what he do. Don’t need to talk ’bout it, he doin’ it!
[US](con. 1985–90) P. Bourjois In Search of Respect 208: So they be gin’ upstairs with a girl, and of course they already knew that I’m not going to be down with it.
[UK]Observer Rev. 7 May 10: Just because I’m down with the struggle, that don’t mean that I can’t have a social life.

3. empathetic, emotionally responsive; enjoying, appreciating.

[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 18: I’m with the issue and down with the action.
[US]M. Braly Shake Him Till He Rattles (1964) 113: I dig. I’m down with it.
[US] ‘Adam and Eve’ in Milner & Milner (1972) 293: Man, like you with it, you right down with it. He was a stone trick, you know.
[US] Ice-T ‘Rhyme Pays’ [lyrics] But you’re down with me. You know god gifted me / Black kids say I’m trech, white kids say I’m nifty.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 155: He was an unlikely cokehead, but he had a mission to be down with whatever was going on.
[US]Source Aug. 100: He’s just a down brother; he’s down with helping brothers.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr.
[US]T. Dorsey Atomic Lobster 70: I’m down with any faith that’s into bitchin’ pastry.

4. (US) friendly with.

[US]N. George ‘Forty Acres and an Empire’ in Buppies, B-Boys, Baps and Bohos (1994) 109: Ex-Citibanker Pedro Barry, who left his corporate gig to be down with Spike.
[US]J. Lerner You Got Nothing Coming 128: Hey, O.G. Why didn’t you tell me you was down with Kansas? Me and that old boy go back a little ways.
have something down (v.)

to be aware of the situation, to know what is going on.

[Aus]Maitland Mercury (Aus./NSW) 31 Mar. 2: ‘Inform on you? I see.’ ‘Now you’ve got the racket down fine’.
[US]R. Lardner Treat ’Em Rough 84: I put in a week on it [i.e. learning French] and I figure I have got it down good enough so as I can get by.
[US](con. 1958) R. Farina Been Down So Long (1972) 47: Man, he had it all down.
[US]L.K. Truscott IV Dress Gray (1979) 267: You’ve got quibbling fuckin’ down, is that it, Hand?
[US]G. Tate ‘Atomic Dog’ in Flyboy in the Buttermilk (1992) 33: I saw a Japanese chick singing, sounded like Sarah Vaughan. This girl couldn’t speak English too tough, but when she sang she had Sarah Vaughan down.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 35: I would have three days to learn the job [...] ‘I’ll have it down in a day,’ I told Gary.
[US]W. Shaw Westsiders 22: That was the bomb [...] You sounding like you got that gangsta shit down.
put down (v.)

(UK/US Und., to convey information to someone, to explain, to make someone aware; thus UK Und.) put a swell down, to alert one’s target (typically the target of a pickpocket) that one is about to rob them.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 236: to put a person down to any thing, is to apprize him of; elucidate, or explain it to him; to put a swell down, signifies to alarm or put a gentleman on his guard, when in the attempt to pick his pocket, you fail to effect it at once, and by having touched him a little too roughly, you cause him to suspect your design, and to use precautions accordingly; or perhaps, in the act of sounding him, by being too precipitate or incautious, his suspicions may have been excited, and it is then said that you have put him down, put him fly, or spoiled him.
[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 212: put down a story, v. – to tell one’s side of a story first.