Green’s Dictionary of Slang

short n.

1. neat gin.

[UK]‘Peter Corcoran’ ‘Gloss.’ in Fancy 110: short – Gin unlengthened by water.
[Ind]Delhi Sketch Bk 1 Oct. 61/1: Maty Boy bring another drop of short!
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 52/2: A glass of ‘short’ (neat gin).
‘Some Road Slang Terms’ in Malet Annals of the Road 395: 4. Of Coachmen A flash of lightning, a drop of short, or don’t stop to mix it...A glass of spirits neat.
[UK]C. Harris Three-Ha’Pence to the Angel 155: If George don’t bring a drop o’ short in I’ll ’ave ’is life.
[UK]G. Kersh Fowlers End (2001) 63: Pig’s ear. Beer. Or a drop o’ short?
[UK](con. WW2) R. Poole London E1 (2012) 257: He always had a bottle of short [...] and a drop o’ short was just what she needed.

2. as a vehicle [the comparatively short distance a street car or automobile would travel compared to a railway train; for sense 1b note Current Slang III:2 (1968): ‘This seems to be derived from the idea that most cars, especially compacts, are short in comparison with the old favorites, especially the Cadillac’].

(a) a street car.

[US]Salt Lake Herald (UT) 19 Oct. 5/1: JImmy ditches the leather and fans a short.
[US]F.H. Tillotson How I Became a Detective 96: Short – A street car.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 76: short [...] a street car. Derived from the limited extent of a street car ride compared with the distances negotiable by railroad transportation.
[US]G. Bronson-Howard God’s Man 281: I was standing shivering on a street corner last winter, me and Beau, not a bean to get the ham-an’-eggs outa hock, not even to grab a short and trolley ourselves down to Mother’s.
[Can] ‘Thieves’ Sl.’ Toronto Star 19 Jan. 2/5: STREET CAR Short.
see sense 1b.
[US]J.L. Kuethe ‘Prison Parlance’ in AS IX:1 27: short. A street car.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 192/2: Short, n. (Among pickpockets) A crosstown trolley or bus line.

(b) (also shot) an automobile.

[US]D. Clemmer Prison Community (1940) 335/2: short, n. A stolen auto; sometimes a street car.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Situation Wanted’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 658: The jockey of the yellow short.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 147: Come on an see my short. I’m parked down the way.
[US]L. Block Diet of Treacle (2008) 175: We can buy a car. Not the best short in the world but one that will move for us.
[US]T. Thackrey Thief 36: The first thing I did was head that short into a used car lot.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 3: Sucker runnin off at the jibs ’bout his new shot. [Ibid.] 254: short, shot Car.
[US]R. Price Clockers 241: ‘This your new short?’ Rodney nodded to the Mustang.
[US]G. Pelecanos Shame the Devil 211: My boys here . . . they make an exception when it comes to my short.
[US]Simon & Pelecanos ‘Late Editions’ Wire ser. 5 ep. 9 [TV script] When you done, leave my short on the street where I pick you up at.
[US]G. Pelecanos (con. 1972) What It Was 43: We taking Fonzo’s short.

3. (US) a short-barrelled or sawn-off revolver.

[US]N. Algren ‘So Help Me’ in Texas Stories (1995) 25: I ax him what he is going to use for money to get the short.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 284: We [...] went down to the Mex bootlegger an’ give him three bucks for the short.

4. a short measure of drugs.

implied in push shorts
[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in AS XIII:3 190/2: short. Var. of short-piece.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.

5. (US black/prison) a cigarette butt; a half-smoked cigarette.

[US] ‘Smokers’ Sl.’ in AS XV:3 Oct. 335/2: A cigaret partly smoked by another person is a [...] short.
‘Doctor’ Clayton ‘On the Killing Floor’ 🎵 Please give me a match to light this short that I’ve found; / I know it looks bad for me, picking tobacco up off the ground.
[US]E. Grogan Ringolevio 64: Shorts – the few last puffs of someone else’s cigarette.
[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].
[US]L. Stringer Grand Central Winter (1999) 66: I was puffing on a cigarette, contemplating how much of it to leave for the guy who had begged the ‘short’ from me.
[US]J. Lerner You Got Nothing Coming 161: C-Note taps a long ash off his half-smoked tailor [...] offers it to the Bone. ‘Here be a short, bro.’.

6. a measure of drugs, esp. crack cocaine, that is sold at a reduced price.

[US](con. 1985–90) P. Bourjois In Search of Respect 283: Rose was cool though; she didn’t even ask for a short [a price reduction on a vial of crack].

7. a short payment, thus the individual who makes it.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 10 Dec. 10/1: Shorts of one hundred to two hundred dollars at the end of the six months are usual.
1011 Next Up?‘’ 🎵 I add it up, take a oner off with the shorts.

In phrases

crack a short (v.)

(US Und.) to break into a car; usu. in pl. crack shorts.

[US]J. Mills Panic in Needle Park (1971) 20: Respectable neighbourhoods good for burglary and ‘cracking shorts’ (breaking into cars).
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 71: cracking shorts [...] Breaking into cars.
on the hot shorts

(US Und.) stealing automobiles.

[US]Arizona Dly Star (Tucson, AZ) 5 Mar. 19/3: Other sketches to be heard are ‘Hot Shorts,’ a story of car thieves.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
push shorts (v.)

(drugs, also shove shorts) to sell in small amounts; to sell short measure.

[US]B. Dai Opium Addiction in Chicago.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Lang. of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in Lang. Und. (1981) 108/1: To push shorts. The same as to push, with the inference that the peddler handles shorts or short-pieces; hence that he deals in small quantities. [Ibid.] 108/2: To shove shorts. See to push shorts.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore 166: Shove shorts [...] to sell small rations of narcotics.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 17: Push shorts — To cheat; sell short amounts.
take no shorts (v.) [SE short change]

(US black) to refuse to be fooled, cheated or put at a disadvantage.

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony ‘No Shorts, No Losses’ 🎵 on E.1999 Eternal [album] Better run to chalk it / Diggin’ ya deep in the dirt, squirt blood, / See the Bone’ll take no shorts or losses.
work the shorts (v.)

(US Und.) to pick pockets on a street car.

Jackson Dly News (MS) 1 Apr. 7/1: Crook Chatter [...] ‘What is he, a “dip”?’ [...] ‘Chiefly [...] his mob works the shorts a lot but [...] the leather lifting game is not what it used to be .
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).