Green’s Dictionary of Slang

light adj.

[fig. uses of SE light, as in ‘light upon her heels’, ‘light in the head’, ‘light in the pocket’]

1. [mid-16C–early 19C] of women, promiscuous.

2. [mid-18C; 1930s+] (US) intoxicated, esp. by drugs.

3. [20C+] (orig. US black, also light of, light on) short of money.

4. [1960s+] (US black) stupid.

5. [1960s+] weak.

6. [1990s+] (US) unable to consume large quantities of drink and/or drugs.

In derivatives

lightness (n.)

[late 16C–17C] of a woman, wantonness, promiscuity.

In compounds

light frigate (n.) [pun on SE light frigate, a light, swift vessel + frig v. (1)]

[late 17C–19C] a prostitute.

light head (n.)

1. [1950s] (US drugs) one who restricts their drug intake to ‘light’ drugs, e.g. cannabis.

2. see separate entry.

light heels (n.)

see separate entry.

light housewife (n.)

[mid-16C–18C] a promiscuous (married) woman; prostitute.

light skirt(s) (n.)

see separate entry.

light stuff (n.)

1. [1960s+] (drugs) any non-addictive drugs, e.g. cannabis.

2. [1970s+] an unimportant person.


see separate entries.

lightwit (n.)

[1900s-40s] (US) a fool.

light woman (n.) (also light lady, light wench)

[late 16C–mid-19C] a prostitute; in weaker sense, an immoral or promiscuous woman.

In phrases

light in the ass (adj.)

[1990s+] (US black) second-rate, insubstantial.

light of/on (adj.)

see sense 3 above.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

light blue (n.)

[19C] gin.

light feeder (n.) [ety. unknown]

[mid-19C–1900s] a silver spoon.

light-food (n.)

[late 19C–1900s] chewing tobacco.

lightfoot (n.) [one who has not ‘trod heavily’ in the world]

[1970s–80s] (US black) a neophyte to the raffish world of the streets, one who leads a sheltered life and does not properly participate in the tougher ghetto world.

light horseman (n.) [? from light horseman, a large wherry working the Thames]

[mid-19C] a dockside thief.

light housekeeping (n.)

[1970s] (US black) co-habiting.

light infantry (n.)

[mid–late 19C] fleas.

light-timbered (adj.)

[late 17C–mid-19C] of a person, slender, thin; thus physically weak.

light troops (n.)

[19C] body lice.

light wet (n.)

see under wet n.

In phrases

light in the loafers (adj.) (also light on her feet) [the image is of the stereotyped effeminate male, tripping along]

[1950s+] (US) homosexual.

lightly and politely (adv.) (also lightly, slightly and politely; slightly, lightly and politely)

[1930s–60s] (US black) smoothly, effortlessly.