Green’s Dictionary of Slang

spring v.

[SE spring, to cause to appear, in game shooting use, to ‘put up’ a bird]

1. to produce (e.g. a police badge), to create, to make appear.

[[UK]J. Day Ile of Guls V iii: Why then we have once spring’d a couple of woodcocks].
[UK]Jonson Bartholomew Fair (1811) V:6: I may, perhaps, spring a wife for you anon .
[US]H. Blossom Checkers 44: I meets a young guy [...] and he springs a system to beat roulette.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 35: Mr. Smithers sprung a new gag to pacify the boss.
[US]H.A. Franck Zone Policeman 88 170: I was about to ‘spring my badge’ for the first time.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 170: Always some skunk to spring things like that! Knocking and sneering.
[US]C. Himes ‘Let Me at the Enemy’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 41: This icky, George Brown, sprung this jive.
[US]J. Thompson Criminal (1993) 11: Then spring some deal that had to be settled right away.

2. to make happen.

[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Tom and Jerry II i: Let’s start on some spree; no doubt we shall spring a lark somewhere.
[US]J. Lait Put on the Spot 113: No harness men on that beat when you spring action.

3. (orig. UK Und.) of both persons and objects, to discover, to come upon [late 19C+ use is Aus.].

implied in spring a plant under plant n.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 33/1: Where the — did you ‘namase’ to at the break of the boat? We looked every where for you and couldn’t ‘spring’ you. [Ibid.] 139/2: There would be a ‘frisking-do’ on the ‘drum’ [...] and in that event our ‘swag’ would be ‘sprung’.
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxix 4/5: spring: To be sprung, one is caught in the act of doing something highly irregular.
[Aus]Adamson & Hanford Zimmer’s Essay 78: The fuckwitted screw ramped Carol and sprang the note.
[Aus]Lette & Carey Puberty Blues 84: Shit [...] must’ve been sprung nicking off.
[Aus]R. Aven-Bray Ridgey-Didge Oz Jack Lang 10: Being a syrup of fig was not his go. It was always on the cards that he could end up with a bit of swish if he got sprung being a gig.
[Aus]Penguin Bk of Aus. Jokes 332: He sprang the sailor bonking the girl.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Mystery Bay Blues 54: Fuck it, Les cursed himself, I’ve been sprung.
[Aus]D. Telegraph (Sydney) 21 Dec. [Internet] He was sprung [...] visiting Disneyland on a false passport.
[Aus]T. Spicer Good Girl Stripped Bare 14: A car careens around the corner. ‘Shit, I’m sprung,’ he says, scampering away.

4. to take possession of .

[UK]D. Haggart Autobiog. 121: It felt hard, and without difficulty I sprung a skin, which I emptied into my cloy.

5. to offer a higher price.

[UK]Marvel XIV:344 June 11: Can [...] what’s ’e’s name – spring an extra tanner per ’our.
[UK]E. Pugh Cockney At Home 197: He started me at thirty, and run gradually hisself up till he sprung fifty guineas.
[UK]E. Wallace Squeaker (1950) 7: There’s a gentleman in Maida Vale who’s offered me three thousand and would spring another.
[UK]G. Ingram Cockney Cavalcade 121: Can’t you spring another fifty?

6. (also spring for) to pay over a sum of money, to buy a certain amount; to produce; to pay for, to treat.

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 448/1: Some even sell at ‘a halfpenny apiece,’ [...] when ‘cracked-up,’ and unable to ‘spring’ a better stock. [Ibid.] II 28/2: If the seller finds he can get him to ‘spring’ [...] he says, ‘I shuppose I musht take your money even if I loosh by it’.
[UK]E.J. Milliken ‘Cad’s Calendar’ in Punch Almanack n.p.: Wonder if old snip would spring another? [i.e. coat] / Boots, too, rayther seedy; beastly bother!
[US]F. Norris Vandover and the Brute (1914) 228: As soon as he’d squeal I’d spring cold cash on him.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 32: He had [...] sprung a tanner.
[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 250: Feathers [...] said reproachfully to the Aberdeen engineer [...] whose turn it was to ‘spring’: ‘Blime, cobber, er yer givin’ ther barmaid er perpetual ’oliday ’r what?’.
[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 121: He’ll [...] spring for a machine so as not to miss anything.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 1 Oct. 4/7: His ‘skyrockets’ then are ‘stiff’ / And he hasn’t got a ‘spiff’ / And he wants to ask you if / You can ‘spring.’ .
[UK]E. Pugh City Of The World 205: I don’t say that I can’t afford to pay more than a shilling a week. I’d spring two or three if I knew of a real good school.
[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 17 Jan. 7/7: He agreed to spring her a drink at an adjoining pub.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Final Count 814: For a cert like this ’e might spring for a quid, too.
[Aus]H. Drake-Brockman Hot Gold I iii: Couldn’t you spring a few bob for the missus, Jack?
[US]E. Gilbert Vice Trap 7: Druckere had sprung already. The half-dozen guys [...] had Lucky bottles in front of them.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 80: He’ll ‘spring for’ it [i.e. $100] tomorrow night.
[US]R. Price Ladies’ Man (1985) 218: I’ll spring for another five.
[US]G.V. Higgins Patriot Game (1985) 84: The only other thing that I can think of that’d make Ticker spring for lunch is the SJC thing.
[US]C. Hiaasen Stormy Weather 167: Perhaps I’ll even spring for a goat.
[US]J. Ridley Conversation with the Mann 38: It had gotten around that I’d sprung for movie tickets and candy.
[Aus]J.J. DeCeglie Drawing Dead [ebook] I’d sprung for ity [i.e. a hotel]on my credit card and told her to lay as low as she could.

7. to afford.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 1134/1: late C.19–20.

8. (US Und.) to open (a lock).

[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 258: He sprung the paddy with a screw. He opened the lock with a key.
[Aus]Adamson & Hanford Zimmer’s Essay 38: If you spring a car and find a set of ignition leads and some coat-hanger wire in the glove box, don’t think you have worked somebody in exactly your line.

9. (orig. US, also spring out) to escape from prison.

[US]H. Hapgood Autobiog. of a Thief 38: To ‘spring,’ is to escape the clutches of the law. [Ibid.] 188: Well, if you can get on Keeper Riley’s gallery I think you can spring (escape).
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 180: Spring Out.–To escape from gaol, usually when no force is needed.
[UK] (ref. to 1920s) L. Duncan Over the Wall 126: I might be able to spring myself legitimately if I place the dough in the right party’s hands.
[US]C. Hamilton Men of the Und. 325: Spring, [...] 2. To escape from prison.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 254: spring (v) 1. Escape from prison.

10. to get a person out of prison, to have someone released, to release.

[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 62: It cost his push a thousand plunks to spring him from the coppers.
[US]A. Berkman Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist (1926) 198: A real good gun’s always got his fall money planted, – I mean some ready coin in case of trouble, and a smart lawyer will spring you most every time.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 405: Flight. Escape – ditch out, blow, bolt, give police the raspberry, scoot, spring a man.
[US]J. Tully Jarnegan (1928) 40: He was ‘sprung’ from the Ohio Penitentiary in two years and six months.
[US]J. Lait Put on the Spot 62: Spring Polack Annie . . . oh, not this minute—but give our word that she will walk through the doors in a day or two.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 20: By this time Bow and Emil Burbacher were sprung from The School.
[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/4: Among American borrowings recorded in Detective Doyle's list are: [...] ‘stiff,’ a corpse; ‘spring,’ to bail out; ‘snow,’ cocaine; ‘sticks,’ country districts.
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 104: Then my lawyer got me sprung on a writ.
[Aus]J. Alard He who Shoots Last 106: All I seen lately’s a mob of louse screws lookin’ at me through da bars. I’m celebratin’ bein’ sprung.
[US]Time 15 Apr. 92: Discharged from prison, Lou Jean Poplin—sometime beautician, full-time nudzh—must first spring her husband from the minimum-security prison.
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 252: Less than three years after getting sprung from the joint.
[UK]L. Theroux Call of the Weird (2006) 106: Others went down to the courthouse to spring Mike Cain out of jail after his traffic infraction, all carrying guns.
[Aus]C. Hammer Scrublands [ebook] Defoe’s article [...] had all the stuff about Swift being a rock spider, but nothing [...] of him getting sprung from jail by powerful people.

11. as sense 10 in a non-prison context.

[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 34: He shoed me [...] how to open the front parlour window: he called it ‘springing’ the window and that is a good name, because, you know, you do spring it.
[US](con. 1949) J.G. Dunne True Confessions (1979) 252: [of a nun] He thought of Moira [...] He wondered if Des had sprung her for Mary Margaret’s homecoming.
[UK]A-Team Storybook 33: You’re both here to try and spring that nosey reporter I’ve got stashed away – right?
[UK]Indep. Rev. 27 July 9: The lovely dumb blond virgin who has been sprung by Pseudolus from the House of Marcus Lycus.

12. to alter.

[US]S. Longstreet Decade 317: He’s had his pan sprung by a sawbones and his finger maps etched out in acid – but it’s no dice. The Feds are on his tail.

13. (US prison) to leave prison after completing one’s sentence.

[US]Maines & Grant Wise-crack Dict. 14/1: Spring – To be released from arrest.
[US]Mencken Amer. Lang. (4th edn) 581: In virtually all American prisons [...] To be released is to spring or to hit the bricks.
[US]C. Shafer ‘Catheads [...] and Cho-Cho Sticks’ in Abernethy Bounty of Texas (1990) 215: spring, v. – to leave prison for home.

14. (Aus. Und.) to catch someone engaged in an illicit activity.

[Aus]D. Ireland Burn 99: Now I’ve got you. Your own son sprung you.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. [Internet] Spring. 2. To catch someone engaged in an illicit activity.
[Aus](con. 1945–6) P. Doyle Devil’s Jump (2008) 28: If anyone springs us we’ll have a blue on our hands.

In phrases

spring a partridge (v.) [sporting jargon spring a partridge, of a beater to cause a partridge to rise from cover]

of a confidence trickster, to entrap a victim and then rob or otherwise defraud them.

[UK]Dekker Lanthorne and Candle-Light Ch. 5: Sir, wee haue Sprung a Partridge, and so fare you wel.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Spring a partridge c. People drawn in, to be Bit.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
spring for (v.)

see sense 4 above.

spring in (v.) (also spring into)

(US tramp) to break into a loaded boxcar; thus springing in n.

[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 164: In the railroad yards, I had my eyes opened to one of the safest getaways ever discovered – that of ‘springing’ into a loaded box car. Johnnie got an iron bar out of a scrap pile. [...] The process of ‘springing in’ was simple. With the iron bar Johnnie lifted the bottom of a side door till it was clear of the hasps that held it in place. Placing one foot against the car, he pulled the bottom of the door out, away from its position, making space enough for us to crawl up into the opening. When we were safely inside, he sprang the door hack into its place with his bar.
spring it (v.) (also spring on, spring upon)

1. to reveal a plan or idea, with some element of surprise.

[UK]Daily Tel. 21 Nov. n.p.: Such a man is not likely to spring upon his associates and allies a scheme of English surrender to Irish demands [F&H].
[US]E. Townsend Chimmie Fadden Explains 18: Miss Fannie sprung the play on dem.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 9 Feb. 291: He wanted [...] to spring it on me as a surprise.
[US]R. Lardner Gullible’s Travels 85: ‘What’s the scheme now?’ ‘You’ll find fault with it because I thought it up,’ she says. [...] ‘If it really was good you wouldn’t be scared to spring it,’ I says.
[UK]Wodehouse Clicking of Cuthbert 77: You aren’t going to spring it on me suddenly?
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 2: Not the sort of thing to spring on a lad with a morning head. [Ibid.] 238: The Tomlinson female has just sprung it on me that I’m expected to make a speech to the girls!
[UK]J. Curtis Gilt Kid 118: When he’s had a good dinner and feels kind of happy then’s your cue to spring it on him.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 75–6: It was a pity Ziegler had had to be let in on it. Len had wanted to spring it on him.
[US]J. Thompson Savage Night (1991) 127: I knew she was ready to spring it.

2. to pull a joke.

[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 218: He exploded, ‘Oh, spring it, spring it, you boneheads! What’s the great joke?’.
spring out (v.)

see sense 7 above.