Green’s Dictionary of Slang

buster n.1

[bust v.1 ]

1. in the context of size, energy or (exceptional) character.

(a) a ‘roistering blade’.

[US]Wkly Rake (NY) 13 Aug. n.p.: the rake wants to knowWhat regular buster was seen going into a respectable Dwelling house, in East Broadway, the other evening.
[US]J.R. Lowell Biglow Papers (1880) 15: Sez he, ‘Stan’ back!’ ‘Aint you a buster?’ / Sez I, ‘I’m up to all thet air, I guess I’ve been to muster.’.
[US]Thorpe Bear of Arkansas n.p.: I went on, larning something every day, until I was reckened a buster, and allowed to be the best bar-hunter in my district.
[UK]Broad Arrow Jack 24: The colonel’s on the ‘tarpee,’ as the French says. Isn’t he a buster?

(b) a dandy.

[UK] ‘’Arry in the Witness-Box’ in Punch 5 Feb. 61/2: I got myself up a rare buster, tan kids and a brown Hinverness, / With a lovely black Hastrykan collar, you know I’m a whale at smart dress.

(c) a large or full-grown child.

[US]J.M. Field Drama in Pokerville 164: A pair of ’em! naked, little, rosy, bawling busters!
[US]Bartlett Dict. Americanisms (2nd edn).
[US]Wash. Times (DC) 15 Dec. 46/7: Buster, a handsome child.
[US]Sewanee Rev. Spring n.p.: The young ’un come. He was a buster. He was nigh as big as his Mammy [W&F].
[US]J. Kirkwood There Must Be a Pony! 43: I’m on to you, Buster. Get the money up now!
[Ire]R. Doyle Van (1998) 371: Up we get. You’re a righ’ little buster, aren’t yeh?

(d) (also burster) something or someone exceptional of its or their type.

[US]Flash (N.Y.) 1:4 10 July 3/4: An old burster named [Ann] Heath lay on two chairs with her hair dishevelled and her smock open.
[UK]Ulster Gaz. 30 Dec. 4/2: I see a countryman leading a black colt — wasn’t he a burster, he had the greatest withers ever.
[US]J.J. Hooper Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs (1851) 178: His lips produced such an explosion [...] ‘Ha!’ exclaimed an old fellow [...] ‘Well! ’twas a buster, any way!’ .
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 76: She felt inclined to mug her rival, only she thought it would be no bottle, cos her rival could go in a buster at a slog.
[UK]‘Jacob Sidesplitter’ Sorrow-Disperser 16: ‘Ain’t I a burster,’ as the boiler said to the steam-boat captain, when it blew him sky high.
[US]H.B. Stowe Uncle Tom’s Cabin 81: Lor, Pete [...] han’t we got a buster of a breakfast!
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 15: BURSTER, an extra size; ‘what a buster,’ what a large one.
[US]E.K. Wightman letter 12 Sept. in Longacre From Antietam to Fort Fisher (1985) 30: Is she a buster, too?
[US]C.G. Leland ‘Breitmann’s Going to Church’ Hans Breitmann in Church 114: Du bist ein Musikant. / Top-sawyer on de counter-point / Und buster in discant.
[Ind]‘Aliph Cheem’ Lays of Ind (1905) 10: [of a ‘tall tale’] When Corker told a cracker which made everybody stare, / The Captain told a buster, which erected all your hair.
[UK] ‘’Arry [...] at the Grosvenor Gallery’ Punch 10 Jan. 24/2: Reglar busters, my biffin, some on ’em.
[US]D.J. O’Malley ‘The Cowboy Wishes’ in Stock Grower’s Journal 7 Apr. [Internet] I want to be a buster / And ride the bucking horse, / And scratch him in the shoulders / With my silvered spurs, of course. / I’ll rake him up and down the side, / You bet I’ll fan the breeze / I’ll ride him with slick saddle / And do it with great ease.
[UK]Sporting Times 25 Mar. 3/4: Moifaa is a great ‘buster’ of a gelding.
[UK]T. Norman Penny Showman 59: When I had a good day, so had he – we had what we term a ‘burster’.
[UK](con. 1835–40) P. Herring Bold Bendigo 60: The big ’un may give him a burster yet.
[US]N. Kimball Amer. Madam (1981) 118: A big buster of a piano.
[UK]P. Allingham Cheapjack 39: I thought I was going to ’ave a burster. [Ibid.] 317: Burster – A very successful day.
[US]J. Conroy World to Win 18: Ain’t he a buster? Fat as a pig!
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 170: Buster, Jim; this was soft as cotton and twice as fuzzy.
[UK]N. Streatfeild Grass in Piccadilly 100: This sort’a weather they’re bursters.
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Room to Swing 157: He seemed such a buster of an idea boy.
[UK]Observer Mag. 15 Sept. 8: Over the years they’ve picked up the language [fairground] [...] knowing that a good day is a ‘burster’.

(e) (UK Und.) a life sentence.

[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 68: Aye, she lagged him for his life! ‘Now,’ said she ‘the bloak has gone in for a buster; he’s been out for many a pelter, so now ve can go the rig.’.

(f) as spec. use of sense 1c above, the teenage Bavarian giantess, who appeared in London music-halls under the name ‘Maid Marian’ and after a brief but successful career died before she reached the age of 20.

[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 58/1: Buster (Music Hall, 1882). A special giantess, called Maid Marian. For some time after she left London the word was applied to big women, and for some years the boys in the Leicester Square district would shout at a big woman, ‘My high-yere’s a Maid Marian for yer!’ Marian was a Bavarian giantess brought to London in this year. She appeared at the Alhambra in the autumn so successfully that the dividends paid to shareholders were doubled. She was sixteen only, more than 8 feet high, and was ‘still growing’.

(g) a substantial meal.

[UK] ‘’Arry on the Rail’ in Punch 13 Sept. 109/1: We wos off by the earliest train, and ’ad breakfast, a buster, ong root.

(h) (US Und.) one who fights or hits.

[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 246: Buster. A fighter. [Ibid.] 258: Tommy Buster. Woman beater.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 396: Assaulter. Rough guy [...] a ‘blood,’ buster, cannon man.

(i) (US black gang, also busta) a loser, a failure, a coward; a general derog. term.

[US]L. Bing Do or Die (1992) 23: They a couple of ’em from one of them sets in here and one of the dudes is a buster. He a real coward.
[US]UGK ‘Ridin’ Dirty’ [lyrics] Even though some bustas thought I’m still rollin like a ball.
[US]Dr Dre ‘Light Speed’ [lyrics] I hang among hustlers, I slang and hoo-bang Bronson / when bustaz roll through, can’t fuck with my bold crew.
[US]Ebonics Primer at www.dolemite.com [Internet] busta Definition: a fool, or jive mofo. Commonly used to put down Whitey or The Man. Often pronounced ‘bussa’ Example: Damn, dat honkey teacha of mine sho is a busta.
[US]W.T. Vollmann Royal Family 498: You gonna do it or you just wastin’ my time like some li’l wannabe buster?
[US]UGK ‘Front, Back and Side to Side’ [lyrics] I know you player-hatin busters wanna ride man.

2. that which breaks.

(a) a housebreaker.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum.
[UK] ‘Autobiog. of a Thief’ in Macmillan’s Mag. (London) XL 502: The following people used to go in there [i.e. an underworld public house] — toy-getters (watch-stealers), magsmen (confidence-trick men), men at the mace (sham loan offices), broadsmen (card-sharpers), peter-claimers (box-stealers), busters and screwsmen (burglars), snide-pitchers (utterers of false coin), men at the duff (passing false jewellery), welshers (turf-swindlers), and skittle sharps.
[UK]‘Morris the Mohel’ ‘Houndsditch Day By Day’ Sporting Times 18 Jan. 3/1: Thith little vurk, the study of a lifetime, cometh from the pen of a retired Yiddisher buster.
[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 263: We said that plant and trimmed it nice. But that buster you tipped me to, was a raw one.
[Aus]Dubbo Liberal (NSW) 30 Jan. 3/4: The ‘casual buster’ [...] is a clumsy bungler, and the odds are that he will be caught.

(b) a thief, usu. an with identifying n., e.g. bank buster.

[US]A. Pinkerton Professional Thieves and Detectives 59: He would be associated with a gang of ‘bank bursters’.
[UK]Sporting Times 12 May 2/2: A notorious chicken-buster is hiding from justice in one of the large surgical homes in the East End.
[UK]Oh Boy! No. 21 11: He’s Bill the bank buster!
[UK](con. 1905) R.T. Hopkins Banker Tells All 189: He was also a forger, a burglar and a pillar-box ‘buster’.

(c) (US Und.) a housebreaker’s crowbar.

[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 246: Buster. A burglar’s tool.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 399: Buster. A burglar’s tool, a jimmy.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

(d) (US Und.) a police truncheon.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

(e) (US Und.) one who breaks into premises and destroys the contents, while not actually stealing anything – the aim is to persuade the owner to pay ‘protection’.

[UK]K. Howard Small Time Crooks 65: Max was a clever buster and ran his territory for the North Californian Personal Insurance Corporation by protection against busting rather than the more common slugging.

(f) (Can.) a shoplifter.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 164/1: Can. since ca. 1950.

3. an exhausting physical effort.

(a) something difficult.

[US]‘Mark Twain’ Californian 18 Mar. n.p.: He tackled some of the regular busters [...] then they throwed him.
[US]J. Havoc Early Havoc 153: ‘Don’t miss tonight’s treadmill [...] a three-hour, dead-stop treadmill. This one is a buster’.

(b) a heavy fall.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 13 Dec. 2/2: Hough then embraced his man by encircling the neck with his right arm [...] twisted him and fell upon him-a regular burster.
[UK]J. Greenwood Little Ragamuffin 307: The extry weight made the spout give way, and down he came a reg’ler buster.
[UK]H. Macilwaine Dinkinbar 19: The day he got his first buster off a buckjumper – the black mare that nearly killed Count Moltke afterwards.
[Aus] ‘Mustering Song’ in ‘Banjo’ Paterson Old Bush Songs 112: I was close up stuck in a rotten bog; / I got a buster jumping a log.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Haxby’s Circus 28: She had come two or three busters while she was learning and practising.
[Aus]Sydney Morn. Herald 20 Jan. 8/5: How’d you come to fall off? [...] It was some buster.

(c) a battle, a fight; a blow.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 5 Aug. 2/4: He got rather a ‘buster’ on his head in the 6th.
[UK]Sam Sly 21 Apr. 2/3: Sam saw you lying in the gutter [...] We cannot allow this, Ned. Reform, or prepare yourself for a buster.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 16 Mar. 3/3: [He] gave the astonished Bobby a ‘regular buster’.
[UK] broadside ballad: ‘I’ll never go courting again.’ And a baker he gave me a buster, With a ‘brick,’ sent me rolling about [F&H].
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The English Ne’er-Do-Well’ in Roderick (1967–9) I 237: And there wasn’t any ‘buster’ where the granite rocks are piled.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 14 Apr. 6/2: He gave Charley Stanley a rare ‘buster’ at Homebush in a two-year-old race.
[Aus]Bulletin Reciter 1880–1901 157: The day we got the buster was just after bangtail-muster.

4. (Aus.) a storm.

Adelaide Obs. (SA) 2 Nov. 4/1: [T]he hot wind and the clouds of dust [...] were blowing about [...] We therefore had what our colonial boys, who, we are sorry to say, have a wonderful liking for slang, would call a regular ‘buster’.
[Aus]J.S. Borlase Blue Cap, the Bushranger 1/1: The sudden gales, called Southerly Busters.
[UK]‘G.B. Lancaster’ Sons O’ Men 43: It’s the beastly silence jags me. [...] I’ve prayed for a southerly buster sometimes – just to hear a row.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The Southerly Buster’ in Roderick (1967–9) II 280: Our Own Wind and Only, from seas wild and lonely— / Old Southerly Buster!—To you!
[Aus]A. Russell Tramp-Royal 180: ‘It’s a “southerly buster,”’ said Tuck. [...] In great columns of sand that plunged and rotated as they came, the storm bore down upon us.
[Aus]D. Hewett Bobbin Up (1961) 46: ‘Reckon we’ll get a Southerly Buster tonight?’ ‘Hard to say. We’re gettin’ the sort of weather we uster to get before the war. I reckon it’s these atomic explosions.’.

5. (US black) an informer.

[US]C. Major Juba to Jive.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Buster: (1) Disrespect referring to the fact that someone ‘busted’ or swore to a statement upon something of value in the prison culture and was found to have lied.