Green’s Dictionary of Slang

drunk as a boiled owl adj.

also drunk as a biled owl, ...an owl, a scrambled owl, ...two hoot owls, full as a boiled owl, look like a ..., lushy as..., tight as..., stewed as an owl, tight as...

(orig. US) very drunk; intensified as drunker than a boiled owl; thus boiled owl, a drunk person; note one-off extrapolation in cit. 1900.

[UK]Gent.’s Mag. 560: As drunk as an Owl.
[UK]Sporting Mag. July II 243/1: Comparisons of Drunkenness. As drunk as an owl.
[UK] ‘The Sailor’s Frolic’ in A Garland of New Songs 7: And when you come home you’re drunk as an owl.
‘The Sailor’s Frolic’ in Goldfinch Song Book 19: [as cit. 1815].
[Aus]G.C. Mundy Our Antipodes III 61: Many a gudeman [...] without the guardianship of his thrifty dame would have returned drunk as an owl.
[US]‘Artemus Ward’ Artemus Ward, His Book 84: Obsarve how Iargo got Casheo drunk as a biled owl on corn whisky in order to karry out his sneekin desines.
[UK]G.A. Sala Quite Alone III 99: She’s a regular devil that woman, and four nights out of six she’s as lushy as a boiled owl.
[Aus]W.M. Howell Diggings and the Bush 35: The others are drunk as owls.
[US]‘A High Private’ Man who was not a Colonel 9: He would get drunk as an owl.
[US]Knoxville Dly Chron. (TN) 11 Nov. 1/5: Ven I got home I don’t can tell if I vas a saw-mill or a brass band I vas dvice so drunk as a boiled owl.
[US]Central New Jersey Home News (New Brunswick, NJ) 22 Sept. 4/2: ‘Drunk as a scrambled owl; ever see an Oberlin stuident on a tare?’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 July 12/1: Sixty minutes later he was lying under a form in a certain low pub. ‘drunk as a boiled owl.’.
[UK]Kipling ‘The Story of the Gadbsys’ in Soldiers Three (1907) 163: It’ll make me as drunk as an owl.
[[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 22 Nov. 2/4: [He] turned up at the offis next morning like a boiled owl. ‘You must have been tanked last night,’ said our champion grumbler].
[UK]Daily News 12 Dec. in Ware (1909) 40/2: ‘Drunk as a boiled owl’ is a gross libel upon a highly respectable teetotal bird which, even in its unboiled state, drinks nothing stronger than rain-water.
[UK]Sporting Times 2 June 1/3: But, obfuscated owl that he was, he overshot the pawnbroker’s.
[US]‘O. Henry’ Trimmed Lamp (1916) 35: Babbitt was in last night as full as a boiled owl.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 246/1: Tight as a biled (or boiled) owl (American). Completely drunk.
[US]Van Loan ‘The Mexican Marvel’ in Lucky Seventh (2004) 197: He’s drunk! [...] Stewed as an owl!
[UK]R. Tressell Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1955) 450: ’Oo should come fallin’ up the bloody stairs but ole Buncer, drunk as a howl!
[US]F.S. Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise in Bodley Head Scott Fitzgerald III (1960) 239: Fellow who had the rooms [...] He’s drunk as an owl, though.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 8 Mar. [synd. col.] It used to be along Broadway a man over indulged and wanted to confess he would explode, ‘Boys, I’m tighter than a boiled owl.’.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 26 July [synd. col.] A flock of boiled owls staggered from a club.
[US]A.J. Barr Let Tomorrow Come 220: ‘Drunk!’ ‘Like a owl.’.
[UK]Lancs. Eve. Post 23 Mar. : Here is a man [...] who has so saturated himself with drink [...] that he looks like a boiled owl.
[UK]Wodehouse Right Ho, Jeeves 167: Gussie has been on a bender. He’s as tight as an owl.
[US]R.F. Adams Cowboy Lingo 228: He is ‘drunk as a biled owl’.
[US]J. Tully Bruiser 219: I remember lookin’ at him, and me drunk as an owl on sacred wine.
[Aus]D. Stivens Courtship of Uncle Henry 25: Four of the pedos got drunk as owls.
[US]Randolph & Wilson Down in the Holler 175: A man who is very much inebriated is said to be drunker than a fiddler’s bitch, drunker than a boiled owl.
[US](con. 1930s) R. Barber Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968) 294: They worked matinees drunk as two hoot owls.
[US]C. Himes Pinktoes (1989) 115: She was as tight as a boiled owl when she reported for duty.
[US](con. WWII) J.O. Killens And Then We Heard The Thunder (1964) 377: One of them was drunk as an owl.
[US]M. Rumaker Exit 3 and Other Stories 25: Why he’s drunk as a hoot-owl.
[UK]Wodehouse Much Obliged, Jeeves 83: While tight as an owl.
[US]G.V. Higgins Rat on Fire (1982) 83: You’re as drunk as a hoot owl.