Green’s Dictionary of Slang

street, the n.

also the streets, street
(orig. US)

1. [20C+] the mythical world of ‘real life’, which exists on the streets, rather than in the protected environments of home, office, family etc.

2. [1940s+] (orig. US Und.) the world of freedom, as opposed to that of prison; thus on the street(s), at liberty.

3. [1960s] the world of commercial homosexual encounters.

In derivatives

streetified (adj.)

[1970s+] (US black) well-versed in the ways of the urban lifestyle as seen on the inner-city streets.

In compounds

street cred (n.) [abbr. SE credibility/credible. Coined in the rock business and subseq. popular in any industries targeting the young consumer, it is based on the belief that the ‘artist’ must relate genuinely to the ‘people’, i.e. the working-class youth of the streets and housing estates and thus, sincerely or otherwise, offer an air of rebellion and informality]

[1980s+] acceptability on a mass cultural level.

street legal (adj.)

[1990s+] (US) illegal, but acceptable in the ‘real life’ context of the street.

streetman (n.)

1. [20C+] a petty criminal who ‘works’ on the street, usu. as a drug dealer or pickpocket.

2. [1980s] (US black) a person who is wise in the ways of the street.

street money (n.)

[1960s+] (US) money earned on the street, usu. through drug-dealing, pickpocketing or prostitution.

streetside (n.) [side n. (2c)]

[2000s] (UK black) the street; the world of the street.

street smart/smarts

see separate entries.


see separate entries.

In phrases

go street (v.)

[1990s+] (US black/drugs) to be involved in the use of and selling of crack cocaine.

run the street(s) (v.)

[1930s+] (US black) to spend one’s time in self-indulgence, partying, drinking and enjoying the freedoms of a non-domestic life.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

street Arab (n.) [the Black Muslims’ identification with (mainly Arabic) Islam + play on SE street Arab, a homeless urchin]

[1940s–50s] (US black) a member of the Black Muslims.

street people (n.)

[1960s–70s] a form of hippie n.2 (3), who wears the clothes but espouses more of a trad. begging ethic than that of the ‘love and peace’ generation.

street-sweeper (n.) [the breadth of the shot ‘cleans’ the street; cf. alley cleaner under alley n.1 ]

[1990s+] (US) a riot gun, usu. a shotgun with a wide blast and thus used to disperse a mob.

street talk (n.) [such information, the product of the street culture of petty crime, is considered valueless]

[1940s+] gossip, rumour.

In phrases

by a street

[20C+] by a long way.

hit the street(s) (v.)

1. [1910s+] (orig. US) to leave, to go out for the night.

2. [1930s+] (US prison) to return to free society.

hold court in the street(s) (v.) (also hold court)

[1960s+] (US) to engage in a gun battle on the street (with the implication that one would rather die than face prison).

in the street

[1960s+] (US black) in the open, in public.

play the streets (v.)

[1940s] (US) to work as a street prostitute.

put it on the street (v.)

[1950s+] (orig. US) to make gossip, information etc. available for general consumption.

take it to the street (v.)

[20C+] (US) to take a private conflict or issue into the public arena.