Green’s Dictionary of Slang

street, the n.

also the streets, street
(orig. US)

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

[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 20: The chief had been struggling for honor and promotion in ‘the street’.
[US]N. Anderson Hobo 52: They were well dressed for the ‘street’ though not so well groomed as to be conspicuous.
[US]Murtagh & Harris Cast the First Stone 16: Times Square habitués [...] have a profound and unswerving loyalty to ‘the street.’.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Mama Black Widow 116: She was hoping to marry Bessie off before the street claimed her.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 11: Somebody who couldn’t cut it on the street.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 76: Don’t need no school, no college education [...] I learn about people on the streets.
[US]Source Oct. 90: The thing is, you gotta stay street. Street is where the heart is.

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

[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 213/2: Street, the. (P) The world outside [i.e. prison], especially one’s home-town or neighborhood.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 820: streets – Freedom, the outside world as designated by prisoners in confinement.
[US]K. Burkhart Women in Prison 452: Street, The The world outside prison.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 38: By 1900 the streets and on the streets were criminals’ expressions for the world outside of prison, where drugs and other vice were available.
[UK]Guardian Editor 21 Jan. 19: Do you miss the street? Do you miss the Mob?

3. the world of commercial homosexual encounters.

[US]A. James America’s Homosexual Underground 17: The Street, like an open air market place, begins at dawn. Unlike a market place, it extends until the next rising of the sun. For twenty-four hours a day The Street is paced by nervous, well-dressed men, often middle-aged. Looking them over from the corner of furtive eyes are the hustlers, all out to make the best possible deal. When it is cold or rainy, it’s bargain day. In good weather, at the height of the tourist season, the sky’s the limit.

In derivatives

streetified (adj.)

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

G. Smitherman Talkin & Testifyin 103: We may classify black modes of discourse into the following broad categories: call-response; signification (of which the Dozens is a strictly secular, ‘streetified’ example); tonal semantics [etc.].
[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].
G. Alan-Williams Boys to Men 166: I took a moment [...] to get as much bass in my voice as possible before I spoke. ‘Why you wanna mess with me?’ I asked as streetified as I could.
C.L. Keyes Rap Music & Street Consciousness 99: They said their listeners complained that its language and music were too coarse or ‘streetified’ for the airwaves.

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]

acceptability on a mass cultural level.

[UK]Guardian Weekly 6 Sept. 4/5: A couple of expressions have only come my way in the last month or so. One is ‘street wise’ and the other ‘street cred’.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. 11 July 26: The person with street cred [...] was one of the lads and lasses.
[NZ]L.B. Upshaw Truth 105: ‘Street cred’ — originally meaning the credibility (and respect) earned on the mean streets of urban centers — is about what’s real and trustworthy [...] where trust is often thought to be for children and fools.
[UK]Times Mag. 30 Apr. 50/3: The buildings and the ghetto blaster at first sight suggest street-cred urban deprivation.
[SA]Izikhotane News (S. Afr.) 23 May [Internet] To maintain street cred most will do what it takes [...] from petty crime to hardcore violence.
[US]Baltimore Sun (MD) 21 Apr. A15/4: I heard the same phrase uttered by [...] news pundits trying to claims some sort of millenial street cred.
street legal (adj.)

(US) illegal, but acceptable in the ‘real life’ context of the street.

[US]D. Simon Homicide (1993) 216: All of which is street legal. Reasonable deception, the courts call it.
[US]Simon & Pelecanos ‘Slapstick’ Wire ser. 3 ep. 9 [TV script] Makin’ the game street legal, takes the heart out of it.
streetman (n.)

1. a petty criminal who ‘works’ on the street, usu. as a drug dealer or pickpocket.

[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘Babes in the Jungle’ in Strictly Business (1915) 24: Montagur Silver, the finest street man and art grafter in the West.

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

[US]J.L. Gwaltney Drylongso 91: Red [...] is a clever and essentially principled ‘street man’.
street money (n.)

(US) money earned on the street, usu. through drug-dealing, pickpocketing or prostitution.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 137: street money (late ’60s–’70) money earned from prostitution.
[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 38: Street money is the gain from drug dealing or from prostitution — or street walking.
street smart/smarts

see separate entries.


see separate entries.

In phrases

go street (v.)

(US black/drugs) to be involved in the use of and selling of crack cocaine.

[UK]Indep. Rev. 6 Aug. 5: Lee is finding it a struggle and chances are he will ‘go street’, if only to survive.
run the street(s) (v.)

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

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 252: run the streets Frequent places other than home, church, school, and work.

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]

(US black) a member of the Black Muslims.

[US]C. Major Juba to Jive.
street people (n.)

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.

[UK]Manchester Guardian Weekly 3 Apr. 6: The existence of a student society enables street people to live virtually free.
street-sweeper (n.) [the breadth of the shot ‘cleans’ the street; cf. alley cleaner under alley n.1 ]

(US) a riot gun, usu. a shotgun with a wide blast and thus used to disperse a mob.

Geto Boys ‘Another Nigger In The Morgue’ [lyrics] I’ll be forced to hit ya wit the street sweeper.
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act [18 U.S.C. 921(a) (30)] [Internet] [...] revolving cylinder shotguns, such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12.
City of Newark (NJ) 11 May [Internet] Holding a ‘Streetsweeper’ shotgun, James said, ’These are terrible weapons.’.
Lil Wayne ‘Amen’ [lyrics] I’ve got a street sweeper, do you need your street cleaned?
[UK]Guardian G2 1 Sept. 25/2: street sweeper — a gun.
street talk (n.) [such information, the product of the street culture of petty crime, is considered valueless]

gossip, rumour.

San Diego Union Trib. 23 Oct. [Internet] ‘The street talk is that large numbers (of people) are being hacked away at nationwide lenders,’ he said.

In phrases

by a street

by a long way.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Oct. 16/3: Then, when the defaulter had been arrested, tried and gaoled, Fate, the humorist, let the horse win by a street at first time of asking! Heaven’s punishment – or the devil’s luck; according to point of view.
[UK]Times 5 Nov. 4/1: Oxford [...] could have won by a street before half time.
[UK]Time Out 17–23 June 65/5: The Scots should win the drinking by a street.
[Aus]Age Monthly Rev. (Melbourne) Mar. 11/3: Any label embracing such a wide range of usage is too wide by a street [OED].
hit the street(s) (v.)

1. (orig. US) to leave, to go out for the night.

Poultry Item 13 144/2: We soon hit the streets of Milwaukee and we stopped at some big place which Teck called a summer garden. It certainly was nice.
[US]T. Gordon Born to Be (1995) 203: After the show, we hit the streets again. . . . Never in my life have I seen so many people piling out of theatres.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 202: The higher-up hands out orders to the cop and the guy hits the streets.
[US]T. Williams Camino Real Block Twelve: Nursie, give me my glamour wig and my forty-five. I’m hitting the street!
[US](con. 1953–7) L. Yablonsky Violent Gang (1967) 279: I said what I thought they wanted to hear so I could hit the street sooner.
[US]D. Claerbaut Black Jargon in White America 68: hit the street v. to leave one’s house or place of residence for the evening, often to go out on the town.
[US]R.C. Cruz Straight Outta Compton 64: I’m hitting the streets to find the motherfucker who killed Flip’s momma.

2. (US prison) to return to free society.

Case Studies in Psychopathology of Crime 1 527: As soon as these men hit the streets and freedom, they forget all their bitterness toward anyone; forget that they were in trouble till they are locked up again.
[UK]J. Colebrook Cross of Lassitude 339: She’s a new turn-out. She only got six months. She and Frankie should hit the streets about the same time.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 107: Hit the Streets To be released from prison. (Archaic: kick out).
[US](con. 1975–6) E. Little Steel Toes 9: Next time I run I’m gonna make it. Hit the street and buy some new ones [i.e. shoes].
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 61: he and his buddies had been rounded up in the nineties by the Feds [...] Some of them were beginning to hit the streets again.
hold court in the street(s) (v.) (also hold court)

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

[US](con. 1940s) Malcolm X Autobiog. (1968) 216: ‘Come on outside, we’ll hold court,’ one said.
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 166: If you should have to hold court in the streets with the cops.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 77: If they do [i.e. the police appear] you gotta hold court in the streets.
[US]E. Little Another Day in Paradise 228: If the shit floods the fan I’m gonna go down right there. Hold court in the street.
[US]P. Gourevitch Cold Case (2002) 187: He had worn his gun [...] thinking, If something comes up, we’ll hold court right there.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] Not that he didn’t think he’d ever get caught, but he had vowed to hold court in the streets if he was ever faced with such a situation.
play the streets (v.)

(US) to work as a street prostitute.

[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 48: That’s what I get for playing the streets.
put it on the street (v.)

(orig. US) to make gossip, information etc. available for general consumption.

[US]I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 39: To put it on the street is an expression for disclosing usually damaging information for the rumor network.
take it to the street (v.)

(US) to take a private conflict or issue into the public arena.

RapNewsDirect 7 Nov. [Internet] ‘Beef is good,’ Cube told us. ‘It makes hip hop interesting. But they shouldn’t take it to the street, they should keep it on wax.’.