Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bones n.1

[ext. of SE use; dice were orig. made of bone]

1. dice; esp. in exhortation roll them bones!

[UK]Chaucer Pardoner’s Tale line 651: By goddes precious herte, and by his nayles [...] Seven is my chaunce, and thyn is cink and treye; By goddes armes, if thou falsly pleye, This dagger shal thurgh-out thyn herte go – This fruyt cometh of the bicched bones two, Forswering, ire, falsnesse, homicyde.
[UK]Skelton Bowge of Courte line 346: And on the borde he whyrld a payre of bones.
[UK]R. Wever Lusty Juventus Eii: I wyll trill the bones while I haue one grote, And when there is no more inke in the pen, I will make shift as well as other men.
[UK]‘Black Hambleton’ ‘To the Archbishop of York’ in May & Bryson Verse Libel 182: They [...] / Love good ale, cardes and boanes.
[UK]H. Porter Two Angry Women of Abington A4: m. bar.: Right by the Lord, a plague vpon the bones. m. gou.: And a hot mischiefe on the curser too.
[UK]Dekker Lanthorne and Candle-Light Ch. 3: They shuffle and cut on one side: the bones rattle on the other.
[UK]S. Marmion Fine Companion V ii: I was at dice. I came the Caster with some of them I thinke, and I had like to haue made their bones rattle for it.
[UK]Dryden Persius III 36: But then my Study was to Cog the Dice; And dext’rously to throw the lucky Sice: To shun Ames-Ace, that swept my stakes away; And watch the Box, for fear they shou’d convey False Bones, and put upon me in the Play.
[UK]Penkethman’s Jests 87: A Footman, who had lost all his Money at Dice, – said, His Board-Wages was all gone to the Devil, with his Bones.
[UK]Foote Nabob in Works (1799) II 301: When your chance is low, as tray, ace, or two deuces, the best method is to dribble out the bones from the box.
[Ire] ‘Luke Caffrey’s Ghost’ in Chap Book Songs 3: His grinders rattled in his jaw-wags, like a pair of white-headed fortune-tellers in an elbow-shaker’s bone box.
[UK]M.P. Andrews Better Late than Never 30: See, the lads are at it [i.e. dicing] already – the bones are in motion.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]W. Read Rouge et Noir 63: You may see thousands lost, and, as you chuse, you / Can play at Rouge et Noir or shake the bone.
[UK]Thackeray Pendennis I 181: I saw you sit down to ecarté last week at Trumpington’s, and taking your turn with the bones after Ringwood’s supper.
[UK]G. Borrow Lavengro I 63: A man with a white hat and a sparkling eye held up a box which contained something which rattled, and asked me to fling the bones.
[US]Yankee Notions Jan. 2/2: Ez. put the ‘bones’ in his pocket [...] but, somehow or other, out came the dice again.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Good for Nothing (1890) 219: What with speculations failing, and Consols dropping all at once, not to mention a continual run of ill-luck with the bones, I saw no way out of it but to bolt.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville White Rose 206: A merry blue-eyed boy, fresh from Eton, who could do ‘thimble-rig,’ ‘prick the garter,’ ‘bones’ with his face blackened.
[UK]Henley & Stevenson Deacon Brodie I tab.I vii: You always were a neat hand with the bones, Deakin.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 2: Bones - Dice. Crooked Bones - Loaded dice.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 408: Groups of men were [...] engaged in playing cards, dominoes, or rattling the bones.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 17 Jan. 1/1: ’E instructed the dandy Apollo / In the fine art of playing the bones.
[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 255: I tried gamblin’ for a bit, but I couldn’t win nothin’; a man that’s down on ’is luck shouldn’t touch the bones.
[US]Stell & Null Convict Verse 18: Seben come ’leben – roll ’long bones!
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 8 Oct. 8/8: Both them rooms Is rigged for gamblin’ / Little tables everywhere; / Cards & bones & such inventions / For the game, they all are there.
[US]Van Loan ‘Levelling with Elisha’ in Old Man Curry 32: He [...] flang ’em bones jus’ like he’s got ’em ejicated.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 13 Nov. 9/3: One can imagine the heart-sick earnestness with which the ebony gamesters watch the roll of the bones.
[US]N.I. White Amer. Negro Folk-Songs 363: [reported from Auburn, Ala., 1915–1916] Roll dem bones, roll dem bones, roll ’em on the square, / Roll ’em on the sidewalk, de streets or any whar. / Roll ’em in de evenin’, roll ’em in de night, / Roll dem bones, when de cops are out of sight.
[US]W.R. Burnett Dark Hazard (1934) 42: Did you see how he handled them bones? Man! he kin make ’em do eve’thing but talk.
[UK]S. Jackson An Indiscreet Guide to Soho 94: Should he prefer to ‘shoot the bones’ (play dice) his light-fingered friends can palm a loaded set.
[UK]P. Hoskins No Hiding Place! 192/1: Shoot the Bones. Playing dice.
[UK]‘Raymond Thorp’ Viper 90: Come on bones, roll me a seven.
[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 83: Only a crazy man would cut long hours when he could bounce some bones across the table and know he was going to come out on top.
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 158: I’d take some loaded craps down there, some bones [...] and beat the paddy boys out of all their money.
[US]D. Claerbaut Black Jargon in White America 58: bones n. dice.
[US]Ebonics Primer at 🌐 bones Definition: a pair of die. Example: Rozelle and me was rollin’ bones and I took him for everything but the stank off his farts.

2. the human teeth.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 114/2: C.19–20.

3. the fingers when clenched in a fist.

[Ire]Tom and Jerry; A Musical Extravaganza I v: See that young man a diver is. Hush or he’ll rattle out his bones upon your ivories.

4. a surgeon.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Jan. 17/4: The morning for the duel came, / Bones, Pistols, Cornet – all were ready, / But Tambourine; he hurried not, / Though sober quite, he wasn’t steady.
[Scot]Chambers’s Journal 8 Jan. 30: I have sent for the village bones, and if he can but patch me up, it may not yet be too late [F&H].

5. (US campus) a skeleton.

[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 24: bones, n. A skeleton.

6. (US) a thin person.

[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.

7. the game of dominoes [pl. of bone n.1 (2b)].

[US]N.Y. Times Mag 26 Mar. 22: Willie Nelson plays in a ‘bones’ (dominoe) tournament [HDAS].
[US]Ice Cube ‘It Was a Good Day’ 🎵 Then we played bones, and I’m yellin domino.

8. (UK gang) one who is dead, a corpse.

[UK]T. Thorne (ed.) ‘Drill Slang Glossary’ at Forensic Linguistic Databank 🌐 Bones -dead.

9. (Polari) constr. with the, a boyfriend.

[UK]P. Baker Fabulosa 289/2: (the) bones one’s boyfriend.

In compounds

bone-thrower (n.)

(US) a craps player.

[US]Wichita Daily Eagle (KS) 11 Aug. 6/5: ‘Liver Lip Jack’ [is] ‘King of the Bone Throwers’ [...] The bone throwers are the people who play ‘craps’.

In phrases

roll the bones (v.) (also rattle..., shake…, trundle…)

1. (US) to play at dice; thus bone-roller a dice-player.

[UK]G. Turbervile ‘To his Friend P.’ in Chalmers Eng. Poets (1810) II 602/2: To shake the bones and cog the craftie Dice.
[US]N.-Y. Eve. Post 18 Sept. 2/4: Peradventure they [naughty boys] have obtained a little money, in which case their holy-day amusement may consist in throwing the dice (by them familiarly called trundling the bones) or playing chuck farthing.
[US]Spirit of the Times (N.Y.) 17 Feb. 6/1: ‘Come, gentlemen,’ says he, ‘one more glass, and let us go and fight the tiger.’ Well, what do you suppose they meant by the Tiger? why it was a ‘Faro Bank’ on one side, and a ‘Roll the Bones, and fair play,’ on the other.
[UK]Morn. Advertiser (London) 19 Nov. 3/7: Lord Maidstone was in full play, and half-pay credit; he rattled the bones.
[US]Lantern (N.O.) 12 Mar. 2: [He] comes all the way from the Third District up here to shake the bones.
[US]Ade Pink Marsh (1963) 157: I see Clay Walkeh an’ some mo’ boys rollin’ ’e bones.
[US]Chariton Courier (MO) 3 Aug. 1/3: Another trio of the motley mess of crap-shooters [...] the same gang of bone-rollers.
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 70: The leading humorist of the camp was Bob Armstrong who would rather roll the bones than eat.
[US]Van Loan ‘Levelling with Elisha’ in Old Man Curry 208: I’m rollin’ dem bones.
[US]D.H. Clarke In the Reign of Rothstein 35: Fifteen men, who included Arnold Rothstein, Eddie Katz [...] and other prominent citizens [...] were rolling the bones.
[US] (ref. to late 18C) H. Asbury Sucker’s Progress 42: It is interesting to note that in England before the beginning of the nineteenth century dice were commonly known as ‘the bones’ and ‘the doctors,’ while casting them was ‘rolling the bones’.
[US]H.B. Hersey G.I. Laughs 208: Now Private Jones / He rolled the bones.
[US]Cecil McCulloch & The Border Boys ‘Pick ’Em Up An’ Shake ’Em Up’ 🎵 We’re gonna pick ’em up an’ shake ’em up / An let ’em roll, / All night long we’re gonna roll them bones.
[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 138: He simulated a man shooting dice. ‘Like to roll the bones a little?’.
[US]Grateful Dead ‘Candy Man’ 🎵 Roll those laughing bones / Seven come eleven boys.
[US]N. Tosches Where Dead Voices Gather (ms.) 237: Rolling them bones: dice, the oldest of gambling devices, older than the Bible, found in tombs of ancient Egypt.
R. Roeper Bet the House 199: Apparently Williams himself likes to roll the bones. ‘When I came here to play Michigan State [...] I went down and shot craps and lost’ .

2. (N.Z. prison) to gain one’s gang patch without undergoing the usual preliminary training [to qualify one must commit a murder, rape a child under 12 or woman over 50; this supposedly weeds out those who are not fully dedicated to gang life, as well as informers, undercover police, etc].

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 23/1: roll the bones as a gang recruit, to omit one's prospect training to immediately become a full patch member.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

have the bones of (v.)

(Irish/Cork) of people or places, to know intimately, to know inside out.

[Ire]L. McInerney Blood Miracles 60: He wants to stand on Patrick’s Bridge and roar at both north and south banks Don’t think I don’t have the bones of you!
jump (on) someone’s bones (v.)

1. usu. of a man, to have sexual intercourse.

[UK] ‘The Bold English Navvy’ in Bold (1979) 30: Sure, he’ll jump on your bones with his navvy boots on.
[US] in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 78: Don’t let a navvy come into your bed / For their hearts do run light and their minds do run young / Sure they’ll jump on your bones with their navvy boots on.
[US] P. Munro Sl. U.
[US](con. c.1970) G. Hasford Phantom Blooper 181: Every guy in the ward with legs wants to jump her bones and every guy with hands tries to cop a feel.
[US]D. Lehane A Drink Before the War 14: Makes you [i.e. a woman] want to jump my bones on the spot, doesn’t it?
[Aus]S. Maloney Big Ask 235: A girl likes to be romanced. Not have her bones jumped when she’s half-tanked.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skinny Dip 172: I jumped your bones just because I was furious at Chaz.
R. Stocker Virgin Blood 267: After a real man’s jumped her bones, she won’t want nothing to do with you.
[UK]‘Aidan Truhen’ Price You Pay 157: [S]he also gets to jump his bones and make a sex tape and that is what they do.
[US]D. Winslow Border [ebook] ‘I just want to get you home and jump your bones right now’.
[US]J. Ellroy Widespread Panic 310: Janey jumped Jimmy’s bones for real.

2. to attack.

[US] P. Munro Sl. U.