Green’s Dictionary of Slang

swallow v.

also gulp, swallow it, swallow whole

1. to accept, esp. a false story that one is told.

[UK]Jonson Silent Woman II iv: Hee’ll swallow it like Creame.
[UK]M. Hawke Killing is Murder 51: Fools they are not, because they will not swallow this Imposters principles of knavery, which none but fools and gudgeons will.
[UK]Woman Turn’d Bully IV i: This Dashwell is the easiest Gudgion! he gulps a Lye as readily as Juglers swallow Knives.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Swallow (Falsities for Truths) to believe them.
[UK]N. Ward A Frolic to Horn-Fair 13: With this piece of History we were mightily pleased [...] which indeed I swallow’d without Chewing, as [...] an Ignorant Congregation does the hum-drum Doctrines of a Dark Priest.
[UK]Humours of a Coffee-House 17 Sept. 26: He is one of those Infatuated Noddies that would swallow a Sham-Victory, as greedily as a Gallon of his own March Beer.
[UK]C. Walker Authentick Memoirs of Sally Salisbury 111: This the Gudgeon swallows.
[UK]Cleland Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1985) 15: What was it she could not see me silly enough to swallow?
[UK]Sporting Mag. July II 225/1: I should swallow your communications with much more faith and avidity, did M. St Bel stand in the shoes of a sportsman.
[UK]J. Wetherell Adventures of John Wetherell (1954) 28 Feb. 27: This was a bitter pill but I had to swallow it.
[UK]B.H. Malkin (trans.) Adventures of Gil Blas (1822) III 181: As for this fellow, he swallowed flattery by the lump without mastication.
[US]S. Smith Major Downing (1834) 158: He called me an ‘old rogue.’ I can’t swallow that very well.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker II 77: Folks believed everything they heerd of it. They actilly swallered a story that a British officer with a cork leg bathed there, and the flesh growed on it.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 154: They’ll swallow anything, them fellars, they are such gulls.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) I 68: Mr Verdant Green having ‘swallowed’ this [story], his friend was thereby enabled, not only to use up old ‘sells’, but also to draw largely on his invention for new ones.
[US]‘Artemus Ward’ Artemus Ward, His Book 115: Otheller swallers lago’s lyin tail & goes to makin a noosence of hisself ginrally.
[UK]J. Greenwood Wilds of London (1881) 116: I am a shilling out by my gentleman and I must swallow it.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 25 Apr. 6/3: For years past he has been a staunch believer in Britain’s ‘Bulwark,’ and has swallowed all its thrilling tales as easily as the whale swallowed Jonah.
[UK]G.A. Henty Dorothy’s Double II 194: Do you think that I am such a fool as to swallow that?
[Aus]Worker (Brisbane) 28 Jan. 11/3: I have known Mr Kerr too long to swallow that.
[Aus]E.G. Murphy ‘Them was the Days’ in Jarrahland Jingles 170: To London cold and foggy. / An’ there I ’ires an inky ghost To put me pap in writin,’ / An’ get the Cockney push on toast, Wot swaller saltbush skitin’.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘The Sweetshop Girl’ Sporting Times 5 Mar. 1/4: It very often follows that his fairy tales she swallows.
[US]S. Ornitz Haunch Paunch and Jowl 36: Archie snarls back at him: ‘You don’t expect me to swallow that bunk.’.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Have His Carcase 401: Alex, poor egg, swallows this, hook, line and sinker.
[UK]J. Curtis You’re in the Racket, Too 249: He’s asked me if anybody’s in the card-room and I’ve told him no. He’s only swallowed that whole.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 148: I can’t swallow that lingo.
[US]J. Thompson Swell-Looking Babe 44: That might be pretty hard for people to swallow.
[UK]J.R. Ackerley We Think The World Of You (1971) 123: And he swallowed that?
[UK]Wodehouse Much Obliged, Jeeves 153: ‘And did he swallow it?’ ‘He appeared to.’.
[Aus]B. Humphries Traveller’s Tool 46: She swallowed my yarn that I’d been set up hook, line and sinker.
[Ire]R. Doyle Snapper 135: Sharon wasn’t sure, but she thought they’d all swallowed it.
[UK]J. Hawes Dead Long Enough 262: Jesus, did you really think we’d swallow that guff about six to eight pints.

2. to be accepted.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 6/1: Blasting her bloody eyes for such luck, she would call for the ‘max,’ and say that was all the ‘flat’ had in his [...] ‘kick’; but this ‘game’ did not ‘swallow’ long.

3. to accept defeat, i.e. in a game.

[UK]Sporting Times 3 Mar. 2/2: The bloomin’ old Frenchman ’as wocked in, / The Sham ’un has swallered the lot!
[UK]G.F. Newman Villain’s Tale 72: [of a snooker game] You want to swallow it, Micky.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

swallow-pipe (n.)

(W.I., Bdos) the throat.

[[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Farewell Odes’ in Works (1794) I 148: Each paunch with guttling was so swell’d, Not one bit more could pass your swallowpipe].
Hansard (Bdos) 6 Nov. 2760: Mr. Chairman, I do not want you to ask him. I will go and put my hands in [sic] his swallow-pipe and tell the people of St Peter what I did and get back my seat.

In phrases

swallow a hair (v.) [SE hair, which must be washed down the throat]

to be drunk.

[UK]Eighth Liberal Science n.p.: No man must call a Good-fellow Drunkard [...] But if at any time they spie that defect in another, they may without any forfeit or just exceptions taken, say, He is Foxt, He is Flaw’d, He is Fluster’d, He is Suttle, Cupshot, Cut in the Leg or Back, He hath seen the French King, He hath swallowed an Hair or a Taven-Token [sic], he hath whipt the Cat, He hath been at the Scriveners and learned to make Indentures, He hath bit his Grannam, or is bit by a Barn Weasel.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: He has swallowed a hare; he is drunk; more probably a hair, which requires washing down.
swallow a hare (v.) [? the drunkard may leap around like the animal]

to become very drunk.

[UK]Head Canting Academy (2nd edn) n.p.: No man ought to call a Good-fellow a Drunkard; but [...] he may without a forfeit say he [...] hath swollowed a Hare.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: He has swallow’d a Hare, he is very Drunk.
[UK] ‘The Art of Drinking’ in Wit’s Cabinet 138: He has swallowed a Hare.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: He has swallowed a hare; he is drunk; more probably a hair, which requires washing down.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
swallow a tavern token (v.) [SE tavern token, a token given as part of one’s change; it can be used in payment for subsequent drinks]

to become drunk.

[UK]Jonson Every Man In his Humour I iii: Drunk, sir! [...] perhaps he swallowd a tavern-token.
[UK]Eighth Liberal Science n.p.: No man must call a Good-fellow Drunkard [...] But if at any time they spie that defect in another, they may without any forfeit or just exceptions taken, say, [...] He hath swallowed an Hair or a Taven-Token [sic].
[UK] ‘The Art of Drinking’ in Wit’s Cabinet 138: He has swallowed a Hare, or a Tavern-token.
[US]B. Franklin ‘Drinkers Dict.’ in Pennsylvania Gazette 6 Jan. in AS XII:2 92: They come to be well understood to signify plainly that A MAN IS DRUNK. [...] Has Swallow’d a Tavern Token.
swallow bobby (v.)

(Aus.) to make a false affidavit.

[Aus][A. Harris] (con. 1820s) Settlers & Convicts 95: Some of the first ‘nobs’ in the colony used to ‘swallow bobby’ (make false affidavits) to an enormous extent.
swallow it (v.) (UK Und.)

1. to back down; to retreat.

[UK]B. Hill Boss of Britain’s Underworld 11: When the Blacks heard about this unusal assembly they swallowed it. They had never reckoned on so many thieves and tearaways getting together. [Ibid.] 69: The other four tearaways swallowed it and scarpered.

2. to give up crime.

[UK]J. Gosling Ghost Squad 29: Only a few weeks ago he told me he ‘had swallowed it’ — got out of crime.
swallow one’s spit (v.) (also swallow one’s lip, …neck, …toad)

(W.I.) to keep quiet, to hold one’s tongue.

[US]‘Max Brand’ Pleasant Jim 62: ‘Swallow your lip, Rizdal!’ boomed the gaoler.
[US]C. Coe Hooch! 164: Why stand there swallerin’ your neck an’ holdin’ that door with your heel?
[WI]L. Bennett Jam. Dial. Verses 13: Well me hear him talk ’bout him cattles [...] Me did swallow me spit for all him ’ave. It wan big head maga cow.
[US]S. Longstreet Straw Boss (1979) 255: Mike Brant knows how to hide his bitterness, his anger, when it could do him harm (Mom called this ‘swallowing your toad’).

In exclamations