Green’s Dictionary of Slang

work n.

1. (also piece of work) the criminal life or a criminal act; thus attrib.

[[UK]Nashe Martin-Marprelate Tractes in Works I (1883–4) 146: They are some yong Diuells, and that their purpose is to make some hot work with vs].
[UK]E. Collins ‘Ninth Ode of Horace’ Misc. 115: In some dark Corner Dick, she’ll lurk. A Corner fitting for the Wurk [...] She’s all thy own, snatch any Thing – And tho’ she squeeks, you’ll have her Ring.
[UK]‘T.B. Jr’ Pettyfogger Dramatized II i: Ferret remains staunch — why should he not? he has done all kind of work for me. [Ibid.] 107: All Kinds of Work. All kinds of dishonest Actions whatever.
[UK]Vidocq Memoirs (trans. W. McGinn) III 80: He leads him on to some job that he may be caught at work.
[UK]J. Greenwood Dick Temple I 280: How [...] would the little thieves at home get bread and butter? [...] Papa and the elder children must stick to ‘work.’.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 2: Broad-Faking [...] ‘work’ of the three-card description.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 26: I tumbled at once that there was a bit of work on ’and.
[US]Amer. Mag. 77 June 31–5: When I left prison I was received with open arms and was offered ‘work’ of various kinds on a number of different criminal ‘mobs.’.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 263: Coppers located ‘work’ for burglars and stalled for them while they worked.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 157/1: Piece of work. Any criminal venture.
[US](con. 1910s) G. Fowler Schnozzola 24: A pickpocket mob used to hang out at the Chatham Club until seven o’clock each morning, an hour when they left for ‘work.’.
J. Breslin [synd. col.] 4 Oct. A couple of guys came in and told him about some piece of work over in Brooklyn. It was a payroll.
[UK]G.F. Newman Villain’s Tale 54: Clifford Harding hadn’t really been looking for a serious game of snooker, but had vaguely been looking instead for someone who might be interested in a bit of work.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 66: The boys were trying to do a little bit of work, and got unlucky. Happen to anyone.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun 13: We could ill afford a tug for tax [car tax] when we were tooled up and plotted on a bit of work.
[US]R. Cooley When Corruption Was King 252: [T]wo cars. One would be the ‘work’ car, which was probably stolen. They would drive that to the house and then ditch it after the robbery.
[US]D. Winslow Winter of Frankie Machine (2007) 88: The boy has done some other work that, thank Saint Anthony, the feds didn’t make him for.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 71: Ted had eyes and ears all over the Home Counties who got a bunce if any work they put up paid off.
[US]D. Winslow Border [ebook] ‘I was wondering if you could do some work’.
[US]S.A. Crosby Blacktop Wasteland 76: ‘I ain’t trying to wake up to three hots and a cot because you gonna ball up like a baby when the work goes down’.
[Ire]Breen & Conlon Hitmen 220: [of an assassination] ‘Right, pal, fucking sit here, we’re going to do a bit of work’.

2. in prizefighting, actual physical assault rather than maneouvring for position.

[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 24 Oct. 4/3: Both shy, cautious, and nothing like work.

3. (US) deceit, lies.

[US]T.A. Dorgan Indoor Sports 5 Jan. [synd. cartoon] Are you getting the work she’s giving him.

4. (US tramp) begging.

[US] in ‘Jargon of the Und. in DN V.

5. (US Und.) the marking of cards by a cardsharp.

[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 255: He went to work on his cards, and after many days and nights of patient toil put his ‘work’ on them so he could read them from the back as easily as from the front.
[US]J. Scarne Complete Guide to Gambling 694: Work – crooked cards, or dice.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak 150: Work – crooked cards.

6. (US Und.) some form of weight used to make ‘loaded’ dice.

[US]J. Scarne Complete Guide to Gambling 694: Work – crooked cards, or dice.
[US] ‘Animated Dominoes, Dice’ at Old and Sold 🌐 Each manufacturer had his own secret metal used to load the dice and [...] manufacturers always included honest dice with their orders to match the set with ‘work’ in them.

7. a sexual or flirtatious advance.

[US]D. Runyon ‘Social Error’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 455: He is just about to begin giving her a little more work.

8. (US Und.) the written records held by illegal bookmakers or ‘numbers’ operators.

[US]Knapp Commission Report Dec. 84: Another common method [of extortion] consisted of policemen confiscating the gambler’s numbers slips, which are known as ‘work.’ The police officer would then offer to sell the work back to the gambler.
[US]P. Maas Serpico 165: [N]ext in the intricately structured racket is the pickup man, who brings the ‘work’—the betting slips—from various collectors to a controller.
[US](con. mid-1960s) J. Lardner Crusader 87: [T]he cops ransacked the premises, searching for ‘work’—slips of paper reporting the bets that smaller gamblers had laid off.
[US](con. 1950s) Jurgenson & Cea Circle of Six 63: I was what they called a runner, picking up the work, or the actual slips, from three different drop spots.

9. (W.I.) a sexual relationship; usu. in lose the work v., to lose one’s girlfriend.

[WI]Francis-Jackson Official Dancehall Dict. 31: Lose-de-work to lose one’s girlfriend.

10. (drugs) a supply or consignment of a given drug.

[US]UGK ‘Cocaine’ 🎵 I used to switch cars with the Mexican, at the gas station / Mine had money in it, his had the work.
Young M.A. ‘Brooklyn Popin’’ 🎵 [W]e hear that ‘Woop woop!’ yeah, them sirens / She don’t run, she be the one to take the work and she hide it.
[UK]Unknown T ‘Mad about Bars’ 🎵 Bag that work with the latex on, the rack will come in.
[UK]G. Krauze What They Was 17: [of crack cocaine] There were always nittys [...] damp and sticky-skinned with rotten black mouths [...] catting to get some b and work .

In compounds

piece of work (n.)

a murder, a homicide.

[US]G. Thompson Venus in Boston 24: ‘I came to this accursed country to be jugged for a ten-spot, for manslaughter, (it was a clear murder, though, and a good piece of work, too)’.
work clothes (n.)

clothes (prob. dark) worn while going out as a burglar.

[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 118: I runs to the pad, puts my ‘work clothes’ on, and goes over to gimpy’s place to get the complete lowdown.

In phrases

get one’s work in (v.)

(US) to succeed in a course of (criminal) action.

[US]Chicago Street Gazette 1/5: Poor Bill McCarthy came very near going crazy the other night because Flora Smith was going to let one of Bremond’s niggers get his work in.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 79: I [...] had got my work in, and what money I had accumulated was at poker.
go to work (on) (v.)

to attack, lit. or fig.

[UK] ‘A Blow-Out Among The Blowen’ Secret Songster 16: But the scran at length came, and they all vent to vork, / For they volf’d, and they savaged it all up like Turks.
[UK]Bell’s Life in London 17 July n.p.: The Greek was called on ‘to go to work;’ this he did with additional vehemence.
[UK]J. Lindridge Sixteen-String Jack 82: We wint to work at some rale poteen, and swigged till I’m blissed if either of us could see a hole through a ladder.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 52: I downed him, and was just getting ready to go to work, when the police rushed in.
[US]C. Panzram Journal of Murder in Gaddis & Long (2002) 41: I licked every one in [camp] and was getting all set to go to work on the boss-man.
[US]I. Shulman Amboy Dukes 29: Stop your yelling [...] before I tell Crazy to go to work on you.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Tomboy (1952) 79: If you don’t stop yapping we’ll both go to work on you.
[US]W.D. Myers Lockdown 113: ‘Anybody even act like they want to mess with me, I’ll go to work on their ass’.
put in work (v.) (also put work in)

(US black gang) to get busy, esp. in the performance of any dangerous and/or illegal act, e.g. theft or murder.

[US](con. 1975) K. Scott Monster (1994) 6: ‘You gotta put work in’ – ‘put in work’ means a military mission.
[US]G. Sikes 8 Ball Chicks (1998) 15: He was trying to put in work, shoot me because I’m O.G.
[US]G. Pelecanos Drama City 103: He had even put some work in for Nigel, back when he first came on.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] She was no stranger to putting in work.
[US]P. Beatty Sellout (2016) 232: The Venice Seaside Boys want to ‘put in work’ and defend their territory.
J. Spades ‘Work’ 🎵 Yo up early morning backin out the work / All my nigga getting money putting in work / Catch a pagan slippin then we put in work.
[US]S.A. Crosby Razorblade Tears 32: ’And you don’t get to be a shot caller unless you done put in some work. A lot of work’.
Central Cee ‘Tension’ 🎵 I’m tellin’ my bro ‘Don’t quit, put in the work and your time will come’.
put work in (v.)

1. (US gang) to take part in an attack on a rival gang.

[US]L. Bing Do or Die (1992) 28: He ain’t never camped out to get no enemy in his life, probably. Ain’t put that much work in.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] Yo, nigguhs ’bout to put in some serious work.
J. Spades ‘Work’ 🎵 Yo up early morning backin out the work / All my nigga getting money putting in work / Catch a pagan slippin then we put in work.

2. to murder.

[US]Simon & Burns ‘Cleaning Up’ Wire ser. 1 ep. 12 [TV script] You ready to put the work in? You got heat?
[US]G. Pelecanos Night Gardener 269: Nest Henderson had put work in. Least, he claimed he had.
[US]UGK ‘Trill Niggaz Don’t Die’ 🎵 Anybody start jerking / Put my work in on the reg’, the powder in the keg.
[US]S. Ferranti Street Legends n.p.: He was bussin’ ass [...] it wasn’t no playing when it came to putting that work in.
[US]G. Pelecanos (con. 1972) What It Was 169: I had the impression that Bowman was about to put work in.

3. to commit a non-murderous but violent assault.

[US]G. Hayward Corruption Officer [ebk] cap. 18: It was like now they could trust me, [...] now I was one of them. Then the day went on, and the word had traveled throughout the jail that Big Heyward had put that work in.
[US]Rayman & Blau Riker’s 58: They surrounded me as if they were about to put some work in.

4. to sell drugs.

[UK]G. Knight Hood Rat 109: ‘It was a big thing for him, buying that car. He put a lot of work in.’ [...] Elijah is a hard worker, a good dealer.
put work on (v.)

(Aus.) to attempt the verbal stages of seduction, to ‘chat up’.

[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxviii 10/3: put work on: To con, to flatter for gain.
[Aus]D. Ireland Glass Canoe (1982) 198: He’d only been there the space of one schooner and he was putting work on the new barmaid.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett White Shoes 232: A bloke reeking of after-shave [...] trying to put work on two women sitting next [to] him.

SE in slang uses

In compounds