Green’s Dictionary of Slang

blue adj.1

[Ware cites a ballad from the reign of George III entitled ‘The All-devouring monster, or New Five per C––t’, attacking a plan to levy a 5% tax on all imports: ‘The effects of the Tax will soon make us look Blue’]

1. [late 17C+] miserable, depressed.

2. [early 18C–1960s] confused, terrified, disappointed.

3. [mid-19C+] (orig. US) a general intensifier, e.g. blue murder, scared blue.

4. [mid-19C+] unpromising, discouraging.

5. see blue-nosed adj. (2)

In compounds

blue boots (n.) [alliteration]

[1950s] (US) depression.

blue brick (n.) [SE brick, i.e. the walls]

[1980s] (UK Und.) a prison.

blue fear (n.)

[late 19C] very great fear.

blue funk (n.) [funk n.2 (1) + ? the colour of the terrified individual’s skin, which turns a leaden blue-grey]

[mid-19C+] abject terror, utter cowardice, complete misery; thus blue-funked, utterly terrified.

In phrases

look blue (v.) [late 18C+]

1. to be astonished or surprised.

2. to look miserable, to look nervous.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

blue... (n.)

see also under relevant n.

Pertaining to the police

In compounds

blue and pewter (n.) [his blue uniform and pewter buttons]

[late 19C] a policeman; the police.

blue-and-white (n.) [1970s+] (Aus./US)

1. a police car, painted in those colours (e.g. in New York City, Washington, DC).

2. a police officer in such a police car.

blue-bag (n.)

[mid-19C] (Aus.) a policeman.

bluebelly (n.)

see separate entry.

blue bird (n.)

see separate entry.

blue bottle (n.)

see separate entry.

blue box (n.)

[1970s] (US) a police wagon.

blue boy (n.)

see separate entry.

blue bunnies (n.) (also blue jeans)

[1990s+] (US black) the police.

blue cap (n.) [metonymy]

1. [1930s] a police officer.

2. see also general uses below.

blue coat (n.)

see separate entry.

blue dangers (n.) [the colour of the vehicle or uniform] [1960s+] (US Und.)

1. marked police cars (when painted blue, as in New York).

2. blue-uniformed police officers.

blue devil (n.)

see separate entry.

bluefoot (n.)

[2000s+] (UK black teen) a blue-uniformed police officer.

blue heeler (n.) [SAusE blue heeler, a cattle dog]

1. [1990s+] (Aus.) a police officer.

2. see also general uses below.

bluejacket (n.)

see separate entry.

blue lamp boy (n.) (also blue lamp) [the blue lamp that hung outside UK police stations; note 1949 movie The Blue Lamp]

[1900s–50s] (UK, often juv.) a police officer.

blue light (n.)

1. see separate entry.

2. see also general uses below.

blue light special (n.)

see separate entry.

blue meanie (n.) [Blue Meanies, the ‘villains’ of the animated film Yellow Submarine (1968), featuring the Beatles]

[1960s–70s] a police officer; thus the establishment in general.

blue pig (n.)

1. see separate entry.

2. see also general terms below.

blue suit (n.) (also blue suiter) [the uniform]

[1950s] (US) a uniformed police officer.

bluetop (n.) [the flashing light on the top]

[1990s+] a police car.

blue ’un (n.)

[late 19C] a policeman.

Pertaining to drugs

In compounds

blue angel (n.) [the drugs come in blue capsules]

1. [1970s+] (drugs) a barbiturate.

2. see blue heaven

blue bomber (n.) [the colour of the pill or capsule]

[1970s] (US drugs) valium.

blue boy (n.)

see separate entry.

blue bullets (n.) [the packaging]

[1960s+] barbiturates.

blue chairs (n.) [ety. unknown; ? mispron. of blue cheer ]

[1980s+] (drugs) LSD.

blue cheer (n.) [the laundry detergent Blue Cheer and/or the rock band of the same name]

[1960s] (US drugs) a capsule of LSD cut with methamphetamine or some other form of ‘speed’.

blue clouds (n.) [packaging]

[1970s+] (drugs) amobarbital sodium.

blue devil (n.)

see separate entry.

blue dolls (n.) [doll n.2 ]

[1960s] (drugs) barbiturates.

blue dragons (n.) [the packaging]

[1970s] (US drugs) barbiturates.

blue heaven (n.) (also blue) [colour of capsule/tablet + play on the popular song ‘My Blue Heaven’ (1927)] (drugs)

1. [1950s+] amytal barbiturate.

2. [1960s+] LSD.

bluejay (n.) [the capsule’s colour]

[1950s] (US drugs) a capsule of sodium amytal.

blue moons (n.)

see separate entry.

blue mystic (n.)

[2000s] (US drugs) a synthetic drug popular in the Ecstasy and club drug scene.

blue sage (n.) [its bluish tinge]

[1960s+] (US drugs) a variety of marijuana.

blue sky (n.)

1. see separate entry.

2. see also general terms below.

blue star (n.)

[1980s+] (drugs) a variety of LSD, emblazoned with a blue star symbol.

blue tips (n.) [packaging of the capsule]

[1970s+] (drugs) a depressant.

blue velvet (n.) [the ‘smoothness’ of its effects]

[1960s–70s] (drugs) a mixture of an antihistamine and paregoric.

blue vials (n.) [packaging]

[1980s+] (drugs) LSD.

In phrases

blue de hue (n.)

see separate entry.

blue sky blond (n.)

see separate entry.

General uses

In compounds

bluebacks (n.) [its colour]

1. [mid–late 19C] (US) money issued by the Confederate States of America.

2. [late 19C] (S.Afr.) money issued briefly by the Orange Free State.


see separate entries.

blueberry pie (n.)

see separate entry.

bluebird (n.)

see separate entries.

blue billy (n.)

1. [mid–late 19C] a blue handkerchief with white spots, worn and used at prize fights [billy n.3 ; ‘Before a set to it is common to take it from the neck and tie it round the leg as a garter, or round the waist to “keep it in the wind”’ (Hotten, 1867). The blue billy made its way to New York where it was defined in a detective manual (c.1870) as ‘a strange handkerchief’].

2. [mid-late 19C] refuse ammoniacal lime from gas factories [the colour].

blue boar (n.) [? the notorious Blue Boar tavern in London, sited on the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road, next to the St Giles rookery, and thus a centre of lowlife]

[late 18C–late-19C] a venereal bubo.

blue board (n.) [ext. of blue boar ]

[20C+] a venereal bubo.

blue bolus (n.) [SE bolus, a pill, thus UK var. on pill n. (1e)]

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) a leaden bullet.

bluebottle (n.)

see separate entry.

blue boy (n.)

see separate entries.

blue broadway (n.) [the blue sky + image of Broadway, New York, then in its prime, as an earthly version of paradise]

[1940s] (US black/Harlem) Heaven.

blue butter (n.) [the mercury on which it was based]

[mid-19C–1900s] an ointment used for the treatment of venereal sores.

blue can (n.) [blue n.1 (2g)]

[1980s+] (Aus.) a can of Foster’s lager.

blue cap (n.) [metonymy]

1. [late 16C–early 18C] a Scotsman.

2. see also police terms above.

blue cheek (n.)

[mid-19C] a style for facial hair whereby all whiskers were shaved off, leaving the cheek ‘blue’.

blue cheese (n.) [? its consistency]

[1950s–70s] (US drugs) hashish.


see separate entries.

bluecoat (n.)

see separate entry.

blue devil/devils (n.)

see separate entries.

blue duck (n.) [dead duck n. (1)]

1. [late 19C+] (Aus.) a lost cause, a failure.

2. [1980s] (N.Z.) a (baseless) rumour.

blue envelope (v.) [the packaging of a note of dismissal + ? sense 4]

[late 19C-1930s] (US) a note of dissmisal from a job, thus get the blue envelope, to be dismissed.

blue-eyed (adj.)

see separate entry.

blue-eyed boy/soul/soul brother (n.)

see separate entries.

blue flag (n.) [their blue apron]

[late 18C–early 19C] a publican.

bluefoot (n.)

see separate entry.

blue-foot nigger (n.)

see separate entry.

blue goose

see separate entries.

bluegown (n.) [metonymy; prostitutes confined in a house of correction wore a blue dress as their uniform]

[late 16C–early 17C] a prostitute.

bluegrass (v.)

see separate entry.

blue gum (n.)

see separate entries.

bluehair (n.) (also bluehaired) [the bluish tint that old ladies sometimes have put into their otherwise grey hair]

[1980s+] (US campus) an old person, usu. female.

bluehead (n.) [? it has a bluish tinge]

[mid-19C] (US) strong and illicitly distilled whisky.

blue heeler (n.) [SAusE blue heeler, a cattle dog; the Fosters can is predominantly blue]

1. [1980s] (Aus.) a can of Fosters lager.

2. see also police terms above.

blue hen’s chicken (n.)

see separate entry.

blue jacket (n.)

see separate entry.

blue Jews (n.) [the trad. colour + play on stereotypical Jewish names, i.e. Levi-Strauss]

[1970s] (US gay) a pair of blue denim Levis, usu. tight.

blue john (n.) [such milk has a slightly blue tinge] (US)

1. [mid-19C+] skim milk.

2. [1900s] sour or nearly sour milk.

blue johnny (n.) [his uniform + generic use of proper name]

[mid-19C] (US) a Northern, Unionist soldier.

In compounds

blue lady (n.)

[2000s] (N.Z.) methylated spirits.

blue light (n.)

1. see separate entries.

2. see also police terms above.

blue mark (n.)

[early 19C] a bowl of punch.

blue-metal (v.) [SE blue metal, small pieces of stone, used in street-fights]

[late 19C–1940s] (Aus.) to throw pieces of stone, esp. in a street-fight.

blue Monday (n.)

see separate entry.

blue moon

see separate entries.

blue-nine (n.)

[1970s] (S.Afr.) a petty thief or confidence trickster.


see separate entries.

blue ocean (n.)

[1980s+] (S.Afr.) methylated spirits.

blue one (n.)

1. [1950s] (Irish) a ten-pound note.

2. [1990s+] (Scot.) a five-pound note.

blue-pencil (v.)

see separate entry.

blue pig (n.)

1. see separate entry.

2. see also police terms above.

blue pigeon (n.)

see separate entries.

blue pill (n.) [SE blue, lead + SE pill/pill n. (1e)]

[mid–late 19C] (US) a bullet.

blue plum (n.) (also blue plumb) [plumb, a small piece of lead + pun on the fruit]

[late 18C–early 19C] a bullet; thus give one a taste of plum, to wound or kill with a bullet; thus surfeited with a blue plumb, wounded by gunfire.

blue pointers (n.) [the blue pointer shark or joc. suggestion that the point of the penis turns blue with cold when swimming]

[2010s] (Aus.) short male swimming trunks.

blue ribbon/ribboner (n.)

see separate entries.

blue room (n.) [its lack of light + once incarcerated there, one feels sense 1]

1. [1920s+] (US Und.) a punishment cell.

2. [1950s+] (Aus.) an interrogation room in a police station.

blue ruin (n.) [blue tape /blue ribbon n. etc + SE ruin; i.e. its effects]

1. [late 18C–1900s] (also blue) gin, esp. second-rate gin.

2. [mid-19C] (US) a strong kind of apple-jack, peach-brandy or whisky.

3. [1920s] (US) a hangover.

blue serge (n.)

[1920s] (US) a male sweetheart.

blueshirt (n.)

1. [1920s+] (Aus.) a farmer or estate owner.

2. [1920s+] (Aus.) a lazy worker, a slacker.

3. [1930s] (Irish) a member of the Fine Gael party, thus anyone espousing right-wing views [the Blueshirts, a 1930s Irish fascist movement, named for their uniform].

blueskin (n.)

see separate entry.

blue sky

1. see separate entries.

2. see also drug terms above.

blue-steel (n.) [its manufacture]

[1940s–60s] (US) a pistol.

blue stocking (n.) [17C blue, used after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 to denote any diehard Puritan who disapproved of the new moral freedoms]

1. [19C–1920s] a puritan, esp. a Presbyterian.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

bluestone (n.) [SE bluestone, copper sulphate or vitriol]

[late 19C–1940s] the very lowest quality of gin or whisky.

blue swimmer (n.)

[2000s+] (Aus.) a $10 note.

blue tape (n.) [tape n.1 ]

[late 18C–mid-19C] gin, esp. second-rate gin.

blue-tongue (n.) [SE blue-tongue, an Australian lizard of the genus Tiliqua, belonging to the family Scincidae; the ref. is to the sleepiness of such lizards]

[1900s–50s] (Aus.) a roustabout, an itinerant labourer.

Blue ’Un (n.)

see separate entry.


see separate entries.

blue whistler (n.) [the blue lead in the bullet and the noise it makes; note the Civil War-era cannon named ‘The Blue Whistler’, used at the battle of Val Verde, NM]

[mid–late 19C] (US) a bullet; spec. an extra-powerful shot used in a shotgun (see cite 1888).

In exclamations

blue me!

see separate entry.

by all that’s blue! [Fr. parbleu! lit. ‘by (a) blue (thing)!’]

[mid-19C] a mild excl. or oath.