Green’s Dictionary of Slang

rocky adj.

[SE rock, to sway]

1. drunk.

[US]B. Franklin ‘Drinkers Dictionary’ in Pennsylvania Gazette 6 Jan. in AS XII:2 92: They come to be well understood to signify plainly that A MAN IS DRUNK. [...] He’s Rocky.
[UK] Gent.’s Mag. Dec. 559/1: To express the condition of an Honest Fellow [...] under the Effects of good Fellowship, it is said that he is [...] 5. Rocky.
[UK]C.L. Lewes Comic Sketches 27: Rocky — Groggy — Blind as Chloe — Mops and Brooms, — and many other appellations too tedious to mention.
[US]Eve. World (NY) 1 Mar. 1/1: When one has been out all night, painting the town red [...] he is apt to feel ‘rocky’ when he gets homwe — in other words he is razzle-dazzled.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 11 Mar. 4/8: Rather rocky was the crew and somewhat ditto was the boss.
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii.
[UK]‘William Juniper’ True Drunkard’s Delight.

2. (orig. US) difficult, problematical.

[US]Night Side of N.Y. 78: ‘How do you fight your men [i.e. cards] now, Chauncey?’ ‘Rocky,’ was the reply. ‘I have just run ten dollars down to a shoe string.’.
[US]J. Miller Life Amongst the Modocs 71: We may have a rocky time down there, my boy [DA].
[US]C.C. Post Ten Years A Cowboy 56: I don’t believe I’m a coward, but there are things about this business that are a little bit too rocky for comfort.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 14 Dec. 3/1: To Correspondents [...] Maitlander. Too rocky.
[US]National Observer 20 Feb. 352/1: Though the morals were rocky [...] the society was very good [F&H].
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 20 Jan. 1/5: In certain western towns the railway officials have a rocky time of itIdf they happen to drop into a hotel, even off duty, .
[Aus]W.A. Sun. Times (Perth) 13 Feb. 3/3: He was very young and slightly ‘rocky’ in his shorthand.
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 186: It is because things are so confoundedly rocky in the City.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 31 Jan. 4/5: The sentence is a bit rocky in the way of grammar.
[UK]Wodehouse Psmith in the City (1993) 114: Things look perhaps a shade rocky just now.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 8 June 12/4: And of course the downy feemale / Can’t go in that shop again / Not for weeks, ’twould look too rocky.
[UK]J. Buchan Mr Standfast (1930) 646: The Boche was getting uppish and with some cause, and I foresaw a rocky time ahead till America could line up with us in the field.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 54: It seemed to me that I had let myself in for something pretty rocky.
[US]J.J. Mathews Talking to the Moon 69: I [...] shore felt rocky this mornin’ [DA].
[US]H. McCoy Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye in Four Novels (1983) 223: The only time it looked rocky was when you jumped on his side.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 12: The rumour is, things been rocky with the boys lately and there have been complaints that the set-up can’t deliver any more.
[US]J. Krantz Scruples 101: She had flunked algebra and geometry [...] and was rocky on long division.
[UK]K. Lette Llama Parlour 227: Of course, we’ve denied it, but things are kinda rocky, already, y’know.

3. unfair, cruel.

[US]S. Crane Maggie, a Girl of the Streets (2001) 53: She goes off with that plug-ugly who looks as if he had been hit in the face with a coin-dye. I call it rocky treatment.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 176: That was a pretty rocky letter to write a fellow.

4. (orig. US) unwell, ‘off-colour’.

[US]M.H. Foote Coeur d’Alene 132: I am sorry you are not well [...] I feel pretty rocky myself.
[UK]W. Pett Ridge Mord Em’ly 16: I feel a bit rocky still.
[UK]A. Binstead Houndsditch Day by Day 130: Very p’rtiklar always to valk vith a bit of a limp, as if he vhas rocky on the plates.
[US]C. Connors Bowery Life [ebook] ‘Mock brought up de Chinee doctor an’ he give me sumthin’—it’s med’cine [...] an’ it’s got me head a-reelin’. I t’ink dere must be sumthin’ in it dat makes me feel rocky.
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 215: rocky, dissipated, or worse for wear. ‘You look sort of rocky.’.
[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 197: Felt a bit ‘rocky’ after being dug out. Left ear gone. Head queer.
[UK]Hangar Happenings Aug. 6/2: The ‘boys of the old brigade’ do seem to be getting a bit rocky lately, the ‘casualty’ list being somewhat larger than usual.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 1: The night before I had been present at a rather cheery little supper, and I was feeling pretty rocky.
[US] in G. Legman Limerick (1953) 226: Young Tom Doane, a promising jockey, / Laid up his spurs, feeling rocky.
[US]Mencken letter 5 June in Riggio Dreiser-Mencken Letters II (1986) 675: I am still a bit rocky, but manage to get some work done.
[US]J. Thompson Savage Night (1991) 118: I’m feeling a little rocky.
[US](con. 1950) E. Frankel Band of Brothers 25: I was feeling a little rocky [...] And I loosened my parka . . . took off my belt.
[US](con. 1940s) M. Dibner Admiral (1968) 386: You feel rocky later on, you let me hear pronto, and I’ll arrange a relief.

5. (US) crazy.

[US]Eve. Herald (Shenandoah, PA) 10 May 1/3: With Old man Nevins pitching and all his rocky crew / They should scratch out a winning in a century or two.
[UK]Gem 18 Nov. 16: He must be rocky in the crumpet!
[UK][perf. Ella Shields] I’m Not All There [lyrics] I'm the softest guy around the town / People say I’m rocky in the crown.
[US]W.C. Heinz Professional 105: Man, are you rocky?
[US]P. Rabe My Lovely Executioner (2006) 25: He’s rocky, he’s forty years’ worth of rocky!

In phrases

go rocky (v.)

to go wrong.

[UK]Daily Tel. 28 Dec. n.p.: Let him keep the fact of things having gone rocky with him as dark as he can [F&H].