Green’s Dictionary of Slang

airy n.1

also aery, airey, hairy, hary
[pron.]

1. the ‘area’ of a house, adjacent to the basement steps.

[UK]Mr Mathews’ Comic Annual 15: He was lying on all fours down the hairy of an house.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 68: I’ve tumbled on a donna, who has been doing the multa bonna fakement, pallarying the slavies down the haries and she has done stunning, and copped a lummy slum of bonna scran.
[UK]J.S. Coyne Pippins and Pies 66: He toll’d me with his own lips — I was the bell of all the aireys — and sich lips as he as Poll! oh my!
[UK]H. Kingsley Ravenshoe II 163: Miss Flanagan fell out of winder into the airy, and then they took she to Guy’s hospital.
[UK]Wild Boys of London I 234/1: We’ll have a peeler in the aery ready, don’t yer brown?
[UK]Leeds Times 7 May 6/5: I’ve dropped a penny down the airy-grating. Please knock and ask for it.
[US]‘Chanticleer’ ‘A Jubilation Dress’ [lyrics] But a sweet voice from an airey Shrieked ‘Oh my! what a lark!’.
[UK]A.N. Lyons Arthur’s 164: Climbed down nigh every airey we passed; stole the milk-cans, an’ tied ’em up to the knockers.
[UK]J. Manchon Le Slang.
[UK]C. Harris Three-Ha’Pence to the Angel 56: One, two, three a-lairy, / My ball’s gone down the airy!
[UK]R.L. Finn Time Remembered (1985) 69: When a ball went into the area — the ‘airy’ we called it — we had to climb the railings [...] to rescue it.
[UK](con. 1920s) G. O’Neill My East End (2000) 82: We lived in rows of terraced houses with just upstairs and downstairs, and a few basements [airys or areas], wedged close together.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[UK]Dickens Oliver Twist (1966) 404: The pots I took off airy railings.
[UK]M.E. Braddon Dead Men’s Shoes I 290: My missus is out of town, and we don’t want no airy sneaks loafing about while she’s away.
[Ire]K.F. Purdon Dinny on the Doorstep 27: The young Dorans [...] derived no small enjoyment from watching what was happening within sight of their airy day-nursery.