Green’s Dictionary of Slang

sharp n.1

[sharp v.; note shop assistants’ jargon Mr Sharp, a known shoplifter or fraud]

1. (UK Und.) a confidence trickster.

[UK]J. Fielding Thieving Detected 46: Its worth at least, replies the Sharp, is fifty guineas.
[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 132: Ye flats, sharps, and rum ones, who make up this pother.
[UK] ‘Flash Lang.’ in Confessions of Thomas Mount 19: A gambler, a sharp.
[UK]C. Dibdin Yngr Song Smith 68: We all know that Greeks take in both flats and sharps.
[UK]Morn. Post (London) 12 Oct. 3/2: One of the first billiard and forte-piano players [...] paid us a visit but soon took his departure on finding here more sharps than flats.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 275: There are to be found here as many flats and sharps as would furnish the score of a musical composer.
[UK]Egan Bk of Sports 49: Lots of sharps to be met with, and plenty of flats to be picked up!
[UK]J. Lindridge Sixteen-String Jack 208: Danged if any of the London sharps will rob I.
[UK] ‘Leary Man’ in ‘Ducange Anglicus’ Vulgar Tongue (1857) 43: At knock’emsdown and tiddlywink, / To be a sharp you must not shrink.
[UK] ‘Six Years in the Prisons of England’ in Temple Bar Mag. Nov. 539: You know if it were not for the flats, how could the sharps live?
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 232: Meantime [...] many sharps fitted up fashionable skinning-houses in the city, and conducted them with various success.
[UK]G.R. Sims Zeph (1892) 73: The two highly-respectable looking gentlemen [...] he knows to be two of the cleverest ‘sharps’ in London.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Stiffner & Jim’ in Roderick (1972) 124: He said that men were driven to be sharps, and there was no help for it.
[UK]G.R. Sims Mysteries of Modern London 43: The sharp is going to ask him to his flat [...] and he is going to be ‘rooked’ of a large sum of money.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson ‘Victor Second’ Three Elephant Power 113: One day the boy we had looking after The Trickler fell in with a mob of sharps.
[US]V.W. Saul ‘Vocab. of Bums’ in AS IV:5 344: Sharp—One skilled or crooked at games.
[UK]M. Marshall Tramp-Royal on the Toby 117: City sharps, town flats, and village naturals.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 190/2: Sharp or Sharper. 1. A skilful card cheat; a crooked gambler. 2. An expert.
[US]L. Block ‘Naked and the Deadly’ in One Night Stands (2008) 227: ‘Who played in the [poker] game?’ ‘Two or three of the sharps. And Dad.’.

2. an expert or connoisseur, a clever person or one who poses as such; also, in comb. with n., a job title, e.g. doctor sharp, revenue sharp.

[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Tom and Jerry III i: tom: We are, indeed, a regular trio; every part well harmonized. log.: Ay, all sharps! not a flat or a natural among us.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 119: As a general thing, the billiard-sharp is a retired marker, who [...] is smart enough, and has learned tricks enough at his former business, to enable him to win as much money as he wants from the less experienced amateurs of the game, who figure in his vocabulary as ‘the flats.’.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 345/2: I was not what you might term a skittle sharp, for I never entered into a plot to victimise any person.
[US]Galaxy (N.Y.) Apr. 491: He is the person [...] of whom the man behind the counter remarks, before he is fairly out of ear-shot, ‘One of the sharps—he’s goin’ for a sure thing.’.
‘Mark Twain’ ‘Answer to Correspondents’ in Celebrated Jumping Frog and Sketches 40: You were doing it to ‘show off’ [...] I can tell you Arizona opera-sharps, any time.
[UK]Sporting Times 4 Jan. 1: Have I got hold of a most infernal fool or a most amazing sharp?
[US]A.H. Lewis Wolfville 19: This yere Peets is the finest-eddicated an’ levelest-headed sharp in Arizona.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 209: The moonshiners [...] figured me out as a revenue sharp.
[US]A.H. Lewis Confessions of a Detective 7: If that doctor sharp ’ll only let me [...] get my hooks on the scales.
[Ire]Joyce Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man 224: In one of his songs he speaks of the billiard sharp who is condemned to play: On a cloth untrue.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 33: I don’t know why it is – one of those psychological sharps could explain it.
see sense 1.

3. in pl., from medical jargon sharps, needles, scalpels etc.

(a) household needles.

[UK]W.H. Davies Autobiog. of a Super-Tramp 211: There is not much profit in a pair of stretchers (laces) or a packet of common sharps (needles).
[US] ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V 462: Sharps, Needles.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 167: Sharps.–Needles, of whatever grade, as peddled by tramps or beggars.

(b) (drugs) hypodermic needles.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 19: Sharps — Hypodermic needles.

4. (US campus) an attractive and/or socially adept person.

[US](con. WWII) J.O. Killens And Then We Heard The Thunder (1964) 75: A sharp like you must’ve had a whole lot of good-looking red-hot brown-skin mamas hot in behind you up in New York.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS 192: Sharp A sexually attractive person, female. A sexually attractive person, male. A socially adept person. A quick or witty person.

In phrases

book sharp (n.)

(US, Western) an intellectual.

[US] in M. Lewis Mining Frontier (1967) 103: Some o’ them long-toed roosters what the book-sharps talk about.
horse sharp (n.)

(US) a crooked racecourse gambler.

[US]N.Y. Trib. 12 Feb. 3/2: The third [...] is what is termed a ‘horse sharp’.
on the sharp

1. fraudulently.

[UK]T. Lucas Lives of the Gamesters (1930) 250: When she had a sharp gamester to deal with, She would play altogether on the sharp.

2. attempting to defraud victims; thus go on the sharp(s).

[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 18: We could not get anything on the Sharp that Day.
[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford II 264: They are both gone on the sharps to-night.

3. (UK Und.) too alert to be easily cheated.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 61: on the sharp Persons who are well acquainted with the mysteries of gaming, and therefore not easily cheated.
weather sharp (n.)

(US) a weather-forecaster.

Galveston Dly News (TX) 7 Nov. 4/4: The weather-sharp is an alleged prophet, who tries to make people believe he is more intimate with the climate than anybody else.
[US]Sun (NY) 20 Nov. 1: It was to Old Humidity [...] that yesterday’s reprehensible weather was due, the weather sharp added.
Hutchinson News (KS) 22 July 4/3: Willis L. Moore, uncle Sam’s new weather sharp, can plunk the bullseye nearly every time.
Democrat & Chron. (Rochester, NY) 4 Feb. 1/3: The mercury there was 30 below, which is chracterized by the cheerful weather sharp there as ‘balmy’.
Delaware Co. Times (Chester, PA) 29 Sept. 7/5: [headline] Darby Weather Sharp Predicts a Mild Season.
[US]News (Frederick, MD) 8 Dec. n.p.: Well might he say ‘B-r-r-r-r’ for according to the weather sharp cold temperatures [...] are due.
Nebraska State Jrnl (Lincoln, NE) 17 Mar. 3/1: [headline] Climate Change Seen In Part by Weather Sharp.
Index-Jrnl (Greenwood, SC) 26 May 4/7: The local weather sharp was not shaken.
[US]Chicago Trib. 10 Jan. 18/3: As weather sharps well know, those favourite harbingers of the vernal season, migrant robins, are not due for some time [DA].