Green’s Dictionary of Slang

oil of... n.

[SE oil/oil n.]

1. money, always in combs. as listed below.

2. a beating, always in combs. as listed below [note parallel usage in Jamaican herbalism and religious cults, some refer to religious beliefs, others to the wishes that are invested in the oil itself; terms include oil of Calvary; oil of Virgin Mary; oil of power; oil of dead-man; oil of kill-him-dead; oil of bound-to-win].

3. a form of alcoholic drink; as in combs. listed below.

Meaning money

In phrases

oil of angels (n.) (also angel’s oil) [predates oil n. (1) so more likely fig. use of SE oil + angel, ‘an old English gold coin, called more fully at first the angel-noble, being originally a new issue of the Noble, having as its device the archangel Michael standing upon, and piercing the dragon’ (OED). Initially worth 6s 8d, it was worth 10s when last minted under Charles I]

money used for bribery; note v. extrapolated in cit. 1606.

[UK]Greene Quip for an Upstart Courtier E: Lawiers are troubled with the heate of the liuer, which makes the palms of their hands so hot that they cannot be cooled unless they rubb with the oile of angels.
[UK]Return from Parnassus Pt II II ii: Must his worships fists bee needs then oyled with Angells?
[UK]Massinger Duke of Milan III ii: I haue seen him Cap a pe gallant, and his stripes wash’d of With ouyle of Angels.
[UK]Exeter & Plymouth Gaz. 4 Feb. 5/6: Money in general is known as: The Actual, Coliander Seeds, [...] Hard, John Davis, King’s Pictures, [...] Nonsense, Oil of Angels, [...] Rowdy.
oil of argentum (n.) [Lat. argentum, white money, silver]


[UK]J. Hall Memoirs (1714) 10: In whose several Apartments both Male and Female are condfin’d till they distil a little Oil of Argentum for the Favour of going into the Cellar, to spend their ill-got Coin with speed.
[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 7 June 9/6: Slang of Money [...] It has been called ‘the actual, the blunt, hard, dirt, evil, flimsy, gilt, iron, John Davis, lurries, moss, oil of angels, pieces, rowdy, spondulicks, tin, wad’ .
oil of palm(s) (n.) [used to ‘grease the palm’]

money, usu. in the form of a bribe (cf. palm oil n.).

[UK]Bob Gregson ‘Ya-Hip, My Hearties!’ in Moore Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 81: Oil of Palms the thing that, flowing, / Sets the naves and felloes going!
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Oil of Palms. Money. Cant.
[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford I 32: As soon as the matron felt her hand anointed with what has been called by some ingenious Johnson of St. Giles’s ‘the oil of palms,’ her countenance softened.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open 117: Oil of palm, money.
[UK]Punch II 168/1: Oil of palms [...] A specific much in vogue for rigid fingers and horny fistedness; though strange to say, it only serves to augment the itch which so often affects the hand .
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn) 183: OIL OF PALMS, or palm oil, money.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. [as cit. 1860].
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Oil of palms, money.

Meaning a beating

oil of hazel (n.) (also hazel oil) [a variety of sap supposedly contained in a green hazel rod, which adds vigour to a beating]

a beating; often as anoint with oil of hazel v., to beat.

[UK] ‘Dumb Maid’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1883) IV 359: Take you the Oyl of Hazel strong; With it anoint her Body round.
oil of holly (n.)

a beating administered with a stick cut from a holly bush.

[UK]Pennyless Parliament of Thread-bare Poets 22: The Oil of Holly shall prove a present Remedy for a shrewd Housewife, accounting Socrates for a flat Fool, that suffered his Wife to crown him with a Piss-pot.
[UK] ‘The West Country Weaver’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1893) VII:1 23: I am fully resolv’d to chastise her with speed, / With the sweet Oil of Holly I’ll chafe her proud hide.
oil of whip (n.) (also oyl of rope)

a severe beating.

[UK]Fuller Worthies (1840) III 92: ‘The Beggars of Bath’ [...] Although oil of whip be the proper plaister for the cramp of laziness, yet some pity is due to impotent persons.
[UK]Poor Robin n.p.: Now for to cure such a disease as this, The oyl of whip the surest medicine is [N].
[UK]S. Centlivre Wife Well Manag’d Act I: When Wives, like mine, gives Inclination Scope, / No Cure for Cuckoldom like Oyl of Rope.

Meaning alcohol

oil of barley (n.)

1. strong ale.

[UK]F. Beaumont Answer of Ale to the Challenge of Sack in Chalmers Eng. Poets (1810) VI 208/2: Ale is not so costly / Although that the most lye / Too long by the oyle of barley.
[UK]New Brawle 4: [S]he hath oyld her tongue with the Oyl of Barley.
[Ire]Head Canting Academy (2nd edn) 191: The sullen Rogues [...] would not speak a word till I had suppled their tongues with the oil of Barley, or rather thawed their obstinanate [sic] silence with the heat of strong Liquor.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew.
[UK]New Canting Dict.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US] ‘Scene in a London Flash-Panny’ Matsell Vocabulum 99: Thereon there was a demand for max, oil of barley, red tape, blue ruin, white velvet, and so forth, that kept all the tapsters in the establishment in a state of restless activity for the next half-hour.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 54: Oil of Barley, strong beer.

2. whisky.

[UK]‘F.L.G.’ Swell’s Night Guide K4: Oil of Barley Whiskey.