1. in Und. use.
(a) an act of theft.
|implied in on the sneak|
|Hell Upon Earth 3: Some are very expert for the Sneak; which is, sneaking into Houses by Night and Day, and pike off with that which is none of their own.|
|Hist. of Jonathan Wild 4: The Gentlemen of the Kid-Lay, File, Lay, Sneak and Buttock.|
|Thieving Detected 23: The Sneak [...] is an old proceeding.|
|Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 266: sneak: The sneak is the practice of robbing houses or shops, by slipping in unperceived, and taking whatever may lay most convenient; this is commonly the first branch of thieving, in which young boys are initiated, who, from their size and activity, appear well adapted for it.|
|Life In Sing Sing 263: I got a sneak on a jug and it swung heavy, but in making my get-away, the cush got my mug.|
(b) (also sneaky) a thief.
|Thief-Catcher 23: There are several other Denominations of Thieves, Rogues, and Cheats [...] some of whom are called Sneaks [...] One of the Accomplices gets into a Chat with the Maid, while the other sneaks in (as they term it) and robs the House.|
|Discoveries (1774) 36: The Night Sneak.|
|(con. 1710–25) Tyburn Chronicle II in (1999) xxvii: A Shop Sneak One that watches an Opportunity to go into a Shop unseen, and steal the Goods.|
|Thieving Detected 25: There is another kind of Sneak that confines himself to no particular time.|
|Whole Art of Thieving n.p.: I’m a Sneak for Chinks or Feeders I’m a Thief for Tankards or Spoons.|
|‘Cant Lang. of Thieves’ Monthly Mag. 7 Jan. n.p.: A Sneak for Chinks and Feeders, A Thief for Tankards or Spoons.|
|Key of Pierce Egan’s Trip to Ascot Races [printed panorama] He had heard of Cracks, / Spicemen, Knucklers, and Sneaks! / And he longed to be at the head of a Party, To show his authority to lag or to twist.|
|(con. 1737–9) Rookwood (1857) 165: We are now degenerated from the grand tobyman to the cracksman and the sneak.|
|Era (London) 12 Nov. 8/3: [O]ur fighting contributor [...] has thus poetically classed them:- Cracksmen (1), grand toby men (2), buzzmen (3), cly-fakers (4), Sneaks ()5.|
|Ladies’ Repository (N.Y.) Oct. VIII:37 317/1: Sneak, one who robs houses and steamboats by means of calebs and outsiders, &c., who never resorts to violence [...] A proficient sneak is considered as the very highest in the profession.|
|Bell’s Life in Sydney 10 Mar. 3/4: From the daring burglar down to the humble filching sneak.|
|New and Improved Flash Dict.|
|(con. 1840s–50s) London Labour and London Poor IV 277/1: The common thief [...] is characterized by low cunning and stealth — hence he is termed the Sneak.|
|Sl. Dict. 113: The crow looks to see that the way is clear, whilst the sneak, his partner, commits the depredation.|
|Reminiscences 92: I will explain what a ‘stall’ is in connection with the neat work of ‘bank-sneak gangs’.|
|Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 8: Sneaks - Those who creep into houses, while the Crow (a companion) watches.|
|Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 10 Apr. 1: [pic. caption] The King of the Sneaks [...] The Gay and Festive Mr Osborne Arrested [...] for Wholesale Robberies.|
|‘Baldy Thompson’ in Roderick (1972) 108: That’s an old cry of his, the damned old sneak.|
|Boy’s Own Paper 8 June 562: Two Britishers having been shot in Circle City as gold-sneaks.|
|Boss 168: Knucks, dips, sneaks, second-story people, an’ strong-arm men have got to quit.|
|Enemy to Society 147: Say a ‘house man’ or a ‘sneak’ or a ‘second-story’ man or a ‘peteman’ — anything but ‘cracksman’.|
|Fourth Form Friendship 22: ‘Well, of all the sneaks you’re the biggest! Call that your work? Why, it’s Mr. Bowden’s!—all the best parts, at any rate’.|
|Coll. Short Stories (1941) 109: I’ll give you a red nose, you little sneak! Where’d you steal it [i.e. a half-dollar]?‘Champion’|
|Two and Three 17 Mar. [synd. col.] If a sneaky did snitch a hand bag, he wouldn’t be able to carry it away.|
|Sth Eastern Times (Millicent, SA) 27 Mar. 4/5: Sneak thieves, for instance, are of many different kinds, such as hall sneaks, hotel sneaks, band sneaks, etc.|
|Chicago May (1929) 111: He did not know what to make of the motley gathering. There they were, thugs, strong-arm men, sneaks, second-story workers, dips, moll-buzzers, confidence-men, safe crackers, beggars and people who looked like the Lord’s anointed.|
|AS IX:1 27: sneak. A burglar who robs houses while the occupants are out.‘Prison Parlance’ in|
|Ginger Man (1958) 183: A pound you bastard. Festering sneak. No decency in you.|
|Lucky You 243: I’m not a sneak.|
(c) a sneak-thief, i.e. a housebreaker who enters premises by taking advantage of unlocked doors, windows, etc.
|Poverty, Mendicity and Crime; Report 91: There is a class called ‘sneaks,’ who enter shops slily, or crawl upon their hands and knees to abstract a till.|
|Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 127/2: Bundles of newly-washed and scarcely dried linen, stolen from the clothes lines during the night, and in fact almost everything a ‘sneak’ could make anything by, was there.|
|Galaxy (N.Y.) Oct. 497: Many of them, however, he knows intimately, and among them [...] Jack Sheppard, who maintains the traditional glories of his name by being the most daring and expert cart thief alive; Spence Pettis, Jimmy the Kid, Shyster McLanghlin, general sneaks; and many others of less note.|
|Dick Temple II 253: The public will stand a converted anything [...] but they won’t stand a converted sneak.|
|Nat. Police Gaz. 10 June 6/2: If on the hat-stand there are expensive furs, or gold-headed canes, the ‘sneaks’ are often content with them, and do not risk more.Crooked Life in|
|Powers That Prey 64: I say that we hunt up a good sneak an’ climber (sneak-thief and burglar).|
|Sporting Times 1 Aug. 1/4: She left the bloke who loved ’er, / yus, she left ’im like a sneak.‘The Lure of the Lucre’|
|Tomahawk (White Earth, Becker Co., MN) 19 Oct. 3/4: It was a slick job, done by no ordinary sneak.|
|Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).|
|Men of the Und. 325: Sneak, A thief who robs by stealth during the day.|
|World of Jimmy Breslin (1968) 120: He lives over his head and has to make up for it by being a sneak.|
(d) (US Und.) a bank robber (using guile rather than force), thus bank sneaking, bank robbery.
|Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 29 Oct. 6/4: He had just stolen [$4,000] from the Lafayette Bank [...] by what is known as ‘bank sneaking’.|
|Thirty Years a Detective 112: The ‘sneak’ will stealthily steal into the vault, and in a few minutes emerge with all the available resources of the bank, concealed beneath his coat.|
|Tramping with Tramps 397: A bank sneak is a bank thief.|
|Confessions of a Detective 222: If you had been on the trail of a bank sneak or a forger [...] you wouldn’t have come within a block of him.|
|Gay-cat 304: Sneaks—house thieves A bank thief is called a bank sneak.|
|Men of the Und. 52: The ‘sneak’ is the man who actually takes the money.in Hamilton|
2. an unpleasant person, irrespective of tale-telling.
|‘The St Giles’s Flash Man’ in Facetious Songster in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) III 250: I damn’d the quorum all for sneaks.|
|Handley Cross (1854) 90: I do wonder that the missis [...] countenances such a mean sneak.|
|Paul Pry (London 15 Aug. n.p.: George Hy, of Charlotte-street, alias the Sneak, alias the Spongy Cove, alias the Tit, and several others.|
|From Antietam to Fort Fisher (1985) 91: The sneaks in the army are named Legion, and they are shameless enough to proclaim their cowardly practices openly.letter 14 Dec. in Longacre|
|‘’Arry on the Turf’ in Punch 29 Nov. 297/1: I know as you won’t mount the tub, as some sneaks I ’ave spoke to ’ave done.|
|Life on the Mississippi (1914) 27: Little Davy made them own up that they were sneaks and cowards.|
|‘’Arry on Competitive Examination’ in Punch 1 Dec. 253/2: It plays into the ’ands of the mugs and the mivvies, the saps and the sneaks.|
|Public School Slang 59: Boys in general have a great flair for derogatory and vituperative expression [...] swot, swank, sneak, jew, swine, tick, scoff, cad, blog, nip, oik, lout, wet, drip, squit, squirt, mug, scug, sap, simp, seet, gump, muff, goof, goop, waft.|
|Day of Atonement 124: He’s a sneak [...] My wife doesn’t like having him over because he skulks around the house, rummages through drawers.|
3. (also sneaker) an escape.
|Charcoal Sketches (1865) 96: We’ll plump him off baste before he can say fliance, or get a sneak.|
|Four Million (1915) 236: She says yer betteer git busy, and make a sneak for de train.‘By Courier’ in|
|Indoor Sports 14 July [synd. cartoon] Trying to Make an Early Sneak from the Office When the Mob Nails You.|
|Hand-made Fables 319: They longed to execute a Sneak and get away somewhere and hold Hands and talk mushy.|
|(con. c.1920) Behind The Green Lights 227: He’s probably getting ready for a sneak, but I don’t think he’s had time for a getaway.|
|World I Never Made 290: But say, I did pull a sneaker on them this time, didn’t I?|
4. (mainly teen) one who tells tales on their fellows, usu. in the context of school.
|Memoirs (trans. W. McGinn) II 162: A man name Pinson, who passed for a great sneak, was conducted [...] to the office of the préfet.|
|Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 185: That long monument, sneak-looking fellow with you is of no use.|
|Sam Sly 20 Jan. 2/2: We advise Old Hooey-Hooey H—s, the ex-parish street sneak, or beadle, of the piggery, Euston-mews [...] to bring home shrimps, not crabs.|
|Paved with Gold 68: ‘That sneak, Fortune!’ he muttered.|
|Bill Arp 143: Who’s sorry? Who’s repenting? Who ain’t proud of our people? Who loves our enemies? Nobody but a durned sneak.|
|Five Years’ Penal Servitude 288: He was much better than many of the officers, but was a bit of a sneak and very uncertain.|
|Recoll. Sea-Wanderer 98: An opportunity to square yards with [...] 'that slab-sided, lantern-jawed sneak of a Huntington'.|
|‘Macquarie’s Mate’ in Roderick (1972) 121: One of you chaps [...] called Macquarie a scoundrel, and a loafer, and a blackguard and — and a sneak, and a liar.|
|Boy’s Own Paper 20 Oct. 39: Nobody liked him; he turned out a regular sneak.|
|Londinismen (2nd edn) v: Are smashers and divers / And noble contrivers / Not sold to the beaks / By the coppers an’ sneaks?‘Sl. Ditty’|
|Sun. Times (Perth) 2 Apr. 1/1: A cold tea crank at Fremantle is on the way to get walloped [He] puts in time Sherlock Holmesing neighboring shop-hands who pirouette to the pub [and] the sanctimonious sneak breaks even time in sprinting round to their boss.|
|City Of The World 243: The offspring of the comfortable classes rob orchards [...] and invent new tortures for ‘sneaks’.|
|Ulysses 435: A plagiarist. A soapy sneak masquerading as a literateur.|
|Man Called Jones (1949) 158: I don’t like insignificant little police-sneaks.|
|Jennings Goes To School 35: ‘Sneak!’ hissed Atkinson and Venables.|
|Eight Bells & Top Masts (2001) 32: He’s the biggest sneak on the sodding ship and he’ll tell on you if he feels like it.diary 31 Jan. in|
|Getaway in Four Novels (1983) 21: Trust the Doc to keep himself in the clear, him and his smart little sneak of wife!|
|One to Count Cadence (1987) 49: No one likes to be a sneak and a tattletail [sic].|
|Living Black 166: He’s a bastard, he’s a rat, he’s a sneak, he’s crafty.|
|Indep. Rev. 13 July 14: The whistleblower is contemptuously regarded as a ‘grass’ or ‘sneak’.|
|Long Hand of Twilight 29: That means he’s a sneak, and a sneak has no business interfering in our plans!|
5. (US prison) a night-guard.
|Confessions of Convict 14: Sneak, night-guard in jail. [Ibid.] 276: The night officer wears a species of india-rubber shoes or goloshes called ‘sneaks.’ From being a name for the shoes worn it has gradually become an epithet of the night-guard himself.|
6. (US black/gang) a sneak attack on a rival gang within their territory.
|Harlem, USA (1971) 349: Dig, you studs, don’t let another club catch you in a sneak.‘Some Get Wasted’ in Clarke|
(US Und.) house-breaking.
|Chicago May (1929) 215: It was not until the party returned to London that the chance came, and then it developed into an ordinary sneak-job, and the chief of the expedition did not get the profit or glory.|
|Runyon on Broadway (1954) 21: I am greatly opposed to house-breaking, or sneak jobs.‘Breach of Promise’ in|
a surreptitious entrance and exit from a brothel.
|Maledicta IX 150: The original argot of prostitution includes some words and phrases which have gained wider currency and some which have not […] sneak play (furtive entrance and exit from whorehouse).|
1. (Aus.) to inform against, to tell tales on.
|‘Jimmy Sago, Jackaroo’ in Old Bush Songs 49: When the boss wants information, on the men you’ll do a sneak.|
2. (also make a sneak, make one’s sneak, take a sneak) to leave, to escape.
|High School Aegis X (15 Feb.) 2–3: He gives de push de shake, and does de swift sneak.‘’Frisco Kid’s Story’ in|
|Chimmie Fadden Explains 115: I taut de geezers would make a sneak, but not on you life.|
|Sandburrs 66: I was dead aware that you might do a sneak at the last minute.‘Hamilton Finnerty’s Heart’ in|
|DN II:i 61: sneak, n. In phrase ‘take a sneak’, to go away.‘College Words and Phrases’ in|
|Chimmie Fadden and Mr Paul 56: How can we make a sneak?|
|Boss 313: ‘Get out, or I’ll have you chucked out!’ [...] ‘Do a sneak!’.|
|Out for the Coin 77: I don’t do no sneak until I pull off a meeting with the High Card.|
|Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 24 Aug. 3/5: [H]ad the same John Hop seen three rats of larrikins kicking an old man to death [...] he’d have done a sneak round tho corner and ducked into a pub for safety.|
|Shorty McCabe 34: Just as I was makin’ my sneak this quiet-speakin’ chap falls in alongside and begins to talk to me.|
|Enemy to Society 294: So Stevey takes a ‘quiet sneak’ while this here Miss Duress is a-talkin’ to th’ mayor.|
|Torchy 159: Mr. Pepper don’t like the idea, though, of doin’ the gumshoe sneak.|
|White Moll 177: So youse just take a sneak wid yerself, an’ fix a nice little alibi fer us so’s we won’t be takin’ any chances.|
|Babbitt (1974) 56: If a man is bored by his wife, do you seriously mean he has the right to chuck her and take a sneak.|
|(con. 1900s) Elmer Gantry 31: Whadja take a sneak for?|
|Fast One (1936) 205: We’d better take a sneak while we’re all in one piece.|
3. (US) to approach surreptitiously.
|Philosophy of Johnny the Gent 66: ‘[Y]ou could go to him an’ break him, provided you done a sneak on him while he was asleep an’ worked on him wit’ the chloroform bottle.|
(UK Und.) to go out working as a sneak-thief or petty pilferer.
|Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Sneak c. goes upon the Sneak at Munns, c. he privately gets into Houses or Shops at Night, and Steals undiscover’d.|
|Regulator 21: His Wife Looks to a parcel of Young lads that goes on the Sneake, that is, to creep into a House in the Evening and taking what they can find.|
|New Canting Dict. n.p.: sneak Goes upon the Sneak at Darkmans; He privately gets into Houses or Shops at Night, and steals undiscover’d.|
|Narrative of Street-Robberies 31: He could not wholly support himself [...] and was therefore oblig’d to go upon the Sneak.|
|, , ,||Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. 1725].|
|Proceedings Old Bailey 9 Dec. 8/1: We thought it too late to go on what they call the evening sneak.|
|Discoveries (1774) 8: I went on the Sneak and stole a Silver Tankard without a Lid, from the Black-Moor’s Head.|
|Proceedings Old Bailey 21 Feb. 142/1: Going on the sneak, is to go into houses that are open to take things: going on the budge, is to burst the doors open.|
|Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd edn) n.p: .To go upon the sneak; to steal into houses whose doors are carelessly left open. Cant.|
|Proc. Old Bailey 18 Sept. 376/2: He told us he was going out that night with Batts and Rawley; they were going upon the sneak. Q. What is that, among thieves - A. It means going into a house slyly; and that is distinguished from breaking forcibly.|
|Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 162: ‘Sneak — to go upon the,’ to walk about [...] to see what may be picked up, and what houses stand exposed to the next evening’s depredation.|
|‘A Blowen in a Alley Pigg’d’ in Comic Songster and Gentleman’s Private Cabinet 34: Now Joe, at night went on the sneak.|
|Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 8/2: They go in strong on the ‘sneak’ when dark, or at the break of the races, when in the confusion [...] a ‘tog’ or ‘spread’ is sure to change owners.|
surreptitiously, on the sly.
|Dict. Canting Crew : n.p.: Ken-miller, ’Tis a bob Ken, Brush upon the Sneak, ’tis a good House, go in if you will but Tread softly.|
|Lives of Most Notorious Highway-men, etc. (1926) 207: Friend John, or sweet Tom, ’tis a bob ken, brush upon the sneak, i.e., ’tis a good house, go in if you will, but tread softly and mind your business.|
|Narrative of Street-Robberies 44: He fell into the hands of some sly Prig upon the Sneak.|
|Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn).|
|Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.|
|Bell’s Penny Dispatch 3 Apr. 3/1: And when I’m short of tin my boys, / I get it on the sneak, / [...] / For I’m the boy for cheek.|
|Ticket-Of-Leave Man Act I: Pottering about on the sneak, flimping or smashing a little when I get the chance.|
|Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 85/1: One day she had made a visit on the ‘sneak’ to a small chandler’s close by, the owner being engaged in a room on one side of the shop.|
|Confessions of a Detective 12: Barney got the hunch on the sneak that, if you wanted to pass, you’d have to come up with the long green.|
|Big Con 177: There were hundreds more roping against unprotected stores which ran ‘on the sneak’.|
|I Like ’Em Tough (1958) 56: She used to meet him on the sneak.‘Now Die In It’ in|
|Show Business Laid Bare 270: ‘If there’d been any whispers about Piaf being up there on the sneak, I’d have known about it’.|
(US black) surreptitiously, deceitfully.
|(con. 1985–90) In Search of Respect 155: My boss, Bill, be drinking on the sneak cue. [Ibid.] 289: I knew Primo was having a simultaneous relationship with both Maria and Jaycee. I had no idea, however, that he was also seeing Flora ‘on the sneak tip.’.|
|Ebonics Primer at www.dolemite.com 🌐 sneak-tip Definition: to be done without anyone knowing Example: Yeah I did his old lady on the sneak tip so as he would not find out.|
1. (US black) to act in a surreptitious manner.
|N.Y. Age 24 Jan. 9/4: For give me for pulling off the ‘sneak’, for foraaking you last week.‘Observation Post’ in|
2. (US black/gang) to enter a rival gang’s territory, usu. to harass or fight.
|Harlem, USA (1971) 349: Them Crowns been messing all over us. Pulling sneaks on our turf.‘Some Get Wasted’ in Clarke|