Green’s Dictionary of Slang

push n.

1. in fig. senses, that which ‘pushes’ or can be ‘pushed’.

(a) [mid-17C+] sexual intercourse; thus do a push v., to have sexual intercourse [the thrusting movements of the man, but note push in the truck n.].

(b) [late 18C] a robbery, a swindle.

(c) [mid-19C; 1980s] influence [var. on pull n. (1a)].

(d) [late 19C] money [? fig. use of SE, i.e. it lets one ‘push forward’ in life].

(e) [20C+] (Irish) help, encouragement.

(f) [1900s] (Aus./Irish) a problem, a difficult situation.

2. in senses of a crowd or gang.

(a) [late 17C–early 19C] a crowd, a ‘press’ of people.

(b) [mid-19C] (UK Und.) a small gang who mask the activities of a pickpocket by surrounding the victim.

(c) [late 19C+] (Aus.) a criminal gang, a gang of tramps; a prison work gang; thus upper-ten push, upper-class criminals and prisoners, also a tramp gang; pushism, the world of such gangs; pushite, a gang member.

(d) [late 19C+] (US/Aus.) a crowd, thence a clique, a set, among the most celebrated of which was the Sydney Push, or Sydney University Libertarian Society of the early 1960s; thus pushite, a member of a gang or ‘crowd’.

(e) [1900s-30s] (Aus./US) a family.

(f) (US) a street fight between gangs.

3. [late 19C+] constr. with the, an act of ejection, dismissal.

(a) dismissal from a job; usu. as get/give the push v., to be dismissed, to dismiss; also of a lover.

(b) ejection from a place, e.g. a public house.

4. [1910s] (Aus.) cocoa.

5. see pushover n. (1)

In compounds

pushman (n.)

[1900s] a member of a criminal gang.

push-note (n.) [1940s]

1. (US Und.) a one-dollar bill.

2. a person who looks like someone else.

push-push (n.) [Trimble, 5,000 Adult Sex Words & Phrases (1966), suggests orig. pidgin use by ‘Americans in foreign countries’]

[20C+] (US) sexual intercourse.

In phrases

give someone the order of the push (v.)

[late 19C–1900s] to dismiss from a job.

in the push

[late 19C-1910s] (US) moving in fashionable circles.

make a push (v.)

[1910s] (Aus.) to leave.

stand the push (v.) (also do the push)

[late 19C] of a woman, to have sexual intercourse.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

another push and you’d have been a nigger (also another push and you’d have been a chink) [nigger n.1 (1)/Chink n. (1)]

[20C+] a general insult; the implication (in this context a slur) is that one’s mother was happy to have sex with all races.

when push comes to shove (also if push comes to shove) [SE push is seen as less aggressive than shove]

[1930s+] (orig. US) in the final assessment, when all other alternatives have been exhausted.

work the push (v.)

[mid-19C] (US und.) to pickpocket in a crowd departing an entertainment, e.g. of theatregoers, a circus audience.