Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lemon n.

1. of people and things, in the sense of the sourness and/or unpalatability of the fruit.

(a) [mid-19C] a person of a sour disposition.

(b) [mid-19C+] (also citron, lime) anything or anyone undesirable, esp. used of a woman.

(c) [20C+] a disappointment, anything worthless or fraudulent, esp. a poor quality drug purchase.

(d) [1920s+] a defective car or vehicle; thus the lemon law, a law that provides redress for buyers of substandard or defective cars.

(e) [1950s+] (US drugs, also lemonade) weak or second-rate narcotics, a diluted or poor-quality drug, esp. poor heroin.

(f) [1990s+] (Aus./S.Afr.) a lesbian.

2. [20C+] a victim, a fool; also attrib. [? pun on sucker n.1 (3b)].

3. the shape.

(a) [1920s–50s] the head.

(b) [1930s+] (US) the female breasts.

4. [1920s–60s] (US black) a light-skinned black person.

5. in the sense of something/someone that can be ‘squeezed’.

(a) [1930s] (US Und.) an informer [such a person can be ‘squeezed’ by an interrogator].

(b) [1930s+] (US black) the genitals; always in phr. squeeze (some)one’s lemon

6. see lem n.2

7. see lemon game

8. see lemon (and lime) n.

9. see lemon (curd) n.

10. see lemon (drop) n.

11. see lemon (squash) n.

12. see lemon (flavour) n.

In derivatives

lemoner (n.)

[1970s+] (Irish) a disappointment, something depressing.

In compounds

Lemon Avenue (n.) (also Lemon Land) [their lips are eternally pursed with disapproval, as if they had just sucked a lemon]

[1910s+] (Aus.) the fig. name for the ‘spiritual home’ of censorious or socially repressive people.

lemon-eater (n.) (also lemon-sucker) [the English are seen as sour]

[1960s+] (US) an English person.

lemon game (n.) (also lemon) [game n. (6)]

[20C+] (US Und.) a way of cheating at pool, whereby a victim is enticed into the game and allowed to win. Once they are sufficiently confident to bet heavily, their opponent has a ‘run of luck’ and takes all their money; also attrib.

lemon hand (n.) [hand n.1 ]

[1960s] (US) a deliberately malicious person.

lemon-head (n.)

(US) a fool.

lemon-lipped (adj.)

[2000s] (N.Z.) very angry.

lemon-squeezer (n.)

1. [1920s] (US) a subway car.

2. [1940s+] (Aus./N.Z.) a hat with a peaked crown and broad, flat brim worn by Aus. and N.Z. soldiers; also attrib .

lemon-sucker (n.) [? SE sucker or his stereotypically pursed lips]

1. [1920s–60s] (US) an effeminate man.

2. see lemon-eater

lemon twist (n.) [the sweet]

[1990s+] (Aus. Und.) when one gang employs a known police informer to give information about its rivals to the police.

In phrases

cut lemons (v.) [ cut v.3 / SE; ? lemons are ‘sharp’]

[late 19C] (US) to impress, to appear important; usu. in negative, e.g. that didn’t cut any lemons.

hand someone the lemon (v.)

[1910s–30s] (US) to disdain, to dismiss; thus get the lemon, to be dismissed or ignored.

have lemon lips (v.)

[2000s] (S.Afr. gay) to be in a bad mood, very angry.

sell lemons (v.)

[1950s+] to sell second-rate or fake drugs.

shoot the lemon (v.)

[1910s] (US prison) to chatter, to gossip.

squeeze (some)one’s lemon (v.) (also squeeze a lemon, squeeze the lemon)

1. [1930s+] (orig. US black) to have sexual intercourse [esp. in blues use, as a sexual euph.: ‘Squeeze my lemon, till the juice runs down my leg’].

2. [1940s] in fig. use, to live life to the full.

3. [1950s+] of a man or woman, to urinate.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

lemon drop (n.)

1. [1970s] (US teen) a contraceptive pill.

2. [2000s] (US drugs) a methamphetamine tablet.

lemonfish (n.)

[1980s+] (N.Z.) shark, as used in fish and chip shops.

In phrases

suck lemons (v.)

[20C+] (US) to act sourly, to complain, to sulk.