Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bust adj.

also busted, busted up
[bust v.1 (4c)]

1. bankrupt, subject to financial collapse.

[US]R.C. Sands Writings II 153: For the Aigle bank was busted, and the Cataract of Freedom stopped [DAE].
[UK]Bristol Mirror 1 Oct. 6/4: The State Bank — busted all to pieces, and hang me if I didn’t lose thirty per cent.
[US] ‘Richard the Third’ in Rootle-Tum Songster 49: De bank am bust – I isn’t got a cent.
[US]St Louis Globe-Democrat 19 Jan. n.p.: He is told by his equally ‘busted’ companions to ‘stand him up,’ ‘give him the slip,’ ‘put up your educated forefinger at him’.
[Aus]S. Bourke & Mornington Jrnl (Richmond, Vic.) 24 Jan. 1s/1: I’m busted [...] case of clean smash.
[US]J. Harrison ‘Negro English’ in Anglia VII 263: To be bustid up = to be bankrupt, to fail.
[US]S. Thompson Humbler Poets 268: The proud aristocratic folks, who sot in fortune’s door, / Who thought they ’d never come to want, are busted up an’ poor .
[UK]Sporting Times Feb. 1/1: ‘I am as near busted as makes no difference’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Jones’s Alley’ in Roderick (1972) 37: The landlord had lost all his money in a bust financial institution.
[US]F. Dumont Dumont’s Joke Book 29: mid.: What became of your newspaper? end.: Busted up.
[US]Rosebud Co. News (Forsyth, MT) 4 June 5/3: The wife complains of ills, and it keeps the husband ‘busted’ buying dope and drugs and pills.
Investigation of the Department of the Interior 2130: It is a busted-up company. mr brandeis: You mean to say it has gone out of existence or that it is bankrupt? mr birch: It is bankrupt.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 11 Feb. 3/2: So when a man are busted, / Squashed in stern reality, / And he ain’t a thrumbo on him.
[US]H.L. Wilson Merton of the Movies 194: He looked like the juvenile lead of a busted road show.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 536: You’re pretty well bust yourselves.
[UK]S. Lister Mistral Hotel (1951) 104: If the lid blows off Danzig the hotel will be empty within twenty-four hours and we shall be bust.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Jailbait Street (1963) 52: ‘Hey, what about some pot? It’s the best.’ ‘I’m busted’.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 5 Jan. in Proud Highway (1997) 603: The handlers get rich while the animals either get busted or screwed to the floor with bad contracts.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 14 Sept. 67: Put ’em on Dartmoor to farm and they’d be bust in two years.
[US]R. Campbell Alice in La-La Land (1999) 125: Plastics closed down all but a few [factories] in the seventies, but Daddy was bust before that, so it wasn’t much to worry about.
[Aus]J. Byrell Lairs, Urgers & Coat-Tuggers 45: Dr and Mrs Bland arrived back in Sydney Cove [...] flat busted and with the doc swearing an anything by Hippocratic oath never to outlay on a chaffburner again .
[US]J. Mabus ‘Sally Gal’ 🎵 Busted flat — no crime in that.

2. broken.

[UK]Dickens Little Dorrit (1967) 303: I would wish to take the liberty to ask how it’s [i.e. the heart] to be made good to his parents when bust?
[UK]J. Buchan Greenmantle (1930) 311: Her game’s mighty near bust, but it’s still got a chance.
[US]F. Packard White Moll 67: ‘Where’s the lamp?’ ‘It’s over dere on de floor, bust to pieces,’ mumbled Rhoda Gray.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Knight’s Return’ in Chisholm (1951) 85: But ’ere’s me lip swole up an’ one eye black / An’ all me map in gen’ril bunged an’ bust.
[UK]A. Buckeridge Jennings Follows a Clue (1967) 18: ‘It’s bust,’ he announced.
[UK]P. Terson Apprentices (1970) I iii: Why didn’t somebody say he had spectacles on? Are they bust, son?

3. (also bustereeno) impoverished, out of funds.

[US]Overland Monthly XIV 321: And so, with the ‘dead-broke’ miner or the ‘busted-up’ generally [etc].
[US]F.H. Hart Sazerac Lying Club 59: I was busted flatter’n a cold slap-jack.
[US]H.G. Wiley Wildcat 14: Wartimes an’ folks movin’ away has me about bust now.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Nocturne’ in Rose of Spadgers 53: Dead keen to splash around ’is surplis wealth / On rapid livin’ till ’e’s bust an’ broke.
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 28: I offer you half a quid [...] You’re bust and you won’t take it.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Tomboy (1952) 96: Flat bust [...] I don’t feel no good without money.
[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 184: ‘I’m busted,’ he said dejectedly.
D. Jenkins Dogged Victims 58: He once arrived [...] with the town so crowded—and himself so busted—that he joyfully bunked in the city jail.
[US]J. Stahl ‘Finnegan’s Waikiki’ in Love Without (2007) 139: I’m broke. Bustereeno.

In phrases

go bust (v.) (also go busted)

1. of an individual firm or company, to lose one’s money, to become bankrupt.

[UK]Music Hall & Theatre Rev. 1 Nov. 6/2: The bank has gone ‘bust’.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘Clarion Call’ in Voice of the City (1915) 192: Here is where I go ‘busted’.
[UK]E. Pound letter 12 Dec. in Read Letters to James Joyce (1968) 147: The only thing is that these women in New York may go bust, and be unable to print the end of the novel.
[UK]D.L. Sayers Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1977) 141: Well, it’s all gone bust – but it was a darn’ good stunt while it lasted.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 558: It’s goddamn tough when a poor man saves a little money [...] and then the bank goes bust.
[UK]J. Cary Horse’s Mouth (1948) 293: The Rankens went bust for the third or fouth time.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Sat. Night and Sun. Morning 5: The club went bust.
[WI]V.S. Naipaul House For Mr Biswas 159: The shop gone bust yet?
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘It Never Rains’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] He’ll go bust!
[UK]Indep. 9 Oct. 11: A low-cost rival went bust.
[UK]Guardian Guide 26 June–2 July 5: Hamper denied dishonesty but promptly went bust leaving creditors whistling for cash.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 20 Mar. 12: I went to work for a Wang dealership that went bust.

2. (US) to renege on a debt.

[US]C. Stella Eddie’s World 2: I was collecting for Joe Sharp, some guy went bust on him a few weeks earlier. Small change, four or five hundred.