Green’s Dictionary of Slang

back n.1

[note the 17C use of a strong back to imply a woman’s sexual strength]

1. (US) a soft drink or weak alcoholic drink served and drunk alongside a stronger alcoholic drink, usu. as an order to the barman, e.g. Scotch with a beer back; thus back up, to order or serve such a drink; backed strong and weak drinks served in such a manner.

Tap and Tavern 20 Sept. 13/4: What is called a ‘chaser’ or a ‘rinse’ or a ‘mix’ in many parts of the country is called a ‘back’ in at least some bars of Colorado.
[US]L. Block Sins of Fathers 106: I had left my bitter coffee at the bar and now ordered bourbon with water back.
L. Block Stab in the Dark 115: The bartender's hand trembled slightly as he poured me a double shot of Early Times and backed it up with a glass of water.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 9: Bocoo bourbon and beer backs.
[US]J.A. Juarez Brotherhood of Corruption 229: ‘[G]imme another Absolut cranberry, and back it up with two shots of Jaeger, one for each of us’.
N. Knight ‘Not Even a Mouse’ in ThugLit Nov.-Dec. [ebook] ‘Couple shots a Beam — Buds back’.
[US]G.P. Pelecanos Firing Offense 3: I was thirty years old, and had drunk several beers backed with bourbon the night before.
[US]G.P. Pelecanos Nick’s Trip 1: [T]here are no neighborhood joints left [...] where a man can get lost and smoke cigarettes down to the filter and drink beer backed with whiskey.

2. the anus; thus take it up the back, to perform anal intercourse.

[Aus]‘Salome’ in Mess Songs & Rhymes of the RAAF 25: Standing there with her arsehole bare / Waiting for some-one to slide in there / [...] / On Monday night, she takes it up the back.
[UK]Flame: a Life on the Game 81: We did the usual things that threesomes do. One in the mouth, one up the back, all that rubbish.

3. (US) back-up.

[US](con. 1982–6) T. Williams Cocaine Kids (1990) 19: He told me to go to this spot with him. He said he needed some back [i.e. backup or help] and he didn’t have anybody.

4. (US black) the posterior, the buttocks; thus baby’s got back, used to remark favourably on a woman’s posterior.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Oct. 1: back – fanny, posterior: ‘Kelly got back’.
[US]G. Pelecanos Shame the Devil 42: You can keep your Caucasian junkies [...] I prefer women with a little back on ’em.
J. Duke ‘Bastards of Apathy’ in ThugLit Sept./Oct. [ebook] ‘Check out Miss Padilla. Baby got back’.

5. (US black) a bodyguard.

[US]L. Stavsky et al. A2Z.

In phrases

take on some backs (v.)

(US black) to have anal intercourse.

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 158: A sizable vocabulary is associated with [anal intercourse...] (to ask for/buy the ring, to take on some backs, to throw a buttonhole on someone).

SE in slang uses

In compounds

back-and-neck (n.) [the back and neck of a chicken, the cheapest portion available and one that is almost devoid of meat]

(W.I., St Kitts) a very thin person.

[WI]Allsopp Dict. Carib. Eng. Usage.
backbiter (n.)

a body louse; a flea.

[UK]Recreation for Ingenious Head-peeces (3rd edn) Epigram No.420: When Codrus catches fleas, what e’r he alles, He kills them with his teeth, not his nails; Saying, that man by man may blameless go, If every one would use Backbiters so.
[UK]Witts Recreations Epigram No.476: [as cit. 1645].
[Ire]‘The Cavalcade’ in A. Carpenter Verse in Eng. in 18C Ireland (1998) 105: Taylors to creeping Louse Eternal Foe: / Nor Bosome-Friends, nor Backbiters they spare.
[UK]Swift Polite Conversation 29: miss.: I beg Pardon for the Expression; but I’m afraid your Bosom Friends are become your Backbiters. nev.: Well, Miss, I saw a Flea once upon your Pinner; and a Louse is a Man’s Companion, but a Flea is a Dog’s Companion.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Your Bosom Friends are become your Backbiters.
[UK]Era 11 Mar. 10/4: A Regular Backbiter — A nightly flea.
[Ire]Dublin Eve. Mail 21 Aug. 2/4: ‘What is the meaning of a “backbiter”,’ said a rev. gentleman [...] ‘Pr’haps it be a flea’.
[US]Dly Chattanooga Rebel (Griffin, GA) 29 June 1/5: A dog of our our acquaintance [...] is always fighting the ‘battle of life’ with his backbiters, the fleas.
[UK]Lancaster Gaz. 30 Jan. 6/5: BAck-biter: A flea.
[US]Dodge City Times (KS) 16 Aug. 2/2: The original backbiter was no doubt the flea.
[US]News & Citizen (Morrisville, VT) 15 May 4/6: A Back-biter — a flea.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 9 Mar. 2/5: Schoolboy Definitions:— Backbiter — a flea.
backburner (n.)

(Scots. teen) a back pocket.

[Scot]G. Armstrong Young Team 8: He always hus a fiver in his backburner.
back-buster (n.)

(US) a dive in which one lands flat on the water.

[US] in DARE.
back-out (n.)

(W.I.) a woman’s dress cut very low in the back.

Bajan Woman (Bdos) Dec. n.p.: The minis, the back-outs, the chest-outs and so on.
back-rider (n.)

(US black) one who pesters, a nag.

[US]R.D. Pharr S.R.O. (1998) 207: ‘These Logan niggers is back-riders, they always got to be bugging you’.
back room (n.)

(US) the background, the inside story.

H.B. Darrach Jr. ‘Sticktown Nocturne’ in Baltimore Sun (MD) 12 Aug. A-1/3: Then we had the ‘back room’ on the failure of her marriage [...] not one but two attempts to scrag herself.
back-scratcher (n.)

a sycophant, a toady.

[UK]Daily News 9 Jan. 4/7: Does it not rather partake of the ethics of the back-scratcher and the log-roller?
Dly Jrnl (SaLem, OR) 15 Oct. 2/2: [He] ought to complete his record as an assistant Royalist back-scratcher by scratching one of his Populist electors and voting for Frank Paxton.
[US]Coconino Sun (FLagstaff, AZ) 17 Mar. 3/2: The Sun, because it believes in its city [...] has been a consistent back-scratcher.
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl. 4: back-scratcher. One who praises you for your praise of him, her or it.
[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl.
Simpsons [Fox-TV] Back-scratcher! Bootlicker!
posting at PHX (Phoenix, AZ) 17 Apr. 🌐 Politician [...] apple polisher, back scratcher, backslapper, bootlick, bootlicker, brownie, brownnoser, crawler [etc.].
back-timber (n.)


J. Hall sermon xli in Works V 1808: 564: Was there ever more riot and excess in diet and clothes, in belly-cheer and back-timber, than we see at this day?
back time (n.)

(US Und.) time spent in prison awaiting sentencing.

Pittsburgh Legal Journal 149: In this case, the prison authorities applied the county jail credit to the back-time arising from the petitioner’s old sentence.
Wash. County Reports 13: [...] whether the petitioner’s ‘back time’ was correctly computed.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 17: Back Time also Jail Time Time spent in jail while awaiting trial and sentencing.

In phrases

back of my hand (and the sole of my foot) [the object of the rejection will get a slap or a kick]

(Irish/Scot.) a phr. implying contempt and rejection.

R. Erskine Sermons I 146: Be so glad to part with them, that you will hardly shake hands with them; but rather say, the back of my hand to you [...] it is well for me, that now I am quit of you forever.
[UK]Jamieson Ety. Dict. Scot. Lang. I 39/2: The back of my hand to you, I will have nothing to do with you; spoken to one whose conduct or opinions are disagreeable to us.
[Ire]Dublin U. Mag. May 606/2: O! Brien, is that talk for you that’s the borry of all Westmeath? There’s the back of my hand to you, and I’m ashamed of you for evermore.
Little Pilgrim (Phila., PA) Dec. 94/1: He [...] barked a short, sharp bark — as much as to say — ‘The back of my hand to you!’.
[UK]Birmingham Jrnl 12 Jan. 11/6: Long life to his Majesty, and the back of my hand and the sole of my foot to the blackguard gaugers who paid for hers.
[Ire]Joyce ‘Grace’ Dubliners (1956) 159: ‘O, you! The back of my hand to you!’ said Mrs Kernan tartly.
[Ire](con. 1890s) S. O’Casey Pictures in the Hallway 266: Mailmurra bawling afther him, Bah! back o’ me hand to you, bowsey!
[UK]B. MacMahon Children of the Rainbow 92: He leaped heavily into the low fields and tore away. ‘The back o’ me hand to ye!’ he shouted.
[US]A.S. Fleischman Venetian Blonde (2006) 218: The back of my hand to you, Porter.
‘Let the Sayings of Ireland be your guide!’ at 🌐 The back of my hand and the sole of my foot to you.
back of the neck (n.) [? i.e. unwashed]

(Irish) a distasteful person.

[Ire](con. 1940s) B. Behan Confessions 82: So far as the Irish bourgeoisie was concerned [...] I was the back of the neck.
back-to-back (adv.)

(US black) to the greatest possible extent, comprehensively, fully; of a person, the epitome.

[US]‘Soulful Spider’ ‘Pimp in a Clothing Store’ in Milner & Milner (1972) 288: Yes sir, he drove off in his II high-sidin’, see, he got to leanin’ over on the side, you know, like he was goin’ to lay down, one hand up on the steering wheel, music playing side to side on his car, you understand me [...] Oh, he’s back to back, and that’s the Pimp!
back-to-backer (n.)

two consecutive acts of sexual intercourse.

[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 315: ‘Gave him a back-to-backer.’ ‘One after another?’ ‘Without coming up for air.’.
be/go back to back (v.)

1. (N.Z. prison) to look out for a friend.

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 10/2: be or go back to back 1 to look out for one’s friend.

2. (N.Z. prison) to fight.

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 10/2: be or go back to back 2 to fight.
get off someone’s back (v.)

to stop annoying someone, to stop nagging at or otherwise irritating someone; usu. as imper.

[Aus]S.L. Elliott Rusty Bugles II iii: Why don’t you get off our back for once and pull your big woolly head in.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 82: Get off my back, sister.
[US]‘Lord Buckley’ Hiparama of the Classics 10: Don’t bug me lad, Get off my back.
[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 25: Get off my back, you goddam s.o.b.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Healthy Competition’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Oh get off my back.
[US]R. Campbell Wizard of La-La Land (1999) 100: How he would have liked to get these bastards off his back before they started in on him.
[UK]C. Newland Scholar 121: Get it sorted and I’ll be off your back, trus’ me.
[Aus]P. Temple Black Tide (2012) [ebook] ‘He knows how the Armits fit. He’ll settle them, take the push off’ [...] ‘Bren got the fucking vaguest what it costs to get the Armits off my back?’.
[UK]Observer Rev. 9 Jan. 11: Get off my fucking back, Joyce.
get one’s back up (v.) (also get up one’s back, have one’s back up, one’s back is up, set one’s back up) [the feline habit of bristling the fur when annoyed or frightened]

to become annoyed.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: His Back’s up he is in a fume, or angry.
[UK]Vanbrugh & Cibber Provoked Husband V iii: O Lud! how her Back will be up then.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. n.p.: His Backs up, a taunting Expression.
[UK]Smollett Humphrey Clinker (1925) II 140: My uncle’s back was up in a moment.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Back up, his back is up, i.e. he is offended or angry; an expression or idea taken from a cat, that animal, when angry, always raising its back; an allusion also sometimes used to jeer a crooked man, as, so Sir, I see somebody has offended you, for your back is up.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Thackeray Newcomes I 159: I know she is flighty, and that; and Brian’s back is up a little.
Illus. Times 23 July 10/3: Once he gets his back up you may stroke him down for ever and not pacify him.
[US]H.L. Williams N.-Y. After Dark 37: Look here, girl, don’t you get up your back against me – I ain’t a country squash to stand any of your slack!
[US]Dly Phoenix (Columbia, SC) 11 JUly 3/6: Joe is said to have his ‘back up’ in terrible earnest.
[UK]Surrey Mirror 23 Sept. 7/1: Mr Gladstone had ‘set his back up’ and was determined to carry the original rules.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Feb. 4/3: When we see racy, grammatical, all-rounded sentences, combined with spelling that John Davies or a one-armed Kanaka would repudiate, we get our backs up.
[US]H. Frederic Seth’s Brother’s Wife 1: Ole Sabriny’s got her back up this time to stay.
[UK] ‘’Arry on [...] the Glorious Twelfth’ in Punch 30 Aug. 97/2: Yet this ’Arrison he sets his back up. Dry smug as can’t ’andle a gun.
[UK]Western Times 6 June 3/3: He should not get his back up if the ratepayers commanded him to cary out their wishes.
[UK]Derbyshire Times 13 Feb. 2/7: One way or another, he will get his own way when he gets his back up — to use an expressive vulgarism.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 16 Feb. 313: I’m a dogged sort of Johnny when I do get my back up.
[US]Eve. Star (DC) 27 Oct. 39/1: If we made a mistake and the old man found out he’d get his back up worse than ever.
[UK]Magnet 7 Mar. 3: Oh, don’t get your back up against Quelch!
[UK]Sporting Times 1 Jan. 10/3: If he said anything good of the English his Irish and Scotch listeners would get their backs up.
[US]Bryan Dly Eagle (TX) 9 Jan. 2/1: Some fellow yells and wants to get his back up because he imagines we were shooting at him.
[UK]E. Pugh Cockney At Home 66: Her back was up in a tick.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We 173: If the sergeant-major has got his back up with me, I dare say I can stick it.
[UK]Western Gaz. 15 July 2/6: The only way to get an Englishman out of the old rut is to get his back up.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 187: When I tell him that he gets his back up.
[US]P.G. Brewster ‘Folk “Sayings” From Indiana’ in AS XIV:4 262: One who is irritable or angry ‘got up on the wrong side of the bed,’ ‘got out of bed hindside before,’ ‘has his back up about something,’ ‘had been rubbed up the wrong way,’ ‘has a hard nose,’ is ‘mad as a wet hen,’ ‘mad as a hornet,’ ‘mad as fire,’ or ‘mad as Tucker’.
[US]J. Mitchell McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (2001) 16: He got his back up and told them that he not only doesn’t like the taste of ale, he doesn’t like the smell of it.
[UK]Lancs Eve. Post 19 Apr. 2/3: That made Smut so mad that he put his back up.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 9: The only fun Fitz had left was getting his back up.
[UK]G. Kersh Fowlers End (2001) 282: Forgive my having beaten you just now. I didn’t really mean it, only my back was up.
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 18: Don’t get your back up, mate.
R. Mathisen Ruricius of Limoges 30: When he got his back up, he could be quite sharp with even the most distinguished Gallic ecclesiastics.
[US]R. Cea No Lights, No Sirens 227: [H]is back was way up and he was ready to fight.
get on one’s back (v.)

1. (UK Und.) to work as a prostitute; thus on one’s back, working as a prostitute.

[UK]J. Franklyn This Gutter Life 83: He’s the dirtiest bastard of a case-keeper in London! [...] He gets girls away, sends white girls out to work on their backs among the bloody niggers. [Ibid.] 127: Haven’t I got to get on my back to earn two pounds for the bastards.
[US] ‘Hotel Sl.’ AS XIV:3 Oct. 240/1: on the back Working as a prostitute.

2. of a woman, to have sexual intercourse.

[UK]P. Barker Union Street 203: I don’t get on me back for just anybody, you know.
get on someone’s back (v.) (also be on someone’s back)(orig. Aus.)

to annoy, to harass; to tell off, to scold.

[Aus]‘Nino Culotta’ Cop This Lot 16: When they start gettin’ on yer back ut’s time ter dong ’em or shoot through ter the pub.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 189: Now that cocksucker will be on our backs!
[US]P. Conroy Great Santini (1977) 153: Why do I get hit when some jerk colonel gets on Dad’s back?
[Ire]P. Howard Miseducation of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (2004) 191: The old pair were starting to get on my back about doing something with my life.
get someone’s back up (v.)

1. (also put someone’s back up, set...) to annoy, to irritate, to infuriate.

[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer 45: And when you’ve fairly got his back up, / You’re always forc’d your duds to pack up.
G. MacDonald Annals Quiet Neighbourhood xxx: He goes his own way... if you put his back up [F&H].
[UK]J. Greenwood Odd People in Odd Places 2: Don’t say it to me. It sets my back up, and when my back’s set up I’m sometimes orkard.
[UK]A. Sillitoe ‘Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner’ in Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1960) 14: No, it doesn’t get my back up, because it’s always been up, right from when I was born.
[UK]L. Dunne Goodbye to The Hill (1966) 64: I made myself promise not to let Cahill get my back up any more.
[Aus]J. Wynnum I’m a Jack, All Right 47: I can stand anything but a nasty drunk [...] A man who gets a skinful of piss and then wants to take on the world, gets my back up.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 119: Another thing which got some of our backs up was the way the superintendent used to smile and wave at the work parties whenever he drove past.
Jeff Davis Fifty-Five Years in the Alaskan Bush 4: He didn’t mind us shooting crows, but shooting from the back of the pickup while barreling down the road kind of got his back up.

2. to engender bravery, e.g. by a drink of alcohol.

[UK]B.J. Brookes diary 5 Nov. 🌐 It is quite true that before an attack a bigger issue of Rum is allowed each man to get his back up.
get up (on) someone’s back (v.) [feline imagery]

to annoy.

[UK]K. Amis letter 12 June in Leader (2000) 261: It has been getting up my back fast.
[UK]L. Dunne Goodbye to The Hill (1966) 128: You’re getting up on my back now.
have one’s back scratched (v.) [one is scratched by the cat-o’-nine-tails]

to suffer a judicial flogging.

[UK]Thieves Slang ms list from District Police Training Centre, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwicks 5: Have your back scratched: To be flogged.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 159: As for having my back scratched, I like it. It tickles. This, of course, was a reference to the cat.
have someone’s back (v.) [the image of guarding one’s back from attack]

to take care of, to look after; thus phr. got your back, an expression of support.

[US] W. Safire What’s The Good Word? 83: ‘I got your back’ (i.e. ‘I’ll be there with the second;’ in other words ‘I’ll help you fight.’).
[US]W.D. Myers Scorpions 43: ‘I got your back and everything be cool’.
[US] Dr Dre ‘Nuthin But a G Thang’ 🎵 My mothafuckin homie Doggy Dogg has my back.
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 101: Expressions of reassurance or support tend to be spatial: gotcha back [...] I’m there, we here.
[US](con. 1990s) in J. Miller One of the Guys 75: ‘[We expect members] to be true to our gang and to have our backs’.
[UK]A. Wheatle Dirty South 102: I sensed that Noel had moved in close behind me. He had my back.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 109: ‘You tell that motherfucka!’ ‘We got your back, bro!’.
[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] You won’t have to worry no more, Nikki, I got you.
[UK]A. Wheatle Crongton Knights 37: You either have my back or you don’t.
[US]S.M. Jones August Snow [ebook] ‘Whatever it is, I got your back. Solid on your six’.
[Aus]T. Spicer Good Girl Stripped Bare 281: We women have each other’s backs.
[Ire]A. Killilea Boyo-wulf at 24 Mar. 🌐 [A]ll the lads will stick by him when a fight comes ’round, and the people too will have his back.
make a hump in one’s back (v.)

see under hump n.1

on one’s back (adj.) (also up on one’s back)

penniless, impoverished.

[US]Bolivar Bull. (TN) 15 Apr. 1/3: The Slang of Our Day [...] When financial troubles come nigh you, they say, ‘Oh, he’s flat on his back’.
[Aus]Sydney Morn. Herald 11 jan. 3/5: [A] third [contributor to a US feminist paper] coaches the sex in the latest forms of slang, impressing upon the feminine mind that the newest name for money is ‘spondulix,’ that ‘fusil oil’ stands for whisky, ‘going through you’ for robbery, ‘he’s upon his back’ for bankruptcy.
[UK]E. Pugh Man of Straw 5: I reckon old Ike’s about on his back.
[US]T.J. Carey Hebrew Yarns and Dialect Humor 81/2: When financial troubles come to you, / They say, ‘Oh, he’s up on his back.’.
[US]R. Chandler ‘The King in Yellow’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 57: ‘Well, I might as well finish out the night,’ he said. ‘On my back.’.
on someone’s back (adj.)

causing problems for someone, being irritating; thus antonym off someone’s back.

H. Martineau Ireland 118: It was a great blessing to have one priest for a guide, but rather too much to have another one [...] on their backs .
[UK]W. Dickinson Gloss. Dialect of Cumberland 4: ‘I’m never off his back,’ i.e. I’m always watching and correcting him .
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Connecticut Yankee 100: I should have had the Established Roman Catholic Church on my back in a minute.
[Aus]Baker Aus. Lang. 157: They’re on your back, they (usually officers) are overworking you, demanding too much.
[UK]P. Larkin letter 1 Nov. in Thwaite Sel. Letters (1992) 216: I hope you haven’t got a couple of first-class scroungers on your back.
[Aus]‘Nino Culotta’ Cop This Lot 159: Yer gotta keep on their backs.
[US]N. Spinrad Bug Jack Barron 28: I need Bennie Howards on my back like an extra anus.
[US]N. Thornburg Cutter and Bone (2001) 42: I’m not on your back, am I, Rich?
[US]N. Pileggi Wiseguy (2001) 73: I didn’t want my mother to be right. She had been on my back since we eloped.
[Aus]G. Disher Kill Shot [ebook] ‘They’re not on my back twenty-four seven’.
up someone’s back (adj.)

referring to a third party.

[UK]‘Paul Pry’ Oddities of London Life 12: Prisoner—I don't vant to split, your vorship, [...] but if I did—it would be ‘all up your back,’ Bill.

In exclamations

my aching back! (also my aching ass!)

(US) a general excl.; there is no actual back pain.

[US]J.W. Bishop ‘American Army Speech’ in AS XXI:4 Dec. 242: Oh my aching back (often contracted to Oh my back, or simply My back). This is used in a variety of situations; e.g., upon the receipt of bad news, especially if such news entails labor for the speaker; to express general discontent, tempered by resignation; to express sardonic amusement at a gaffe or piece of naivete.
[US]N. Mailer Naked and Dead 289: My aching back, he’s got a whole boxful of them [i.e. medals].
[US]L.F. Cooley Run For Home (1959) 115: Warndahl snorted in the darkness. ‘Cigarettes my achin’ ass!’.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 201: Oh my aching back, Virginia, save the act for the movies.
my back!

a general excl. of disdain, dismissal, arrogant contempt.

[US](con. 1944) J.H. Burns Gallery (1948) 8: O my back! he said excitedly.