Green’s Dictionary of Slang

cotton n.

1. in drug contexts.

(a) (drugs, also charley cotton, charlie cotton) a small piece of material through which heroin has been sucked up into a syringe and which can be boiled, when no better supplies exist, to extract one final measure of heroin.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 1 in AS XI:2 120/2: cotton. The wad of cotton placed in the cooking spoon and used as a filter for dissolved bootleg morphine as it is drawn up into the needle.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in AS XIII:3 182/2: charley cotton. One of the mythical Cotton Brothers, C., H., and M. Cotton.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 47: charley cotton The cotton placed in an opium cooker as a filter.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 37: I was all out of junk at this point and had double-boiled my last cottons.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore 27: Charlie Cotton – A piece of cotton, or other material, used by addicts to filter the dissolved narcotic after it has been cooked.
[US]Cressey & Ward Delinquency, Crime, and Social Process 825: A garbage junkie will [...] loan out four or five outfits in exchange for a few ‘drops’ or used ‘cottons’.
[US]E. Grogan Ringolevio 40: He had saved the cottons he had used to suck the heroin solution from the spoon into the dropper.
[US]D.E. Miller Bk of Jargon 340: cotton: Also satch cotton. The small piece of cotton through which heroin is filtered into the syringe in order to remove any impurities.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 60: Rooski would [...] beg cottons from the other dopefiends.
[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 74: A teyk spoon an cottons out-a me jacket pocket.
[US]N. Walker Cherry 4: I take the cotton and drop it into the spoon. The cotton turns dark and swells.

(b) (US prison/drugs) the benzedrine-soaked cotton wadding of a nasal inhaler.

[US]J. Blake Ex Post Facto in Joint (1972) 54: He initiated me into the practice of staying up all night and eating ‘cotton.’ This was a roll of absorbent material inside a nasal inhalator, which was impregnated either with amphetamine or desoxin [...] We swallowed chunks of this substance.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 285: ‘You want some of this cotton,’ he asked. ‘What is it?’ ‘It’s something like bennies — blancas — only not as good.’.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 156: He offers to suck cock or proffers an upturned fanny in exchange for [...] cotton (fr benzedrine soaked in cotton in nasal inhalers).

2. money; which ‘binds’ life together.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 26/1: Cotton; paper money.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 6: Cotton — Currency.

3. (US black) the female pubic hair.

[US]R. Abrahams Deep Down In The Jungle 265: Cotton – The hair on woman’s pudendum.
[US]R.A. Wilson Playboy’s Book of Forbidden Words.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 152: Terms like [...] cotton or bush for female pubic hair suggest a woman’s soft or furlike parts.
[US]R.C. Cruz Straight Outta Compton 23: Yo’ momma got B.B.s in her cotton.

4. (US campus) the vapour exuded by eletronic cigarettes.

[US]C. Eble (ed.) UNC-CH Campus Sl. Fall 3: COTTON — vapor blown from vaporizers and electronic cigarettes: ‘Dave was blowing major cotton on the patio’.

In compounds

cotton brothers (n.)

(drugs) cocaine, heroin and morphine, esp. as saturating the cotton filter used in the injecting process; definitions in cits. 1949 & 1959 are incorrect.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Lang. of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in Lang. Und. (1981) 101/1: cotton brothers. The cotton used by addicts; occurs in such phrases as ‘Where are the Cotton Brothers?’ which is one way of asking for the cotton, q.v. Charley Cotton is cotton saturated with cocaine solution; M. Cotton is that containing morphine solution; H. Cotton is that containing heroin.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 59: cotton brothers The cotton placed in an opium cooker as a filter.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore 35: Cotton brothers – A piece of cotton [...] used by addicts to filter the dissolved narcotics.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 6: Cotton brothers — Cocaine, heroin and morphine.
cotton fever (n.)

(drugs) a very high temperature that can result from accidentally introducing cotton fibres, impregnated with narcotics, into the bloodstream.

[US]Smith & Gay Heroin in Perspective 200: Cotton Fever. Severe chills and fever from using old cottons.
[US]Hardy & Cull Drug Lang. and Lore.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 6: Cotton fever — Critically high temperature associated with accidentally injecting cotton fibers into blood stream.
cotton freak (n.) [-freak sfx]

(US drugs) one who breaks open benzedrine inhalers and eats the drug-soaked cotton they contain.

[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 70: The prisoner who held the power to regulate the traffic in inhalers would have to talk about it, floor show, and let it be known that he was Big Dad to all cotton freaks.
cotton habit (n.) [habit n. (1) ]

(US drugs) a poor user’s addiction, sustained by boiling cotton filters; def. in cit. 1949 is spurious.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Lang. of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in Lang. Und. (1981) 101/1: cotton-habit. A small, irregular habit which a very poor addict [...] may support by begging the cottons from more prosperous addicts.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 59: cotton habit Addict who has a hypodermic syringe but too poor to afford a capsule, so clubs with another addict who has the price of a capsule.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970).
cotton shooter (n.) [shooter n.2 ]

(US drugs) one who is reduced to begging more prosperous addicts for their used cotton in the hope of extracting some narcotic residue from it.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 1 in AS XI:2 89/2: cotton-shooters. Down-and-out addicts who hang around other addicts in order to pick up the cottons which they discard. If they collect enough cottons they can soak out the residue of narcotic which remains, and eventually get enough for a shot.
[US]Berrey & Van den Bark Amer. Thes. Sl.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.
[US]D.E. Miller Bk of Jargon 340: cotton shooter: One who collects and shoots the residual heroin from leftover cottons.

In phrases

ask for the cotton (v.)

(US drugs) to ask for another addict’s used cotton in the hope of extracting some narcotic residue.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in AS XIII:3 180/2: To ask for the cotton To borrow another addict’s cotton in order to squeeze out the residue of narcotics for a very small shot.
pound a cotton (v.)

(US drugs) to soak a used cotton in order to strain out the water/heroin residue.

[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 64: ‘I’ll do you good if you lemme pound your cotton.’ By which he meant add more water in her cooker and strain the residue from her cotton, something like percolating coffee grounds a second time.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

Cottonopolis (n.) [its world-dominating 19C cotton industry]


[UK]Preston Chron. 16 Dec. 7/3: There is but one Manchester [...] The real pillars of Great Britain are the chimneys of Cottonopolis.
[Scot]Blackwood’s Edinburgh Mag. Nov. 593: [headline] Cambria and Cottonopolis.
Dly Ohio Statesman (Columbus, OH) 23 June 1/4: Racing has for a century been highly popular in Cottonopolis [...] The course [...] is only about two miles from the Manchester Exchange.
‘Cecil Day’ Club and the Drawing-room 325: It would be, doubtless, easy for us to comment upon certain social eccentricities observable in some of the drawing-rooms of Cottonopolis. [...] Mrs. Chump, wife of Mr. Chump, head partner in the great Manchester cotton-spinning firm of Chump, Chornder, and Co., may scarcely have the manners [etc.].
[US]Dly Phoenix (Columbia, SC) 30 Sept. 2/5: Let Porkopolis see what Cottonopolis can do.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 130: Cottonopolis Manchester. A term much in use among the reporters of the sporting press engaged in the locality.
[US]Salt Lake Herald (UT) 25 Dec. 15/3: The former [...] is a native of England, having been born in the city of Manchester, (the world’s cottonopolis) .
[UK]Music Hall & Theatre Rev. 23 Feb. 28/1: The Manchester ‘Empire’ is being rapidly pushed ahead. Till this project was started [...] Cottonopolis was badly off indeed in the music hall line.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 14 Sept. 2/2: [H]e footed his way on the dirt road to Manchester [...] Calling at an establishment in Cottonopolis [etc].
[UK]Liverpool Echo 16 Mar. 3/2: The conscript fathers of Cottonopolis have elected to ‘fling the heft after the hatchet,’ to the tune of the two further millions required.
[UK]‘Pot’ & ‘Swears’ Scarlet City 348: He entered a dog once for the Cottonopolis handicap.
[UK]Manchester Courier 12 Feb. 2/5: It will then be possible to travel from Cottonopolis to the Mersey city by electric car.
[UK]Manchester Courier 22 Mar. 3/7: A marriage will take place between one of the leading members of the Women’s Social and Political Union [...] and a young University student of Cottonopolis.
[US]Bennington Eve. Banner (VT) 12 Mar. 3/2: James A. Patten, the Chicago cotton and grain speculator, was hooted off the Manchester exchange [...] Patten’s connection with the rise in the price of cotton [...] was responsible for the outbust of hostility toward him at the ‘cottonopolis’.
[UK]Western Times (Devon) 5 Nov. 4/2: The Shah in Cottonopolis. The Shah of Persia arrived in Manchester punctually at eight minutes past two.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 20 Feb. 8/4: Busy in Cottonopolis. [...] Judge: You are very busy people in Manchester?

In compounds

cotton-chopper (n.) [play on SE; the one-time importance of cotton in the economy of the Southern states]

(US) a derog. term for a Southerner.

FBI [ABC-TV] Why, you thick-headed cotton-chopper! Just how far do you think you’d get on that job without me [HDAS].
cotton curtain (n.) [for ety. see prev. + play on SE phr. the iron curtain]

(US black) the Southern states, esp. as seen by those blacks who had moved north during the previous decade.

[US]C. Major Juba to Jive 116: Cotton Curtain, n. (1950s) The South.

see separate entries.

cottonmouth (n.)

see separate entry.


see separate entries.

cottontail (n.) [the common rabbit of the United States (Lepus sylvaticus), which has a white fluffy tail + the trad. sexuality of rabbits]

(US) an attractive young woman.

[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water 11: I was in high school and I got strung out behind some old cottontail, you know.
cottontop (n.)

see separate entries.

In phrases

have had the cotton (v.) [? one has come to the end of one’s thread]

(US) to be doomed.

N. Sheehan Arnheiter Affair 220: ‘You’ve bought it, you bastard,’ he said to himself [...] ‘You’ve had the cotton. They finally caught up with you.’.