Green’s Dictionary of Slang

queer adj.

[Ger. quer, oblique, skewed; the line between SE queer, strange, odd, peculiar, eccentric, and the Und. use is both semantically and chronologically slim; the SE slightly predates (at least in printed citations) the cant, but as the OED remarks, some examples of the one may in fact equally well serve for the other. Only the context gives any real clue, the most obvious of which occur in such undeniably Und. combs. as queer cove ; queer cuffin etc. Ribton-Turner, A History of Vagrants (1887), suggests Welsh chwired, craft, deceit or cunning. The use as a pej. description of homosexuals does not emerge until c.1915; like nigger n.1 , it has been repossessed by some homosexuals as an affirmative]

1. [mid-16C+] (UK Und., also quare, queerish, quer, quere, quier, quire) an all-purpose negative, the antonym of rum adj. (1)

2. [18C+] (UK Und.) fake, counterfeit, esp. of money, jewellery, official papers etc; e.g. queer peg, a ‘bad’ shilling.

3. associated with the underworld.

4. in senses of being ‘out of order’, of malfunctioning.

(a) [late 18C+] ill, out of sorts; esp. in phr. feel queer, look queer.

(b) [late 19C] of machinery etc, out of order.

(c) [1900s] (Aus.) drunk.

(d) [1920s] in difficulties.

5. [20C+] homosexual; thus queerness n., homosexuality; also of women, lesbian.

6. [1930s–40s] (orig. US Und.) of a heterosexual male, sexually unorthodox.

As a general negative

In compounds

queer beak (n.) [beak n.1 (1)]

[mid-18C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) an incorruptible magistrate.

queer bird (n.) (also choir bird, quire bird) [ bird n.1 (3a); by 18C the term referred to any unreformed villain]

1. [mid-16C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a mendicant villain who, recently released from prison, returns to robbery, specializing in stealing horses.

2. [late 18C–early 19C] a recidivist.

3. see also SE compounds below.

queer blabber (n.) [blab v. (2)]

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) a tell tale, a betrayer.

queer bloke (n.)

[1920s] (Aus. und.) a pickpocket’s assistant.

queer blowing (n.) (also queer blowen) [blowen n. (1)]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) an ugly woman.

queer bluffer (n.) (also queer buffer) [bluffer n.1 ]

[late 17C–mid-19C] a ‘sneaking, sharping, Cut-throat Ale-house or Inn-keeper’ (B.E.).

queer booze (n.) (also queer bowse, quire bowse) [booze n. (1)]

[mid-16C–mid-19C] sour or inferior beer, ‘small and naughtye drynke’ (Harman).

queer bub (n.) [bub n.1 ]

[18C–mid-19C] second-rate or sour beer.

queer buffer (n.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) a cur, a valueless dog.

queer bung (n.) [bung n.1 (1)]

[late 17C–early 19C] (UK Und.) an empty purse (viewed as an object of robbery).

queer chum (n.) [chum n. (1)]

[early–mid-19C] a suspicious companion.

queer clout (n.) [clout n.1 (1)]

[late 17C–18C] (UK Und.) a cheap, prob. cotton, handkerchief that as such is not worth stealing.

queer cove (n.) (also quire cove) [cove n. (1)]

1. [late 16C–mid-19C] (UK Und., also quier cove) a villain.

2. [mid-18C] (also quer cove) a poor man.

3. [mid-19C] a turnkey.

queer crib (n.)

[mid-19C] (Aus.) a criminal tavern and/or brothel.

queer cull (n.) [cull n.1 (4)] [late 17C–mid-18C]

1. a foolish dandy, a fop.

2. a poor, ill-dressed person.

3. (UK Und.) a passer of counterfeit money.

queer degen (n.) [degen n. (1)]

[late 17C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a brass, iron or steel-hilted sword, with no special ornamentation.

queer diver (n.) [diver n. (3)]

[late 17C–early 19C] (UK Und.) a bungling, incompetent pickpocket.

queer doxy (n.) [doxy n. (2)]

[late 17C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a slatternly woman.

queer drawers (n.) [SE drawers]

[late 17C–18C] (UK Und.) yarn, coarse worsted, ordinary or old stockings.

queer duke (n.) [duke n.1 (2)] [late 17C–18C] (UK Und.)

1. an impoverished gentleman.

2. a lean, half-starved person.

queer figure (n.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) a deformed man.

queer flash (n.)

[late 17C–early 19C] (UK Und.) a poor quality, worn out wig.

queer flicker (n.) [flicker n.1 ]

[late 17C–18C] (UK Und.) a poor quality or ‘ordinary’ glass.

queer fun (n.) [fun n.2 ]

[late 17C–18C] (UK Und.) a cheat or trick that does not work out as intended.

queer gill (n.) [gill n.1 (2)] [19C]

1. a shabby fellow.

2. in fig. use, an untrusting, suspicious person.

In compounds

queer house (n.)

[late 19C] (Aus.) a meeting-place for unmarried couples to have sex, a maison de passe.

queer ken (n.) (also quier-ken, quire ken, quirken, quyer ken) [ken n.1 (1)] (UK Und.)

1. [mid-16C–17C] a prison.

2. [mid-18C–mid-19C] (also quer ken) a house not worth robbing.

queer ken hall (n.) (also quirken hall)

[early 17C] a prison.

queer kicks (n.) [kicks n.1 ]

[late 17C–early 19C] (UK Und.) old, worn-out trousers; trousers of coarse material.

queer kid (n.)

[early 19C] a tough prize-fighter.

queer lap (n.) [lap n.2 (2)]

[late 18C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) bad liquor.

queer lully (n.) [lully n.2 ; despite citations, Partridge is suspicious of validity]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a deformed child.

queer mort (n.) [mort n.]

1. [mid-17C–19C] (UK Und.) a woman suffering from venereal disease; ‘a dirty Drab, a jilting Wench, a Pockey jade’ (B.E.).

2. [mid-18C] (also quer mort) a poor woman.

queer nab (n.) [nab n.1 (3)]

[late 17C–early 19C] (UK Und.) a cheap, shabby hat, thus one that is not worth stealing; ‘a felt, Carolina, Cloth or ord’nary Hat, not worth whipping off a man’s head’ (B.E.).

queer nantz (n.) [nantz n.]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) bad brandy.

queer nicks (n.) [? mis-reading of kicks n.1 ]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) worn-out breeches.

queer ogles (n.) [ogle n. (1)]

1. [early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) cross eyes; thus queer-ogled, squinting.

2. [early 19C] in sing. a black eye.

queer patter (n.) [patter n. (2)]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a foreign language.

queer peeper (n.) [peeper n. (2)]

[late 17C–18C] a badly made, thus distorting mirror.

queer peepers (n.) [peeper n. (1)]

[18C–19C] (UK Und.) squinting or short-sighted eyes.

queer people (n.)

[1940s] (UK Und.) criminals.

queer place (n.) [poss. implication of sense 2 above]

1. [1920s–30s] prison.

2. [1940s–50s] a lavatory.

queer plunger (n.) [SE plunger, a diver]

[late 18C–mid-19C] a confidence trickster who plunges into water and is saved from ‘drowning’. Conveniently pre-assembled ‘rescuers’ then claim money for saving the person.

queer prancer (n.) [SE prancer/prancer n. (1)] (UK Und.)

1. [late 17C] an ageing prostitute.

2. [late 17C–mid-19C] a second-rate and/or worn-out horse.

3. [18C–early 19C] a cowardly horse stealer.

queer rooster (n.) [SE rooster]

[late 18C–19C] a police spy who frequents thieves’ haunts, often feigning sleep in order to listen to their conversations; thus dorse a darkey on the queer roost v., to fake sleep in order to overhear conversation.

queer rotan (n.) (also queer rotar) [rotan n.]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a run-down coach.

queer rums (n.) [rum adj. (1), lit. ‘bad good things’]

[early 19C] confusing talk.

Queer Street (n.)

see separate entry.

queer thimble (n.) [thimble n.]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a watch of no value.

queer timber (n.)

[late 18C] a wooden leg.

queer tol (n.) [tol n.1 ]

[late 17C–18C] a brass or steel- (rather than silver-) hilted sword.

queer topping (n.)

[late 17C–18C] (UK Und.) a second-rate or worn-out wig.

queer vinegar (n.) [vinegar n. (1)]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a worn-out woman’s cloak.

queer wedge (n.) [wedge n.1 (1)]

1. [late 18C–early 19C] a large belt or shoe buckle.

2. [early 19C] pointed shoes.

3. [mid-19C] adulterated gold or silver.

Meaning fraudulent

In compounds

queer bail (n.)

[late 18C–mid-19C] fraudulent bail.

queer beer (n.)

[1970s] (US) ‘near beer’, beer with a low alcohol content.

queer bit (n.) [bit n.1 (1a)]

[late 18C–19C] counterfeit money.

queer bit-maker (n.)

[late 18C–19C] (UK Und.) a coiner, a counterfeiter.

queer blunt (n.) [blunt n.1 ]

[mid–late 18C] (UK Und.) counterfeit money.

queer cole (n.) (also quer cole) [cole n. (1) + -fencer sfx]

[late 17C–19C] (UK Und.) counterfeit money; thus queer cole fencer, the distributor of counterfeit money; queer cole maker, a counterfeiter.

queer lambs (n.) [lamb n.2 ]

[late 18C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) false dice.

queer money (n.)

[19C+] (UK Und.) counterfeit money.

queer paper (n.) [mid–late 19C]

1. counterfeit paper money.

2. in fig. use, something dubious, unreliable.

queer rag (n.) [rag n.1 (1a)]

[early–mid-19C] (UK Und.) counterfeit money.

queer ridge (n.) [ridge n. (1)]

[mid-19C] (US Und.) counterfeited gold coins.

queer screens (n.) [screen n.1 ]

[19C] (UK Und.) forged banknotes.

queer tats (n.) [tats n. (1)]

[late 18C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) false dice.

In phrases

on the queer

[20C+] acting dishonestly.

Meaning homosexual

In compounds

queer-faced (adj.)

[1980s+] a general pej.; lit. ‘looking like a homosexual’.

queer street (n.) [pun on Queer Street n.]

[1960s] (US) the world of homosexuality.

In phrases

queer as... (adj.)

see separate entry.

SE, meaning odd/eccentric, in slang uses

In compounds

queer bird (n.)

1. [mid-19C+] an odd, eccentric person.

2. [1960s] (US gay) a heterosexual who dabbles in homosexuality.

3. see also sl. compounds above.

queer bitch (n.) [ bitch n.1 (3a); despite appearances, there is no hint of homosexuality]

[late 18C–early 19C] ‘an odd out of the way fellow’ (Grose 1785).

queer card (n.) [card n.2 (2)]

[mid-19C–1940s] an odd, eccentric person.

queer customer (n.) (also queer merchant) [SE customer/merchant n.]

[mid-19C+] an odd or eccentric person.

queer fellow (n.)

1. [early 18C+] an odd, eccentric person.

2. [1980s] a prisoner condemned to hang [ref. to Brendan Behan play The Quare Fellow].

queer fish (n.) [fish n.1 (5)]

[late 18C+] an odd or eccentric person.

queer gum (n.) [gum n.1 (1)]

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) strange talk.

queer hawk (n.) (also quare harp, quare hawk, queer harp) [SE queer/quare adj. (1) + ? harp n.1 (3) or fig. use of the harp as a symbolic Irish artefact, thus person]

[20C+] (Irish) an odd person.

queer put (n.) (also queer putt) [put n.1 ]

[early–mid-19C] an odd simple person.

queer start (n.) [start n.1 ]

[19C] a strange affair, an odd situation.

queer stick (n.) [stick n. (2b)]

[late 19C+] an odd person, an eccentric.

Queer Street (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

queer as...

see separate entry.

queer in the attic (adj.) [attic n. (1)]

[19C] mad and/or drunk.

queer in the nut (adj.) [nut n.1 (1b)]

[1950s] mad, eccentric.