Green’s Dictionary of Slang

sweat n.

1. [late 18C] a form of amusement practised by such street gangs as the Mohocks, who surrounded a victim, pricking him with their swords and thus keeping him ‘dancing’ until through his exertions he had sweated sufficiently.

2. [early 17C+] a problem, a worry, a struggle, anything that works up real or fig. sweat.

3. [1960s–70s] an occupation, job.

4. see old sweat

SE in slang uses

In compounds

sweat back (n.) [? he sweats during intercourse]

[1940s] (US Und.) a womanizer; a dandy.

sweat board (n.) (also sweat cloth, sweat table)

[mid–late 19C] (UK/US Und.) the board or cloth upon which three-card monte n. is played; also attrib.

sweat-box (n.)

see separate entry.

sweat cure (n.)

1. [1940s] (US Und.) the third degree n.

2. [1940s–50s] (US drugs) withdrawal from narcotics by simple abstinence.

sweat drink (n.) [one is still sweating from one’s labours]

[1960s+] (Irish) a trad. ‘after-work’ drink.

sweat hog (n.) [1970s+] (US campus)

1. an exceptionally difficult student, singled out at school or college for special attention [SE hog].

2. an exceptionally unattractive woman [hog n. (5b)].

3. a sexually promiscuous woman [hog n. (5b)].

sweat pads (n.) [resemblance]

[1930s–40s] (Can./US) pancakes.

sweat rag (n.)

[mid-19C+] (US) a rag used for wiping the sweat from one’s eyes; thus, a handkerchief.

sweat-room (n.)

1. [1940s–50s] (US drugs) a room (in jail or hospital) in which a narcotic addict is confined during withdrawal [SE sweat + room].

2. [1960s+] (US Und.) a room in a police station where suspects are interrogated and/or beaten up [sweat v.2 (2) + SE room].

sweat thing (n.)

[1960s] a stressful situation.

In phrases

no sweat [i.e. there is no need to make an effort that might produce sweat]

[1950s+] (orig. US) no problem; don’t worry; it’s all right.

no sweat off one’s balls (also no sweat off one’s arse) [balls n. (1)/arse n. (1)]

[1930s+] (orig. US) no problem, no worries; of no importance.

old sweat (n.) (also sweat) [? the sweat of battle and thus of one’s labours. The British philologist Ernest Weekley has suggested, in Xenophobia (1932), that it may have originated during the Thirty Years’ War as the German alter Schweele, old Swede, but its first appearance c.1919 militates against the theory]

1. [1910s+] (orig. milit.) any veteran.

2. [1990s+] (Irish) an old friend.

worth the sweat off one’s balls

extremely valued, worth a great deal of effort, usu. in negative.