Green’s Dictionary of Slang

sweat n.

1. 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.

[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 491: That bruis’d his rump all black and blue, / Which paid the rascal well for pimping [...] A better man to give a sweat / Than ajax, he could ne’er have met.
[Ire] ‘Bill Durham’ in Walsh Ireland Ninety Years Ago (1885) 92: Revenge we will get [...] In de slaughtering season we’ll tip ’em a sweat, Rigidi di do dee, / We’ll wallop a mosey down Mead-street in tune.

2. a problem, a worry, a struggle, anything that works up real or fig. sweat.

[UK]Beaumont & Fletcher Thierry and Theodoret I i: Such a sweat, I never was in yet, clipt of my minstrels; My toyes to prick up wenches withall.
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Peter’s Pension’ in Works of Peter Pindar (1794) II 150: Israel’s Hero having won the day; And Humphries, a true Christian boxer, beat; Enough to give all Christendom a sweat.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Huckleberry Finn 200: He was in a sweat to get to the Indian Ocean right off.
[US]F. Remington letter 13 Nov. in Splete Sel. Letters (1988) 73: I am in a sweat of a hurry.
[UK]Punch Jan. 31 80/1: By Jove! isn’t it a sweat to write poetry?
[UK]Wodehouse ‘Pillingshot Detective’ in Captain Dec. [Internet] It’s been a beastly sweat.
[UK]E. Raymond Tell England (1965) 28: An hour’s sweat with Radley. Oh, hang!
[UK]Wodehouse Mating Season 106: I know what a dickens of a sweat these love letters are.
[UK]A. Buckeridge Jennings Goes To School 19: It’s a bit of a sweat calling him Dog.
[US]J. Rechy City of Night 141: Hell, beatin on her, thats too much sweat.
[UK]Eve. Standard 17 Aug. 13: He went through the sweat of fixing to see Elvis.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘The Yellow Peril’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Oh, it’s no sweat, I get them cheap off a geezer in the market!
[UK]Observer Mag. 5 Dec. 21: I never want to go through those sweats again.

3. an occupation, job.

[NZ]J.A. Lee Shiner Slattery 7: The legend of this renowned anti-sweat once was known throughout New Zealand.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Start in Life (1979) 105: ‘I work,’ she said. ‘What’s your sweat, then?’ ‘Painter and decorator.’.

4. see old sweat

SE in slang uses

In compounds

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

(US Und.) a womanizer; a dandy.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
sweat board (n.) (also sweat cloth, sweat table)

(UK/US Und.) the board or cloth upon which three-card monte n. is played; also attrib.

[US]N.-Y. Daily Advertiser 30 Apr. 2/4: [Street gamblers are caught] in the act of gambling on a certain cloth, commonly called a ‘Sweat Cloth’, with dice boxes, &c.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 90: A crowd of darkies were standing before a little table, upon which lay a ‘sweat-cloth’ or a square piece of oil-cloth.
[US]Knickerbocker (N.Y.) XXXIV 253/1: He was recently the owner of a ‘sweat-board,’ a singular gambling instrument [DA].
[UK]Phoenix (Sacramento) 20 Sept. 1/3: He fell in with a gentleman [...] who loaned him fifty dollars, which he invested in a ‘sweat-cloth’ [DA].
[US]N.Y. Times 2 Mar. 1/3: When they have succeeded in robbing some store or some unhappy wayfarer, and have converted their plunder into money at the ‘receivers,’ they go off to the ‘faro’ or to the ‘sweat’ table to get rid of it.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 329: Sweat-cloth, a cloth marked with figures, and used by gamblers with dice.
[US]N.Y. Times 6 July 1/7: One feature of Monmouth Park is the entire absence of the three-card monte and sweat-board men who infest the approaches to Jerome Park.
[US]J. Maitland Amer. Sl. Dict.
sweat-box (n.)

see separate entry.

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

(Irish) a trad. ‘after-work’ drink.

[Ire]Irish Times 9 Dec. n.p.: Unions and management in a Dublin hotel are at odds over the so-called ‘sweat drink’. Management at Jurys Hotel had called time on the traditional after work drink [BS].
sweat hog (n.) (US campus)

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

R. Palmatier Speaking of Animals 366: SWEAT HOG. A sweat hog. A slow-learner; an underachiever.
S. Farley Brooklyn Looper 53: Abruzzo was the equivalent of a ‘sweat-hog.’ He wasn’t too swift, and pretty much did as he was told.

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

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 192: sweathog squat, fat female.
[US]G. Underwood ‘Razorback Sl.’ in AS L:1/2 67: sweat hog n Female who is fat and ugly.

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

[US]Chapman NDAS.
sweat rag (n.)

(US) a rag used for wiping the sweat from one’s eyes; thus, a handkerchief.

[US]R. Carlton New Purchase I 73: This luxury [...] was used only as a ‘sweat rag,’ and not as ‘a nose-cloth’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Send Round the Hat’ in Roderick (1972) 474: He wiped his face, neck and forehead with a big, speckled ‘sweat-rag’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 Oct. 10/3: Once more there was a sweat-rag parade in the police court, and this time the revenue of the country benefited.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Bob the Baker and British Breeding’ in Roderick (1972) 922: Glistening black demons used to come to the surface at intervals and wipe the backs of their necks with ‘sweat-rags’.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 28 Oct. [synd. col.] The reason the silk ’kerchief the sailors wear around their necks is black is because it was originally a ‘sweat rag’ and black hid the dirt.
[UK] (con. 1950s) D. Farson Never a Normal Man 181: Around the world with a sweat-rag. I suppose you think that’s funny.
sweat-room (n.)

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

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.
[US]Hardy & Cull Drug Lang. and Lore.

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

[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 156: They dumped him in a sweat room. They cuffed him to a chair. Two dicks worked on him.

In phrases

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

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

[US]L.A. Times 20 Sept. 2: Three hours and six minutes later, its radio operator, Master Sgt. Edwin C. Perry, Tacoma, Wash., signaled on ground at 1426 (2:26 p.m.) No sweat (no serious trouble encountered.
[US]L.F. Engler ‘Gloss. Air Force Sl.’ in AS XXX:2 118: NO SWEAT; NO STRAIN, n.phr. used adjectivally. Easy; no trouble, no difficulty.
[US]M. Spillane Return of the Hood 47: No sweat, Pete. No trouble at all.
[US]D. Goines Inner City Hoodlum 11: No sweat, my man. No sweat.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 273: ‘I’ve been assaulted!’ ‘Do you know him?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Then [...] there’s no sweat, is there?’.
[UK]D. Lodge Therapy (1996) 286: I drove from London to St. Jean Pied-de-Port in two days. No sweat.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. Travel 12 Mar. 1: White stuff, no sweat.
B. Reed ‘Messman on C.E.’s Altar’ in Passing Strange (2015) 22: ‘Hey guysangals, no sweat’.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 64: I find the hotel no sweat.
[Aus]C. Hammer Scrublands [ebook] ‘No sweat, mate’.
no sweat off one’s balls (also no sweat off one’s arse) [balls n. (1)/arse n. (1)]

(orig. US) no problem, no worries; of no importance.

[US]J.T. Farrell World I Never Made 185: He ain’t any sweat off my balls.
[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 44: ‘And after three get heisted they’ll figure out who’s the finger man and string him up by his nuts.’ ‘That’s no sweat off your balls.’.
[UK]F. Taylor Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 265: Look, if you don’t want to hear it’s no sweat off my arse!
J.L. Burke In the Electric Mist 233: I was even proud of my old man. The people who ran this town back then weren’t worth the sweat off his balls.
D.M. George-Kanentiio Iroquois on Fire 141: He made a number of sarcastic remarks about my ‘cause,’ how I was ‘dragging down the others with me’ and that in conclusion I was ‘not worth the sweat off his balls’.
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. (orig. milit.) any veteran.

[UK]F. Dunham diary 23 Nov. Long Carry (1970) 10: The ‘old sweats’ told me that it seemed a mutual arrangement between Fritz and ourselves.
[UK]Athenaeum 8 Aug. 727/2: A ‘gasper’ is a cheap cigarette, an ‘old sweat’ an old soldier .
[UK]‘J.H. Ross’ Mint (1955) 44: ‘Swinging it on the fucking rookies, they are, the old sweats,’ grumbled Tug.
[UK]V. Davis Gentlemen of the Broad Arrows 105: Their attitude towards young prisoners is similar to that of old army ‘sweats’ to young ‘rookies.’.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 7: A trained sweat is put in charge of you. [Ibid.] 13: Arguing about nothing for fifteen minutes with an old sweat in the Recruiting Station.
[UK]J. Franklyn Cockney 297: These ‘old sweats’ are unaware of the origin of the word they use.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves in the Offing 1: We were, you might say, rather like a couple of old sweats who had fought shoulder to shoulder.
[Aus](con. 1941) R. Beilby Gunner 164: He was a bad one, Gunner felt, the sweatiest of Old Sweats, probably done time in every military boob from the Glasshouse to Abbassia.

2. (Irish) an old friend.

[Ire]G. Coughlan Everyday Eng. and Sl. [Internet] Me ould segotia, me ould sweat, me ould flower (n): best friend.
worth the sweat off one’s balls

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

[US](con. 1950s) McAleer & Dickson Unit Pride (1981) 226: Miller never saw the day he was worth the sweat off Letters’ balls.
L. Waiwaiole Wiley’s Refrain 221: If you catch them young enough, it’s even worth the sweat off your balls to do it.