1. a pickpocket.
|Wandring-Whores Complaint title: A full discovery of the whole Trade of [...] Bawds, Whores, Fyles, Culls, Mobs, Budges, Shop-lifts, Glasiers, Mills, Bulkers, [...] and all other Artists, who are, and have been, Students of Whittington Colledge.|
|Canting Academy (2nd edn) 28: A whole gang of rogues, distinguished by Files, Lifts, Gilts, Budges, Runners, Heavers, &c.|
|A Warning for House-Keepers 6: A File is a Pickpocket, a Bulk is his tame-Rogue, who goes alwaies with the File, for he can do nothing without the File.|
|Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: File, c. a Pick-pocket.|
|Hudibras Redivivus II:5 16: Jilts, Shoplifts, Files and brimstone B—s.|
|Conduct of Receivers and Thief-Takers 14: It was my Opinion they were inclinable to turn Files, (alias Pick-Pockets).|
|Narrative of Street-Robberies 28: As to Hulks, Finebones, Black Isaac, &c. they were but Under-strappers, tho’ Black Isaac could Bite a Clout, as dexterously as any File in Town.|
|, , ,||Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. n.p.: A file, or Bungnipper, Pick-pockets, who generally go in Company with a Rogue, called a Bulk or Bulker, whose Business ’tis to jostle the Person against the Wall, while the File picks his Pocket; and generally gives it to an Adam Tiler, who scowers off with it.|
|Life and Character of Moll King 12: harry: But who had you in your Ken last Darkee? moll: We had your Dudders and your Duffers, Files, Buffers, and Slangers.|
|Scoundrel’s Dict. 18: Partners to Files – Shoulder-shams. [Ibid.] 29: The File is the same as the Diver, tho’ for the most part he goes without the Bulk, and was formerly known by the Title of the Bung-nipper, because of a horn Thumb and sharp Knife, he used to cut the Pockets clean off, with all that was in them.|
|(con. 1710–25) Tyburn Chronicle II in (1999) xxvii: A File A Pick-pocket.|
|, ,||Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.|
|‘The Bowman Prigg’s Farewell’ in(1995) 283: Then aideu to all kins and knots, / To kid-layers, files and trapanners.|
|Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 240: File, in the old version of cant signified a pockpocket, but the term is now obsolete.|
|Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.|
|Vocabulum 32: file A pick-pocket. The file is one who is generally accompanied by two others, one of whom is called the ‘Adam tyler;’ and the other the ‘bulker,’ or ‘staller.’.|
|Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).|
|Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 72: File.–A pickpocket.|
|Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).|
2. a shoplifter.
|Discoveries (1774) 29: To caution all Shopkeepers and Salesmen against Shoplifters of both Sexes [...] There shall be generally three Persons together, called in Cant Prigger Lifts or Files [...] They will open a Piece of Stuff and hold it up between the Owner and their Partner that sits down with her Petticoats half up ready for the Word nap it; then she puts it between her Carriers (that is, a Cant Word for Thighs) and then gets up and lets her Clothes drop [...] and so walks off.|
3. (also old file upon the town) an experienced fraudster or confidence trickster.
|Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 240: file: a person who has had a long course of experience in the arts of fraud, so as to have become an adept, is termed an old file upon the town; so it is usual to say of a man who is extremely cunning, and not to be over-reached, that he is a deep file.|
|Real Life in London I 141: †Old files—A person who has had a long course of experience in the arts of fraud, so as to become an adept in the manoeuvres of the town, is termed a deep file—a rum file, or an old file.|
|Paul Clifford I 147: A middle-aged man, though a very old ‘file,’ who was sentenced for getting money under false pretences.|
|Morn. Post (London) 7 June 4/2: I find that he has lived upon the report of 25,000l. [...] its all nonsense. he is a regular old file upon the town.|
|‘Fight with Snapping Turtle’ in Bon Gaultier Ballads 65: The old experienced file [...] Answered with a quiet smile.|
|Virginians I 188: Will is an old file, in spite of his smooth face.|
4. an artful, cunning or shrewd person, a man, a ‘fellow’; thus old file, an old and/or experienced person.
|Tom and Jerry II iv: Well, I’m off – you’re a good old file – I’ll give you a shilling for luck.|
|Bk of Sports 160: Into the space tom ol— , the clever file, / Has stakd’ and rop’d, and made for boxer’s fit.|
|Westmorland Gaz. 9 Dec. 8/6: If you are a cunning old file [...] With money to rent and to buy land [...] Why, your fortune is made.|
|Martin Chuzzlewit (1995) 179: ‘Always a perverse old file, he was,’ said Mr. Jonas, coolly.|
|Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour 133: Frosty’s a cunning old file.|
|Essex Standard 28 Mar. 3/5: There were a few rum old files.|
|Dick Temple I 57: ‘What kind of fellow is the cabman, Jack?’ ‘An old file, and well up to his work.’.|
|Mysterious Beggar 333: Oh you old snoozer! [...] Wouldn’t I mop th’ floor with ye! Ye ugly old file!|
|Sporting Times 13 Jan. 6/3: The knowing old file in Pretoria / Caught the ‘Stater’ with visions of gloria.|
|Marvel 9 June 552: He’s a decent old file, Frank, you know.|
5. a pickpocket’s assistant.
|Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 13: Why, warn’t none of the files on the tramp?|
|DSUE (1984) 390/2: ca. 1670–1800.|
see under deep adj.