Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bad adj.

[note Ger. schlecht, bad, orig. meant good; also 19C Aus. convict jargon bad fellow, a convict who cooperates with the authorities; good fellow, one who maintains intra-convict solidarity; Smitherman, Black Talk (1994), suggests Mandingo a ka nyi ko-jugu, it is good, badly, i.e. so good that it is bad]

1. [early 19C] (UK Und.) gullible, susceptible to deception.

2. [late 19C–1900s] (US Und.) dangerous, un-suborned, thus honest.

3. [late 19C+] good, exciting; the implication being that the individual/object so defined is bad in establishment eyes and thus good in those of any outlaw/criminal, drug or other minority culture, esp. in black use; thus comparative badder; superlative baddest

4. [late 19C+] dangerous, aggressive; thus compar. badder.

5. [1970s] (US black) intoxicated with marijuana.

6. [1990s+] (US) sexy, provocative.

In derivatives

baddest (adj.) [the superlative of sense 3]

[late 19C+] (mainly US black) the very best, supreme, esp. from the persepctive of an outlaw.

badness (n.) [1980s+] (US/W.I./UK black teen)

1. delinquent or unruly behaviour, often just for the sake of it.

2. on bad = good model, a state of excellence, admirability.

In compounds


see separate entries.

bad baby (n.)

[1960s] (S.Afr. Und.) a thug.

bad boy (n.)

see separate entry.

bad-boy (adj.)

see separate entry.

bad-doing (adj.)

[1960s+] (US black) first-rate, excellent, superior.

bad hair (n.)

[1910s+] (US black/W.I.) a black person’s naturally kinky hair, thus bad-haired adj. (cf. good hair under good adj.1 ).

bad nigger (n.) [nigger n.1 (1)]

1. [20C+] (US black) a black who rejects the second-class role offered by the dominant white society.

2. [20C+] (US black) a violent, amoral black person (as seen by his black peers).

3. [1910s] (Aus.) an Aborigine who refuses to cooperate with the authorities; also attrib.

bad rags (n.) [rags n. (1)]

[1960s–70s] (US black) one’s best, most fashionable clothes.

bad scene (n.) [SE bad/sense 3 + scene n. (1)]

1. [1950s+] an unpleasant situation; on the bad = good model, ‘it’s a really bad scene’ could be a term of approval.

2. [1960s] an unpleasant or unpopular person [f. sense 1].

bad shit (n.)

see separate entry.

bad talk (n.) [SE bad/sense 3 + SE talk] [1960s–70s] (US black)

1. conversation or writing that considers and/or urges revolutionary attitudes and actions; such talk is bad both in white eyes and as the prerogative of blacks.

2. a form of ritual name-calling, based on insulting one’s target’s family.

3. any form of abusive, negative speech.

bad talk (v.) [1960s–70s] (US black)

1. to perform ritual name-calling, based on insulting one’s target’s family.

2. to speak any abusive, negative speech.

bad weave (n.) [weave n. (1)]

[20C+] (US black) one’s best clothes.

In phrases

bad-ass nigger (n.)

see separate entry.

bad in the head (adj.) [1980s+] (US black)

1. eccentric, out of control.

2. unhappy.

bad-to-the-bone (adj.)

[1980s+] aggressive, thuggish; characteristic of a ‘macho’ man.

come on bad (v.)

[1960s–70s] (US black) to act aggressively, to threaten; to defeat someone in a contest of words.

get in bad (with) (v.)

[1910s+] to earn disfavour, to get into trouble (with).

get one’s head bad (v.)

[1960s–80s] (US black) to get drunk, to become intoxicated by drugs.

in bad [note Ger. schlecht, bad, orig. meant good; also 19C Aus. convict jargon bad fellow, a convict who cooperates with the authorities; good fellow, one who maintains intra-convict solidarity; Smitherman, Black Talk (1994), suggests Mandingo a ka nyi ko-jugu, it is good, badly, i.e. so good that it is bad] [20C+] (US)

1. out of favour.

2. in trouble.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

badster (n.) [-ster sfx]

[1920s+] (Aus.) a villain, a morally bad person.

In compounds

bad actor (n.)

1. [mid-19C+] an unpleasant individual, an aggressive trouble-maker; thus bad-acting adj., troublemaking.

2. [1900s–20s] a vicious or unbroken horse.

bad ass

see separate entries.

bad bongos (n.) [? assonance]

[1970s] (US campus) a situation in which things do not go as desired/required.

bad boy (n.)

see separate entry.

bad break (n.) [break n.1 (1)]

1. an act of misbehaviour or ill manners.

2. [late 19C+] (orig. US) a stroke of bad luck.

bad-breath (v.)

[1970s] (US) to inform on, to speak ill of.

bad bundle (n.) [bundle n.1 (3a) ]

[1970s+] (drugs) inferior quality heroin.

bad count (n.) [boxing jargon bad count, a count that is too long or too short] [1980s] (US Und.)

1. an unfair decision.

2. a short measure of drugs.

bad crowd (n.) [as a group, use is SE]

[late 19C–1900s] (US) an unpleasant, untrustworthy person.

bad dog (n.) [unpaid, it won’t ‘lie down’]

[1940s+] (Aus.) a bad debt.

bad egg (n.) [egg n.2 (1)] (orig. US)

1. [mid-19C+] a rogue, a villain.

2. [mid-19C+] a worthless speculation; a disreputable place.

3. [late 19C] as sense 1, of inanimate objects or ideas.

4. [1920s] a tough man.


see separate entries.

bad face (n.)

[1960s] (US black) an unpleasant, disagreeable person.

bad fall (n.) [fall n. (2)]

[1910s+] (US Und.) an arrest and charge from which one cannot escape, despite attempting to intimidate or bribe the plaintiff or a prosecution witness.

bad-food (n.)

[20C+] (W.I.) food that supposedly contains ‘magic’ ingredients, which will influence a man to choose a particular woman.

bad go (n.) (drugs)

1. [1950s–70s] a short or disappointing measure of drugs [go n.1 (1d)].

2. [1980s+] a bad reaction to a drug [go n.1 (3)].

bad guy (n.)

1. [1920s+] (orig. US) in film or TV melodramas, the stereotyped villain.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

In compounds

bad halfpenny (n.)

1. [early 19C] any errand or task that proves pointless.

2. [mid-18C–1910s] an unpleasant, untrustworthy person [note Stephens & O’Brien, Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Slang (ms.; 1900–10), include the n. as a headword in one of their three mss. and offer definitions as published by Vaux and B&L, but give none of their own].

bad hat (n.)

see separate entry.

bad-head (n.)

1. [20C+] (W.I., Bel.) a tearaway, a young criminal.

2. [1960s] (US) a very unattractive face.

bad-house (n.)

[early 19C] a house that rents out rooms to prostitutes and their clients or to adulterous couples.

bad iron (n.) [ety. unknown]

[mid-19C–1910s] bad luck, a failure, a disaster.

bad john (n.) [John n. (1) ]

1. [1960s–70s] (W.I./UK black) a tearaway, a young criminal; thus badjohnism, criminality; play bad-john, to act like a hooligan (although not actually to be one).

2. [1970s] (UK black) a gangster, an important criminal.

bad lamps (n.) [lamp n.1 (2)]

[1960s+] (US gay) dark glasses.

bad land (n.) [ironic use of SE badlands, arid, barren areas of the western US] [late 19C+] (US)

1. the slum area of a city (orig. coined for that in Chicago).

2. any dangerous area.

bad lot (n.) [auction house jargon bad lot, one that will not sell]

[mid-19C+] an unpleasant, untrustworthy person.

Bad Man (n.)

see separate entry.

bad medicine (n.) [the SE use of medicine to translate terms used in a variety of native American languages meaning a fetish, spell or charm; note use of ‘bad juju’ and ‘juju-man’ in the spy novels of John le Carré (b.1931)]

[mid-19C+] (orig. US) something or someone sinister or ill-fated.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

bad news

see separate entries.

bad paper (n.) [paper n./dough n. (1)]

1. [20C+] an IOU that will not be paid by the debtor; thus bad-papered adj.

2. [1910s+] (also bad dough) any form of fraudulent documents, counterfeit money or similar written or printed frauds or forgeries.

3. [1990s+] (US prison) a negative report on a prisoner.

bad-pay (adj.)

[20C+] (W.I.) extremely slow to pay debts or any money that is owed and expected.

bad penny (n.) (also bad shilling)

[mid-19C+] an unpleasant, untrustworthy person; thus phr. known like a bad shilling, well-known (not invariably neg.).

bad poker (n.)

[1920s-50s] (US) a mistake, a foolish move.

In compounds

bad scran (n.) (also bad scram, …scrant) [scran n.]

[mid-19C+] (orig. Anglo-Irish) bad luck, usu. as phr. bad scran to.

bad shag (n.) [shag n.1 (1); note shag n.1 (4), used later 20C+ in phrs. like ‘a good shag’, ‘a bad shag’]

[mid-18C–early 19C] an unsatisfactory lover; usu. in phr. he is but bad shag.

bad shilling (n.)

1. [late 19C] one’s last shilling.

2. (Aus.) a remittance man.

3. see bad penny

bad shit (n.)

see separate entry.

bad siddown (n.) [SE bad sit-down; the image is of a prostitute lazing around on a street corner; also note Krio (Sierra Leone Creole) bad sidom, a woman sitting so as to expose her genitals]

[20C+] (W.I., Jam.) poor behaviour in public, disregard of other people’s feelings.

bad stuff


bad time (n.) [time n. (1)]

[1970s] (US Und.) a prison sentence that causes the subject, who cannot acclimatize, a great deal of suffering.

bad-time (v.)

[1960s] (US) to be sexually unfaithful to one’s partner.

bad trip (n.) [trip n.4 (1a)] [1960s+]

1. (drugs) a bad or frightening experience while taking psychedelic drugs; also as v.; thus bad-tripper, one who is suffering the neg. experience .

2. ext. as any sort of unpleasant or unnerving experience.

3. [1990s+] (Irish drugs) an overdose or similar bad response to an injection of a narcotic.

bad trot (n.) [trot n.2 (4)] (Aus.)

1. [20C+] an unfair situation or result.

2. [1920s+] a run of bad luck.

bad ’un (n.) [lit. ‘a bad one’]

1. [mid–late 19C] (UK Und.) a counterfeit coin.

2. [19C+] a rogue, an untrustworthy person; also used of a horse.

In phrases

bad case of the tins (n.)

see under case n.1

badly done (adj.) [SE badly + do v.1 (2a)]

[20C+] (Ulster) embarrassed.

bad place in the road (n.) (also bad spot in the road, narrow place…, spot…)

[1930s–60s] (US) an out-of-the-way, unimportant place or settlement.

bad up (v.)

see separate entry.

go bad (v.)

[1980s] (Aus.) to be suffering economically.

have it bad (v.)

1. [late 19C+] to be experiencing something intensely, e.g. illness, sexual obsession, love, delirium tremens.

2. [1960s+] to be sexually frustrated.

3. [1970s] to be heavily addicted to narcotics.

4. to be sexually obsessed.

have them bad (v.) (also have them again)

[late 19C–1910s] to be suffering from delirium tremens.

In exclamations

bad cess to you! (also good cess to you!) [? abbr. SE success (OED); Ware suggests dial. cess, a piece of turf; thus ‘may you live in a good/bad place’; Partridge prefers cess, assessment; thus ‘may you suffer a good/bad (tax) assessment’]

[mid-19C+] (orig. Irish) bad (or good) luck to you!

bad show!

[20C+] a general excl. of disappointment or disapproval.