Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tart n.

[Aus./N.Z. uses remain positive or neutral in spite of earlier shift to derog. meaning]

1. a woman, a girlfriend; thus dimin. tartlet [usu. only in dialect].

[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 254: Tart, a term of approval applied by the London lower orders to a young woman for whom some affection is felt. The expression is not generally employed by the young men, unless the female is in ‘her best,’ with a coloured gown, red or blue shawl, and plenty of ribbons in her bonnet — in fact, made pretty all over, like the jam tarts in the swell bakers’ shops.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Sept. 9/3: [S]ome of his young ladies are ‘bits of jam.’ In thus describing their charms we are quoting from the Variety Entertainment. They were, furthermore, referred to as ‘tarts,’ but we won’t go so far as to call them ‘tarts.’ We will merely smack our little lips and apostrophise them as ‘sweets.’.
[UK]Sporting Times 6 Feb. 1/2: Two gentlemen who, after five minutes conversation with their prospective partners, fell down the stairs arm in arm, the one ejaculating [...] ‘Tom, this is no place for us. All these tarts are straight!’.
[UK]Sporting Times 10 Apr. 1/3: A simple Clerklet / On the mash — / A brown-eyed Tartlet / Scenting cash.
[UK]letter in Sporting Times 29 May 6/2: Here are Tarts enough to make a confectioner’s shop.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 19 Aug. 1/5: What was my surprise to observe Master Robberd a-seein’ of a tart off in a Forest lodge tram.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 30 Dec. 1/6: Which was the Doctor’s particular Tart and which was mine was a moot question [...] So the doctor and I tossed up for choice.
[UK]W.S. Maugham Liza of Lambeth (1966) 43: ‘Na then, don’t crack on, old tart,’ remarked her husband.
[UK]Crissie 75: ‘They’re [i.e chorus girls] as neat and tasty set of tartlets as I could pick up’.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 25 Sept. 3/2: I then go home and whack her / [...] / It’s the only way to keep a blanky tart .
[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 195: Lordlovaduck! — he’s played the hurried touch on me an’ taken a tart to Paris.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 7 Feb. 1/1: Tartlets who come in for three pen’orths are hypnotised into purchasing a pound’s worth.
[US]C. Connors Bowery Life [ebook] Ain’t it funny de way tarts will fall fer er new graft.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Oct. 14/3: In brief time all th’ old tarts ’n’ kids in th’ neighborhood wuz with us.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 27 Feb. 6/6: For did not he introduce two of the most fascinating tartlets into Central Club, and did not those two smart ‘gals’ clean members of every loose coin.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 28 May 6/9: He's addicted to the tartlets / [...] / Breaking all their little heartlets.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth, Aus.) 25 Feb. 14/1: ‘What do you say if you saw a pretty girl going down the street, you know?’ ‘Oh, we’d call her a “bonza tart”’.
[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 6 Apr. 7/5: Some of his pals chaffed him at being caught by the old tart whom Eddart had cast off.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Aug. Red Page/4: Tipped that tartlet is humping bluey between the devil and the blue sea.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Aug. 10/2: Ginger: ‘’Ere! Wot d’yer mean be knockin’ me tart in the jaw?’ / Micko: ‘So ’elp me, Ginger, it was a haccident. I’ll let yer give my tart a woodner if yer like.’.
[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 31 Jan. 6/1: Fat tarts, long tarts, lean tarts, little tarts, slim tarts, round tarts, square tarts; tarts of every shape and size, tarts that knew a thing or two, and tarts who thought they did, and didn’t.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 13 Feb. 3/5: It would be a pity to be jealous of pommy tarts or tommy tarts.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 297: He [...] was overheard by those privileged burghers who happened to be in his immediate entourage to murmur to himself: – God blimey if she ain’t a clinker, that there bleeding tart.
[US]W. Edge Main Stem 127: Two or three young bucks were at the rail with their tarts, hurling slang repartee at each other.
[UK]Era (London) 1 Feb. 9/3: So Ralph and his tart beat the mob after all.
[UK]G. Ingram Cockney Cavalcade 45: You’ll tell your ‘tart’ you won’t be seeing her, then.
[Aus]H. Drake-Brockman Men Without Wives I i: Hop it. The old tart’s impatient, and so’m I.
[US]E. O’Neill Iceman Cometh Act III: One regular guy and one all-right tart gone to hell!
[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross Of Love And Hunger 103: Smashing tart she was too.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Sat. Night and Sun. Morning 128: So I wain’t marry a tart that’s religious.
[UK]E. Bond Saved Scene vi: An’ yer can take yer bloody bastard round yer tart’s!
[UK]B.S. Johnson All Bull 31: He gobs more than a tart with no teet!
[Aus]‘Ricki Francis’ Kings X Hooker 14: ‘I’m telling you it’s about time you laid some tart’.
[UK]‘Derek Raymond’ He Died with His Eyes Open 55: She wasn’t a bad-looking tart at that.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids (1989) 206: What self-respecting tart, even if she was a bat, would want to jump in the cot with you?
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Davo’s Little Something 8: Why don’t you buy your lunch and not be such an old tart.
[UK]M. Newall ‘Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knyght’ in Indep. Weekend Rev. 26 Dec. 1: A handsome tarte, feisty and fitte-lookeing.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Leaving Bondi (2013) [ebook] The old tart looked like she might have been a nurse at one time.
[UK]H. Mantel Beyond Black 166: Them silly tarts who was now in the Ladies titivating.
[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 9: Just the tart we need to sort, now. She’s got a bad case of the toffee nose, that one.
[UK]R. Milward Man-Eating Typewriter 311: The tarts were frittying in natwar but their frilly skimpies.
[Aus]A. Nette Orphan Road 155: The gaunt old tart had put up quite a fight.

2. a promiscuous woman, a prostitute; also of homo-/heterosexual men since 1960s; also attrib. [dominant use since early 20C].

[UK]Mennis & Smith et al. ‘Of Banishing the Ladies out of Town’ Wit and Drollery 65: Farewell good places old and new, And Oxford Kates once more adieu; But it goes unto our very hearts, To leave the Cheese-cakes and the Tarts.
[UK]Portsmouth Eve. News 30 May 2/2: A Court of Law has decided it is libellous to call a girl a ‘tart’.
[UK]Bird o’ Freedom cited in Barrère & Leland Dict. Sl., Jargon and Cant 89/2: Wrong ’uns at the Wateries, Noffgurs at the Troc, [...] Coryphyees by Kettner, Tartlets anywhere.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 19 July 5/2: O give us back the honest time / When men had souls for Art, / And didn’t deem a nymph sublime / No better than a ‘tart.’.
[UK]Mirror of Life 19 May 14/4: [headline] ‘how amy became a tart.’ A Midnight Ride to Epping Forest and Its Consequences. Fallen women can always remember the moment when they were started on the downward path [etc].
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 24 Apr. 3/3: Them theeves and tarts from Melbun side / Wot flocks in everywhere.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 17/2: Banbury (London, 1894). One of the more recent shapes of ‘jam’, ‘biscuit’, ‘cake’, ‘confectionery’, ‘tart’ — a loose woman.
[Ire]Joyce ‘Two Gallants’ Dubliners (1956) 48: I spotted a fine tart under Waterhouse’s clock, and said good night, you know.
[UK]E.W. Rogers ‘The Bus Conductor’ 🎵 I carry the tarts, oh! bless their hearts.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘A Spring Song’ in Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 14: An’, square an’ all, I’m sick / Of that cheap tart / ’Oo chucks ’er carkis at a feller’s ’ead.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 573: Corley, at the first go-off, was inclined to suspect it was something to do with Stephen being fired out of his digs for bringing in a bloody tart off the street.
[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 159: She’s a tart, Adora replied, a little street-walker named Ruby Silver.
[UK](con. WW1) P. MacDonald Patrol 86: ‘We do look ’appy! . . . ’appy as four old tarts at a meetin’ o’ virgins’.
[Aus]New Call (Perth, WA) 17 Dec. 1/3: ‘There's so little cash about these days that the street tarts have got to take dole tickets!’.
[US](con. 1919) Dos Passos Nineteen Nineteen in USA (1966) 365: There’s bleedin’ tarts ’ere, Yank, come along.
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 135: Who’re you to talk, louse? tart-chaser!
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 223: Leaving his wife alone and fooling around with some tart.
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 170: Fancy me a tout for a tart.
[UK]E. Bond Saved Scene i: Know somethin’? – I ain’ touched a tart for weeks.
[UK]G. Melly Owning Up (1974) 108: [of a man] The tart in me was impressed at such a generous offer [of sex].
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 162: You don’t think they make me look like a tart?
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Go West Young Man’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] [addressed to a man] Oh shut up you tart!
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 93: That’s why all those tarts and slags come running to us.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 515: Said he had heard of men taking their little tarts to out-of-the-way places to avoid detection.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 72: She was feeling up Sylvester Stallone and scowling at the tart towering at his side.
[Aus]B. Moore Lex. of Cadet Lang. 384: tart2 (interestingly the term can also be applied to males, especially to) a male who has a lot of girlfriends or who sleeps around a lot.
[UK]D. Farson Never a Normal Man 175: [of a man] He said he supposed that I was the ship’s tart.
[UK]Guardian 17 July 15: She stinks like a tart.
[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 58: Might see meself off with another toss like, that new porno with that Chinky tart in.
[Aus]L. Redhead Thrill City [ebook] Her dad left her mum, ran off with some tart.
[Scot]T. Black Artefacts of the Dead [ebook] Where’s Leanne? [...] That tart upstairs . . . She went out with some guy last night.
[Aus]G. Gilmore Class Act [ebook] ‘I don’t miss that, hunting through the crowd for him, knowing he’d be off with some tart somewhere’.

3. (Aus.) an attractive young woman.

[Aus]T.E. Spencer ‘Liza’ in Budgeree Ballads 83: Lumme Liza! You’re a bosker! You’re a jewel! You’re a tart!

4. (gay) an older man’s young male lover.

[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 381: tart. [...] also, in Britain, a young male friend of an older man.

5. (gay) a gay prostitute.

[US]San Diego Sailor 41: The kid was over-running with affection [...] it wasn’t likely that he’d find it among the tarts he’d played around with.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 381: tart. [...] also, in Britain, a young male friend of an older man, a catamite, sometimes a professional.
[US]J. McCourt ‘Vilja de Tanquay Exults’ in Queer Street 394: A tart who’ll squat and take a bit o’ rabbit / From any ponce in the ’Dilly.

6. a promiscuous homosexual.

[UK]Indep. Rev. 19 June 4: Very witty, Wilde, you tart.

7. a fool, irrespective of gender.

[SA]Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg) 13 Apr. 🌐 The passing of the Pink Piano Lounge and its fab drag queens and failed pool sharks.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 tart n. [...] A stupid or inept person.

8. used as a term of address, irrespective of gender.

[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 79: [to a man] Chop, chop, you’re in a fuckin daydream, you tart, hurry up!

9. see tartar n. (2)

In compounds

tart fuel (n.)


personal correspondence: tart fuel – similar to ‘bitch piss’, bottled alcopop’s regularly drank by young women.
‘Alcohol’ 🌐 Tart fuel (alcopops) – ‘tell you what, I’ll get you a bottle of tart fuel instead, but don’t blame me if you Wallace.’.

In phrases

queen of tarts (n.) [queen n. (2)]

(US gay) a pimp for homosexuals.

[UK]J. Hayes ‘Gayspeak’ Quarterly Journal Speech LXI 256–66: Queen [...] may be used to build a limitless series of images: [...] queen of tarts (a pimp for hustlers).