Green’s Dictionary of Slang

thimble n.

also thim
[naut. thimble, a thick ring of metal, through which a rope can be pushed; thus the similarity in shape]

(UK Und.) a watch, thus thimble and slang, watch and chain.

[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: thimble, or tick a watch; thus thimble-picking n., watch-stealing.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: The swell flashes a rum thimble; the gentleman sports a fine watch.
[Aus]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]D. Carey Life in Paris 44: The ticker was gone – [...] Thimble-picking is not confined to the uncivilized soil of England.
[UK]Observer 28 Aug. 3: Witness knew this was the slang name for a watch, and asked [...] whether it was a silver thimble or a gold one.
[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 309: My ticker, my tatler, my thimble, otherwise my watch, I bequeath to Jerry Hawthorn, Esq.
[UK]A. Thornton Don Juan in London II 403: A thimble is a watch; a haddock is a purse.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 36: I [...] ’elped a swell to carry his gold thimble.
[US]N.Y. Times 28 Sept. 2: The Street-Boys [...] all have a slang language, so that they can recognize one another, and converse in a crowd. A watch is a ‘thimble,’ and a pocket-book a ‘dummie.’.
[US] ‘Scene in a London Flash-Panny’ Matsell Vocabulum 99: I kidded a swell in a snoozing-ken, and shook him of his dummy and thimble.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 20 Oct. 3/2: [He] honestly admitted after somr barneying that the ‘thimble’ was outward bound on board the Vimiera.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 20/2: It happened just then that Tommy was in want of a ‘ridge thimble,’ he having blowed his last one in France. [Ibid.] 106/2: Mow I can ‘flash a spark’ and ‘thim’ as well’s those who did so at my expense.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 19 Oct. n.p.: Johnny said he thought he could point out the bloke what took the ‘thimble’.
[Aus]Eve. News (Sydney) 20 Feb. 3/4: He [...] said he had taken a ‘thimble and slang.’ I told him I did not know what that meant, and he said it meant a ‘watch and chain’.
[UK]Lloyd’s Wkly Newspaper 23 Mar. 4/5: I’ve been doing a sneak for a thimble (meaning watch) .
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. 10/1: Jim cracked a case last night and fenced the swag for ten cooter. He told me as Nel Starlight had flimped a thimble from a lushy bloak who had been to the ball, and fenced it at Mother S–’s for a finnip.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 412: You sonnied the bloke as tharied you jest as the rattler was startin’? Rowland’s his name and a dead nark he is [...] Thought I was going to touch for your thimble or russia.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 85: Thimble and Slang, watch and chain.
[US]Deming (N.M.) Headlight 28 May 1/3: In the last three years there have been three different terms for watch – ‘super,’ ‘thimble’ and ‘yellow and white.’.
[US]Flynt & Walton Powers That Prey 14: Somebody got a thimble [watch] and a roll o’ dough.
[US]Sun (NY) 10 July 29/4: Here is a genuine letter written in thieves’ slang, recently found by the English police [...] I gave a skister’s red thimble and slang and a cat to my mollisker stalling while we cracked the fakir’s chovey.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 16 July 4/7: We never wore a flogger coat, / A ‘thimble’ nor a ‘slang’.
[US]J. Sullivan ‘Criminal Sl.’ in Amer. Law Rev. LII (1918) 891: A ‘thimble and turnip’ is a watch.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 25 July 3/3: ‘Gaw-lumme! yer oughter talk after that “thimble-’n’-sling” racket, in Chow’s Alley, when the “demon” dipped yer from- under the bed in Red Mag’s bug house’.
Jackson Dly News (MS) 1 Apr. 7/2: Crook Chatter [...] ‘The tool frisks him for “pokes” or “thimbles”’.
[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 2 June 21/1: Last night he ‘touched’ a Scotch politician for his presentation ‘thimble and slang’.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 421: Thimble. Watch.
[UK] ‘English Und. Sl.’ in Variety 8 Apr. n.p.: Thimble or gerry — Watch.
[US]Chicago Trib. 10 Oct. n.p.: I then make him open the keester and find it loaded with thimbles.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 221/2: Thimble. (Industrial northern area; rare) A stolen watch.

In compounds

thimble-fakir (n.)

(UK und.) one who specializes in changing the cases of stolen watches.

[US]Sun (NY) 10 July 29/4: Here is a genuine letter written in thieves’ slang, recently found by the English police [...] We must get a thimble fakir to christen and church the red jacks.
thimble game (n.)

(US und., also the thimbles, thimble and pea) the illegal ‘gambling’ game of thimble-rig n. (1); thus thimble-man, one who conducts such a game.

Sun. Flash (NY) 12 Sept. n.p.: Snap — Asks us if ‘the thimbles’ is a good game to play at? Oh yes, of course, certainly.
[US]N.Y. Dly Herald 1 Apr. 2/4: They wished him to engage in what is called the thimble game.
[US]Brookville Jeffersonian (PA) 8 Apr. 1/4: The Thimble Game [...] The Gimblet-man agreed to initiate him into the mysteries of a certain game, ycelpt ‘Thimble Rig’.
[US]Rock Is. Argus (IL) 26 June 3/1: A man [...] with a pitiful satory about the thieves, pick-pockets and thimble-riggers [...] said he had lost $50 on the thimble game.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 15 Oct. 6/1: ‘The next thing I knowed [she] was working a thimble game’.
[US]Hartford Courant (CT) 21 Mar. 8/5: Lynch the thimble man [...] was arrested [...] while working the thimble game.
Fort Wayne Sentinel (IN) 30 Oct. 12/2: The doctor’s method of working the thimble game was the original of the bent corner idea in three-card monte.
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 14 June 7/1: They Say [...] That Skeamer has got the thimble and pea going since he’s been out of work.
Dly Mail (Hagerstown, MD) 13 Nov. 1/1: The [...] men were held in $500 bond each [...] on a charge of running a ‘thimble’ or ‘shell game’.
thimble-twister (n.) (also super twister, thimble-screwer)

(UK Und.) a thief who specializes in stealing watches from their wearers; thus thimble-twisting n.

[UK]‘Adventures of Mr and Mrs Sandboys’ in Bells New Wkly Messenger 9 Mar. 6/2: There are [...] thimble-screwers, or those who wrench watches from their chains.
[UK]H. Mayhew Great World of London I 46: ‘Thumble-screwers,’ [sic] who wrench off watches.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor IV 25: those who plunder by manual dexterity, by stealth, or by breach of trust [...] ‘Thimble-screwers,’ those who wrench watches from their guards.
[Aus]Melbourne Punch ‘City Police Court’ 3 Oct. 234/1: The Mayor.– Well, upon my sivvy, you’re a pretty pair of thimble twisters, you are; and it would serve you both right if you got scroby.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 8: Thimble Screwers - Those who wrench watches from their guards.
[US]A. Pinkerton Thirty Years a Detective 50: The men who twist the rings or steal the watches are called ‘super twisters.’.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 414: I used to prac-tize wipe-hauling, tail-buzzing, and thimble-twisting.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 85: Thimble Twisters, watch stealers.
[Aus]Argus (Melbourne) 20 Sept. 6/4: The man who has a weakness for watches [...] is called a thimble twister.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 420: Super twister. Pickpocket who steals watches.
[UK]R.T. Hopkins Life and Death at the Old Bailey 64: The following crook’s words and phrases date from the days of the old Old Bailey: [...] thieves who rob persons of their watches – thimble-twisters.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 219: souper [...] A watch. [Ibid.] 230: super A watch. super twister A pickpocket who steals watches.

In phrases