Green’s Dictionary of Slang

yellow belly n.

1. a native of Lincolnshire, esp. of the southern or fenland part of the county [the yellow-stomached frogs and/or the eels that abound there].

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Yellow Belly. An inhabitant of the Fens of Lincolnshire; an allusion to the Eels caught there.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) n.p.: Yellow Belly. A native of the Fens of Lincolnshire; an allusion to the eels caught there.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1788].
[UK]Stamford Mercury 5 Aug. 1/1: I was ashamed to own myself a Yellowbelly.
[UK]Worcs. Chron. 13 Mar. 6/4: Why, I’m blessed if he don’t mean old yellow-belly my fayther.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]W.H. Smyth Sailor’s Word-Bk (1991) 742: Yellow-Belly. A name given to a person born in the fens.
[UK]Lincs. Chron. 23 July 8/5: One canny and prophetic Scot had had time to yell, ‘Never mind, “yellow-belly,” it will be your turn next’.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Pall Mall Gaz. 12 Aug. 5/3: ‘Well done, yellow-belly!’ This was in allusion to his being a Lincolnshire man.
[UK]Manchester Courier 5 Dec. 14/7: Lincolnshire folk have long been called ‘Yellow Bellies’.
[UK]Worcs. Chron. 22 Nov. 3/2: At Lincoln [...] the oleaginous yellowbelly replied [...] ‘Giblet, pies [...] or black pudding, sir!’.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 260/1: Web-foots (Provincial). People of Lincolnshire, probably bestowed upon them by their higher county neighbours, who did not live in the wretched fens of Lincolnshire. Also called yellow-bellies. Taken together suggestive of fen-game, such as wild ducks and geese, widgeon, all common to the fens.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 22 Nov. 4/4: The Yorkshiore man will grant that the Lincolnshire ‘yellow-belly’ [is] entitled to feel a similar amount of patriotism.
[UK]M. Marshall Tramp-Royal on the Toby 123: Scores of Scotties, Paddies, Taffies, Brummies, Yorkies, and Yellow Bellies.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 430: yellow-belly. Not only a coward but, at different times and in different places, a Mexican [...], an Oriental, a Eurasian, and, most curiously, a native of the Lincolnshire fenlands.
[UK](con. 1926) H.H. Godbold Memoirs of Two Different Soldiers 22: The 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (The Yellow Bellies they were affectionately nicknamed) [...] were back in their barracks in Lincoln, England.
Internet 1 Oct. 🌐 A happy Lincolnshire Day to all yellowbellies!

2. (US) a low denomination coin, poss. 25 cents [ety. unknown].

[UK]G.A. Sala My Diary in America I 102: [The book] is perhaps cheap at a quarter of a dollar. I say to you, nevertheless [...] Don’t lay out the most insignificant ‘yellow-belly’ – the smallest change for a ‘greenback’ – on it.

3. (US) a Mexican, esp. a soldier [the colour of their uniforms and stereotyping of Mexicans as yellow adj. (4)].

N.O. Crescent (LA) 16 Mar. 1: God send that they bayonet every ‘yellow belly’ in the Mexican army [DA].
[UK]Leics. Mercury 22 Sept. 1/5: [from NY Sun. Times] Then there’s Irish and Scotch and John Bulls and niggers and yaller bellies.
C.W. Webber Shot in Eye (1855) 132: He had a hatred for the ‘yaller bellies,’ and ‘copper-heads,’ as he called the Mexicans and Indians, which was refreshingly orthodox [DA].
[US]H.L. Williams Joaquin 131: Deuce take the yellow bellies. What brings the cursed greasers here?
[US]E. O’Neill The Movie Man in Ten ‘Lost’ Plays (1995) 188: And away he runs with all his yellow-bellies after him.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 430: yellow-belly. Not only a coward but, at different times and in different places, a Mexican [...], an Oriental, a Eurasian, and, most curiously, a native of the Lincolnshire fenlands.

4. a Protestant [the Protestant colour orange].

[UK]Belfast News Letter 25 May 2/4: A fellow, the name of M’Kinless, walked up the street, shouting for the face of a ‘yellow-belly,’ which was the signal for a general row.
[UK]Belfast News Letter 3 Sept. 4/6: At length his loyalty found vent in a challenge to ‘every yellow-belly’ in the city. ‘Yellow-belly’ is Roman Catholic Irish for Protestant.
[UK]Belfast News Letter 28 Jan. 2/8: He then said, ‘Don’t knock the brains of a poor soldier,’ and they said, ‘They’d knock the yellow-belly sowl out of him’.

5. (Irish) a native of Wexford.

[UK]Royal Cornwall Gaz. 6 Dec. n.p.: The Wexford men are all ‘yellow bellies’ since the reign of Queen Elizabeth [...] Wexford emigrants to St John’s, Newfoundland, have given their ‘local habitation’ in that city the name of ‘Yellow-belly Corner’.

6. senses based on the ‘yellow’ complexion.

(a) a Chinese person; thus yellow-bellied adj., Chinese.

[UK]Oxford Jrnl 11 Oct. 4/3: Stumpy, a man with a wooden leg, Cowskin, Spindleshanks, Cockeye, Pig-tail and Yellow-belly were severally involked.
[US]C. Abbey diary 14 Sept. in Gosnell Before the Mast (1989) 75: A crowd of eager and interested ‘Celestials’ of all grades of society had assembled about us. [...] We were struck by their malicious looks and apparent willingness to ‘light on’ us with their bamboos. ‘Bill,’ said I, ‘these yellow bellied rascals mean mischief.’.
[UK]‘Bartimeus’ ‘Chinks’ in Awfully Big Adventure (1919) 173: Twenty-four of ’em Chinks. You risked your ship for a couple of dozen yellow-bellies!
[US]R.E. Howard ‘Dark Shanghai’ in Action Stories Jan. 🌐 These yeller-bellies would as soon stick a knife in a white man as look at him.
[US]R.E. Howard ‘Sluggers on the Beach’ in Jack Dempsey’s Fight Mag. Aug. 🌐 I’ll pertect you from them yeller-bellied rats.
[US]R.E. Howard ‘The Purple Heart of Erlik’ in Goodstone Pulps (1970) 149/1: I’ll get that yellow-belly for that!

(b) (UK/US) a half-caste; a Eurasian.

[UK]W.H. Smyth Sailor’s Word-Bk (1991) 742: Yellow-Belly. A name given [...] occasionally to half-castes.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]E. Blair ‘A Rebuke to the Author, John Flory’ in Complete Works X (1998) 103: With all these yellow-bellies (Eurasians). See what happens.

(c) (Aus.) a Japanese person, also attrib.

[UK]V. Cranton Keepers of the Desert 231: ‘Stinking little yellow-bellies’, as he was polite enough to term the entire Japanese nation.
[UK]G. Gibson Enemy Coast Ahead (1955) 203: We went on to the Jap war: how the little yellow bellies themselves had been halted.
[Aus](con. 1940s) T.A.G. Hungerford Sowers of the Wind 27: Wait until you see Hiroshima [...] I bet those yellow-bellies hate our guts!
[US]N.B. Harvey Any Old Dollars, Mister? 127: I hope you kill a thousand yella bellies.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 430: yellow-belly. Not only a coward but, at different times and in different places, a Mexican [...], an Oriental, a Eurasian, and, most curiously, a native of the Lincolnshire fenlands.
D. Jenkins Slim & None 102: ‘[T]he Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. Miz McGuire brought her RCA Victor radio to our home room so we could listen to President Franklin D. Roosevelt declare war on the yellow-belly sons of bitches’ .

7. (US) a Dutchman [the link of the Dutch to butter].

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

8. (also yellow guts, yellow heel) a coward [yellow-bellied under yellow adj.].

[UK]Hereford Jrnl 30 Aug. 3/5: After applying to her a variety of epithets among the more noticeable of which was ‘Yellow-belly,’ he put his fist in her face.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 84: A fine bunch of yellow bellies and squealers I’m mixed up with.
[US]H. Roth Call It Sleep (1977) 416: Heazuh flowuh fer ye, yeller-belly, shove it up yer ass!
[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 423: You big yellowbelly! Lay still and let the poor kid sleep.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 256: yellow-belly [...] yellow heel A coward.
H. Ellson Tomboy (1952) 19: You chicken punk! [...] We don’t want a yellowbelly.
[US]F. Paley Rumble on the Docks (1955) 47: ‘Yellowguts! [...] Get down to the pier.’.
[UK]R.A. Norton Through Beatnik Eyeballs 73: Now I no lily-livered yellow-belly.
[SA]L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 106: A ‘yellowheel’ is a coward.
[US]Maledicta III:2 156: yellow back; yellow belly; yellow bastard; yellow cur; yellow dog; yellow guts; yellow heel; yellow pup n [DAS 1924] Person without courage or fortitude.
[US]S. King It (1987) 686: You hit me from behind, yellowbelly! [...] You fuckin dirtyfighter!
[US]S. King Dolores Claiborne 281: I’d dish out a few names of my own startin with ‘yellowbelly.’.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 yellowbelly n. coward.

9. attrib. use of sense 6.

[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 54: The lot was the one where yellow-belly Red O’Connell lived.
[US]T. Berger Sneaky People (1980) 169: Some yellow-belly sapsucker send you a poison-pen letter?

10. see yellowbelly under yellow adj.