Green’s Dictionary of Slang

horse n.

also hoss

1. in gambling.

(a) [mid–late 18C] a lottery ticket that is hired out by the day.

(b) [late 19C] (US) a queen in cards.

(c) [late 19C–1930s] (US gambling) a selection of four numbers to be played simultaneously.

(d) [1950s] (US) gambling in general.

2. as money.

(a) [19C] a £5 note [? play on pony n. (1b)].

(b) [1960s] (Irish) a half-crown.

3. as a human being, usu. in congratulatory senses.

(a) [19C+] (US) a strong, athletic man or an admirable, good fellow.

(b) [mid-19C] (US) one’s husband.

(c) [mid-19C+] (US, also cholly, cholly hoss) a form of address by one man to another.

(d) [mid-19C+] a fine specimen; usu. constr. with of.

(e) [late 19C–1910s] (US campus) an exceptionally able student.

(f) [20C+] (Aus.) one’s wife.

(g) [1980s+] (US) a large, ungainly woman.

4. [mid-19C] (also embalmed horse) corned beef.

5. [late 19C–1910s] (US campus) as plays on pony n. (3a)

(a) a literal translation used in preparing a lesson.

(b) help in an examination.

6. as language [? SE horse laugh].

(a) [late 19C+] (US) a joke, esp. a joke at someone else’s expense; thus horseplay, teasing.

(b) [1900s–40s] (US) nonsense, rubbish.

7. [1930s+] (drugs) heroin [initial letter].

8. [1940s–60s] (US) a motorcycle.

9. [1950s+] (US) a prostitute, one of a group of women working for a pimp [she is part of his stable n.; but also similar pron. to SE whore].

10. [1950s+] (US prison) a visitor or prison warder who is willing to smuggle contraband in and out of prison [var. on mule n. (4c)].

11. [1960s+] venereal disease, spec. gonorrhoea [rhy. sl. horse and trap = clap n.].

12. see charley horse n.

13. see horseflesh

In compounds

In phrases

horsed out (adj.)

[1980s+] (drugs) intoxicated on heroin.

on horseback (adj.)

[mid-19C] carrying sufficient money to pay a fine or fee.

red horse (n.)

[mid-19C+] (US) corned beef.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

horse apple (n.) (also apple, horse ball, ...bean, ...plum) [supposed resemblance]

[mid-17C; early 18C+] a piece of horse manure found lying in the road.

horse-ass (adj.) [-ass sfx]

[1950s] (US) stupid, incompetent.

horse blanket (n.)

1. [late 19C+] (US black, orig. milit.) an overcoat.

2. [20C+] (US, also monkey blanket, saddle...) a griddle cake.

horse buss (n.) [SE buss, a kiss; ult. earlier bass] [late 18C–early 19C]

1. a loud smacking kiss.

2. a bite.

horse-capper (n.) [SE horse-coper, a horse dealer]

[mid-19C] (US Und.) a dishonest horse-dealer.

horse-chaunter (n.) [chanter n. (2)]

[mid-19C] a crooked horse dealer; thus horse chaunting, crooked horse dealing.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

horsecrap (n.) [crap n.1 (6)]

[1930s+] (US) nonsense; also as adj., second-rate.

horsefeathers (n.)

see separate entry.

horseflesh (n.) (also horse) [ult. SE phr. dead horse, anything that is beyond saving or use and cannot be revived. The work, which will bring in no further money, is no more use than a ‘dead horse’]

[late 17C] work that is charged for before it is actually done.

horse-fly (n.) (also hoss-fly)

[mid-19C–1930s] (US) a fellow.


see separate entries.

horse godmother (n.)

[late 18C–mid-19C] a large masculine woman, ‘a gentlemanlike kind of lady’ (Grose, 1785).

horse heads (n.)

[1970s+] (drugs) amphetamines.

horse heavy (n.)

[1940s] (US black) a fat person.

horse hockey (n.) (also horse frocky) [hockie n. (2)]

[1950s+] (US) nonsense.

horse joint (n.) [joint n. (3b)]

[1950s] (US Und.) a bookmaker’s ‘office’.

horse kiss (n.) [the image is of a horse’s mouth, with large teeth and lips]

[late 17C–18C] a rough, heavy kiss.

horse leech (n.) [ult. ref. to SE horse-leech, a sucking worm]

1. [late 16C–mid-18C] (also leach) a quack doctor [SE horse-leech, a veterinary surgeon].

2. [late 16C–17C; 1900s] a general term of abuse.

3. [mid-17C] a prostitute.

horseman (n.)

see separate entry.

horse manure (n.) [euph.]

[1910s+] (US) nonsense, rubbish; also as excl.

horse marine (n.) [trad. sailors’ disdain for the poor seamanship of the Royal Marines; a ‘horse marine’ is an impossibility]

[mid-19C–1900s] an awkward person.

horsemeat (n.) [play on SE meat/meat n. (2)]

[1980s+] (US gay) a large penis.

horse-nails (n.) [SE horse-nail, a nail used to secure a horseshoe]

[mid-19C] money.

horse opera (n.)

1. [mid-19C–1940s] (US) a show featuring trained horses.

2. [1920s+] (orig. US, also gun opera, hoss opry) a Western, whether on film or television [on model of soap opera n.].

3. in attrib. use of sense 2.

horse-pad (n.)

[early 18C] (UK Und.) a highwayman.

horse piss (n.) [piss n. (3a)]

[20C+] (US) weak coffee or weak beer; any unpleasant tasting food.

horse player (n.)

[1920s+] (US) a person who bets on horseracing.

horse-pox (n.)

[mid-17C–18C] an especially severe strain of venereal disease, esp. as used in excl.

horse pucky (n.) [puckey n.]

[1970s+] (US) nonsense; also as excl. and adj.

horse radish (n.) [euph.]

[1910s+] (US) nonsense; also as excl.

horse room (n.) (also horse parlour)

[1920s+] (US) a bookmaking establishment.

horse’s ass (n.)

see separate entry.

horse’s collar (n.) [rhy. sl. = dollar n.1 (1)]

[1910s] (Aus.) five shillings.

horse’s hangdown (n.) [SE hangdown, i.e. the animal’s penis, on the model of prick n. (3)]

[20C+] a fool, an idiot.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

horse’s meal (n.) [cf. synon. Scot. and Yorks. dial. horse-feast]

[late 18C–mid-19C] a meal that has no accompanying drink, alcoholic or otherwise.

horse’s neck (n.)

1. [20C+] (orig. US) ginger ale flavoured with lemon peel, with or without whisky, brandy or gin [ety. unknown].

2. [1920s–70s] (US) a fool, an idiot, a general term of abuse [partial euph. for horse’s ass n.].

horse’s necklace (n.)

[late 19C–1930s] (Aus. prison) the hangman’s noose.

horse’s nightcap (n.)

[late 16C–1930s] the cap pulled over the condemned man’s head before his death; thus the noose itself; thus die in a horse’s nightcap v., to be hanged.

horse’s patoot (n.) (also horse’s patootie) [partial euph. for horse’s ass n.]

[1940s+] (US) a fool, an idiot, a general term of abuse.

horse teeth (n.)

[1930s] (US) a piano.

horse thief (n.)

[1910s+] (US) a dishonest person.

horse thief special (n.)

[1950s] (US) rice with raisins.

horse tranquilizer (n.) (also pig tranquilizer) [the legitimate use of the drug as an animal tranquillizer]

[1970s+] (drugs) phencyclidine.

horsewoman (n.) [they ‘ride’ their partner]

[1940s+] a masculine lesbian.

In phrases

...and the horse you rode in on (also ...and the cow you rode in on) [Wild West imagery]

[1970s+] (US) a dismissive, antagonistic phr., the pfx fuck you! excl. is used or unspoken.

bet on the horses (v.)

[1950s] to be addicted to morphine.

horse of another colour (n.) [SE by 20C+]

[18C–19C] a very different topic.

play horse with (v.)

1. [late 19C–1950s] (US campus) to ridicule, to tease.

2. [late 19C–1910s] (US) to indulge in horseplay.

3. [1900s] (US campus) to overcome easily; to confuse.

talk horse (v.)

[late 19C–1900s] to boast, to ‘talk big’.

water one’s horse (v.)

[1960s+] (US) to urinate.

wouldn’t that tie your horse

[1900s] (US) a phr. of mild exasperation or surprise, isn’t that amazing/infuriating.

In exclamations