Green’s Dictionary of Slang

turkey n.1

1. [mid-19C] a state of drunkenness [drive turkeys to market ; ? one walks like the bird].

2. [1900s–40s] (Aus./US) a vagrant’s pack, a lumberman’s kit pack [resemblance to the bulky bird which has been ‘stuffed’].

3. [1910s–40s] (US Und.) a suitcase; a large traveling bag [resemblance to the bulky bird which has been ‘stuffed’] .

4. in senses of failure, weakness [according to Cohen (ed.) Studies in Slang IV (1995) pp.100–119, originating in the theatrical turkey show, a touring show, usu. burlesque, mounted at a moment’s notice and staffed by a third-rate cast, even stage-struck amateurs].

(a) [1920s+] a failure, an incompetent, a dull person.

(b) [1930s+] (drugs) inferior quality or even fake drugs.

(c) [1940s] (US gang) a gang member who won’t or can’t fight, but runs messages etc.

(d) [1940s+] an unappealing or worthless thing, a disappointment.

(e) [1950s+] a general derog. term of address.

(f) [1950s+] an unattractive man or woman.

(g) [1970s+] (US Und./teen, also turkeymeat) a victim, e.g. of a mugging or shooting.

In compounds

turkeymeat (n.)

see sense 4g above.

turkey neck (n.)

[1950s+] the penis.

turkey spanker (n.)

a masturbator.

In phrases

bleed one’s turkey (v.)

[1920s+] to urinate.

catch a turkey (v.)

[mid-19C] (US) to get drunk.

come one’s turkey (v.)

[late 19C+] to masturbate.

have a turkey on one’s back (v.)

[mid-19C–early 20C] to be in a state of drunkenness.

not say turkey (v.) (also not say pea-turkey)

[mid-19C–1900s] (US) to say nothing, to stay silent.

turkey on a string (n.)

[1970s+] (US black) one who is infatuated and thus easily led and controlled.

turkey out (v.)

[1950s] (US) to run off, to act in a cowardly manner.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

turkey buyer (n.) [orig. use is Leadenhall Market; turkeys were beyond the pockets of the poor]

[late 19C–1900s] a rich person.

turkey-buzzard (n.)

1. [20C+] (US black) a white man, usu. derog.

2. see buzzard n. (5)

Turkey Day (n.) [the trad. dish]

[1910s–40s] (US black) Thanksgiving.

turkey gobble (n.)

[1980s+] (Aus. prison) fellatio; thus turkey gobbler, a fellator/fellatrix.

turkey merchant (n.) [puns on SE Turkey merchant ]

1. [late 17C–mid-19C] one who buys and sells turkeys, a poulterer [allegedly credited to Horne Tooke (1736–1812), when questioned by fellow Etonians as to his father’s occupation].

2. [mid-19C] (UK Und.) a dealer in smuggled silk [the play was on merchant, i.e. a legitimate dealer].

3. [mid-19C] a street-seller of rhubarb.

turkey shoot (n.) [the large SE turkey presents an easy target; SAmE turkey shoot, a shooting match at which turkeys are the targets and the prizes] [1940s+]

1. (US) a combat in which one’s own side wins without any difficulty, killing and destroying on a large scale; also in fig. use.

2. anything exceptionally easy.

turkey tail (n.) (also turkey turd)

[1980s] (US) a term of abuse.

In phrases

before one can say ‘turkey’

[1910s] (US) very quickly.

drive turkeys to market (v.) [the turkey-driver is forced to follow the birds’ meandering course along the road]

[mid–late 19C] to walk in a drunken, unsteady manner.

eat turkey (v.) [var. eat boiled crow under eat v.] [1960s–70s] (US)

1. to suffer humiliation and insult without reciprocating.

2. to take second best, to accept an inferior role.

head over turkey (adv.) (also head over tuck) [SE turkey, the plucked bird here seen as resembling the shape of the buttocks]

[20C+] (Aus./N.Z.) head-over-heels.

turkey off (v.)

[20C+] (Aus./N.Z.) to leave in a hurry, to run off.