Green’s Dictionary of Slang

beat v.


1. to steal from, to defraud, to rob.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 10: ‘Beat the flat;’ rob the man.
[US]N.Y. Times 8 Aug. 8/1–2: ‘Beating the country’ is the latest idiomatic phrase of rascaldom, and implies the robbing of houses where the occupants are absent in the country [...] The sneak bides his time and ‘beats’ the house when all circumstances seem to favor the enterprise.
[US]Bolivar Bull. (TN) 15 Apr. 1/3: The Slang of Our Day [...] They substitute beating for cheating.
[UK]M. Roberts Western Avernus (1924) 182: There remained but ‘beating.’ I had to find a freight or goods train, and in it [...] secrete myself, so that I might be taken to Portland without any one knowing.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 7: Beat, to get the best of one by swindling.
[US]N.Y. Globe 22 Aug. in Fleming Unforgettable Season (1981) 179: The man who beats the cash register when the Giants’ secretary is counting up the house will have to go some.
[US]Blind Lemon Jefferson ‘Sad News Blues’ 🎵 I’m miles away from home, I ain’t got no railroad fare / I’m gonna beat that B ‘n’ O [Baltimore & Ohio RR] into Baltimore for I heard my baby was there.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 256: The fake hold-up man may beat the gent.
[US](con. 1905–25) E.H. Sutherland Professional Thief (1956) 90: A representative [...] was beaten on a Pullman for $795 out of his drawing room.
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 155: I’ve beat every big-time outfit in the country.
[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 160: I ate in YMCA cafeterias or one-arm joints and beat checks as often as I could.
[US]R.L. Keiser Vice Lords 40: Although Vice Lords say they should lend money and clothes, share food, and should not try to ‘beat’ (con) each other out of their possessions, many individuals admit that most do not usually act in this way.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 16: Man work hard all week long, he don’t dig nobody beatin’ him.
[US]D. Goines Street Players 182: She must have tried beatin’ the trick in the car.
[US]G.V. Higgins Patriot Game (1985) 44: He’s beating me.
[US]R. Price Clockers 264: ‘What do I tell this guy?’ [...] ‘Tell him he got beat.’.
[US] ‘The Damage Down’ in Portland Phoenix 12–19 Oct. 🌐 Everyone, and I mean everyone, gets ripped off eventually. I learned many lessons about copping in the big city, but even the best of us get beat.

2. to defeat intellectually, to baffle, to confuse; often as beats me!

[UK]Casket (Phila., PA) Jan. 41/1: By jings! that beats me, I tell ye.
[US]A. Greene Life and Adventures of Dr Dodimus Duckworth I 172: Well, that beats me all to pieces.
S.C. Reid Scouting Adventures of McCullochs Texas Rangers 86: Well, that beats me.
[US](con. c.1840) ‘Mark Twain’ Huckleberry Finn 236: It does beat all how neat the niggers played their hand.
[UK]H. Smart Long Odds III 143: ‘Well, this beats me altogether’.
[UK]E.W. Hornung Amateur Cracksman (1992) 103: It beats me how you brought it off in daylight, fog or no fog!
[UK]Kipling ‘The Flag of Their Country’ in Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) 212: ‘And what do the authorities say about it?’ ‘That beats me again.’ The Sergeant spoke fretfully.
[UK]J. Conrad Typhoon 156: How he knew there was a terrific gale fifty miles off beats me.
[Ire]L. Doyle Ballygullion 100: It bates me to see the use av it at all.
[UK]A. Brazil Luckiest Girl in School 9: ‘Well, of all the rum shows!’ exclaimed Percy. ‘You and Aunt Harriet in double harness ! It beats me altogether!’.
[US]F. Packard White Moll 178: You can beat any jury in New York to it that you were both at the same old place.
[UK]Wodehouse Inimitable Jeeves 163: What beats me [...] is what principle you pick them on?
[US]W.R. Burnett Dark Hazard (1934) 202: Well, I’ll be damned. No matter what happens, I’m never surprised. But this beats me.
[Aus]K. Tennant Battlers 25: Where all these bagmen come from beats me.
[US](con. 1944) A. Myrer Big War 299: ‘What’s the scoop?’ ‘Beats me. Pull back again, I suppose.’.
[US](con. 1950-1960) R.A. Freeman Dict. Inmate Sl. (Walla Walla, WA) 7: Beat – to outwit.
[US]G.V. Higgins Digger’s Game (1981) 132: Beats me how come they don’t find it.
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 97: I’d say she really did a number on Guy Clinch. No half-measures there. It beats me how she keeps a straight face.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read How to Shoot Friends 87: Hetzell played them all like a violin. I believe he beat the cops, his old gang and the courts.
P. Temple ‘High Art’ in The Red Hand 44: ‘What beats me is how these Pel duffers would know he was missing’.

3. to leave quickly.

[UK]Sporting Times 1 Feb. 1/2: He almost resolved he would beat a retreat.
[US]J. Lait ‘Canada Kid’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 159: So I beats aroun’ the corner, picks out the second house to my right, tries the door and it opens.
[UK]Northern Whig 12 Sept. 8/6: [A]nd then, beating, [I] ran right into a slop, who pinched me.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 136: The wanderer landed in Charleston and beat his way to New York.
[US]J. Lait Gangster Girl 3: You beat a blowoff in Chi.
[US]H. Ellison Web of the City (1983) 34: He beat for Tom-Tom’s.
[US](con. 1950-1960) R.A. Freeman Dict. Inmate Sl. (Walla Walla, WA) 7: Beat - escape, etc.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Apr. 1: beat – leave.

4. of a criminal, to be acquitted of a crime, to defeat a case; of a lawyer, to defend a client successfully.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 18 July 18/3: [O]ver a soothing cup of tea he delights in telling an assemblage of choice spirits that they can ‘always beat the “coppers” if they’ll stick to tea.’ Undoubtedly there is a good deal in Bill’s text.
L.A. Norton Life and adventures of Col. L.A. Norton 248: I can beat the case, and you shall never lose a dollar by me if I have to sell the last thing I have to pay up.
[US]Wash. Post 11 Nov. Misc. 3/4: If he [i.e. a lawyer] succeeds in ‘beating a case’ he is a ‘swell mouthpiece.’.
[US]W. Scott Seventeen Years in the Und. 83: During my career as a yegg I was arrested four times and stood trial in two of the cases and ‘beat’ (was acquitted in) both.
[US]J. Lait Gangster Girl 11: If a ‘rap’ threatened, and this was a Federal offense, hard to square or beat, the ‘monkeys’ would be jettisoned without hesitation.
[US]D. Runyon ‘The Old Doll’s House’ Runyon on Broadway (1954) 70: If he can do no more than beat the chair for Lance he will be doing a wonderful job.
[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 28 Jan. [synd. col.] [He] lined up the case against Princess Hohenlohe, which she beat at the time.
[US]E. Reid Mafia 125: He just beat a charge of running a bookie joint [...] in an operation which netted $100,000 a year.
[US]J. Mills Panic in Needle Park (1971) 148: There’s a good chance that he’ll beat the thing in court and walk out.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 243: He told me to go crazy and I’d beat the chair. I thought hard on that, but I couldn’t make like a loco.
[Aus] in K. Gilbert Living Black 262: How many of them got off? Did any of them beat it?
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 173: Dey tryin’ to send me up, but I brought a lawyer and beat d’ case.
[Aus]B. Ellem Doing Time 186: beat it: to defeat an indictment; to be found not guilty.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. 🌐 Beat. 1. To defeat an indictment.
[US]K. Scott Monster (1994) 172: I beat my case. They let me out.
[US]Simon & Burns ‘The Target’ Wire ep. 1 [TV script] They drop ten or twelve bodies in as many months, beat three cases in court.
[US]Rayman & Blau Riker’s 262: [H]e spent ten months [...] dealing with that case, and he beat the fucking thing.

5. to escape from prison.

[US]in Pacific Reporter 158 1094: I am in a hell of a shape and the only chance I got to save my neck is to beat the joint.
[US] ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V 438: Beat the prison, To escape from prison.
[US]E. Booth Stealing Through Life 308: ‘Say, Dan an’ another guy beat the joint up above, yesterday.’ ‘Dan free! Good old Dan!’.
[UK]V. Davis Gentlemen of the Broad Arrows 98: I can ‘beat’ this joint.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]C. Hamilton Men of the Und. 320: Beat, [...] 2. To escape from prison.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 109: Takin’ a Flier A seldom used expression meaning to escape from prison. (Archaic: blow, beat).

6. to escape or avoid, e.g. a duty or obligation.

Pinkerton's Detective Agency Wanted/Reward Notice re escaped train robber Oliver Curtis Perry in Eldrige & Watts Our Rival, the Rascal 327: Please search hotels and keep general lookout around railroad depots, saloons, gambling resorts, etc., and inquire of Yard or Train Masters for his having applied for employment, and of Railroad Trainmen for his having ‘beat’ his way on freight or passenger trains.
[US]B. Fisher Mutt & Jeff 9 Dec. [synd. cartoon] You are charged with beating your board bill.
[US]C. Sherwood diary 26 Nov. 🌐 Policed quarters and took bath. Beat [avoided] detail to scrub mattresses.
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 143: You did six months for all four instead of twenty years apiece [...] How’d you beat all them years?
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 790: beat – To evade or escape the consequences.
[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 90: ‘I can’t beat it,’ he said, as he counted Bud’s bread. ‘It’s a fact that we might as well face.’.
[US]D. Heilbroner Rough Justice 37: t made no difference whether the person who beat the subway fare or stole stockings from Macy’s was a college student or a junkie.

7. to pay for.

[US]J. Archibald ‘State Penmanship’ Popular Detective Jan. 🌐 I was wonderin’ how I’d beat that six buck check in there as I only had four singles in my poke.

8. (orig. US black, also beat up on) of a man, to seduce, to have heterosexual intercourse.

[[UK]Chapman & Jonson Eastward Ho! V i: So well I like the play, / That I could wish all day / And night to be so beaten].
[US]‘Digg Mee’ ‘Observation Post’ in N.Y. Age 19 Apr. 9/6: When you first meet her, and knows you’d like to ‘beat her’.
[US] in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 58: My father’s a drummer, a drummer, a drummer, / A very fine drummer is he. / All day he beats drums, beats drums, beats drums. / At night he comes home and beats me.
[US]A. Brooke Last Toke 65: Can’t rightly tolerate the ide’ o’ that pimple-face guinea tellin’ his friends ’bout how he beat up on a black girl.
[US]Ebonics Primer at 🌐 beat Definition: to have sex with a girl Example: That girl is fine az hell, I’ll beat dat.
Skepta ‘Lyrics’ 🎵 And your girl looks like she don’t work / [...] Man wouldn’t beat that even if I was burse.
[UK]G. Krauze What They Was 168: Whenever we draw chicks we give them fake names coz it’s usually just a beating ting.

9. see beat off v. (1)

In compounds

beat artist (n.) [-artist sfx]

(US black) one who sells poor quality or fake drugs.

Patterns in Drug Abuse I 216: It’s only when the beat artist didn't get away and got caught within the first hour or two that you're likely to have violence.
[US](con. 1982–6) T. Williams Cocaine Kids (1990) 39: One response to freebase buyers’ increasing demand for purer and purer cocaine was a proliferation of dealers and con men (‘beat artists’) purporting to sell the real thing.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 2: Beat artist — Person selling bogus drugs.

In phrases

beat a freight (v.)

(Can.) to steal a ride on a freight train.

[US]N.-Y. Trib. 10 May B1: In point of fact, nine out of every ten beggars who have lost their legs lost them ‘beating the freights’ – that is, stealing rides on freight trains.
American Flint 3 3/2: It is impossible to beat a freight in the southern states, and for being caught on a railroad train without a ticket means six months to a year on the county roads.
G.F. Hummel Subsoil 86: If she would give him his money he could get back as far as Baltimore, and then beat a freight to New York.
[US]W.A. Gape Half a Million Tramps 305: ‘If you want to go cheap,’ he said, ‘just go down the yard and “beat a freight” [...] when you see a train leaving jump on it and hang on until it stops, and then get into one of the empty “box cars”.’.
beat ass (v.)

see separate entry.

beat it (v.)

see separate entry.

beat off (v.)

(US Und.) to rob, to break into.

[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 172: We’ll hike the forty miles into town [...] beat off the box, and get a couple of horses out of the livery stable.
beat one’s way (v.)

(US) to travel on any form of transport without paying for one’s ticket.

[UK]M. Roberts Western Avernus (1924) 153: ‘Oh, get on board the Teaser and beat your way,’ or, [...] in English, cheat the steamer by stowing away.
[US]J. London Tramp Diary in Jack London On the Road (1979) 59: The ease the kids have in beating their way.
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 268: I was afraid to beat my way on the railroad between the two cities.
[UK]Punch 21 Feb. 142/2: Most of his hands beat their way up here same as you’ve done; they’d feel it disgraceful to waste money on a ticket.
[US]H. Kemp ‘The Harvest Fly’s Complaint’ in Cry of Youth 71: Try to catch a freight and leave, but find they’ve closed down tight / On letting hoboes beat their way, and jug them left and right.
[US]N. Anderson Hobo 79: The brother tried to persuade him to wait till he had saved enough money to pay his fare but he preferred to take his ‘chances,’ so he was ‘beating his way’.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 75: The yegg of this period generally ‘beat’ his way into town on a train.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 132: Now this happened at a time when I didn’t have one cent. / I beat my way to Frisco and my mind was [?] and bent.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 151: I beat my way. That is, I catch rides on freight trains, or on the engine of passengers if I’m in a hurry.
beat (someone) for (v.)

to take a person’s money, whether it is offered or not; to trick someone out of; to rob.

[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 211: Guess you forgot the time Stevey and me ‘beat’ him for that bunch of ‘dough’ on the Mauradriatic.
[US]V.F. Nelson Prison Days and Nights 26: There’s nobody that can holler as loud as a thief that’s been beat for something.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 24/2: Beat, v. [...] 3. To rob. ‘They beat the sucker for a nice pocket-touch (proceeds of his pockets).’.
[US]E. Gilbert Vice Trap 31: You’ve beaten me for so many things. [Ibid.] 33: You sponged off your friends, and beat them for money.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 66: I was on my way to Union Station to beat some sucker for his dough.
[US](con. 1950s) D. Goines Whoreson 62: My mind was rocked by the thought of someone having beat us for our stash.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) H. Huncke ‘Florence’ in Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 200: They [...] beat me for a ten-dollar bill.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 366: You already beat me for half my fee.
beat (someone) out of (v.) (US)

1. to cheat, to defraud, to steal from.

Oquawka (IL) Spectator 5 Feb. 1/7: He then went to Cincinnati where he beat another man out of $12 [DA].
[US]J. O’Connor Wanderings of a Vagabond 45: He would not consent to have any one beat out of their money, by foul play, at his place.
[US]‘A.P.’ [Arthur Pember] Mysteries and Miseries 60: ‘That sucker [...] has been beat out of his money, and hasn’t found it out yet. Don’t let him squeal here’.
[US]Lantern (N.O.) 14 May 3: No girl could beat her daughter out of a beau and escape.
[US]J. Fox Jr ‘A Trick O’ Trade’ in Hell Fer Sartain and Other Stories n.p.: Tom keeps him thar fer a week to beat him out’n a dollar.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 353: Clancy had stolen the coppers’s ‘girl,’ [...] but even though she were not of the cast of Vere de Vere, the copper didn’t want a crook beating him out.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘The Man Higher Up’ in Gentle Grafter (1915) 154: He couldn’t have worked a scheme to beat a little girl out of a penny slate-pencil.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Corkscrew’ Story Omnibus (1966) 200: Slim tried to beat the Toad out of two bits’ worth of Java.
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 143: ‘You’ve beat society out of four hundred years.’ ‘Society beat me out of a thousand first.’.
[US]J. Thompson Swell-Looking Babe 102: To beat them out of their split.
[US]C. Himes Imabelle 33: She’s gone off with the man who beat you out your money.
[US]C. Himes Rage in Harlem (1969) 34: She’s gone off with the man who beat you out of your money.
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Whoreson 198: This bitch really believed she would end up beating me out of some money.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 99: You said somebody else ripped it [i.e. stolen liquor] from us, but I always figured you beat me out of it.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 160: She beat you and the anchorman out of some serious dough.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July 🌐 Beat-out: Lost something some way or another, usually conned out of it, through deception.

2. to overcome, to beat a rival.

[US]Bloomfield Times (PA) 18 Mar. 2/3: Father, this beats all creation.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 19: I beat him out of five lots.
[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 115: Whenever the Foresters had a Picnic they invited him to make the Principal Address, because he was the only Orator who could beat out the Merry-Go-Round.
[US]N. Davis Northerner 227: Jiminy! [...] This beats out all creation!
[US]J. London Road 41: It is five to one, including the engineer and fireman, and the majesty of the law and the might of a great corporation are behind them, and I am beating them out.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Horseshoes’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 253: The Cubs had Zimmerman at third base and it didn’t look like they was any danger of a busher beatin’ him out.
[US]D.G. Rowse Doughboy Dope 109: He was a good deal of a pest, and nearly beat out Nero as history’s prize bad actor.
[US]E. De Roo Go, Man, Go! 28: Once a four-cylinder job beat me out.
beat someone’s time (v.)

1. (US) to confuse, to confound.

[US]‘Mark Twain’ Innocents Abroad 616: I swear it beats my time, though.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Innocents at Home 357: ‘If he’s proven guilty.’ ‘Great Neptune, ain’t he guilty? This beats my time.’.
[US]‘Dan de Quille’ Big Bonanza (1947) 278: He broke loose with: ‘Well, now, this beats my time!’.
[US]J. Harrison ‘Negro English’ in Anglia VII 261: Dat jes’ beats my time! = that is too improbable.
T.N. Page Red Rock 224: It clean beats my time [DA].

2. (US black/campus) to cheat or be cheated in a love affair.

[US]J.L. Kuethe ‘Johns Hopkins Jargon’ in AS VII:5 329: to beat one’s time—to ‘cut out’ a rival by a more elaborate display of attention, presents or entertainment.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
beat the pussy (v.)

(US black) to have lesbian intercourse.

Young M.A. ‘Eat’ 🎵 [T]hey call me a dyke, a faggot, a gay bitch / [...] /They just mad cause I beat the pussy like bam bam / Because I’m making these bitches twerk on a handstand.
can you beat it? (also can you beat that?)

(orig. US) a phr. used to express surprise or amazement.

[US]G.H. Miles Mary’s Birthday III iii: There’s poetry for you, George, impromptu. Can you beat it?
Leicester Dly Mercury 28 Aug. 1/5: Look At This! [...] Can You Beat It?
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 67: Can you beat him? Can you tie him?
[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 24: Higashi’s seconds wore tuxedos. Can you beat it?
[US]Comic Section N.-Y. American and Journal 21 Jan. 1: Tige went into Cousin Fanny’s room and shook himself – can you beat that?
F. Elmer Mexican Diary (t/s) 281: In the words of the cartoonist: — Can you beat it!
[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 6: Then the boat plows round and run off and leaves me behind. Kain you beat that, Buddy?
[Aus]L. Lower Here’s Luck 196: ‘Gee! There’s ma back again! Can you beat it!’ He dodged away.
[Ire]‘Flann O’Brien’ At Swim-Two-Birds 168: Can you beat it? asked Shorty.
[Aus]Howard ‘Heat’ in Mann Coast to Coast 129: The silly little bitch accosted a plain-clothes man. Can you beat it? My Christ, I was mad!
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 67: ‘It’s done every day,’ she says, wisecracking; but she was serious all the same. Can you beat it?
[UK]R.T. Hopkins Banker Tells All 140: ‘Can you beat that!’ said the safe-cracker.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 13: The next day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. ‘My God,’ said Poppa. ‘We’re at war.’ ‘Dios mío,’ said Momma. I turned to James. ‘Can you beat that.’.
[UK]P. Barnes Ruling Class I xvi: Can you beat it, J.C.’s got labour pains too.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 48: The one survivor of the Alpha Company holocaust massacre was aboard [...] and still alive (Can you beat that!). 12 Oct. [blog] SADDAM’S OFFERING OIL VOUCHERS, CAN YOU BEAT THAT?
have someone/something beat (v.)

(US) to defeat intellectually, to get the better of, to baffle, to confuse.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Oct. 12/4: The Courtly Language of the Ring. / M’Murphy: ‘I gotcher beat, “Turkey” – I gotcher beat!’ / Turkey: ‘Pooph! Oi’ll put me hook down yer t’roat and pull yez insoide out.’.
[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 124: You kin all git orf ther earth. Twentyman’s got yeh beat.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Uncle Jim’ in Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 96: It’s got me beat. Doreen’s late Par, some way, / Was second cousin to ’is bruvver’s wife.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Boys Out There’ in Digger Smith 🌐 ‘Why do they do it? I dunno,’ / Sez Digger Smith. ‘Yeh got me beat.’.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 150: ‘Well, what the ’ell did you come out for,’ asked Madeley. [...] ‘That’s where th’ast got me beat, lad.’.
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 340: Men always goes rampin’ about a woman that’s got ’em beat in the way of bein’ incomprehensible.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 223: When I get behind a wheel [...] that’s when I got the world beat.
[US]W. Tevis Hustler (1998) 9: I got my fat ass beat. Just beat right off.

In exclamations

beats me! (also beats all! beats my ass! it beats me!)

a general excl. of incomprehension, ‘I just can’t understand it!’.

[US]W.T. Porter Big Bear of Arkansas (1847) 93: What on the Lord’s yearth young people now a days works and laces and befrils nite caps fur I can’t tell – it beets me.
[US](con. c.1840) ‘Mark Twain’ Huckleberry Finn (2001) 254: The lawyer looked powerful astonished, and says: ‘Well, it beats me.’.
[UK]J. Conrad Lord Jim 41: ‘Why? It beats me! Why?’ He slapped his low and wrinkled forehead.
[Aus]J. Furphy Such is Life 141: Beats all!
[UK]Wodehouse Gentleman of Leisure Ch. ix: It beats me [...] What do you want to leg it about the world like that for? What’s the trouble?
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 588: It beats me [...] how a wretched creature like that from the Lock Hospital, reeking with disease, can be barefaced enough to solicit.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson Shearer’s Colt 141: Lady Seawood shook her head. ‘Beats me,’ she said.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 221: It beats the hell outa me.
[US]H. Miller Sexus (1969) 118: It beats me!
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 22: Beats me, I’m on vacation.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 179: ‘How can she make such a buffoon of herself?’ ‘Beats me.’.
[US]T.T. Chamales Never So Few (1958) 121: ‘What have they got to do with it?’ Ringa asked. ‘Beats my ass.’.
[UK]‘Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter at Butlins 214: ‘Beats me,’ said Bob.
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 235: She was shaking her head and her mouth was set in a rueful little pucker. ‘It beats me.’.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 55: ‘What happened to Edwards?’ I asked. ‘Beats me,’ McNamara said.
[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 33: ‘How the hell’d the guy float all the way down to the Thirty-fourth Street heliport?’ Stokovich shrugged. ‘Beats me.’.
[US]C. Hiaasen Lucky You 131: Beats the hell outta me.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 198: It beats me every time.
[Aus]P. Temple Black Tide (2012) [ebook] ‘What’s Gary do?’ ‘Beats me’.
[Aus]S. Maloney Big Ask 130: ‘Any idea how it happened?’ ‘Beats me.’.
[US]E. Weiner Drop Dead, My Lovely (2005) 52: ‘Do you wish to purchase the item?’ ‘Beats me, soldier.’.

SE, meaning to defeat, to surpass, in slang uses

In compounds

beat-ass (adj.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

beat akeybo (v.) [ety. unknown; note Norfolk dial. acabo, akeybo, used in phr. that would puzzle acabo]

to be confusing; thus he beats akeybo, he acts in an extreme manner; akeybo beats the devil, something is extremely confusing.

[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 66: AKEYBO, a slang phrase used in the following manner:— ‘He beats akeybo, and akeybo beats the devil.’.
beat all (v.) (also beat all hell, ...hollow, ...holler, ...nature, rags, sticks)

orig. horseracing use, to surpass in every way; often in phr. don’t that beat all.

[UK]Oxford Jrnl 12 Apr. 1/3: The Odds [...] were three to one on the Gelding, who was beat Hollow.
[UK]Manchester Mercury 8 May 1/1: Mr Jenison Shafto’s filly [...] beat hollow Sir James Lowther’s Bay Colt.
P. Parsons Newmarket II 163: The frequenters of the Turf, and numberless words of theirs are exotics everywhere else; [...] the author poured upon us [...] a torrent of taken-inbeat hollow.
[UK]Salisbury & Winchester Jrnl 2 Dec. 1/2: If [the palace] does not vie with Versailles for richness, it beats it hollow in perfect cleanliness.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: All Hollows. He was beat all Hollow he was beat without having a chance of succeeding. It was all Hollow. It was a decided thing on one side. See Hollow.
[UK]Ipswich Jrnl 25 Aug. 3/2: The batchelors [...] were beat hollow by the married men, at the game of cricket here, on Monday.
[UK] ‘Modern Dict.’ in Sporting Mag. May XVIII 98/2: He was beat all hollow; i.e. he had no chance of conquering.
[UK]C. Dibdin Yngr New Comic Pantomime called The Astrologer 18: This beats all from north to south.
[US]A.N. Royall Letters from Alabama 1 Jan. 121: This beats us all hollow, Matt.
[US]J. Neal Brother Jonathan II 93: Hourra for you—that beats all nater!
[UK]R. Barham ‘The Lay of St. Odille’ Ingoldsby Legends (1889) 148: Many Ladies in Strasburg were beautiful, still / They were beat all to sticks by the lovely Odille.
[US]D. Crockett in Meine Crockett Almanacks (1955) 95: Of all the rivers on this airth, the Mississippi beats all holler.
[UK] ‘Uncle Sam’s Peculiarities’ in Bentley’s Misc. IV 589: That beats all natur!
[US]Wkly Rake (NY) 6 Aug. n.p.: The Whip may be made a tip-top, bang-up, [...] sporting sheet, and beat the Spirit of the Times all to rags.
[US]‘Jonathan Slick’ High Life in N.Y. I 174: Think, sez I, wal, if this don’t beat all natur.
[US]Durivage & Burnham Stray Subjects (1848) 116: The collection – bears, tigers, kangaroos, and porkepines, which beats the Zoological Gardens all holler.
[US]J.R. Lowell Biglow Papers (1880) 17: The sort o’ trash a feller gits to eat doos beat all nater. / I’d give a year’s pay for a smell o’ one good blue-nose tater.
[US]W.C. Hall ‘Mike Hooter’s Bar Story’ in Spirit of the Times 26 Jan. (N.Y.) 581: They ain’t no whar, for the big black customer what circumlocates down in our neck o’ woods beats ’em all hollow.
[UK]G. Borrow Lavengro III 217: Well, if that doesn’t beat all!
[US]T. Haliburton Sam Slick’s Wise Saws I 36: Well, that beats all natur.
[US]T. Haliburton Nature and Human Nature II 64: I’ll be dod fetched if I meant any harm, but you beat me all holler.
[US]T. Haliburton Season Ticket 220: Don’t the British beat all natur in their way?
[UK]W.E.A. Axon Billy O’ Bent’s Berryin’ 7: They’st have somat at’ll beat tobacco hollow.
[US]H.B. Stowe Poganuc People 20: Wal, now, this beats all!
[UK]Staffs. Sentinel 29 June 2/5: A sensation drama was enacted [...] which beats hollow Dion Boucicault and the flying trapeze.
[US]C.F. Lummis letter 25 Dec. in Byrkit Letters from the Southwest (1989) 192: That’ll beat sow-belly and murphies [...] all hollow.
[US]H. Frederic Seth’s Brother’s Wife 296: By Cracky! [...] don’t it beat natur’!
[US]S. Crane Red Badge of Courage (1964) 74: I got skeared when they was all a-shootin’ b’hind me an’ I run t’ beat all.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Joseph’s Dreams & Reuben’s Brethren’ in Roderick (1967–9) II 114: A greenhorn raised on asses’ milk! / Well, this beats all I know!
[US]M. Glass Potash And Perlmutter 135: It beats all, the queer ideas some people has.
[US]Dly Capital Jrnl (Salem, OR) 19 Aug. 4/2: He finds collecting silver junk beats blowing it, all hollow.
[US]H. Wiley Wildcat 62: Cinnamon, you sure does beat all!
[US]N. Anderson Hobo 33: He was cursing the bugs and saying that he knew an engine room that had this ‘place beat all hollow’.
[US]W. Smith Bessie Cotter 136: Don’t it beat all hell.
[UK]E. Garnett Family from One End Street 29: You beat all, you do, you and your ideas.
[UK]H. Brown Walk in Sun 73: He can draw covers to beat all hell.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 21: ‘Damn, Johnny,’ he said with his head wagging from side to side, ‘you sure beat all.’.
[US]H. Simmons Man Walking On Eggshells 62: Now if that don’t beat all.
[US](con. 1949) J. Hurling Boomers 60: Beats all hail, she’s jest as horny when she’s in the family way as when she’s not.
beat bobtail (v.) [? euph. for beat the devil, but also ? link to the ‘bob-tailed nag’ of Stephen Foster’s song ‘Camptown Races’ (1850)]

(US) to surpass in every way.

[UK]Lancaster Gaz. (OH) 13 Oct. 1/7: Cass only enacted the Michigan law, while Harrison signed and approved the Indiana law! This beats bobtail.
Herald & Mail (Columbia, TN) 13 Apr. 1/6: Well, well, well! [...] uv all and uv all — this beats bobtail!
[US]Lafayette Advertiser (LA) 23 Nov. 4/2: If they effect that ‘sordid lucre’ reform they will beat ‘Bobtail’, and ’Bobtail’ you know beat the D—l.
[US]Lafayette Advertiser (LA) 20 Oct. 3/2: You git colty and dance and prance and frisk around to beat Bobtail.
F.B. Lloyd Sketches of Country Life 47: Blev Scroggins was mixin’ around among the various delegates [...] to beat bobtail [DARE].
[US]Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 29 Apr. 11/3: Well, ef dat don’ beat bobtal!
Salt Lake Herald-Repub. (UT) 22 May 36/2: ‘Wages for wives,’ says Ike wid a sigh, ‘ef dat don’t beat Bobtail’.
[US]Hench Collection n.p.: A fellow-teacher and friend, raised in eastern North Carolina, told me of the proverb That beats bobtail meaning that beats the devil. Sometimes the proverb has a longer form: That beats bobtail and everybody knows what bobtail beats. [Ibid.] A native Virginian (raised in Norfolk) was speaking of something that surprised him a great deal, something that he could not comprehend. Summing up his impression, he said, ‘Doesn’t it beat bobtail for him to do that!’ [DARE].
beat into fits (v.) (also beat all to fits, ...out of fits)

to defeat or surpass completely.

[UK]Bell’s Life in London 26 Apr. 2/3: The latter should give him the Rook, and beat him into fits, and out again.
[UK]York Herald 7 June 8/3: He [i.e a racehorse] was tried with Salopian [...] and beat him into fits.
[UK]F.E. Smedley Frank Fairlegh (1878) 131: As to reading his book, he’d beat the parson himself into fits at it.
[Scot]Falkirk Herald 28 Jan. 3/3: Glasgow, to use an emphatic [...] phrase, ‘beat us all to fits’.
[UK]S. London Chron. 22 Sept. 3/2: By means of these conjuring tricks, which beat ‘all to fits’ [...] we have made science [...] speak a language that would have utterly flabbergasted Archimedes.
[UK]Leeds Times 23 Feb. 6/3: Give me Bill Balls and apair of rummy ’osses, and he’ll beat ’em all into fits! Take my word, marm, a ’bus driver is a man as ought to be looked up to.
[UK] ‘’Arry on His ’Oliday’ Punch 13 Oct. 160/2: The cut of these bags, Sir, beats Poole out of fits.
[UK]Sporting Times 22 Mar. 3/2: THEN BOBBY shook up Austerlitz / And beat each other’s ’orse to fits .
[UK]Isle of Man Times 19 June 4/4: We have travelled on the railways in those districts [...] and know [...] that the Manx lines ‘geat them all to fits’ for comfort, speed and general management.
[Scot]Edinburgh Eve. News 3 Aug. 4/1: Well, if our Major don’t beat him all to fits in dress.
[UK]Eve. Dispatch (W. Midlands, UK) 7 Dec. 3/3: ‘How do you like the women cooks?’ he asked the men. ‘Sure, sir [...] they beat the men into fits’.
[UK]E.F. Benson Mapp and Lucia (1984) 233: This was a record that beat Risholme all to fits.
beat (the) old Nick (v.)

of an individual, to be remarkable / outstanding in one’s behaviour.

[US]A.B. Lindsley Yankee Notions 56: He, he, he! a rotten good ’un, by gum! darned ’f it don’t beet the old Nick and all nater!
[US]Gallipolis Jrnl (OH) 1 June 3/4: For the culture of strawberries and grapes we believe Mr R beats ‘old Nick’ himself.
[US]Stark Co. Democrat (Canton, OH) 19 Jan. 2/3: The lying impudecannce of the radical sheets beats old Nick all the pieces.
[US]Northern Tribune (Cherboygan, MI) 1 Dec. 12/1: Biddle beats the very Old Nick for sly.
[US]Perrysburg Jrnl (OH) 26 Dec. 4/1: It does beat the old Nick that Perrysburg can’t have anything without B.G. trying to get in on it.
[US]S.F. Call 21 Dec. 11/4: ‘Them doctors do beat the old Nick himself,’ she finally remarked.
[US]Arizona Republican (Phoenix, AZ) 12 June 21/3: First Yeggman— The ‘dicks’ can certainly beat old Nick himself.
beat someone to the punch (v.) [boxing imagery] (orig. US black)

1. to arrive at a destination sooner than another person.

[US]G.V. Higgins Patriot Game (1985) 64: I really don’t think he knew who beat him to the punch and saved him the trouble.

2. to appreciate or understand something faster than another person.

[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].
beat the bugs (v.)

to surpass any contender.

[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker II 62: It beats the bugs, don’t it?
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 158: Well, if this don’t beat the bugs, he’d say!
[US]T. Haliburton Season Ticket 41: It fairly beats the bugs.
E.S. Ellis Check No. 2134 261: ‘That beats the bugs!’ exclaimed the operator [DA].
J. Russell in Sketch 20 Mar. 150/1: ‘Jeez, Homer,’ one imagines Mr Lazarus saying, ‘if that doesn’t beat the bugs!’.
beat the cars (v.) [SE street cars]

(US) to surpass in every way.

[US]W.C. Gore Student Sl. in Cohen (1997) 12: beat the cars To excel.
[US]Ellensburg Dawn (WA) 5 Apr. 3/5: They make a horse trot, a hen cackle and a rooster crow to beat the cars.
[US]St John’s Herald (AZ) 8 Apr. 2/1: Up at the mountains it was snowing to beat the cars.
beat the Dutch (v.)

see separate entry.

beat the gun (v.) [sporting imagery]

(Aus.) for an engaged woman to have sex with her fiancé and to get pregnant thereby.

[NZ]B. Mason Awatea (1978) 43: That’s against the law too! No beating the gun till after the draw.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 61/2: since late 1940s.
beat the Jews (v.) [the stereotype of Jewish ambition/deviousness]

(US) lit. or fig., to surpass any contender.

New Mirror (NY) 17 Feb. 318/2: You’ll be well pleased to hear the news / That Kibbe has got new boots and shoes; / They're sold so cheap that it beats the Jews.
Lewistown Gaz. (PA) 8 Oct. 3/6: We’ve Clothing, Vestings, Boots and Shoes, / Which we sell so low ‘it beats the Jews’.
[Ire]Commercial Jrnl (Dublin) 13 Sept. 3/3: ‘I can no more call him to mind than you can.’ ‘Well — that beats the Jews’.
[US]St Cloud Democrat (MN) 16 Nov. 3/2: He says it ‘beats the Jews’ how St Cloud does grow.
[US]Jeffersonian (Stroudsburg, PA) 30 Oct, 1/5: ‘That beats the Jews’ is a very common expression, but we do not know its origin.
[US]Forest Republican (Tionesta, PA) 20 Oct. 3/3: The way they sell the boots and shoes / I do declare it beats the Jews.
Maryville Times (TN) 12 May 5/2: ‘Belle of Swannanoa’ beats the Jews for a smoke at Toole’s made by Cone, Shields & Co.
[US]Caucasian (Clinton, NC) 19 Apr. 4/5: [picture caption] Well, for consummate impudence he beats the Jews.
[US]Bee (Earlington, KY) 25 July 4/1: A Rabbi [...] claims the mails can be carried across the Atlantic in two days. This beats the Jews.
[US]Dly Capital Jrnl (Salem, OR) 15 Sept. 3/6: The clover windrower [...] I purchased from you is simply out of sight [...] and for short barley it simply beats the Jews.
[US]Holt Co. Sentinel (Oregon, MO) 25 June 3/2: The busy farmer frets [...] and says that it just beats the Jews how rains are fallng every day so he can’t cut his clover hay.
[US]J. Conroy World to Win 184: Don’t it beat the Jews how I happened t’ run across that?
[US]P.G. Brewster ‘Folk “Sayings” From Indiana’ in AS XIV:4 267: If it is startling news, it ‘beats the Jews’ or ‘beats the Dutch’.
beat the jump (v.)

(US und.) to be found not guilty.

[US]D. Hammett Dain Curse 284: ‘You’ve taken enough of a licking. And, legally, you’re entitled to beat the jump if ever anybody was’.
beat the little dish (v.) (also beat the wee wheel)

(Irish) to surpass everything.

[UK]P. O’Donnell Islanders 26: ‘Well, glory be to God,’ the mother exclaimed, ‘if that doesn’t beat the wee wheel.’.
[Ire]P. Kavanagh Tarry Flynn 231: ‘Jabus, that’s a dread,’ said Eusebius, ‘that bates the little dish as the fellow said.’.
beat the priest (v.) [negative image of clerical hypocrisy]

(W.I., Gren.) to commit a major crime and act brazenly in acknowledging it without any form of shame or sorrow.

[WI]Allsopp Dict. Carib. Eng. Usage.
beat the starter (v.) (also cheat the starter) [sporting imagery]

to have a child out of wedlock; to become pregnant before the wedding.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 62/1: since late 1940s.
beat to snuff (v.) [SE snuff, powdered tobacco; thus lit. ‘to reduce to powder’]

to defeat comprehensively.

[UK]Blackwood’s Mag. V. 638: All other Colleges, thou beat’st to snuff / Great Alma Mater of our kings of yore.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 1107/1: ob. by 1930.
beat to the gun (v.) (also beat to the wheel) [the starting gun at races]

(US) to start first.

[US]A.J. Barr Let Tomorrow Come 41: He tries to unlimber his rod, but I beat ’im to the wheel.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 534: Studs is beating you to the gun.
couldn’t beat a carpet

(Aus.) a phr. used to indicate weakness.

[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 21 Aug. 1/7: Poor old Bob. He couldn't ‘beat a carpet’ now, let alone Tommy Burns.
[Aus]News (Hobart, Tas.) 17 Apr. 3/6: Gilham called him a squib, and told him he couldn’t beat a carpet.
[Aus]L. Lower Here’s Luck 🌐 When Mustard Plaster won the Carrington Stakes, in 1902, and I had my metaphorical shirt on Onkus, a retired cart-horse that couldn’t beat a carpet.
[Aus]Sporting Globe (Melbourne) 20 May 4/3: ‘You’re like all mugs; couldn’t beat a carpet yourself and cry “stinking fish” on others’.
[Aus]W. Wyalong Advocate (NSW) 13 May 2/8: On 1954's showing to date, the Magpies couldn’t beat a carpet.
R. Treborlang ‘Aussie Insults for Bad Sports’ at 🌐 Competitors: You couldn’t beat a carpet!
R. Persson ‘Arsenal Chat Room’ on 🌐 We couldn’t beat a carpet at Wembley if our lives depended on it.
that beats cockfighting (also this beats cockfighting, that beats thunder, ...a hen a-scratchin’, …a-lopin’)

that is really amazing, that’s beyond the bounds of possibility.

[[UK]J. Gauden Tears, Sighs, etc. of the Church of England Bk II 228: Ministers’ scufflings and contests with one another, is beyond any Cock fighting or Bear-baiting to the vulgar envy, malice, profaneness, and petulancy].
[US]N.-Y. Eve. Post 18 Jan. n.p.: This, if I must speak plain, beats cock-fighting.
[UK]‘Bill Truck’ Man o’ War’s Man (1843) 8: D—n me, that beats cock-fighting!
[US]N.-Y. Enquirer 15 Apr. 2/4: 7th and last round. — This beat Cockfighting, for on coming to the scratch it was seen that the Pink had got his other peeper closed; he then stood no chance; and after a severe blow in the bread-basket, gave in.
[UK]Dickens Pickwick Papers (1999) 524: Vel [...] if this don’t beat cock-fightin’, nothin’ never vill.
[US]Durivage & Burnham Stray Subjects (1848) 62: Wai, that beats thunder all teu smash!
[UK]Paul Pry 19 Mar. 1/3: ‘Well, I’m d—d! [...] this beats cock- fighting! You are a downey old dodger’.
[UK]Times 17 Sept. 11/6: ‘Why, this beats cock-fighting!’ exclaimed Field, on seeing proof that Provis was really a great rogue, and, therefore, all the less likely to be the gentleman he said he was; and, satisfied that the game was all up with ‘Sir Richard,’ Mr. Field added, ‘Well, now I’ll go to dinner’.
[Golden Age (Queenbeyan, NSW) 28 Aug. 3/3: ‘It was rich; by George, it was rich! and if not equal to a cock-fight, was very much better than a show’].
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 106/1: Well, thunner my b—y eyes out’n mi ’ead iv this ’ere duzzin’ beet cockfyghtin’.
[UK]‘Old Calabar’ Won in a Canter I 137: ‘But her wedding [...] It beat cock-fighting. [...] The fellow came to church half-screwed; his best man quite so. The amiable bride was as white as a sheet’.
[UK]W.C. Russell Jack’s Courtship I 135: Well, roast me! [...] if this dont beat cockfighting.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Aug. 6/3: ‘Wal,’ said the astonished American, ‘this beats thunder; I never heard of such a thing in my life before – education, salvation, and damnation all run by the one man.’.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 16 Nov. 7/4: ‘Have you noticed,’' asks a friend, ‘how lame horses run in the Melbourne Cup? It licks cock-fighting’.
[Aus]H. Nisbet Bushranger’s Sweetheart 53: We were suddenly transported into a scene from the Arabian Nights. ‘By gosh this beats cock-fighting!’ said Jim.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Sept. 35/1: One at a time’s good fishin’. Come along me beauties; two blanky Chinamen (fives). ’Struth, but that beats cock-fightin’.
[Aus]E.S. Sorenson Quinton’s Rouseabout and other Stories 121: Missus – well, that beats cock-fighting!
[Aus]R.D. Doughty diary 7 Sept. 🌐 This place beats cock fighting. It’s right in no man’s land between ours and the Huns first lines, and infested with rats.
[US] in J.F. Dobie Rainbow in Morning (1965) 84: That beats a hen a-scratchin’. Don’t that just beat a hen a-lopin’.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Final Count 826: This beats cock-fighting. Wouldn’t have missed it for a thousand.
that beats the devil (also beats the old Nick)

(US) that is really amazing, that’s beyond the bounds of possibility.

[US]G.W. Peck Peck’s Bad Boy and His Pa (1887) 39: ‘Well, that beats the devil,’ said the grocery man.
[US]Kansas Agitator (Garnett, KS) 24 Mar. 4/3: It beats the devil we are not able to get a secretary of the treasury that can get it into his head that [etc.].
[US]Commoner (Lincoln, NE) 1 July 2/2: Pat took his old friend Mike into a magnificent cathedral [...] Mike said, ‘Pat, this beats the devil’ [etc.].
[US]Goodwin’s Wkly (Salt Lake City, UT) 18 Dec. 19/1: Beats the devil how everything broke loose tonight all in a bunch!
to beat four of a kind (adv.) [poker imagery]

(US campus) to a very great extent.

[US]W.C. Gore Student Sl. in Cohen (1997) 12: beat four of a kind […] Actively, intensely, to a high degree. ‘I was studying to beat four of a kind.’.

SE, meaning to hit, in slang uses

In compounds

beat-down (n.)

see separate entry.

beat-off (n.)

see separate entry.


see separate entries.

In phrases

beat about the bush (v.) (also beat around the bush, beat the bush, bush-beat, go about the bush) [hunting imagery]

1. to avoid a topic, to fail deliberately to come to the point.

[UK]G. Puttenham Art of Eng. Poesie III xviii 161: Then have ye the figure Periphrasis, as when we go about the bush, and will not in one or a few words expresse that thing which we desire to have knowen, but do choose rather to do it by many words.
[UK]Greene Blacke Bookes Messenger 3: The fetching in a Conny, beating the bush.
[UK]Middleton Trick to Catch the Old One I iii: I had beaten the bush to the last bird.
[UK]J. Cook Greenes Tu Quoque Scene x: You doe not take the course to winne my sister, But indirectly goe about the bush.
[UK]Behn Rover III i: Will. But hearkey, Friend of mine, are you my Rival? and have I been only beating the Bush all this while?
[UK]Vanbrugh Confederacy III ii: You must know I went round the Bush, and round the Bush, before I came to the matter.
[UK] ‘Toasts & Sentiments’ Gentleman’s Spicey Songster 48: May volunteers all be able to enter the privates without beating about the bush.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Ask Mamma 19: He would beat about the bush a little longer. It was very pleasant sport.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor IV 269/2: After a little manoeuvring and bush-beating, she asked me if I would not like to go over to France.
[UK]John Read ‘Take it Easy John’ 🎵 Should you ever love a pretty girl and want that girl to kiss / Don’t beat about the bush my boy, but plainly tell her this.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 July 12/1: An Australian indulges in no such foolishness. If he meets an old friend, his greeting is either ‘Give it a name!’ or ‘Do you hold it?’ according to circumstances. There is no preliminary beating about the bush with him.
[UK]E.W. Hornung Amateur Cracksman (1992) 3: But it’s no good beating about the bush.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ John Henry 32: They have to beat around the bush and chase their friends to the swamps by throwing things like ‘svelte’ at them.
[UK]Marvel III:55 4: But no beating about the bush. What happened last night?
[UK]Marvel 15 Oct. 24: It is a lot quicker not to beat about de bush wid me.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Bulldog Drummond 42: He had never been a man who beat about the bush.
[UK]H. Ashton Doctor Serocold (1936) 106: So that’s why she’s been beating about the bush all this time.
[US]P.G. Brewster ‘Folk “Sayings” from Indiana’ in AS XIV:4 266: In this group we have [...] to ‘beat around the bush’.
[UK]‘Henry Green’ Loving (1978) 83: When told of the journey which had been put forward Miss Swift did not beat about the bush.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 239: Quit beatin’ around the bushes.
[Aus]Cusack & James Come in Spinner (1960) 222: Deb, if you want me to help you, it’s not good beating about the bush.
[UK]C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners 41: A great deal of a lot of beating around the bush.
[US]G.L. Coon Meanwhile, Back at the Front (1962) 212: Moon was in no mood for bush-beating.
[UK]G. Lambert Inside Daisy Clover (1966) 210: Don’t beat about the bush. I want the truth.
[UK]D. Nobbs Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976) 54: No beating about the bush. Bit of a cock-up on the catering front.
[US]L. Kramer Faggots 232: Nancellen, as her many conquests could tell you, was not one to beat around the bush.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Cash & Curry’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Well without beating about the bush, you know, I mean – well – you know to cut a long story short.
[UK]N. Cohn Yes We Have No 337: No point in beating about the bush.
[UK]Guardian 14 Jan. 21: You ’as grabbed ’old of da wrong end of da stick an’ beginnin’ to beat around the bush with it, innit?
[NZ] McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[UK]‘Bill Truck’ Man o’ War’s Man (1843) 53: What a shuffling, beat-the-bush knave you are.
beat a dje (v.) [Fr. guerre, war]

(W.I., Gren.) to be in the mood for a physical fight or verbal confrontation, esp. one that will last for several days.

[WI]Allsopp Dict. Carib. Eng. Usage.
beat down (v.)

see separate entry.

beat-’em-up (n.)

see separate entry.

beat feet (it) (v.) (also beat the feet)

1. (US campus) to leave, to depart quickly.

[US]Life 15 May 65: To ‘beat feet’ means time to leave.
[US]W. Brown Teen-Age Mafia 24: Dum Dum had the idea that they’d all like to deuce out, beat feet right out of there.
[US]Reno (LV) Eve. Gazette 20 Mar. 31/6: ‘A common expression for when it’s time to leave a blast (party) for home,’ she wrote, ‘is “Let’s beat feet and skin the path to the pad before the warden flips.”.’.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS 78: Beat feet leave a place.
[US]M. Casey ‘The Surgical Hospital’ Obscenities 42: This dink just / Got hit by a truck [...] That beat feet after hitting him.
[US]P. Conroy Great Santini (1977) 233: Beat feet it up here, scumbag. You. Yes. You, scumbag. You beat feet it up here before I tear your fucking legs from your putrid body.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 244: beat the feet (v) Run away, escape.
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 64: Well, shit, fella, you might as well keep fuckin’ beatin’ feet, as they say.
[Aus]Hackworth & Sherman About Face (1991) 28: We beat feet back to the safety of our rice-paddy wall.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July 🌐 Beat Your Feet: Order by an officer for a prisoner to move out of an area. (TX).
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Hollywood Fuck Pad’ in Destination: Morgue! (2004) 228: The killer shoots the vic. The killer beats feet.
[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 15/1: beat the feet to escape, to run away.
C.E. Long ‘Two Sides of the Same Coin’ in ThugLit Aug. [ebook] ‘Gate three, and you’d best beat feet’.
[US]J. Ellroy Widespread Panic 16: A punk I popped for flimflam made me and beat feet.

2. (US campus) to hurry.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Nov. 1: beat the feet – hurry up! Let’s beat the feet or we’ll never get a good seat.
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 41: Examples of rhyme from college slang are [...] beat the feet ‘hurry up’.
[NZ] McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl.
beat goose (v.) [the movement supposedly resembles a goose in flight]

to strike one’s hands under the armpits to warm them.

[UK]Times 15 Mar. 9/6: The common labourers at outdoor work were ‘beating goose’ to drive the blood from their fingers.
beat in (v.)

(US gang) to subject to a beating as part of gang initiation.

[US](con. 1990s) in J. Miller One of the Guys 69: ‘These are my six friends right here so we’re all gonna fight and beat each other in and now we’re Crips’.
[US]D. Winslow Border [ebook] ‘But first you got to get beat in [...] Don’t look so scared, hermanito, we whale on you for eighteen seconds’.
beat it on the hoof (v.) [SE beat it, i.e. the ground + hoof n. (1)]

to walk on foot.

[UK]Jonson Masque of the Gipsies in Q. Horatius Flaccus (1640) 48: Therefore (till with his painfull Progenitors, he be able to beate it on the hoofe to the bene bouse, or the stauling Ken, to nip a ian, or clye the Iarke) ’tis thought fit he marche in the Infants Equipage.
A. Wood Athenæ Oxonienses (1817) 1068: They all beated it on the hoof to London .
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Beat it on the Hoof, to walk on Foot.
[UK]Warburton Doctrine of Grace xii in Works (1811) VIII 399: The good man was...forced to beat it on the hoof as far as Hernhuth in Germany .
[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 15/1: beat the hoof to escape, to run away. [a variant of ‘beat it on the hoof’ = to walk on foot].
beat off (v.)

see separate entry.

beat one’s gums (v.)

see separate entries.

beat one’s hog (v.)

see under hog n.

beat one’s meat (v.)

see under meat n.

beat the hoof (v.)

see under hoof n.

beat the hound out of (v.) [SE hound, cussedness, stubbornness]

(US) to thrash severely.

[US]W. Guthrie Bound for Glory (1969) 178: They quit jumping on me for two reasons: I’d beat the hound out of them, and the others wanted to ride on that motorcycle.
Collier’s Mag. 72: It just beat the hound out of me what they did for money. I wished I knew.
[US] in DARE.
R.B. Browne Night with Hants 24: If you just quit, pulled out, and they found you any time later, well, they’d just take you out and beat the hound out of you.
Old-Time Herald 3:8 29: I went out thar behind the house, got the longest pole I had and come back around there, he thought I was going to beat the hound out of him". (TX) 🌐 We beat the hound out of Liberty-Eylau in district play. We had some things happen to us later on in district that really took the rhythm away from us. We then got beat by a good Commerce team.
North Carolina State University 🌐 They are good biscuits along the lines of what Biscuitville makes. They beat the hound out of any canned biscuit.
beat the (living) daylights out of (v.)

see under daylights n.

beat the piss out of (v.)

see under piss n.

beat the rocks (v.) [esp. used in the context of walking the streets in search of employment]

(US black) to walk the streets.

[US] ‘Jiver’s Bible’ in D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.
[US] (ref. to 1940s) I.L. Allen City in Sl. (1995) 40: A variant in 1940s black speech was to beat the rocks, ‘to walk on the sidewalk’.
beat the rounds (v.)

for upper-class rowdies to rampage through the town, breaking, bullying and beating as they go.

[UK]Midnight Spy (c.1929) 76: What the bloods call, beating the rounds [...] overturning punchbowls, breaking pier-glasses, knocking down superannuated watchmen, kicking waiters, and many other heroic actions.
beat the sheets (v.) (also press blankets, press the sheets)

to sleep deeply.

[US]‘Bill O. Lading’ You Chirped a Chinful!! n.p.: Pressing Blankets: Sleep.
I Love Lucy [CBS-TV] I can see I ain’t the only one that’s been a-beatin’ the sheets [HDAS].
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall 5: press the sheets – to sleep.
beat the shit out of (v.)

see separate entry.

beat the tracks (v.) [beat it v. (1) + SE tracks]

(Aus.) to walk a long way, usu. over rough country.

[Aus]A. Russell Tramp-Royal 18: ‘And you think the best way to do . . .?’ ‘To beat the tracks,’ I interposed, laughingly.
beat up (v.)

see separate entry.