Green’s Dictionary of Slang

stiff n.1

1. [late 18C+] a corpse; also used fig.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

3. [late 19C+] an erection; thus [1970s+] (US black) sport a stiff, to have an erection.

4. pertaining to any form of document.

(a) [early 19C–1930s] (also cross-stiff) paper, a document, esp. a promissory note or bill of exchange, a clandestine letter.

(b) [mid-19C–1900s] (US Und.) a newspaper.

(c) [mid-19C–1930s] a currency note or cheque, whether genuine or forged.

(d) [mid-19C+] (Aus./N.Z./US/UK Und.) a note, usu. between prisoners or passed illicitly into a prison by a relation etc.

(e) [mid-19C] (US) a ballot paper.

(f) a begging letter.

(g) [late 19C–1960s] a letter.

(h) [late 19C–1910s] a hawker’s licence, or similar licence.

(i) [late 19C–1930s] money in general.

(j) [late 19C–1940s] (US Und.) a piece of counterfeit money.

(k) [late 19C] a poster.

(l) [20C+] (Aus./N.Z.) a summons from the police.

(m) (Aus.) a free pass.

(n) [1910s] the identification of a person targeted to be murdered, a murder contract.

(o) [1910s] (US Und.) a prescription.

5. in fig./ext. uses of sense 1.

(a) [late 19C+] (US) a penniless man, a wastrel, a tramp, a migratory or unskilled worker.

(b) [late 19C+] a disagreeable, or contemptible person; also used joc./affectionately.

(c) [late 19C+] (US) a mean, grasping person.

(d) [late 19C+] an average person, often with a description, e.g. working stiff n.

(e) [20C+] (US Und.) a funeral.

(f) [20C+] a drunkard.

(g) [late 19C+] (horseracing) a useless, losing horse [abbr. stiff ’un n.].

(h) [20C+] (US) any failure, a flop; in sport, a second-rater.

(i) [1900s–40s] (US tramp) a tramp that has a job or occupation.

6. see stiff ’un n. (4)

In compounds

stiff dealer (n.)

[early 19C] a dealer in promissory notes.

stiff dodger (n.)

[late 19C] one who borrows against fraudulent promissory notes.

stiff-fencer (n.) [-fencer sfx]

[mid-19C] a street-seller of writing paper.

stiff pitcher (n.)

[1920s] a professional letter writer.

stiff wagon (n.)

[1910s] (US Und.) a hearse.

In phrases

big stiff (n.)

1. [late 19C+] (orig. US) a general term of abuse, a fool.

2. as a direct term of address, you big stiff!

bit of stiff (n.)

1. [late 19C] an erection, in the context of sexual intercourse; usu. as give a bit of snug for a bit of stiff v., to have sexual intercourse (cf. bit of snug under snug n.).

2. [mid-19C–1900s] money as notes or bills of exchange; thus do a bit of stiff v., to accept a post-dated cheque or promissory note.

board stiff (n.)

[1900s–40s] (US) a ‘sandwich man’.

cattle stiff (n.)

[1910s–20s] (US tramp) a cowboy.

cross-stiff (n.)

see sense 4a above.

governor’s stiff (n.)

[late 19C] (US) a pardon.

line stiff (n.)

[1930s] (US tramp) a tramp who spends all day in different bread lines.

pencil stiff (n.)

[1960s] (US) a clerk.

proper stiff (n.) [proper adj. (2)]

[1910s–20s] (US tramp) a tramp who refuses to perform manual labour.

pub stiff (n.)

[1940s] (N.Z.) a lookout or sentinel acting on behalf of a licensee selling alcoholic drinks after the legal closing time.

ring stiff (n.)

[1920s] (US tramp) an intinerant seller of worthless jewellery at fraudulently inflated prices.