Green’s Dictionary of Slang

stiff n.1

1. a corpse; also used fig.

[Ire] ‘De Kilmainham Minit’ Luke Caffrey’s Gost 7: Wid de Stiff to the Sebeen we hied. / But Det [Death] had shut fast ev’ry Grinder.
I. Hoole Scenes at Brighton III 76: Declaring that when once the old gentleman was a bit of stiff, nothing should ever tempt him to sojourn in the place again.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Jorrocks Jaunts (1874) 47: His horse, which they swore had been carrying ‘stiff-uns’* all night *[note] Doing a bit of resurrection work.
[US]J. Hay ‘Mystery of Gilgal’ Pike County Ballads 25: They piled the stiffs outside the door; They made, I reckon, a cord or more.
[US]G.G. Hart E.C.B. Susan Jane 13: He’s rescued many a drowning man [...] Come, Nan, be quick, or he’s a stiff.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 3 Jan. 10/1: [headline] STEALING ‘STIFFS’ / How the Dissecting Rooms of Our Medical College are Supplied with Material [...] / THE MIDNIGHT GHOULS.
[UK]‘The Jargon of Thieves’ in Derry Jrnl 8 Sept. 6/5: A corpse is a ‘stiff’.
[UK]Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday 8 May 7/2: [title] He scored his stiffs on the heft of his knife.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Mar. 12/1: A warning came – the last – / A hollow hiccup from a hearse / That gaily rattled past, / ‘Alas,’ it said – the words were borne / On a mephitic whiff – / ‘I was an Evenooze bard once, / And now I am a stiff!’.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 9 Jan. 6/3: [headline] How a Post-Mortem Is made. The Artistic Way in which a Stiff is Carved Up for Scientific Purposes.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 77: I’d jump in, grow some side-whiskers and put up as tall a con game as that old stiff.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 254: At the feet of the ‘stiff’ was placed a basket, into which the visitors dropped nickels and pennies towards the funeral expenses.
[Can]R. Service ‘The Ballad of Blasphemous Bill’ in Ballads of a Cheechako 45: As I sat there gazing at that stiff and studying what to do.
[US]H. Hapgood Types from City Streets 322: If you want some guy in Chicago made a stiff of, just let me know.
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 12 Apr. 12/3: They Say [...] That Bangy, the stiff, had to visit the three balls again.
[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 192: Armistice did take place, lasting till 4.30 p.m., for the purpose of burying the dead or ‘planting stiffs,’ to give the occupation its local name.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 98: First the stiff: then the friends of the stiff. Corny Kelleher and the boy followed with their wreaths.
[US]B. Hecht A Thousand and One Afternoons [ebook] ‘[T]hey was having trouble at the morgue owing to the stiffs vanishing and being mutilated’.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Trouble Is My Business’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 196: There was a stiff in front of your gates half an hour ago. Stiff meaning dead man.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 18: Thirty stiffs in a whitewashed basement room, heavy with disinfectant in place of flowers.
[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/4: Among American borrowings recorded in Detective Doyle's list are: [...] ‘stiff,’ a corpse; ‘spring,’ to bail out; ‘snow,’ cocaine; ‘sticks,’ country districts.
[US]C. Himes Imabelle 122: He say he done found a stiff and don’t know where it come from.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch 55: Get this stiff outa here.
[US]C. Himes Rage in Harlem (1969) 124: He say he done found a stiff and don’t know where it came from.
[US]D. Goines Inner City Hoodlum 111: You know what to do with the stiffs.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 22: Who’s the stiff?
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 280: The examining pathologist based his identification of Cathcart’s body on [...] the ‘D.C.’ monogrammed sports jacket the stiff was wearing.
[US]T. Dorsey Hurricane Punch 112: ‘Ever seen a dead body?’ [...] Three years on the beat and not a single stiff.
[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 141: Any ID on the stiff as yet?
[US](con. 1991-94) W. Boyle City of Margins 34: ‘Where’d you get it? [i.e. a cigarette case]’ ‘Picked the pocket of some stiff’.
[Aus]C. Hammer Opal Country 243: ‘Your stiff is on ice’.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]A.N. Depew Gunner Depew 83: The dead lay in the trenches all day, and at night they were carried out by working parties to ‘Stiff Park,’ as I called it.

3. (also stiff-on, an erection; thus (US black) sport a stiff, to have an erection.

[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) IV 777: He told me he thought she knew the feeling of six inches of stiff up her.
[US]D. St John Memoirs of Madge Buford 101: ‘See — I’ve got a good stiff-on.’ And I saw his magnificent prick erect against his belly.
[US] ‘Adventures of a Fuller Brush Man: “The Amorous Mrs. Twirp”’ [comic strip] in B. Adelman Tijuana Bibles (1997) 47: The hottest piece of nookie that ever buried a stiff.
[US] ‘Joe E. Brown No. 8’ [comic strip] in B. Adelman Tijuana Bibles (1997) 106: The old fart couldn’t get a stiff up so he has to finger ’em.
[US]C. Himes ‘Friends’ Coll. Stories (1990) 270: Rat! Crawlin’ ’round here with his clothes off tryna find a stiff to gobble.
[UK]E. Bond Saved Scene vi: Yours must be the only stiff outside the churchyard she ain’ knocked off.
[US]Maledicta IX 179: Gay necrophiles [...] used [...] stiff for both ‘corpse’ and ‘tumescence’.
[UK]D. Jarman diary 13 July Smiling in Slow Motion (2000) 171: What is the difference between a coffin and a condom? They both have stiffs in them one coming and one going.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 82: She stood there with one foot up on a grave and lifted her short skirt [...] There were a few extra stiffs in the graveyard that night.

4. pertaining to any form of document.

(a) (also cross-stiff) paper, a document, esp. a promissory note or bill of exchange, a clandestine letter.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 166: Stiff — promissory notes and bills of exchange receive this familiar appellation.
[UK]Reading Mercury 6 Apr. 4/5: Not over nice to taking a bit of stiff, if the barring is right as a trivet.
[UK]London Mag. I 271: Customer: You can do a bit of stiff— eh, old fellow? Fitzen. Faith, sir, business getting worse and worse — plenty of promises, and little pay!
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 1 Dec. 3/3: John Harrison never gavo him [...] any written instructions; [...] the bit of stiff (not meaning a dead body) was not in his [...] hand-writing; [...] he, not being a resurrectionist, never stole the bit of stiff, or disposed of it for £20.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Mr Sponge’s Sporting Tour 54: I’d rather take his ‘stiff’ than his cheque.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 102: stiff paper, a bill of acceptance.
[UK]Sportsman 10 Jan. 2/1: Notes on News [...] Shylock [...] that model for subsequent ‘stiffmongers’.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK]Leicester Chron. 4 Sept. 9/6: He was engaged [...] in drawing up an elaborate ‘stiff’ for a naval pensioner .
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. 10/2: I frisked a lushy yokel who was snoozing in the Park and found a thimble and no slang and a caser. He had a dummie, but no flimsies in it only some chovey stiffs.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 4: A brawny convalescent [...] besought me, with tears in his eyes, to post a letter to a friend outside – in Moorportese ‘to mail a cross-stiff to a pal’.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 6 May. 3/8: Some warders have been in the habit of regularly communicating with prisoners’ friends outside the gaol, and bringing back ‘stiffs’ or letters to the man in the ‘Stone Jug’.
see sense 3g.
[US]A. Berkman Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist (1926) 77: ‘A stiff,’ he whispers. Indifferently I pick up the note.
[US]D. Clemmer Prison Community (1940) 335/2: stiff, n. 1. A letter or note.
[UK]Thieves Slang ms list from District Police Training Centre, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Warwicks 10: Stiff: Letter.
[UK]‘Red Collar Man’ ‘Chokey’ 85: If [...] something is found, tobacco or a stiff (i.e., a letter), or money, he is kept in chokey.

(b) (US Und.) a newspaper.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 25 Apr. 3/1–2: [Bobby is] always on points, and somewhat ambitious to give important arrests to the stiffs (newspapers) for the purpose of making a terrible flash and gammoning the flats.
[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 264: They’d have nailed me easy, but the stiffs tipped me to the lay and I’ve been on the jump since.

(c) a currency note or cheque, whether genuine or forged.

Courier (Hobart, Tas.) 27 Oct. 3/1: [from UK source] [L]ow prices, for ready gilt only, Stiff being no go.
[UK]Comic Almanack Apr. 313: My share will take the shine out of a ten pound stiff.
[UK]C. Reade Hard Cash II 252: Mr. Hardie has the stiff.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Mar. 22/4: See what I done for you. Mind the time you kerosined old Doodle’s pug? You’d a got a sixer, if I hadn’t a ‘squared’ it for a couple of ‘stiffs.’.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 10 July 1/1: A dozen pieces of ‘stiff,’ representing, say, an investment of £20.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks n.p.: Stiff, a bank cheque.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 211/1: Stiff, n. [...] 4. A worthless check; a good check that thieves cannot afford to cash; an I.O.U.; any non-negotiable medium of payment to thieves or swindlers.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 158: Instead of getting all charged up spending money you think you’ve got and find out the check you’re trying to cash is a stiff.

(d) (Aus./N.Z./US/UK Und.) a note or letter, usu. between prisoners or passed illicitly into a prison by a relation etc.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 142/2: Once in [the lavatory] Joe would write his ‘stiff,’ and ‘plant’ it where we had agreed upon.
[UK] ‘Autobiog. of a Thief’ in Macmillan’s Mag. (London) XL 500: My pals used to send stiffs (notes) to the schoolmaster, saying that I was wanted at home.
[UK]‘The Jargon of Thieves’ in Derry Jrnl 8 Sept. 6/5: If a criminal succeeds in smuggling a note out of jail, he is [...] ‘sneaking a stiff’.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 81: Stiff, a letter.
‘The Wasp’ ‘Tales of the Penance Track’ in Bulletin (Sydney) 31 May 31/1: Some of The Tough’s more violent admirers said that he sent out a ‘stiff’ (a secret letter) behind the glass eye of a late chum.
[US]H. Hapgood Autobiog. of a Thief 134: If I wanted to communicate with my friends in stir all that was necessary for me to do was to write a few stiffs (letters) and they would be sent by the Underground Tunnel.
[US](con. 1910–20s) D. Mackenzie Hell’s Kitchen 120: Stiff ... note, letter.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 52: Every time she smuggles a stiff out of gaol, it begins: ‘Rene, if I find you have been wearing my clothes I’ll smash your face in’.
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxix 4/5: stiff: An illegal letter smuggled from the nick.
[UK]G.F. Newman A Prisoner’s Tale 169: Smuggling a stiff out to his brief [...] was the only course of action left open.
[Aus]B. Ellem Doing Time 50: Censorship is a lot of rot, really, because if you’re gonna put something they don’t like in a letter you send out a stiff.
[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. 🌐 Stiff. 1. A smuggled letter.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 270: The prison authorities captured a stiff, an illegal letter, being smuggled out.

(e) (US) a ballot paper.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 16 Nov. 2/2: ‘You only showed your loyalty by putting in a “stiff” for the thirteen original states’.

(f) a begging letter.

[UK]Nottingham Eve. Post 28 Jan. 4/5: The Mendicity blokes [...] has put the stopper on anybody doing much with a ‘stiff’ in London.
[Scot]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 13 Oct. 6/7: ‘Well, will you write me a stiff, then?’ he asked. [...] I wrote him the begging letter, setting for that the bearer had been discharged from the army through failing eyesight [...] I wrote myself a ‘stiff,’ passing as an actor whose voice was lost by severe illness.

(g) a letter.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Mar. 10/3: He wrote that ‘stiff’ which made us sob. / To see him we’ve planked down our bob.
[UK]P.H. Emerson Signor Lippo 105: You can keep that stiff.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl.
[UK]F. Norman Guntz 34: One day I got a stiff from the Workshop saying that they would like to do my play.

(h) a hawker’s licence, or similar licence.

[UK]W. Newton Secrets of Tramp Life Revealed 16: Many of this class will make as much as will purchase a ‘Stiff,’ or license, and stock of ‘snell,’ or buttons, needles, &c.
[UK]M. Williams Round London 62: His principal expedient is to procure a hawker’s license, which is known among the brotherhood as a ‘stiff’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 29 Oct. n.p.: The term ‘stiff,’ probably an abbreviation of certificate, was originally only used to describe such a document, now it means anything. A summons, a bill, a boat ticket, a travelling-stock permit (‘stock-stiff’), a licence – e.g., ‘Has he got a hawker’s stiff?’.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl.

(i) money in general.

[UK]Sporting Times 1 May 3/1: An obliging German lady [...] with whom he has negotiated a quantity of stiff.
[Aus]Eve. News (Sydney) 22 May 3/6: [S]ome went at pitch-and-toss, and two lots went for ‘nap.’ I don’t like this latter game, you lose your ‘stiff’ too quick.
[UK]‘Ouida’ Massarenes 6: They are astonishing – biggest income in the United States, after Vanderbilt and Pullman [...] Made their ‘stiff’ there, and come home to spend it .
H. Belloc New Cautionary Tales 58: He wrang his hands, exclaiming, ‘If I only had a bit of Stiff / How different would be my life!’.

(j) (US Und.) a piece of counterfeit money.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 211/1: Stiff, n. [...] 5. counterfeit money.

(k) a poster.

[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 417: The vile’s readered all hover with these ’ere stiffs, – and she read hout, ‘Fifty Pounds Reward ... ’.

(l) (Aus./N.Z.) a summons from the police.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) Feb. 1/8: So James, you’ve got your bit of blue at last — your ‘stiff’ — I thought they’d cop you.
[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.].
see sense 3g.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 11 Aug. 1/1: The stiff against J.C. Williamson was quietly quashed [and] now that the goslings are safe away the Anderson summons has been re-issued.
[Aus]L. Esson Woman Tamer in Ballades of Old Bohemia (1980) 68: Constable: You’re qualifying for a stiff for the crust. / Smithy: (innocently) What have I done, Mr. Jones? / Constable: Nothing that I know of. That’s why you’ll get it. You’re likely to bring a sixer. I’m warning you.

(m) (Aus.) a free pass.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 28 May 1/1: The prevalence of deadheads was the most prominent item of a recent stoush [...] the way silvertails rolled up with stiffs incited the pugs to fierce remarks.

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

[US]G. Bronson-Howard Enemy to Society 154: There’s a ‘stiff’ out for you from McGuimp’s gang.

(o) (US Und.) a prescription.

[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 88: White line, white lime. Current amongst yeggs and hoboes. Alcohol. Example: ‘You’ll have to go to the croker and get a stiff for the white line.’.

(p) (US) a criminal complaint.

[US]D. Hammett Red Harvest (1965) 66: Noonan stuck a cigar at me, tapped the document with another and asked: ‘Where's this broad?’ ‘In the City Hospital, dying. You'll have the ’cuter get a stiff out of her? That one's not so good legally’.

(q) (UK und.) a postcard.

[UK]P. Hoskins No Hiding Place! 192/1: Stiff. Postcard.

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

(a) (US) a penniless man, a wastrel, a tramp, a migratory or unskilled worker.

Wkly Arizona (Tucscon, AZ) 18 Feb. 4/2: He set out a glass and a bottle of lightning kept for the special use of ‘stiffs,’ The ‘stiff’ poured out a glassful of the stuff and [...] said ‘I ain’t got no money but...’.
Silver City Avalanche 19 Feb. 3/3: The gentlemen in attendance were, Colonel P. Nicholson [...] and several ‘stiffs’ [DA].
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 345: You wants me to be a blowed-in-the-glass stiff. [Ibid.] 384: An’ a stiff ’e says: ‘Blokey, squeal at that house over there – it’s a priest; he’ll scoff ye.’.
[Aus]Aus. Town and Country Jrnl 3 May 16/4: The most curious slang in the world is that of South Africa. [...] Ne’er-do-wells and cadgers are ‘stiffs’’.
[US]J. London Road 175: A ‘stiff’ is a tramp. It was once my fortune to travel a few weeks with a ‘push’ that numbered two thousand.
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 27 Sept. 4/3: A meeting of the Stiffs resulted in them taking Pearl Eye's nomination for the Hard-up Stakes .
[US] ‘Hit the Road’ in J.J. Niles Singing Soldiers (1927) 128: Oh, it’s hit the road, you lousy bums, / You stiffs and weary Willies.
[US] ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V 462: Sea stiff, A sailor who has taken to the road.
[US]G. Milburn Hobo’s Hornbook 33: There was stiffs from every State / From ’Frisco to New Yawk.
[US]J. Mitchell McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon (2001) 24: ‘The stiffs.’ These are the most listless of bums. They are blank-eyed and slow-moving.
[US]S. Bellow Augie March (1996) 292: The lists he slipped me of other stiffs who wanted to join the union.
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxix 4/5: stiff: [...] A poor poverty-stricken person.
[US] in J.P. Spradley You Owe Yourself a Drunk (1988) 41: Salvation Army stiffs are clannish. They spot a non-stiff and feel superior.
[US](con. 1908) J. Monaghan Schoolboy, Cowboy, Mexican Spy 110: Several times on the trip ‘shacks’ (brakemen) roused me at night to see if I was harboring ‘stiffs’ (hoboes).
[Aus]R. Aven-Bray Ridgey-Didge Oz Jack Lang 9: He did not want to lob into any of the pubs where the stiffs and warbs hung out.
[Can](con. 1920s) O.D. Brooks Legs 232: Two other stiffs were on the train heading for the same job.
[Aus](con. 1945–6) P. Doyle Devil’s Jump (2008) 89: The place smelled of piss. Stiffs must have been dossing here.

(b) a disagreeable, or contemptible person; also used joc./affectionately.

[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) XI 2210: ‘Oh aint yer a lying stiff,’ said she laughing heartily.
[US]F.P. Dunne Mr Dooley in Peace and War 28: Throw th’ stiff out.
[US]C.B. Chrysler White Slavery 70: Can you imagine some poor ignorant ‘stiff’ going out and ‘prowling’ some house, takin’ a chance on gettin’ his ‘roof blowed off,’ or gettin’ ‘slowed’ and ‘slammed’ in the stir for a ‘ten spot’.
[US]R. Lardner You Know Me Al (1984) 49: I suppose you seen where [...] Allen shut out Cleveland with two hits yesterday. The lucky stiff.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Final Count 812: Do you see who has just come in? Standing next this awful stiff.
[US]C.A. Freeman ‘A Night-Side Prod’ in Goodstone Pulps (1970) 29/1: We old stiffs like to jaw.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 13: The Governor’s got a bunch of stiffs he calls the State Crime Commission.
[Aus]R.S. Close With Hooves of Brass 40: What was wrong with the big stiff? Any other guy would have been a wake-up long since.
[US]M. Braly Shake Him Till He Rattles (1964) 46: ‘Whew! What a stiff,’ she accused him.
[US]E. Grogan Ringolevio 31: This stiff they had for a mayor [...] who couldn’t keep the goddam streets in shape.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 373: stiff. A person of little or no account, especially a dumb or disagreeable person.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 52: Cicerone had slapped the stiff with a pistol.
[US]G. Pelecanos Shame the Devil 231: I know you think I’m some kind of stiff.

(c) (US) a mean, grasping person.

[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 338: He drove some o’ them Eastern stiffs nearly wild with the way he throws his feet [...] ’n’ ’fore they know it they’re shellin’ out.
[US] ‘Hotel Sl.’ in AS XIV:3 Oct. 240/2: stiff Non-tipping guest.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 226: stiff [...] a customer who does not tip.
[US]J. Thompson Getaway in Four Novels (1983) 80: The cabdriver accepted Doc’s tip with a grunt of surprise; he’d figured this pair for stiffs and maybe even no-pays.

(d) (horseracing) a useless, losing horse [abbr. stiff ’un n.].

[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 10 Aug. 6/4: They know a thing or two in the old country, Joe [i.e. a bookmaker], and you have fewer stiffs to to asist you than you had out here.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Jan. 24/4: If a backer, after he has sorted out the stiffs and found the only triers in the race, is not very careful, ‘bookie’ will probably put the name of one of the said stiffs on his ticket.
[Can] in Lethbridge (Alberta) Herald 22 Mar. 14/4: A horse which runs in the can [i.e. loses] because his owner didn’t wish him to win that particular afternoon is a stiff.
[US]W.S. Hoffman Loser 59: ‘Hell, He Jr. hasn't got a chance. Barrow deserves better. What does he get? A stiff like He Jr’.
[US]C. Bukowski Erections, Ejaculations etc. 107: He’d picked a stiff, as usual.
[US]W. Murray Tip on a Dead Crab 87: You’re not going to bet real money on that stiff, are you?

(e) (also stiffy) an average person (thus gullible, see cite 1965), often with a description, e.g. working stiff n.

[US]Omaha Dly Bee (NE) 5 Sept. 7/3: The fust man we tried war a white-chokered stiff from Denver.
[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 23: In speaking of him they called him The Stiff.
[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 255: Flogger Stiff. Overcoat thief.
[US]Ade Knocking the Neighbors 179: Certain Stiffs who hurried home before Midnight and wore White Mufflers, were trying to put the Town on the Fritz.
[UK](con. WW1) P. MacDonald Patrol 43: ‘A damn’ great stiff, all togged up in a demon mask’.
[US]C. McKay Home to Harlem 116: You poor black stiff!
[US](con. 1919) Dos Passos Nineteen Nineteen in USA (1966) 695: He began to talk like a harvest stiff.
[Scot]Hotspur 11 Jan. 47: We’re beaten! [...] Those stiffs have got him.
[UK]B. Bennett ‘Me and a Spade’ in Billy Bennett’s Fifth Budget 12: I know the stiff, it’s Buffalo Biff.
[US]B. Appel People Talk (1972) 271: The average stiff would come along and dig in with his dirty hands for a piece of ice.
[UK]Wodehouse Mating Season 130: Now fewer than ten of Hampshire’s more prominent stiffs had been summoned to the trough.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 173: The union appropriates thousands, collected from its stiffs.
[US]Helfand Report 20: [used of a stand-in, a scapegoat] He says, I can't help it, I got to take you. I got to take you or get me a stiff .
[US]M. Braly Shake Him Till He Rattles (1964) 143: God, man, you’re no stiff. You know what’s happening.
[US]W. King Jr. ‘The Game’ in Kochman Rappin’ and Stylin’ Out (1972) 394: ‘You a trick, Dan—a stiffy,’ Herman said. ‘You so square Little Orphan Annie could put game on you’.
[US]P. Hamill Flesh and Blood (1978) 247: He wants you fightin’ in these fuckin’ tank towns against these fuckin’ stiffs for no fuckin’ money.
[UK]M. Collins Keepers of Truth 104: You don’t look like a regular stiff.
[US]J. Ellroy Hilliker Curse 13: She [...] dumped him and married a rich stiff.
[Aus]D. Whish-Wilson Old Scores [ebook] ‘And you couldn’t get any more level with the ground than a building site office stiff’.
[US](con. 1962) J. Ellroy Enchanters 143: His neighbors were show-biz [...] stiffs.

(f) a drunkard.

[US]J. London Road 170: The rolling of a stiff is oft-times an amusing sight, especially when the stiff is helpless and when interference is unlikely.
[US]D. Clemmer Prison Community (1940) 335/2: stiff, n. [...] 3. An intoxicated person.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 171: I ain’t [...] takin’ care of stiffs who get it [i.e. drink] somewheres else.

(g) (US Und.) a funeral.

[US]F.H. Tillotson How I Became a Detective 95: Stiff – A funeral.

(h) (US) any failure, a flop; in sport, a second-rater.

[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 21: Take that and these and those and them, you weak-kneed stiff. I’ll get a divorce tonight.
[US]Van Loan ‘Sporting Doctor’ in Taking the Count 9: Tear into this stiff and show him how to take a joke.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 8 July [synd. col.] Please tell this bunch of stiffs how you did it.
[US]A.J. Liebling ‘The Jollity Building’ in Just Enough Liebling (2004) 246: When [...] it says in the paper he has had stiff opposition [...] that means the opposition has been stiffs.
[US]‘Digg Mee’ ‘Observation Post’ in N.Y. Age 18 Jan. 10/4: [D]itch that ‘stiff’ and let her go.
[US]R. Graziano Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) 175: Lou Miller called me a street-fighting Guinea bum around the gym, and said I was a real stiff.
[US]J. Scarne Complete Guide to Gambling 692: Stiff – an unlucky player.
[US]K. Brasselle Cannibals 180: Boy, was that old. And it was a real stiff. Why’d you ever do that turkey?
[UK]P. Theroux Picture Palace 301: ‘They’re stiffs,’ I said. ‘They don’t matter. If you had any sense you’d see.’.
[Ire]B. Geldof Is That It? 213: In England we released the singles one by one, and they were total stiffs.
[US]M. Ribowsky Don’t Look Back 228: [T]he USL [i.e. a Negro pro baseballleague] was a financial stiff from day one.
[US]‘Grandmaster Flash’ Adventures 66: I had to have two crates—one for good joints and one for stiffs. A stiff was a joint that looked like it had some potential, but ended up being jive.

(i) (US tramp) a tramp that has a job or occupation.

[UK]W.H. Davies Adventures of Johnny Walker 51: Another is a ‘cattle-stiff’; then there is the ‘mission-stiff,’ and the ‘barrel-house-stiff’.
[US]‘Dean Stiff’ Milk and Honey Route 215: Stiff – A hobo worker. There are harvest stiffs, bridge stiffs, hospital stiffs, and many others.
[UK]K. Mackenzie Living Rough 170: Three men in working clothes standing at the far end of the bar. ‘Irish pick-and-shovel stiffs,’ I thought. [Ibid.] 219: What a sucker I was [...] leaving Scotland and bumming around Canada! I’d have been better off, a buroo or parish stiff, than this.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

6. see stiff ’un n. (4)

In compounds

stiff dodger (n.)

one who borrows against fraudulent promissory notes.

[UK]P.H. Emerson Signor Lippo 85: He’s a splended scholard, had a Dublin University edication, and ’e writes begging letters for the stiff-dodgers.
stiff pitcher (n.)

a professional letter writer.

[Aus]E. Pugh in Advertiser (Adelaide) 12 Apr. 24/7: A friend of mine — who is a ‘stiff pitcher’, or beginning letter writer by profession [etc.]’.

In phrases

big stiff (n.)

1. (orig. US) a general term of abuse, a fool.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 14: There I set like a big stiff for five hours and pulled against them marks for seventy-three cents.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Fat Fallon’ From First to Last (1954) 30: He called down a big stiff named Devaney for something.
[US]J. London Valley of the Moon (1914) 56: If he does butt in maybe he’ll get his. I’d like to see him get it – the big stiff!
[US]N. Putnam West Broadway 93: There was one big stiff in a golf suit and a new Colby-Droit.
[US]‘Phinneas A. Crutch’ Queen of Sheba 87: It serves him right, the big stiff!
[Aus]X. Herbert Capricornia (1939) 238: Me usbin is the number one beeg steef. He got no guts.
[Aus]Western Mail (Perth) 13 June 2/3: Did the big stiff tell you how he got us into the boob there?
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 19 Mar. 18/3: I don’t care if you’re a big stiff from Subiaco.
[US]Farbar ‘Hundred Dollar Eyes’ in Algren Lonesome Monsters (1963) 46: I seen the other guy. A big stiff.
[US]H. Gould Fort Apache, The Bronx 54: It was this big stiff’s way of pretending to a friendship that didn’t really exist.
[US]R. Price Breaks 26: Just some Life-of-Riley heads, big stiffs on a goof bender.

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

[US]Dos Passos Manhattan Transfer 286: ‘An where do I come in?’ asked Sid Garnett. ‘You’re the committee, you big stiff’.
[UK]P. Terson Apprentices (1970) I iii: Look what you’ve done. You big stiff. It’s all right for you, you bloody bull, you can take it.
[US]H.C. Witwer Smile A Minute 156: I wanna Scotch and soda, you big stiff!
[US]F. Williams Hop-Heads 46: ‘You big stiff!’ she snarled.
[UK](con. WW1) P. MacDonald Patrol 22: ‘Go to it, you big stiff!’.
[US]W.R. Burnett Dark Hazard (1934) 53: You’re just yellow, you big stiff.
[UK]Operator 1384 Devil’s Diplomats 27: ‘Kim on, you big stiff! Where’s the dope store?’.
[US]A.I. Bezzerides Thieves’ Market 137: Ah, you big stiff.
[UK]P. Terson Apprentices (1970) I ii: Leave her alone, you big stiff.
[US]R. Price Ladies’ Man (1985) 120: How come you don’t call, yah big stiff?
bit of stiff (n.)

1. money as notes or bills of exchange; thus do a bit of stiff v., to accept a post-dated cheque or promissory note.

[UK]Dickens ‘Slang’ in Household Words 24 Sept. 77/1: His bill-discounter [is] a ‘dreadful old screw’ if he refuses to do a ‘bit of stiff’ for him.
[Ind]Delhi Sketch Bk 1 Oct. 126/1: ‘The Governor will stump up: if he does not, the Baboos will do a bit of stiff’.
[Ire]C.J. Lever Davenport Dunn 166: Ain’t there any fellows about would give you a name to a bit of stiff, at thirty-one days’ date?
[UK]Man about Town 2 Oct. 29/3: Sad are the lords who come to do / Their bits of stiff with Hill.
[UK]C. Hindley Life and Adventures of a Cheap Jack 234: He liked to have the party’s name written across a piece of paper with a stamp attached, commonly called ‘a bit of stiff’.
[UK]A. Griffiths Fast and Loose III 200: ‘Will your pal trust me,’ says I. ‘Yes, if I send him a bit of a “stiff”.’.
[UK]R. Marsh Crime and the Criminal 141: Can’t you do anything on a bit of stiff.
[UK]D. Stewart Dead Man’s Gold in Illus. Police News 10 Apr. 12/1: ‘You’ve been doing a bit of macing [...] you’ve worked a bit of stiff’.

2. 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.).

[UK]Cremorne III 77: Bits of stiff, otherwise accomodation bills, had been done to death. Their other bits of stiff, i.e. their pricks, had led them into nice extravagances.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) VI 1269: ‘Fook away,’ said she, lifting her petticoats, ‘I want a bit o stiff.’.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues III 208/2: To enjoy, procure, or confer the sexual favour [...] Of women only [...] to give [...] a bit of snug for a bit of stiff.
[UK]Farmer Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 76: contenter. To copulate; ‘to give a bit of snug for a bit of stiff’.
cattle stiff (n.)

(US tramp) a cowboy.

[US]Democrat & Chron. (Rochester, NY) 7 Oct. 13/6: [headline] Life of the Cattle Stiff Hard and dangerous.
[UK]W.H. Davies Beggars 42: In America the noun stiff is [...] a term of scorn for hard-working men and others. For instance, one is called a ‘shovel stiff,’ another a ‘cattle stiff’.
[US]Boston Globe (MA) 16 July 36/2: Seventeen young Americans [...] had worked [...] as the toughest of ‘cattle stiffs’.
[UK]W.H. Davies Adventures of Johnny Walker 51: Another is a ‘cattle-stiff;’ then there is the ‘mission-stiff,’ and the ‘barrel-house-stiff.’ [Ibid.] 53: A cattle-stiff is another term of reproach, used by [...] boss cattlemen, towards the men who do the heavy, dirty, and ill-paid work.
cross-stiff (n.)

see sense 4a above.

do stiff (v.)

to lend money on the basis of promissory notes.

[UK]Sportsman 12 Mar. 2/1: Notes on News [...] [T]he rates of usurious interest at which Brutus and other rich patricians wore wont to ‘do stiff’ for the needy plebeians .
[UK]‘Old Calabar’ Won in a Canter I 172: ‘[Horse breeding] pays a deal better than doing ‘stiff’ for fellows and not half the risk’.
line stiff (n.)

(US tramp) a tramp who spends all day in different bread lines.

[US]Charleston (WV) Daily Mail 27 June 8/8: The ‘line stiff’ spends all his days patronizing the bread lines.
proper stiff (n.) [proper adj. (2)]

(US tramp) a tramp who refuses to perform manual labour.

[US]‘A-No. 1’ Mother of the Hoboes 44: The Rating Of The Tramps 25 Proper Stiff: considered manual toil the acme of disgrace.
[US] ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V 459: Proper stiff, A tramp who never works.
pub stiff (n.)

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

[NZ]F. Sargeson ‘That Summer’ in Coll. Stories (1965) 153: The pub-stiff that was on the door told us to go upstairs.
ring stiff (n.)

(US tramp) an intinerant seller of worthless jewellery at fraudulently inflated prices.

[US]W. Edge Main Stem 193: At last I had met him — the ring-stiff. His game is to sell rings, watches, bracelets, lockets, and all manner of jewelry. The tale that accompanies the sales talk varies in unessentials [...] But the essential thing is the same — a worthless ring or bracelet selling for three or four dollars.