Green’s Dictionary of Slang

pill n.

1. as a pill-shaped, i.e. round, object.

(a) [early 17C+] a cannon-ball, bomb or shell; thus [1950s] big pill, the atomic bomb.

(b) [late 17C; late 19C+] in pl., the testicles.

(c) [mid-19C] (US Und.) a counterfeit coin.

(d) [late 19C–1900s] in pl., billiards.

(e) [late 19C+] a bullet.

(f) [1900s] (US Und.) the pea or similar object used in a shell game under shell n.

(g) [20C+] (orig. US) any form of ball, esp. a basketball.

(h) [1910s] (US) in pl., dice.

2. [mid-19C] (UK Und.) a knife [? when used on a victim/enemy it achieves a ‘cure’ for one’s problem].

3. in senses of pills being generically unpleasant.

(a) [mid-19C–1910s] anything unpleasant; suffering, punishment; the term is ‘endless in application’ (Ware).

(b) [mid-19C+] an unpleasant person, a weakling, a bore.

(c) [late 19C] something unfashionable.

(d) [late 19C; 1950s] (also pills) a man, a person.

(e) [1900s] (US campus) a hard-working student; a teacher who makes the students work hard.

4. (drugs) a portion or measure of a drug.

(a) [mid-19C–1960s] (drugs) a ‘pill’ of opium.

(b) [1900s] morphine.

(c) [1930s+] a pill of heroin.

(d) [1950s+] (drugs) a generic term for any form of barbiturate or amphetamine drug capsule.

(e) [1950s+] (orig. US drugs) a marijuana cigarette.

5. [mid-19C–1920s; 1990s+] (orig. milit., also pills) a doctor, a surgeon; one who deals with or dispenses medicines.

6. in sense of ‘curing’ one’s ills.

(a) [late 19C–1930s] a drink.

(b) [1910s–60s] a cigarette or cigar; thus pill mill, a cigar factory; pill-smoker, a cigarette smoker.

In derivatives

pilled (up) (adj.)

[1960s+] (drugs) under the influence of amphetamines or barbiturates.

pilling (n.)

[1980s+] (drugs) experiencing the effect of some form of pill, e.g. an amphetamine or barbiturate.

In compounds

pill cooker (n.) [cook v.1 (6b)]

[1920s–50s] (drugs) an opium smoker.

pill factory (n.)

[late 19C] a hospital.

pill freak (n.) [-freak sfx]

[1960s+] (drugs) a heavy user of pills, e.g. amphetamines, barbiturates.

pillhead (n.) [-head sfx (4)]

[1960s+] (drugs) a regular user of amphetamine or barbiturate drugs.

pill man (n.)

[1960s] (drugs) a drug dealer.

pill mill (n.) [mill n.1 (4b)]

[1980s+] (US) a doctor’s surgery, usu. in a ghetto area, in which the bulk of prescriptions are written for drugs which are then sold in the street.

pill-pad (n.) [pad n.2 (2)]

1. [late 19C+] an opium den, a place where opium users can gather to smoke.

2. [1970s] (US drugs) a gathering place for heroin users.

pill-popper (n.) [pop v.1 (4c)]

[1940s+] (drugs) a regular user of any drugs in pill form.

pill-popping (n.) [pop v.1 (4c)] [1950s+] (drugs)

taking pills, addicted to pills; also as adj.

pill-puncher (n.)

[late 19C] (Aus.) a chemist, a pharmacist.

pill-shooter (n.) (also pill-slinger)

[1910s–60s] a doctor.

pill shop (n.)

[1900s] an opium den.

In phrases

black pill (n.) (also green pill) [the colour of the drug; opium is rolled into a pill for smoking]

[20C+] (drugs) an opium pill.

get the pill (v.)

[mid-19C] to be dismissed from a job.

pill up (v.)

[1960s+] (UK drugs) to take amphetamines.

In exclamations

all pills! [play on sense 1b above, i.e. balls n. (1)]

[late 19C+] rubbish! nonsense!

SE in slang uses

In compounds

pill-box (n.)

see separate entry.

pill driver (n.) (also pill-monger)

[mid-18C; mid-19C–1900s] a travelling apothecary or doctor.

pill-grinder (n.)

[mid-19C+] a pharmacist.

pill-masher (n.)

1. [late 19C] a doctor.

2. [20C+] a pharmacist.

In phrases

pill-peddler (n.)

[late 19C-1930s] a doctor.

pill-pusher (n.) (also pill-thrower, pill-twister) [push v. (3c)]

[late 19C–1910s] a doctor.

pill-roller (n.) (also pill-juggler) [late 19C+]

1. a doctor; thus pill-rolling adj.

2. a pharmacist.