Green’s Dictionary of Slang

yarn v.

[yarn n.]

1. to tell tales, prob. implausible or far-fetched ones; thus yarning n.

[Aus]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 280: yarn: yarning or spinning a yarn, is a favourite amusement among flash-people; signifying to relate their various adventures, exploits, and escapes to each other. This is most common and gratifying, among persons in confinement or exile, to enliven a dull hour, and probably excite a secret hope of one day enjoying a repetition of their former pleasures.
[Aus]Melbourne Punch 2 Aug. 181/1: [T]he pious recreations of cutting whip sticks, repairing tackling, smoking, drinking and ‘yarning’.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 124/2: Why the devil don’t you ‘cheese’ ‘cracking’ any more about it tonight [...] there’ll be plenty of time to yarn about it in the morning.
[Ind]‘Aliph Cheem’ Lays of Ind (1905) 10: But none could touch the Major none could yarn so stiff as he.
[UK]Sheffield & Rotherham Indep. 11 Oct. 9: The clipping proceeds with any quantity of prison ‘yarning’ (talking). All the gossip [...] is here discussed.
[US]Scribner’s Monthly viii 465: The first lieutenant is yarning with me under the lea of the bulwarks [F&H].
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The Legend of Cooee Gully’ in Roderick (1967–9) I 2: We had gathered close to the broad hut fire / To yarn of the by-gone years.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 15 Apr. 451: Bar your own dear sister that ye so hoften yarned about when far away at sea.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 4 May 483: The rest of the evening [...] was spent in talking, yarning, and singing.
[UK]J. Buchan Mr Standfast (1930) 534: I yarned about my experiences as a mining engineer.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Jim Maitland (1953) 184: And so we fell to yarning.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Coonardoo 147: She found Meenie and Bandogera had taken advantage of her absence to have a smoke and yarn together.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 218: I was one of a group of convicts there yarning about past experiences and people we had known.
[UK]D. Bolster Roll On My Twelve 12: The Petty Officer Captain of the Gun was yarning to old Dodger Yares about past commissions.
[Aus](con. 1941) E. Lambert Twenty Thousand Thieves 106: He used to take me out of sight and sit down and yarn with me.
[Aus]P. White Season at Sarsaparilla in Four Plays (1965) 98: Probably yarns ’is head off. (Sighs) About the blessed Western Desert.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 33: They will yarn on about their prowess.
[US]S. King Tommyknockers (1989) 348: Listening intently as his father yarned.
[UK]G. Burn Happy Like Murderers 87: He yarned in the same way he would operate as a cowboy builder.

2. to talk to, to chatter with.

[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 399: You idle, lazy scoundrel! I suppose you were yarning in the cookhouse.
[UK]W.C. Russell Jack’s Courtship II 274: All the crew would be [...] yarning and smoking and taking sailor’s pleasure.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Joe Wilson’s Courtship’ in Roderick (1972) 540: I’d noticed jack yarning with ’possum before he started work.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Oct. 10/1: Some days, all covered up in wraps, / They wheels me to the balcony / An’ me an’ one or two more chaps / Sits there an’ yarns till ’arf-past three.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper XL:1 25: We start yarning about the earlier volumes.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Working Bullocks 112: There was little to yarn about after the first day.
[Aus]K. Tennant Foveaux 68: Every night his own particular cronies would stroll down, buy a three-penny cigar, and stay perhaps for hours, leaning on the counter and yarning to Bud.
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 48: While I yarned with him people were dashing in and out.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 53: He sits down on that very suitcase and starts to yarn.
[NZ]G. Slatter Pagan Game (1969) 218: I was on the other side yarning to me old cob Sergeant Kearney.
[Aus]K. Gilbert Living Black 103: We sat there yarnin’ ’til all hours of the night.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Between the Devlin 56: They yarned for a while.