Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Old Nick n.

also Nicky, old Nicholas
[? ref. to Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527), or abbr. SE iniquity]

1. the Devil.

[UK] in Ebsworth Merry Drollery Compleat (1875) 394: For Roundheads Old Nick stand up now.
[UK]Mercurius Fumigosus 15 6–13 Sept. 136: Which scurvy Trick it seems he learnt of his own father [...] who it seems took it from his great Grandfather (Old NICK).
[UK]R. L’Estrange Fables of Aesop CI 96: He endeavours to Prove [...] that Men, in such a Case, ought to go to Old Nick for Company.
[UK]C. Cotton Compleat Gamester Preface: If out, he raps out Oaths I dare not tell, Hot, piping out, and newly come from Hell, Old Nick o’re-hearing, by a Palming-trick Secures the Gamester; thus the Nickers nickt.
[UK] ‘Present State of England’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1885) V:1 255: Old Noll and ’s Dad Nick have taught ’m a trick, / To make Plots, and then to reveal ’em.
[UK]N. Ward London Spy I 2: I enter’d our Metropolis, with as much Wonder [...] as the Hatfield-Fiddler did Old-Nicks Palace.
[UK]A great & famous scoldling-match 8: None but old Nick could inform you of it.
[UK] ‘Roger in Amaze’ Wit’s Cabinet 149: Heels over head, as round as a wheel they turned about, Old nick was in their breeches, without doubt.
[UK]A. Smith Lives of Most Notorious Highway-men, etc. (1926) 177: The country fellow [...] supposing it [i.e. a monkey] had been Old Nick, ran home in a terrible fright.
[UK]‘Whipping-Tom’ Expensive Use of Drinking Tea I 17: I verily thought they were going to raise Old Nick.
[UK]A. Ramsay Gentle Shepherd II iii: This Fool imagines [...] That I’m a Witch in Compact with Auld Nick.
[UK]Delightful Adventures of Honest John Cole 27: If the Devil is Black, as some folks say, then is our Friend very safe if old Nicholas and he should meet together.
[UK]Ordinary of Newgate His Account 6 Aug. 17/1: I told him I had as soon go out with Old Nick, as with him, for he was so unluckly, that I never made any Thing with him .
[UK]Hist. of Jack Horner 5: The Taylor said, Speak who art thou? Quoth Jack, Thy friend Old Nick.
[UK]Bridges Homer Travestie (1764) I 172: But may he be demolish’d quick, / And sent full gallop to Old Nick.
[UK] ‘Chastity’ in Farmer Merry Songs and Ballads (1897) V 211: You must with the rest of them go to Old Nick!
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Old nick, the devil. The following ludicrous reason is given for this appellation, and that of old scratch: the angel first employed in forming women, had forgot to cut their parts of generation, which the devil undertook to do by the following contreivance, he placed himself in a kind of sawpit, with a scythe fixed to a stick, in his hand, and directed women to straddle over it; the pit being too deep for the length of his instrument, he gave tall women only a moderate scratch, but the little women by the shortness of their legs coming more within his reach, he maliciously gave them monstrous gashes, or nicks, whence he was called old scratch, and old nick.
[UK]A. Shirrefs Jamie and Bess II i: I’ll find him out, altho’ ye dinna tell, / If I should summons up auld Nick himsell.
[UK]‘Peter Pindar’ ‘Odes of Importance’ Works (1794) III 208: A woman hath the bowels of Old Nick.
[UK]M. & R. Lovell Edgeworth Essays on Irish Bulls 206: If it were not Old Nick, he was the orderer of it to be sure.
[UK] ‘Madame Boney the Second’ in Holloway & Black II (1979) 195: His dad Old Nick will not be idle.
[UK]‘Thomas Brown’ Fudge Family in Paris Letter VIII 83: Had Dad but his way, he’d have long ago blown / The whole batch to old Nick.
[UK]‘A. Burton’ My Cousin in the Army 198: I’ll send that curs’d old horse to H-ll, Where he may play his dipping trick, With his best master d—d old nick.
[US]R.M. Bird Nick of the Woods I 66: We mean Old Nick of the Woods; for we hold him to be the devil, though a friendly one to all but Injuns.
[UK]‘Paul Pry’ Oddities of London Life II 228: Do you know vere you'll go to, p’leseman, arter you ‘kick the bucket?’ [...] ’cause if you don’t, I’ll tell yer. You'll be a flying on a gridiron, with old nick a basting you with brimstone sarse.
[US]‘Major Jones’ Sketches of Travel 112: Makin noise enuff to drive the very old Nick himself out of his senses.
[UK] ‘New Bloomer Costume’ in Henderson Victorian Street Ballads (1937) 99: Listen, females all, no matter what your trade is, / Old Nick is in the girls, the —’s in the ladies.
[US] in R.G. Carter Four Brothers in Blue (1978) 18 Dec. 207: We had to run like the ‘Old Nick’ to come into line.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 595: The devil is in like manner concealed behind the deuce (stated by Junius and others to be from deus), and the dickens, Old Nick, Old Harry, Old Scratch, and Old Splitfoot.
[US]J.C. Stewart Elopement ii: At last he started and run home like old Nick.
[UK]M.E. Braddon Mohawks I 183: You were always as obstinate as Old Nick.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Lost Souls’ Hotel’ in Roderick (1972) 152: Mitchell’s pipe would have smoked out Old Nick.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 Jan. 31/1: God made the ‘old man,’ the compass, and the telegraph […] / But Nicky made the envious mates who criticise from keel to gaff.
[UK]Marvel 13 Oct. 334: Just as bad as they make ’em, and the cheek of old Nick!
[UK]W. Sickert New Age 3 Mar. 569: Cheer up, Sir Roger, you are a jolly brick! / For if you ain’t Sir Roger, you are Old Nick!
[UK]S. Scott Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 145: He says he comes from Old Nick, and he wants me. Says I can’t kill him, because he’s immortal.
[US]P.G. Cressey Taxi-Dance Hall 99: When I’m waiting for dances I walk along the side acting like I’m full of the Old Nick.
[NZ]G. Meek ‘London’ Station Days in Maoriland (1952) 101: And when he goes below old Nick will put him on a spell / O’ puttyin’ up the blinkin’ cracks, his soul has made in hell.
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 91: What’d old Nick do? Chuck yer back?
[UK]G.W. Target Teachers (1962) 120: I bet Old Nick’s busy up there – I’d better press on regardless.
[Ire]E. Mac Thomáis Janey Mack, Me Shirt is Black 150: The call ‘Any dollars Yank?’ brought forth a rain of curses that would shame Old Nick himself.
[UK]I. Rankin Black Book (2000) 316: In the name of Auld Nick, turn that down!
[UK]A. Sillitoe Birthday 179: Old Nick favoured blacksmiths.

2. (Anglo-Irish) the joker in a pack of cards.

[UK]Partridge DSUE.

3. in fig. use.

[US]F.S. Fitzgerald This Side of Paradise in Bodley Head Scott Fitzgerald III (1960) 95: It’s [i.e. a bruise] still there — and it looks like Old Nick.

In phrases

Old Nick’s footsteps (n.)

(UK Und.) the broad arrows printed on convict uniforms during 19C/early 20C.

[UK]N. Lucas Autobiog. of a Thief 238: Looking down and seeing broad arrows – ‘Old Nick’s footsteps’ – adorning one’s legs.
play old Nick (v.)

(Aus.) to act in a riotous manner.

[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 31 May 6/2: He played old Nick with his patrimony.