Green’s Dictionary of Slang

grit n.1

(US) solidity or strength of character, spirit, pluck, stamina; thus be the grit v., to be the ‘right sort’ of person, to be the ‘genuine article’.

D. Hitchcock Poet. Dict. 53: The prude doats on beauty, the bully on grit [DA].
[US]A.B. Lindsley Yankee Notions 10: ’E’s proper stuff; clear grit, I swow!
[US]J. Neal Brother Jonathan II 14: A chap who was clear grit for a tussle, any time.
[US]G.F. Ruxton Life in the Far West (1849) 8: Thar was old grit in him.
[US]Nevada Journal 12 Dec. 1: Green was a large, powerful man, but had no grit, and Shortez offered to fight him for the money but Green backed water.
[UK]Thackeray Adventures of Philip (1899) 494: If you were a chip off the old block you would be just what he called ‘the grit’.
[US]M. Thompson Hoosier Mosaics 117: If there’s one thing I do have more ’n another in my nater it’s common sense grit.
[UK]W.A. Baillie-Grohman Camps in the Rockies 17: It takes moments of danger to discover a man’s true grit – the ‘bottom sand,’ as a plainsman would say.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 Feb. 10/2: Who’s afraid! Put me in a sentry-box with an arm-chair and a gas-stove, outside a public house, and I’ll keep guard till further orders. I’m good colonial grit, I am.
[UK]H. Smart Long Odds III 52: ‘They're grit, they are, these swells, and no mistake,' murmured John Bramton [...] ‘a hundred thousand pounds out of his pocket, and yet he don't make so much fuss about it as I’ve seen a fellow make over a losing deal at penny Van John’.
[UK]C. Roberts Adrift in America 209: I had not the grit even to try and board a freight train.
[US]S.E. White Blazed Trail 161: Nothing was to be depended on but sheer dogged grit.
[US]O. Johnson Varmint 168: ‘Good nerve.’ [...] ‘Pure grit.’.
[UK]T.W.H. Crosland ‘Wounded’ Coll. Poems 152: Women’s funny – / So they are! / But who taught ’em / About war? / Where’d they learn / Their bit of drill? / Who is it took ’em / Through the mill? / And gave ’em grit / Enough for ten.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Working Bullocks 184: All that there was of him was grit really. He was so crack-hardy and chirpy always.
[UK]N. Gale ‘A Veteran’ Close of Play 6: I sit / Glad-hearted on a bench and note / How Sussex vim and grit / Make red-rose Lancaster decline to hit.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 85: For sheer sand in the belly, grit, spine, nerve, and guts, some o’ these soft-looking civvies take some beating.
[UK]Willans & Searle Complete Molesworth (1985) 318: Do not be discouraged, however, show grit, courage, determination.
[UK]C. Stead Cotters’ England (1980) 128: I thought you had the grit to face your fate.
[US]N. Algren ‘The Last Carousel’ Texas Stories (1995) 124: You had to work for nothing or you’d never get rich. Grit counted more than money.
[UK](con. 1950s) D. Nobbs Second From Last in the Sack Race 256: Her face was sturdy. It had character. It had grit.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 55: We got the grit and savvy to put all this behind us.
G. Jobson Championship Sailing 233: From the importance of making sailboat racing fun to what sailors with true grit can teach us.

In phrases

grit out (v.) (also grit hard)

(US) to endure hardship.

[US]W. Wharton Midnight Clear 6: I determined to grit it hard for another burst or two hundred yards.
[US]R. Atkinson Long Gray Line 154: Most simply gritted out whatever ailed them.
[US]G.M. Graff Watergate 649: ‘Let them impeach me [...] We’ll fight it out to the end.’ Nixon would grit it out .
real grit (n.) [? strengthened by nitty-gritty n.]

1. (also pure grit) the genuine item, the ‘real thing’.

[UK]London Eve. Standard 12 Nov. 4/4: Yankee Courtship [...] By the hokey if Sally Jones isn’t real grit, there’s no snakes.
[US]C.A. Davis Letters of Major J. Downing (1835) 50: ‘None of your rags,’ says I, ‘but the real grit [i.e. gold].’.
[US]‘Jack Downing’ Andrew Jackson 43: They seed that he was the rale grit.
[Aus]Cornwall Chron. (Launceston, Tas.) 11 Mar. 1/4: By the hookey, if Sally Jones isnt the real grit, the there’s no stakes.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 201: I poured him out a gill of the pure grit.
[US]Yorkville Enquirer (SC) 3 July 2/3: He shouted, ‘It’s the real grit;’ and a long drawn swill at once demonstrated his faith in its potency.
Sporting Life (London) 17 Oct. 3/4: This round was a ‘real grit’.

2. (US, also good grit, true grit) an admirable person.

Amer. Humour i: I reckon the chaplain was the real grit for a parson – always doin’ as he’d be done by, and practisin’ a darn’d sight more than he preached [F&H].
[US]J. Hall Legends of the West 38: These Mingoes act mighty redick’lous [...] They aint the raal true grit, no how.
[US]A.M. Maxwell Run Through the United States II 118: From being paupers in Europe, or rather mere ‘pisantry,’ that here they are the ‘real grit’ of the land.
[US]W.E. Burton Waggeries and Vagaries 15: I recking that he was the raal grit for a parson.
[UK]C. Mackay Life and Liberty in America 104: Among the pure Americanisms may be cited the following: [...] Grit, the real grit, the true grit. These words or phrases are used to signify a person of superior worth, solidity, and genuineness [...] The miller is evidently the parent of this expression.
[UK]Siliad 181: For Devils, out and out, thou art not fit, / For Devil-dodgers, just the real grit.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 24 Oct. 6/3: In a certain town up North there recently lived a party by the name of Brown, and he woke up one morning to find himself stone-broke and on the threshold of ruin. Being ‘real grit,’ however, he determined to stake his all on a double, which would either put him straight again, or at least provide for his wife and children.
[US] in Overland Monthly (CA) July 65: I hev allus knowed ye ter be the true grit.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 6 Feb. 2/7: The feller was good grit as I ever see, an’ ’stead o’ givin’ up as as a man genally does when he's dropped his knife [he] picked up his knife with his left hand, an’ jumped at Wilson as quick as a cat.

3. (US black) the absolute truth, the essential facts.

[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].