Green’s Dictionary of Slang

drag n.1

1. (UK Und.) in the context of theft.

(a) [18C; 1900s–20s] a form of ‘rod’, whereby robbers ‘fish’ items from a shop window; then a tool for breaking the lock of a safe.

(b) [late 18C+] the robbery of vehicles, initially horse-drawn, subseq. motorized; also attrib.; thus done/lagged for a drag, convicted of robbing a wagon or cart; by ext. the actual robber.

(c) [19C] (US Und.) a theft; also attrib.

2. as a vehicle, i.e. that which is dragged (by horses or an engine).

(a) [mid-18C] a ferryboat.

(b) [late 18C–1910s] a one- or two-horse wagon or cart.

(c) [19C] a type of stagecoach, drawn by four horses, with seats on top.

(d) a hand-cart.

(e) [1900s] a prison van, a Black Maria.

(f) [1910s+] a motorcar, thus vehicles in general.

(g) [1920s–30s] (US tramp) a (slow) freight-train.

(h) [1930s+] a van.

3. [early 19C] (US Und.) a prisoner.

4. [early 19C] (Scot. Und.) a watch chain.

5. [mid-19C+] a period of imprisonment lasting three months.

6. something along which one is ‘dragged’ or ‘drags oneself’.

(a) [mid-19C+] a street; also attrib.; thus main drag n. (1), the main street; back drag, back street.

(b) [1920s+] a long distance, which will make for tedious travelling.

(c) [1930s] (US tramp) a railroad line.

7. any person or object that fig. impedes progress.

(a) [mid-19C+] a disappointment, a pity, a nuisance, a task that one has no desire to perform; a bore.

(b) a lie, a deception.

(c) [mid19=C+] (also dragger) of a person, a disappointment, a hanger-on, a pest.

(d) [1940s] (US black campus) an old-fashioned person.

(e) [1950s–60s] a depressing atmosphere.

(f) [1980s] of drugs, second-rate.

8. in the context of clothing, which ‘drags along’ the ground, and ext. uses [orig. theatrical use, which stressed the drag of a long dress along the floor, as opposed to tight-fitting trousers. The first OED citations (1870) imply fancy dress; gay refs. not overt until 20C].

(a) [late 19C+] female dress as worn by men, but not in a homosexual context, e.g. on stage.

(b) [20C+] female dress as worn by homosexual males; also male dress as worn by lesbians.

(c) [1910s+] a party held en travesti (cf. drag ball ).

(d) [1920s–70s] (US/Aus.) a party (with no specific gay overtones).

(e) [1920s+] (US gay) a homosexual man dressed in female clothing, a drag queen n. (1)

(f) [1930s–40s] (US) a bar that caters primarily to a gay clientele.

(g) [1950s+] clothing in general; a costume, a disguise.

9. [late 19C+] influence.

10. a draw, puff or drink.

(a) [20C+] a puff of a marijuana cigarette; thus give a drag v., to pass a marijuana cigarette; take a drag v., to take a puff on the cigarette.

(b) [1910s+] a puff of a cigarette; thus the cigarette itself; thus drag v., to smoke.

(c) [1950s] a gulp or mouthful of alcohol.

(d) [1950s+] (UK prison) a cannabis or cannabis/tobacco cigarette.

11. [20C+] (US) a share of money [what one ‘drags in’].

12. one who ‘drags’ or is fig. ‘dragged along’.

(a) [1900s] (US campus) a toady, a parasite, a flatterer.

(b) [1920s+] (US) a young woman who is being taken to a party.

(c) [1950s] (US) a girlfriend, a young woman.

13. pertaining to dancing.

(a) [1910s+] a slow dance or the music that accompanies it; occas. as verb.

(b) [1950s] a dance, a party.

Pertaining to transvestism

In compounds

drag ball (n.) (also drag dance)

[1920s+] a party held en travesti.

drag-dyke (n.) [dyke n.]

[1960s+] a ‘masculine’ lesbian who chooses to dress in male clothing.

drag joint (n.) [joint n. (3b)]

[1930s+] (US gay) a bar or club that caters predominantly to transvestites.

drag-king (n.) (also drag-butch) [SE king/butch n.1 (6)]

[1990s+] (gay) a woman who dresses as a man.

drag queen (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

drag up (v.)

1. [1960s+] to get dressed (up).

2. [1970s] of a homosexual man, to put on women’s clothing and appear en travesti.

flash the drag (v.)

[late 19C] (UK Und.) of a man, to wear female clothes for criminal purposes.

play drag (v.)

[1960s] (US black) of a female prostitute, to dress as a man in order to attract clients.

Other uses

In compounds

drag-cove (n.) [cove n. (1)]

[early 19C] a cart-driver.

drag lay (n.) [lay n.3 (1)]

[late 18C–early 19C] the robbery of vehicles.

dragsman (n.) (also dragman)

1. [19C] a coachman; a cart or wagon driver; thus swell dragsman, a gentleman who drives a coach [20C+ use is SE].

2. [19C–1930s] a thief who robs goods or trunks from the back of vans or carts.

drag-sneak (n.) [sneak n.1 (1b)]

[mid-19C] a thief who specializes in the robbery of vehicles.

drag-weed (n.)

[1940s–50s] (US drugs) marijuana.

In phrases

do the drag (v.)

[1940s] (US Und.) to wander around or loiter in a town.

go on the drag (v.)

1. [late 18C] (also go upon the drag) to take up robbing vehicles as a profession.

2. [late 18C] to follow a cart or wagon in order to rob it.

put the drags on (v.) [SE drag, in the sense of dragging on someone’s sleeve; + poss. link to sense 1]

[1910s+] (Aus.) to ask someone for a loan.

run a drag on (v.)

[1980s+] (US black) to deceive, to trick, to hoax.

work the drag (v.)

[1940s] (US Und.) to beg on the street.