Green’s Dictionary of Slang

nose v.

1. to make a fool of, to fool, to dupe, to sneer at [? SE phr. lead by the nose].

[UK]T. Randolph Jealous Lovers I iii: Shall I nurse / And play mother to anothers brat? / And she to nose my daughter? [...] My daughter nos’d by a slut?
[UK] ‘The Rump serv’d in with a Grand Sallet’ in Rump Poems and Songs (1662) ii 121: Fit Jakes – farmers for the Rump, they could twang and nose it.
[UK]T. Shadwell Squire of Alsatia IV i: Did you think to nose me for ever, as the saying is?

2. to ‘put one’s nose into’.

(a) to pry into someone else’s proceedings.

[UK]W. Cartwright Ordinary V v: Nosing a little treason ’gainst the King.
[UK] ‘A Medley’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) I 260: We will thrust them out of the Main-yard, / If they do but nose us.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Apr. XVI 27/1: Gloss. of Fashionable or Cant Phrases [...] Nosed – Observed.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 312: You are determined nobody shall nose your idears.
[US]J.C. Neal Charcoal Sketches (1865) 46: Can’t a man wet his whistle without your nosing it?
[UK]G.A. Sala Twice Round the Clock 130: They nosed me in the lobby [...] and my only refuge was at last to go away.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 4 July 44/2: When you’ve nosed into the matter you’ll probably find that Jones bought 640 acres at £1.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Spike Wegg’ in Rose of Spadgers 145: Near ’arf the Force was nosin’ fer the bloke.
[Aus]N. Lindsay Age Of Consent 210: Tell the police to go to hell too, if they come nosing after you.
[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 68: You’re nosing for news. Who of? Servo?
[Scot]I. Rankin Knots and Crosses (1998) 190: Mass-interviewing the suspects, trying to ‘nose’ whether they were probable or possible suspects.

(b) to inform against; esp. in phr. nose upon.

[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: To Nose. To give evidence. To inform. His pall nosed and he was twisted for a crack; his confederate turned king’s evidence, and he was hanged for burglary.
[UK]W. Perry London Guide 156: They were nosed by an old woman, whose teeth they knocked out, but were themselves taken in consequence.
[UK]‘A Flat Enlightened’ Life in the West I 179: If they happen [...] to get ‘nosed’ upon (pointed out) in one place, they move off to another where they are not known [Ibid.] 211: One of these persons, feeling dissatisfied with so small a portion, went [...] to the principal, and told him that he would have more, or he would nose.
[Aus]P. Cunningham New South Wales II 233: if they suspect anyone of nosing, they will conceal some of their own things in his bag.
[UK](con. 1737–9) W.H. Ainsworth Rookwood (1857) 305: My old pals never nose on me.
[UK]Egan ‘Jack Flashman’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 142: And never nose upon yourself – / You then are sure to keep your pelf.
[US] ‘Scene in a London Flash-Panny’ Matsell Vocabulum 100: If I wished to nose I could have you twisted.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 66/2: What did it man? was the Brighton job about to be brought home to us? Perhaps someone had ‘nosed’ on us.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 54: There! [...] Does the girl look like nosing us now?
[UK]Newcastle Courant 2 Sept. 6/5: Whether any one had nosed or not, I cannot say, but I saw Peaching Bill about.
[UK]W.E. Henley ‘Villon’s Straight Tip’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 176: Suppose you screeve, or go cheap-jack? [...] Suppose you duff? or nose and lag? / Or get the straight, and land your pot?
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 77: Snitching, Nosing, and Peaching are synonymous terms, which mean turning traitor, giving information to the police, etc.
[UK]D. Stewart Devil of Dartmoor in Illus. Police News 22 Oct. 12/2: ‘So you’ve nosed, have you [...] Well, you’ll never put the copper on anyone else’’.

(c) (UK und.) to see, to recognise.

[UK]D. Stewart Vultures of the City in Illus. Police News 8 Dec. 12/1: ‘Did you see those two covees t’other side of the way?’ [...] ‘A copper and a split (detective) with him.’ ‘I don’t think as they nosed us’.

3. in senses of violence.

(a) to bully.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.

(b) to hit on the nose.

[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 10 June 988/3: Raines put in a sharp blow on the listener of Jones. [...] The Sailor Boy however returned the favour with interest—he nosed his opponent, ditto and ditto.
[UK]M. Davitt Leaves from a Prison Diary I 15: I one day missed my labour ‘chum’ from his place in our ‘push’ or gang, and learned that he had ‘nosed’ another prisoner, that is, struck him a blow on that organ.

4. (US) to curry favour [abbr. brown-nose v.].

[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 137: He was nosing in with him too.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS.

5. (US) to investigate in pursuit of one’s own advantage.

[UK]E. Glyn Flirt and Flapper 109: Flirt: What does ‘to nose’ mean? Flapper: Go after things, put your nose into them, and root them out.

In phrases

nose around (v.) (also nose, nose about)

1. to search, to look over, to survey; thus also as n.

[US]G.W. Harris ‘Playing Old Sledge for the President’ Nashville Union and American XXVIII Oct. in Inge (1967) 232: Arter supper awhile I nosed round ontil I got inter a room whar I seed a lite.
[US]Lantern (N.O.) 3 Dec. 2: We nosed around to try and find out why.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Apr. 15/1: Advanced him a fiver to build one; but when my cockie heard that Mulligan had bought half-a-dozen sheets of iron, he nosed round until he was able to sheet home to me the charge of financing Mulligan.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘A Lickpenny Lover’ in Voice of the City (1915) 22: When he comes nosing around the bridge of his nose is a toll-bridge.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘The Play’ in Bulletin (Sydney) 16 July 47/1: The cops gits busy, like they allwiz do, / An’ nose around until ’e gits blue funk / An’ does a bunk.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 20: He began to nose about. He pulled out drawer after drawer.
[UK]H. Ashton Doctor Serocold (1936) 150: I suppose you’re nosing about to find out what’s going to happen to the practice.
[Ire]S. O’Casey Red Roses for Me I v: I couldn’t ask them why they were nosin’ about in th’ silence of th’ church on an ordinary week-day mornin’.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 313: They’ll be nosing around there sure as hell.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 111: If I don’t show, Mr. White’ll want to know why and begin nosin’ around.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 138: Your friend was upstairs [...] Nosing around.
[US]R. Campbell Alice in La-La Land (1999) 55: I don’t know if Cortez would like you nosing around.
[Ire]J. O’Connor Salesman 45: If he comes nosin’ around here again he’ll be carryin’ his balls home in a plastic bag.
[US]F. Kellerman Stalker (2001) 506: Cindy hasn’t been home all day! She’s been nosing around something, and it caught up with her.
[UK]Observer Mag. 20 Feb. 29: I like to have a nose and see what’s up.

2. to interfere (in).

[UK]G.D.H. & M. Cole Brooklyn Murders (1933) 59: See here, inspector, I fail to see that it is any of your business to come nosing about in my affairs.
[US]W.P. McGivern Big Heat 138: He had been nosing about a No Trespassing sign, so they decided to put him out of the way.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 54: Nice pay for just nosing around into other people’s troubles.

3. to spread rumours, to gossip about.

[UK]N. Smith Gumshoe (1998) 54: It’s her property, and she wouldn’t like it nosed around that she owns it.
nose for (v.)

(US) to pursue, to hunt down.

[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 165: I just seen a fly sleut’ from Pittsburg pass along, and I wouldn’t be s’prised if he’s nosin’ for me.
nose in (n.)

(US) a visit; thus as v. to appear, to arrive.

[UK]Flash Mirror 19: N.B. — An early nose in will oblige.
[US]Joe Archibald ‘Crash on Delivery’ in Flying Aces Nov. 🌐 Bump Gillis nosed in a few minutes later.