Green’s Dictionary of Slang

sambo n.1

also zambo
[Sp. zambo, used to describe those of mixed black and Indian or European blood. The word also describes a breed of yellow monkey. The US use, which emerged during the era of slavery, may have a different root; the Foulah sambo, uncle or Hausa sambo, second son, or name of the spirit. The suggestion by F&H of a third root, an African tribe, the Samboses (for whom they claim an appearance in a text of 1558) has no validity. Sambo began as a neutral term, but as slavery fell into increasing disrepute, so did its terminology. The word was widely popularized by Helen Bannerman’s best-selling children’s book The Story of Little Black Sambo (1923), but the term, and that book, have long since been considered unacceptable]

1. a derog. term for a black man; also found as a generic and used by blacks self-referentially .

[WI]R. Ligon Hist. of the Island of Barbadoes (1673) 50: I was struck mute, and poor Sambo kept out of the Church.
[US]Boston News-Letter 2 Oct. 2/2: There is a Negro man taken up supposed to be Runaway from his Master [...] calls himself Sambo [DA].
[US]Virginia Gazette 16 May 4/2: Ran away from the Subscriber’s Quarter [...] the following Negro’s, viz. Sambo, [...] Aaron, [...] Berwick [DA].
[UK]F. Reynolds Laugh When You Can in Sporting Mag. Mar. XIII 354/2: Sambo [...] is waiting to conduct you to your husband.
[UK]‘A. Burton’ Adventures of Johnny Newcome IV 222: His steward was a scoundrel Sambo [...] A true Barbadian.
London Courier 15 Mar. n.p.: Remember what became of Sambo John [...] and his party, who were hanged.
[UK] ‘Gallery of 140 Comicalities’ Bell’s Life in London 24 June 1/2: O, Misse, your water so dam hot, you scald poor Sambo!
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker II 30: Sambo slips the halter off in the manger, meets massa there, and is sold a second time ag’in.
[NZ]Daily Southern Cross (NZ) 10 Feb. 3: A young Sambo lately came from Preston for service.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 6 Sept. 4/2: ‘Sambo, of woolly nob,’ said he, ‘be pleased to stow your chaff’.
[US]T.B. Thorpe Mysteries of the Backwoods 188: Sambo, however, soon dropped his axe.
[Aus]Geelong Advertiser 7 Jan. 1/5: The slang of ‘Ethiopian serenaders’ for once gives place to thoughts and language racy of the soil, and we need not say how refresh[ing] it is to be separated for a season from the conventional Sambo of the modern stage.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Digby Grand (1890) 76: Once more Sambo made his attack, butting with his woolly head.
[US]R.F. Burton City of the Saints 191: The Kafir [will] call himself not Sambo, but Mr. Scott.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 118: In the West Indies and the United States, the term has gradually come to be applied to all colored persons alike, and Sambo, as it is generally written, denotes simply a negro.
[UK]C. Dickens Jr. Dict. London n.p.: A music hall, where Dolly Dripping, the cook, in a draggled old print gown and a huge (natural) moustache; and Corporal Coldmutton, of the Guards [...] make simple fun for the edification of Quashie and Sambo, whose shining ebony faces stand jovially out even against the grimy blackness of the walls.
[NZ]Taranaki Herald (NZ) 11 Mar. n.p.: ‘The darkey’s hour is just before the dawn,’ remarked Sambo.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Sept. 14/1: But, recollect, the parson brave, / Who scatters tracts and preaches, / Sends Sambo to an early grave / By putting him in breaches.
Seattle post-Intelligencer (WA) 13 July 14/3: The Zambo rode in all possible directions [...] dragging the unfortunate man behind.
[US]Columbia Herald (TN) 24 Dec. 1/6: Long and hard did Sambo work.
[US]Intermountain Catholic (Salt Lake City) 5 Oct. 4/3: No longer was ‘Nellie Gray’ a slave, nor Sambo a funny coon.
[US]Amer. Mag. 65 Apr. 599–604: An’ poor Sambo or Epaminondas Beecher Roosevelt, as th’ case may be, no longer sings th’ sintimintal plantation ballad iv ‘Give me me gin,’ but ‘Away away th’ bowl’.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 19 May 40/2: Behind him [...] bounded the huge ebony figure of Zambo, our devoted negro.
[Aus]F. Garrett diary 12 May [Internet] Dusky Sambos [i.e. Zouaves] in blue with guilt [sic] or yellow facings, and a sort of lavender taboosh or fez.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 315: And another one: Black Beast Burned in Omaha. Ga. A lot of Deadwood Dicks in slouch hats and they firing at a sambo strung up on a tree with his tongue.
[US]‘J.M. Hall’ Anecdota Americana II 16: Sambo, as the man was called, was a big six-foot-two buck nigger, with perhaps the largest prick in the United States and the reputation of being able to fuck more times in a night than any other nigger in the South.
[US]S. Lewis Kingsblood Royal (2001) 127: It’s the inconsistency of discrimination that gets the poor Sambo down.
[UK]W. Hall Long and the Short and the Tall Act I: I can see you now – nipping off to chapel with a little Sambo clinging on each hand.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 113: If you call a Maori Hori it’s just like calling an American negro Sambo, or an Australian aboriginal Jacky. The white man who says it means well, but it’s patronising.
[UK]A. Bleasdale Who’s Been Sleeping in my Bed 119: Bloody Vera, I wouldn’t mind if she’d found a Sambo she could trust, the stupid bitch.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 478: Bobbies already get taunted, add to that the fact that he’s black, and he might be getting ‘Sambo’ and other things said to him.
[UK]Guardian 30 July 18: Taki-George twice referred in his column to a black man by the appellation ‘sambo’.
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Jungletown Jihad’ in Destination: Morgue! (2004) 352: Noxious negrophile. [...] Pro-Sambo, anti-Uncle Sam.
[US]P. Beatty Sellout (2016) 84: The first five ‘coons,’ ‘jigaboos,’ ‘tar babies,’ and ‘Sambos’ were free. After that, it was three dollars an epithet.

2. a direct term of address to any coloured person.

T. Tryon Friendly Advice To The Gentlemen-Planters of The East And West Indies 146: Come hither, Sambo.
M. Lewis Journal of a West-India Proprietor (1834) 23 Mar. 229: Soon after his accident, the overseer meeting the sufferer – ‘Why Sambo,’ he exclaimed, ‘where’s your nose?’.
[NZ]Daily Southern Cross (NZ) 10 Feb. 3: Well, Sambo, what sort of place [i.e. employment] have you got?
[Aus]S. Aus. Advertiser (Adelaide) 14 July n.p.: Sambo, you blacka tied, Sambo, why you betray dat secret I told you.
[Aus]S. Aus. Advertiser (Adelaide) 13 Oct. 3/6: Brother jonathan’s Appeal to Brother Sambo. Now, Sambo, darn it - Brother! There, I guess that ought to please you.
[NZ]Grey River Argus (N.Z.) 10 Oct. 3/3: Ah, Sambo, you are an honest fellow.
[US]M.D. Landon Eli Perkins 107: Oh, Sambo!
[NZ]Taranaki Herald (NZ) 3 Nov. 4/1: ‘I say, Sambo, less us jine de baseball club.’ ‘What for, nigger?’.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 23 Aug. 2/3: A negro appeared before a magistrate [...] ‘You can go now, Sambo [etc]’.
[NZ]Marlborough Express (NZ) 7 Jan. 4/1: Well, Sambo, how do you like your new p;ace?
[UK]C. Chesnutt ‘Mars Jeems’s Nightmare’ in Conjure Woman 81: ‘W’at’s yo’ name, Sambo?’ ‘My name ain’ Sambo,’ ’spon’ de noo nigger.
[US]‘O. Henry’ Cabbages and Kings 195: ‘Hold on, Sambo,’ says I, ‘savve English?’.
[US]H.L. Wilson Professor How Could You! 126: The negro spoke up, saying, ‘Good evening , Pat.’ ‘Good morning, Sambo,’ replied his fellow.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth, WA) 27 July 7/6: A teacher was explaining to a class of nigger boys what defense, Defeat and Detail meant [...] she said ‘Now Sambo, give me a sentence with those three words in’.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 2 Feb. 42/1: [of a Russian] ‘Ha! Ha! Ha! You deserve a swim for that. Sambo!’ laughed Nancy [...] ‘Nanzy, you bad one!’ giggled the beautiful, olive-skinned foreigner.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 49: Well Sambo, you sure got your black-Nigger ass in a sling.
[UK]J. Speight ‘Women’s Lib and Bournemouth’ Till Death Us Do Part [TV script] alf: (pointing to Pakistani) What about Sambo?
[US]P. Hamill Deadly Piece 155: Just for your information, Sambo, I feel nothing of the kind.
[UK](con. 1960s) A. Frewin London Blues 89: Wake up, Sambo. We’re fucking here.
[US]‘Touré’ Portable Promised Land (ms.) 41: Y’all should think of something better than darkie if you hope to get under m’skin [...] Try Sambo, or coon.
[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 8: Where’s the drugs, Sambo? Where’s the fucking drugs?

3. (US/W.I.) a darker mixed-race skin colour; a person who is the child of a mixed-race person and a black person.

M. Lewis Journal of a West-India Proprietor (1834) 6 Jan. 79: Why had he not married Mary Wiggins? He seemed quite shocked at the very idea. ‘Oh, massa, me black, Mary Wiggins sambo; that not allowed’. [Ibid.] 15 Jan. 106: The offspring of a white man and a black woman is a mulatto; the mulatto and black produce a sambo.
[UK]Marly; Planter’s Life in Jamaica 94: These gangs consisted of Samboes, Mulattoes, a couple of Mustees.
[UK]Marryat Peter Simple (1911) 246: A mulatto looks down upon a sambo, that is, half mulatto half negro, while a sambo in his turn looks down upon a nigger.
[US]Wkly Standard (Raleigh, NC) 14 Nov. 4/2: The owner of a Jamaican property was always lying on a sofa, drinking sangaree, and swearing at Sambo, a fine Mulatto youth.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 118: The Spanish word Zambo, originally meaning ‘bandy-legged,’ was by the Spaniards first applied to the offspring of a negro and a mulatto, and afterwards, in the South American colonies, to the child of a negro and an Indian woman.
[US]Dly Morn. Astorian (OR) 11 June 1/4: Sambo, offspring of mulatto father [in Lima, Peru].
[WI]H. De Lisser Jane’s Career (1971) 12: A practised eye would have pronouced Celestina to be a ‘sambo’, or one-fourth white.
[WI]H. Thomas West Indian Policeman 367: He was not black, but of the shade of colour known in Jamaica as ‘sambo’.
[WI]L.E. Adams Jam. Patois 61: Sambo: the colour between black and brown; someone who is a cross between a mulatto (brown) and a black.

4. attrib. use of sense 3.

[[UK]Hamel, Obeah Man I 60: This sambo-coloured man was tall and well proportioned].
[WI]H. De Lisser Revenge 53/2: You get your commoness from you’ brown mother [...] You sambo slut!
[WI]A. Durie One Jamaica Gal 9: Icilda was welcome to him! For herself she preferred a sambo man with knotted muscles and white teeth.
[WI]C. Thompson These My People 57: The front room was occupied with a sambo girl who ‘played’ with a Chinaman.
[UK]R. Mais Hills were Joyful Together (1966) 8: A pretty sambo girl.
[WI]L. Goodison Baby Mother and King of Swords 22: She was such a pretty girl with her smooth sambo colouring.
[UK]I. Welsh Filth 228: So he’s blabbering on about [...] how the Sambo-boy’s auld man sent a letter to the Home Secretary.

5. a Sudanese soldier.

[UK]Falkirk Herald 1 Jan. 8/2: In May 1884, ‘Sambo’, the equivalent of ‘Tommy Atkins’ Soudanese, was called upon, and a first battalion of blacks was raised at Souakim.

6. (US black) an obsequious black person.

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 252: Sambo Obsequious black person (derogatory).

7. a general attrib. use, pertaining to black people or culture.

[US]Green & Laurie Show Biz from Vaude to Video 7: Comics like Groucho Marx joined columnist Walter Winchell’s tirade against Lapidus, Sambo (Negro) and kindred dialects.
[UK]C. MacInnes City of Spades (1964) 35: ‘Shake hands with me, my name is Mr Ronson Lighter.’ And he let off his silly sambo laugh.

In compounds