Green’s Dictionary of Slang

ticket n.1

1. [early 19C] a blow, a punch.

2. in lit. senses.

(a) [mid–late 19C] (UK Und.) a ticket of leave, parole; thus ticketer n., a person on parole.

(b) [late 19C–1930s] (US) a playing card, as used in three-card monte.

(c) [1900s] a prescription.

(d) [1910s] (UK Und.) probation.

(e) [1900s–40s] (US, a betting slip; thus Aus.) the bet.

(f) [1920s–40s] (US Und.) a prison sentence.

(g) [1930s] a track record, a history.

(h) [1930s+] (US prison) a disciplinary record.

(i) [1940s] (US prison) a certificate of release.

(j) [1940s] a certificate of demobilization from the armed forces [note WWI Aus. milit. ticket, a discharge from the Army].

(k) [1940s–70s] (UK Und.) an arrest warrant.

(l) [1950s+] (US) a licence.

(m) [1960s–70s] a pass or passport, whether valid or counterfeit.

(n) [2000s] (US black) a lottery ticket, usu. in pl.

3. in fig. use, as an ideal [? SE winning ticket or Fr. etiquette (suggested by Hotten, 1867) ].

(a) [mid-19C+] the right, proper, best or fashionable thing to do; esp. as that’s the ticket!

(b) [mid-19C+] the task in hand, the relevant procedure.

4. [mid-19C–1900s] the facts, the truth [? Fr. etiquette (suggested by Hotten, 1867) or SE ticket, a bill or invoice].

5. [1930s+] a person (as used esp. by a mod n.2 (1) in the early 1960s).

6. [1960s+] (Aus. drugs) a single dose of LSD, dripped onto a small piece of absorbent paper; also attrib. [resemblance to a SE ticket or sense 3, i.e. its positive effects; note Beatles title ‘Ticket To Ride’].

7. [1990s+] (US) the ideal person [? SE winning ticket].

8. [1990s+] (Irish) an amusing person, an eccentric [abbr. hard ticket under hard adj.].

9. [2000s+] (US black / drugs) $1,000,000, thus half a ticket, $500,000.

In compounds

ticket-skinner (n.) [play on SE mule-skinner, a mule-driver]

[late 19C] (US) a ticket tout.

In phrases

buy a ticket (v.) (US)

1. [late 19C+] (also get one’s ticket) to die.

2. [1970s] to trust, to tolerate, to accept someone’s statements.

3. [1980s] to call someone’s bluff.

cancel someone’s ticket (v.)

[1960s+] to murder, to assassinate.

come in on a sparrow’s ticket (v.) (also get in on a sparrow’s ticket) [one has ‘flown over the wall’]

[20C+] (Aus.) to gain admission to a sporting event or other entertainment without paying.

draw a good ticket (v.) [lottery imagery]

[1910s] to have good luck, to be successful.

get one’s ticket punched (sfx) [NB Marie Lloyd's song ‘What Did She Know About Railways?' (1897) with the sexual double entendre ‘She’d never had her ticket punched before’]

to enjoy oneself.

have tickets on (v.) [i.e. one would pay to see them/oneself]

[20C+] (Aus.) to be very fond of someone; thus have tickets on oneself, to be vain, to be conceited; thus put tickets on, to trust, to depend on.

just the ticket (also just the job) [? a winning lottery ticket, or SE ticket, the list of candidates put forward by a political party/SE job]

[mid-19C+] perfect, ideal, exactly as desired and required.

not the ticket (adj.)

[20C+] physically or more usu. mentally ‘below par’.

one-way ticket (n.)

[1930s] (US Und.) a life sentence.

private ticket (n.)

[1980s] (US) a private detective.

speeding ticket (n.)

[2000s] (US prison) a rules violation notice for inappropriate behaviour in the visiting room.

ticket of leave (n.) [SE ticket of leave, a parole licence]

[late 19C] a holiday.

traffic ticket (n.)

[2000s] (US prison) a minor disciplinary offence.

universal ticket (n.)

[late 19C] (US tramp) a notched board cut to fit on the iron bars that support a passenger coach and which can thus be used to support a tramp.

walking ticket (n.)

1. [mid-19C–1900s] (US) a notice of dismissal.

2. [1950s+] (Aus./US prison) an official notice to inform a prisoner that they have finished their sentence.

work (for) one’s ticket (v.) [orig. Br. Army use, obtaining a discharge through faking illness]

[20C+] to malinger, to escape onerous duties by shamming illness or similar unsuitability.

write one’s (own) ticket (v.)

[late 19C+] to be able to stipulate one’s own conditions, to be in an advantageous position.

In exclamations

that’s the ticket!

[mid-19C+] just what is wanted, the ideal thing; occas. as that’s the ticket for soup.