Green’s Dictionary of Slang

rook n.1

[the allegedly larcenous character of the bird]

1. (UK Und.) a cheat or swindler.

[UK]Nottingham Records IV 173: For against thys Fayre evere noughte rooke wyll come [OED].
[UK]Jonson Every Man Out of his Humour II ii: He? that rook That painted jay, with such a deal of outside.
[UK]G. Wilkins Miseries of an Enforced Marriage Act II: Now let me number how many rooks I have half-undone already this term by the first return: four by dice, six by being bound with me, and ten by queans: of which some be courtiers, some country gentlemen, and some citizens’ sons.
[UK]Dekker Welsh Embassador II i: You might putt her away in game, some younge rooke would snap at hir.
[US] ‘Round, Boys, Indeed’ in Rollins Pepysian Garland (1922) 446: The shirking rooke and base decoy [...] Our company shall not inioy.
Milton Ref. touching Church Discipline in England Works III (1851) 50: The Butcherly execution of Tormentors, Rooks and Rakeshames sold to lucre.
[UK] ‘A Dialogue betwixt Tom & Dick’ Rump Poems and Songs (1662) II 188: Your City blades are cunning Rooks.
[UK]Wycherley Love in a Wood III i: I dare no more venture myself with her alone, than a Culley that has been bit, dares venture himself in a Tavern, with an old Rook.
[UK]Etherege Man of Mode V i: You have an indifferent stock of reputation left. Lose it all like a frank gamester on the square, ’twill then be time enough to turn rook and cheat it up again on a good substantial bubble.
Behn Feign’d Curtizans 51: And now, like gaming Rooks, unwilling to give o’er till you have hook’d in my last stake, my Body too, you cozen me with Honesty.
[UK]N. Ward London Spy XIII 323: As busie at Chuck-Farthing and Hustle-Cap, as so many Rooks at a Gaming Ordinary.
[UK]‘Phoebe Crackenthorpe’ Female Tatler (1992) (17) 42: Lawyers are dispers’d with the rooks.
[UK]T. Lucas Lives of the Gamesters (1930) 187: Rooks are grown of late so intolerably rude and insolent.
[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: Rook c. a Cheat, a Knave.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. 1725].
[UK]R. North Examen 141: A new Invention called Chocolate-Houses, for the benefit of Rooks and Cullies of Quality, where Gaming is added to all the rest, and the Summons of Whores seldom fails.
[UK]Smollett Peregrine Pickle (1964) 572: After the other had disengaged himself from the old rooks.
[UK]Foote Maid of Bath in Works (1799) II 200: The gaming fools are doves, the knaves are rooks.
[Ire]J. O’Keeffe Fontainebleau in Dramatic Works (1798) II 206: Let rooks and pidgeons mingle, For if to me they bring the chink.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Nov. III 96/2: You will [...] have the pleasure of being estimated by [...] the blacklegs, rooks, and shakebags, as a complete knowing one.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Oct. XVII 41/2: Such is the scene, till Winter’s chilly looks / Drive away Ladies, Nobles, Pigeons, Rooks.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 245: Any man indeed who dabbles in horse-dealing, must, like a gamester, be either a rook or a pigeon† [† Rooks and Pigeons are frequenters of gaming-houses; the former signifying the successful adventurer, and the latter the unfortunate dupe].
[UK]R.B. Peake A Quarter to Nine Dramatis Personae : Roger Rook, a poacher.
[UK] ‘Leary Man’ in ‘Ducange Anglicus’ Vulgar Tongue (1857) 42: The fakement conn’d by knowing rooks / Must be well known to you.
[UK]Gent.’s Mag. July 231: No opportunity for pigeon-plucking is lost by the majority of [billiard] markers... still he is not the worst form of rook [F&H].
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Little Mr. Bouncer 18: Blucher Boots is a regular rook. He’d bet with his own grandmother [...] and would cheat her out of every penny.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 214: ‘Fast’ society, where animals turn into birds, where a wolf becomes a rook, and a lamb a pigeon.
[UK]H. Smart Post to Finish I 5: The pigeon of early days was now transformed into the unmistakeable rook.
[UK]E. Pugh Man of Straw 133: D’you think I’m a man to be imposed on by a bully rook?
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 6 May 10/2: [headline] Railway Rooks. Take-Down by Train.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Oct. 14/3: ‘Seen ’im duckin’ fr’m th’ district with 10 minnits start,’ ’e wuz told be a bloke in leggin’s. ‘I’d ’ave rapped th’ rook raw,’ ’e said.
[Aus]Aussie (France) 13 Apr. 4/2: ‘I’ll bet you two hundred francs she’s a professional rook, anyhow,’ said Joe.
[UK]B. Cronin Timber Wolves 39: I ain’t no rook, but I got my living to make, ain’t I?
[US]Mencken letter 15 Dec. in Riggio Dreiser-Mencken Letters II (1986) 422: Rook!
[Aus]D. Niland Big Smoke 11: Santa Claus is a rook, and the saints don’t get about down here any longer.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 330: rook. To cheat or swindle, from the same word as a noun, a cheater or swindler.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 146: cardsharps were also known as rooks, a term that lives on in phrases such as that used-car dealer rooked me.

2. (UK Und.) a small crow bar [pun; a reverse of nature, where the rook is larger than the crow].

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Rook [...] also the Canting name for a Crow used for House breaking.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn).
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]H. Smith Gale Middleton 1 148: My fib [...] is loaded at the end with blue pigeon, so that it’s as heavy as a rook!

3. a clergyman [the black clothes or, according to Hotten (1864) f. the nursery rhyme ‘Who Killed Cock Robin?’, ‘I, says the Rook, / With my little book, / I’ll be the parson’.].

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.

4. a swindle.

[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (1937) 71: It was a rook, arranged before he got there.