1. in senses of the shape of a hook.
(a) [late 18C+] a finger; usu. in pl., thus a hand.
(b) [late 19C+] (orig. Aus.) a spur; usu. in pl.
(c) [1910s–60s] (US prison) a straight razor used as a weapon.
(d) [1940s+] (US) a jack or seven in poker [i.e. the shape of ‘J’ or ‘7’].
(e) [1960s+] (US campus) the grade C; thus hook and a half, the grade C+.
(f) [1960s+] (US black) a derog. term for a Jew [the popular stereotype of hook-nosed Semites].
(g) [1970s] (US Und.) a key.
(h) [1970s+] (US gang) a weakling, a conformist, esp. a non-gang member [? the stereotypically studious Jew is seen as unlikely to join a gang; note WWI milit. hook, a shirker].
2. in senses of lit. ‘hooking’ or grasping.
(a) [mid-19C+] (also breech hook) the pickpocket who actually steals the wallet, money etc rather than his various accomplices; thus lady hook, a female pickpocket.
(b) [late 19C+] (Aus./US) a thief.
(c) [1940s–50s] an arrest.
(d) [17C, 1940s+] (Irish) a confidence trickster, a cheat.
(e) [1980s] (US black/Und.) a piece of cheap jewellery.
(f) [1980s] (Aus.) a prison.
(g) [2000s] (US black/Und.) the police.
(h) see hooker n.1
3. in fig. senses, that which ‘hooks’.
(a) [late 19C] in fig. use, one’s skill, one’s ability.
(b) [late 19C+] a catch, a drawback.
(c) [late 19C+] a gimmick or angle.
(d) [late 19C+] an imposture.
(e) [1900s] (Aus.) a certainty.
(f) [1930s+] (US) an influential patron or contact; political influence.
(g) [1930s+] (US) any form of influence, e.g. blackmail.
4. [1940s+] (US campus) the telephone [telephonic imagery: one ‘hangs it up’; early models had a hook on which the receiver was hung].
see hooknose n.
see separate entry .
[1930s] (US Und.) to serve a life sentence.
[late 19C+] to grasp, to grab, to obtain, esp. when the object is most desired or currently held by a rival.
1. (US black/teen) used of something so good as to transcend description.
2. (US) completely unacceptable, crazy, out of control.
3. see also SE phrs. below.
1. [early 19C+] (also on one’s own pock-nook) looking after oneself, taking responsibility for one’s own life, on one’s own initiative or volition; the var. is Scot.
2. [1900s-50s] (US) of an achievement or action, done with no help from anyone else, on one’s own.
[late 19C] (Aus.) to steal.
1. [late 19C-1940s] (US) to take advantage of.
2. [2000s] to entrap, lit. or fig.
1. [mid–late 19C] to pick pockets.
2. see also separate entry .
[1900s] (US) to box.
SE in slang uses
see under drag v.1
see under drop off v.1
see under drop v.1
1. to be ejected; thus give the hook, to eject.
2. in fig. use, to take second place; to suffer a rejection.
1. to imprison.
2. to betray, to double-cross.
3. to punish, to treat unkindly.
[1960s+] to excuse (someone) from punishment.
1. [1950s+] out of trouble, freed of a difficult situation.
2. see also sl. phrs. above.
1. [mid-17C–19C] ill-tempered, peevish; ‘in a state’.
2. [mid-17C–1900s] crazy, eccentric.
[mid-19C+] dead; thus drop/go off the hooks, to die; knock off the hooks, to kill, to murder.
[1940s+] (US) responsible (for) something that went wrong.
see sling one’s hook v.
1. [late 19C–1940s] to criticize viciously.
2. [late 19C+] to cheat or swindle, to lure a victim.
3. [1910s] to trick, to fool.
4. [1910s] to attack with a weapon.
see hookey (walker)! excl.