Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hook n.1

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].

In compounds

hooknose (Jew) (n.)

see separate entry .

In phrases

do the hook (v.)

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

get one’s hooks on (v.) (also get one’s hooks in(to))

[late 19C+] to grasp, to grab, to obtain, esp. when the object is most desired or currently held by a rival.

off the hook (also off the heezie, ...hizzy) [1990s+]

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.

on one’s own hook (also upon one’s own hook, one one’s own hookstops)

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.

pay with a hook (v.)

[late 19C] (Aus.) to steal.

put the hooks in(to) (v.) (also run the hooks into)

1. [late 19C-1940s] (US) to take advantage of.

2. [2000s] to entrap, lit. or fig.

sling one’s hook (v.) [SE sling + sense 1 above]

1. [mid–late 19C] to pick pockets.

2. see also separate entry .

toss the hooks (v.)

[1900s] (US) to box.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

get the hook (v.) [the long pole or hook used to drag unpopular performers off stage; introduced in 1903 at Harry Minor’s Bowery Theatre, New York City] [late 19C–1920s] (US)

1. to be ejected; thus give the hook, to eject.

2. in fig. use, to take second place; to suffer a rejection.

give someone the hook (v.) [1900s] (US)

1. to imprison.

2. to betray, to double-cross.

3. to punish, to treat unkindly.

let someone off the hook (v.) [off the hook ]

[1960s+] to excuse (someone) from punishment.

off the hook

1. [1950s+] out of trouble, freed of a difficult situation.

2. see also sl. phrs. above.

off the hook(s)

1. [mid-17C–19C] ill-tempered, peevish; ‘in a state’.

2. [mid-17C–1900s] crazy, eccentric.

off the hooks [the ancient practice of exposing the head and limbs of executed traitors in public places around a city]

[mid-19C+] dead; thus drop/go off the hooks, to die; knock off the hooks, to kill, to murder.

on the hook [as opposed to off the hook ]

[1940s+] (US) responsible (for) something that went wrong.

throw the hooks into (v.) (US)

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.

In exclamations