Green’s Dictionary of Slang

nob n.2

also knob
[? abbr. SE nobility or nobleman, but 18C Scot. use suggests an alternative – if unknown – ety.; according to Jon Bee (1823), ‘the swell ... makes a show of his finery ... the nob, relying upon intrinsic worth, or bona fide property, or intellectual ability, is clad in plain-ness’]

1. a nobleman, a gentleman.

[UK]C.M. Westmacott Eng. Spy I 255: Be unto him ever ready to promote his wishes [...] against dun or donnob or big-wig – so may you never want a bumper of bishop.
Tax and Axe n.p.: O that a good Nob / Had hold of Job.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: Nob. A king. A man of rank.
[UK]‘A. Burton’ Adventures of Johnny Newcome III 144: An Admiral, and many Knobs, Who thought of coming back Nabobs.
[UK] ‘Battle’ in Fancy I XVII 403: Boreas too [...] did took unwarrantable liberties with the nobs of the company, without making any distinction between Corinthian and Commoner, and many a hero’s topper was not replaced on his napper, without scampering a quarter of a mile or more for it.
[UK]‘The ‘Hell’ Birds’ in Tommarroo Songster in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) IV 332: We’re well received, where e’re we go — / The knobs all come a courting.
[UK]Thackeray Yellowplush Papers in Works III (1898) 263: My master said he’d introduce him to the Duke of Doncaster, and Heaven knows how many nobs more.
[UK] ‘A New Song on the Birth of a Prince of Wales’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 65: An old maid ran through the palace, which did the nobs surprise.
[Aus]Satirist & Sporting Chron. (Sydney) 11 Mar. 2/3: That Lnob [sic] Mr C— / [...] / With his swell four-wheeled chay, / His liveries too, buff and green.
[Aus]Melbourne Punch 20 Nov. 3/2: Boss —Noun. A cove, a beak, a guvnor, a nob, an old ’un, a big-wig etc.
[UK] ‘Sunday Trading Bill’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 115: The nobs may call at the pastry shops.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor II 56/1: There’s not any public dog-fights [...] but there’s a good deal of it, I know, at the private houses of the nobs.
[UK]J. Greenwood Wilds of London (1881) 350: It ain’t like a district where nobs and swells lives.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 216: So George was hail-fellow-well-met with all the swells at the camp [...] all the nobs there were at the Turon.
[UK]Boys Of The Empire 24 Aug. 368: One For His Nobbs.
[UK]E.W. Rogers [perf. Marie Lloyd] G’arn Away [lyrics] Once a chap walked me out as was considered quite a nob.
[UK]E. Pugh Spoilers 7: I’ve seen myself a size bigger ’n life, sittin’ wi’ the nobs an’ tits in Rotten Row.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘Girl and the Habit’ in Strictly Business (1915) 238: She was expected to sell worthless articles to nobs and snobs at exorbitant prices.
[UK]J.B. Priestley Good Companions 222: The nobs have arrived [...] They won’t come to tea, they’re too grand.
[Aus]K. Tennant Foveaux 224: If the ‘nobs’ on the Council thought the place ought to be pulled down, it must be worse than they thought.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 171: ‘Mug’ [...] would wander among the ‘nobs’.
[Aus]Cusack & James Come in Spinner (1960) 314: All he needed now was a few decent clothes [...] and he could go anywhere among the bloody nobs.
[UK]F. Norman Guntz 15: I was delivering to all the nobs around Mayfair.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 12 Oct. 25: You can’t tell the little guys they’ve got to turn it in, when they see what the nobs are doing.
[UK]T. Wilkinson Down and Out 162: All the big nobs stay here, you know.
[UK]J. Osborne Déjàvu Act I: I’m the one the nobs would like to kill.
[UK]Indep. on Sun. 23 Jan. 10: Most of the race-goers aren’t nobs.

2. (Aus.) an expert [from sense 1].

[UK]Bell’s Life in London 23 Dec. 2/5: At Tom Belcher’s a meeting was held of the nobs of the Ring, who in fighting excell’d.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘A Letter to the Front’ in Moods of Ginger Mick 85: So I tries to buck ’im up a bit; to go fer Abdul’s fez; / An’ I ain’t no nob at litrachure; but this is wot I sez.

In derivatives

nobbery (n.)

the elite.

[UK]Guardian 11 Jan. 18: Scuffing his heels outside Stratford station with the rest of the New Labour nobbery.

In phrases

come the nob (v.) (also come the duke, ...nabob)

to give oneself airs.

[UK]Henley & Stevenson Deacon Brodie II tab. IV viii: Don’t you get coming the nob over me, Mr. Deacon Brodie, or I’ll smash you.
[UK]A. Bennett Card (1974) 63: I wasn’t going to have Fearns coming the duke over me!
[Aus](con. 1830s–60s) ‘Miles Franklin’ All That Swagger 209: You see, old Rawson tries to come the nabob.
high-nob (adj.)

(Aus.) upper-class.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 7 Feb. 1/1: An extremely high-nob newspaper man of Perth has heard bad news from New Zealand.
nob in the fur trade (n.)

a judge.

[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds ‘House Breaker’s Song’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 122: Let nobs in the fur trade hold their jaw, / And let the jug be free.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
nob it (v.)

(UK Und.) to use brains rather than brawn to succeed in the world.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 254: nob it: to act with such prudence and knowledge of the world, as to prosper and become independent without any labour or bodily exertion; this is termed nobbing it, or fighting nob work. To effect any purpose, or obtain any thing, by means of good judgment and sagacity, is called nobbing it for such a thing.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue [as cit. 1812].
[UK]A. Harris Emigrant Family I 194: The Welshman nobs it up well .