Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bum adj.

[bum n.3 (2)]

1. [mid-19C+] (orig. US) useless, second-rate, poor, inferior, dirty, ragged.

2. [late 19C+] fake, counterfeit; thus bum dough, bum paper, counterfeit notes; bum paper artist, a counterfeiter.

3. [20C+] slightly ill, under the weather.

4. [20C+] (US) of a part of the body, injured; malfunctioning.

5. [20C+] (US, also bummin’) depressed.

6. [20C+] unfair; as adv., unfairly.

7. [1930s+] of food, stale, bad, ‘off’.

8. [1960s] (US) aggressive, threatening.

In derivatives

bumsky (adj.) [-ski sfx]

[20C+] (US) second-rate, inferior.

In compounds

bum bend (n.)

an adverse reaction to a hallucinogenic drug.

bum check artist (n.) (also bum checker, check artist) [SAmE check + -artist sfx]

[1940s–50s] (US Und.) one who passes bad cheques.

bum clink (n.) [Midlands dial.]

[mid–late 19C] bad or second-rate beer.

bum deal (n.)

[20C+] (orig. US) a poor bargain, a mistaken agreement.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

bum steer (n.) (also bad steer) [20C+] (US)

a piece of bad advice or misinformation.

bum trip (n.) [1950s+]

1. any bad situation, experience.

2. an unpleasant experience while under the influence of drugs; as a v., to be subjected to an unpleasant and frightening time; thus bum-tripper n., one who is suffering such an experience.

3. (US campus) an uninteresting or lazy person.

In phrases

bum (out) (v.)

see separate entry.

bum for (adj.)

[1920s] (US) bad for, e.g. one’s health.

on the bum (adj.) (also on a bum)

1. [late 19C+] broken, out of order, deteriorating; lit. and fig. use.

2. [late 19C+] rubbish, second-rate, inferior, in a bad condition.

3. [1900s] (US campus) drunk.

4. [20C+] feeling slightly unwell.

put (someone/something) on the bum (v.) (US)

1. [late 19C–1930s] to cause trouble for someone or something.

2. [1900s–30s] to hurt someone, to beat someone up.