1. (UK/US Und., also turrl) a key, esp. a skeleton or duplicate key.
|Ticket-of-Leave Man 12: I’m afraid none of my turrls (skeleton keys) are small enough.|
|‘Autobiog. of a Thief’ in Macmillan’s Mag. (London) XL 502: It was now that I got acquainted with the use of twirls (skeleton-keys).|
|Criminal Life 271: Twirls ... Housebreaking implements.|
|Newcastle Courant 18 Nov. 5/2: ‘Got the twirls,’ asked Jimmy.|
|Dubbo Liberal (NSW) 30 Jan. 3/4: Our burglar [...] uses his ‘twirls’ or skeleton keys.|
|(con. 1910s) Hell’s Kitchen 117: A key is a ‘twirl.’.|
|Cockney Cavalcade 231: ‘Get his twirls out!’ ordered Mutt.|
|Singleton Argus (NSW) 4/2: Other fancy underworld terms for [a key] are ‘the twirl,’ and ‘the gate,’ and ‘the twist’.|
|Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).|
|Und. Nights 86: A bunch of fifty-four twirls was far too clumsy.|
|Crust on its Uppers 26: Let’s get the twirl out and swing back the old baronial doors.|
|Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 120: Pete’s got the twirl.|
|(con. 1950s–60s) in Little Legs 87: I had entered a flat [...] using a twirl to get in.|
|(con. 1980) A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun 243: Sometimes the boys would use ‘twirls’, a set of double-edged FS keys, to get into cars.|
2. (UK prison) a prison officer.
|Criminal Life 272: There is a twirl here from another stir.|
|(con. 1910s) Hell’s Kitchen 117: A key is a ‘twirl.’ Prison officers, too, are known as ‘twirls,’ because of the keys which they carry.|
|Gentlemen of the Broad Arrows 148: Two of the worst ‘twirls’ ever seen in a prison-house.|
|Letters from the Big House 37: The twirl was laying it on, hissing like, and spitting through his teeth.|
|Bang To Rights 9: As I came along the passage [...] a twirl shouted, ‘One lagging; C.T.’.|
|(con. 1900–30) East End Und. 284: Twirl – Warder.in Samuel|
(UK prison) to unlock a door.
|(con. 1920s) Burglar to the Nobility 103: I needed five master-keys to twirl out through the five different sets of gates.|
SE in slang uses
see give something a whirl under whirl n.