Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dell n.

also del, dill
[poss. SE name Doll or, in the way that cunt n. is linked to Welsh cwm, a valley, then a pun on SE dell, also meaning valley; Ribton-Turner, A History of Vagrants (1887), notes Welsh del, pert, smart; Lowland Scot. dilp, a trollop]

1. a young woman on the tramp, spec. a young or ‘unbroken’ (i.e. virgin) prostitute; thus wild dell, such a young woman conceived or born under a hedge.

[UK]R. Copland Hye way to the Spyttel House Eiii: Toure the patryng coue in the darkman cace / Docked the dell for a coper meke.
[UK]Harman Caveat for Common Cursetours in Viles & Furnivall (1907) 75: A Dell is a yonge wenche, able for generation, and not yet knowen or broken by the vpright man. These go abroade yong, eyther by the death of their parentes, and no bodye to looke vnto them, or els by some sharpe mystres that they seme, do runne away out of seruice; eyther she is naturally borne one, and then she is a wyld Dell: these are broken verye yonge; when they haue beene lyen with all by the vpright man, then they be Doxes, and no Dels. These wylde dels, beinge traded vp with their monstrous mothers, must of necessytie be as euill, or worsse, then their parents.
[UK]Groundworke of Conny-catching [as cit. c.1566].
[UK]Dekker Belman of London C1: Walking Morts: some Dopers, others are Dels, the last and least are Kinchin-morts.
[UK]Middleton & Dekker Roaring Girle V i: I have [...] my dell and my dainty wild dell, with all whom I’ll tumble this next darkmans in the strommel.
[UK]Beaumont & Fletcher Beggar’s Bush II i: All your daintiest dells too / I will deflower, and take your dearest doxies.
[UK]Middleton & Rowley Spanish Gypsy IV i: We for our conies must get mallows; / Who loves not his dill, let him die at the gallows.
[UK]J. Taylor ‘A Brood of Cormorants’ in Works (1869) III 8: Spakes the braue canting tongue, lyes with his dell, / Or pad, or doxi, or his bonny Nell.
[UK]R. Brome Jovial Crew II i: Sir, if you are [...] Dispos’d to Doxie, or a Dell, / That never yet with Man did Mell.
[UK]Head Eng. Rogue I 45: I met a Dell, I view’d her well.
[UK]Head Canting Academy (2nd edn) 63: Dells are young bucksome Wenches, ripe, and prone to Venery, but have not yet lost their Maiden-heads, which is commonly done by the Uprightman, and then they are free for any of the Brotherhood.
[UK]R. Holme Academy of Armory Ch. iii item 68b: Give me leave to give you the names (as in their Canting Language they call themselves) of all (or most of such) as follow the Vagabond Trade, according to their Regiments or Divisions, as [...] Dells, Trulls, dirty Drabs.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: [as cit. 1674].
[UK]J. Shirley Triumph of Wit 184: The Dells are young Wenches that yet retain their Maiden-heads, which by their Custom they must Sacrifice to the Upright-Man, before they can be free with the Brotherhood.
[UK]‘Canter’s Serenade’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 43: Ye morts and ye dells / Come out of your cells, / And charm all the palliards about ye.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[UK]Scoundrel’s Dict. 22: This doxy Dell can cut been whids.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK](con. 1737–9) W.H. Ainsworth Rookwood (1857) 53: Dead drunk, his liquor having been drugged by his dells.

2. a prostitute.

New News Strange News 4: Those Libidinous Goats have been Coach’d Caroach’d and Sedland to their Cockatrician, Meretrician (Dames, Dels, and Doxies).
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Dells [...] also a common strumpet.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum.

In phrases

arch-dell (n.)

(UK Und.) the woman accomplice of a criminal gang-leader (cf. doxy n.).

[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: arch-rogue the Dimber-Damber, Upright-man or Chief of a Gang; as Arch-Dell, or Arch-Doxy signifies the same Degree in Rank among the Female Canters and Gypsies.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. n.p.: arch-rogue, the [...] Chief of a Gang; as Arch-Dell or Arch-Doxy signifies the same Degree in Rank among the female Canters and Gypsies.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.