Green’s Dictionary of Slang

babe n.

1. [mid-19C] (UK Und., also bab) a man who has recently been initiated into crime; one who has been committed to trial.

2. [mid-19C] (UK Und.) a confidence trickster’s accomplice.

3. [1910s+] (orig. US) a girl, girlfriend or young woman, esp. if attractive; thus babe alert, a warning to other men to note the approach of an attractive woman [the term entered sl. c.1915, waned somewhat after 1950 but gained a new lease of life, and began to refer to either sex in the late 1980s].

4. [1910s+] a form of address, irrespective of sex, e.g. Where you goin’, babe?

5. [1910s+] something excellent, desirable; also as phr. the babes.

6. [1980s] (US campus) an unpleasant woman.

7. [1980s+] used congratulatorily, a person of either sex (though still usu. female).

In derivatives

babelicious (adj.) (also babalicious, babe-a-licious. bablicious) [+ SE delicious]

[1990s+] very beautiful, very sexy; usu. of a woman, but occas. a man.

babette (n.) [dimin. sfx -ette]

[1970s+] (US gay) a very youthful-looking homosexual man.

In compounds

babe-a-lonian (n.) (also babalonian) [pun on sense 3 and Babylon n.2 ]

[1990s+] (US campus) a good-looking woman.

babe lair (n.) [SE lair; coined in the skit (and later film) ‘Wayne’s World’ on US TV Saturday Night Live, the major contemporary popularizer of the word babe]

[1990s+] (US) an apartment used by a man for the seduction of women.

In phrases

real babe (n.) [SE real/real adj. ]

[1990s+] (US teen) an admirable, attractive person of the opposite (or preferred) sex.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

babe in the wood (n.) [SE babe + the wooden construction of the stocks/pillory + pun on the title of the folktale]

[late 17C–early 19C] one who is imprisoned in the stocks or pillory.

babe of grace (n.) [lit. ‘child of grace’]

[mid-17C- early 19C] one who looks ‘holier-than-thou’ but is not; a hypocrite.