Green’s Dictionary of Slang

babe n.

1. (UK Und., also bab) a man who has recently been initiated into crime; one who has been committed to trial.

[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict. n.p.: Bab or Babe a thief just initiated: one committed for trial.

2. (UK Und.) a confidence trickster’s accomplice.

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 91: babes the lowest order of knock-outs (which see), who are prevailed upon not to give opposing biddings at auctions, in consideration of their receiving a small sum (from one shilling to half-a-crown), and a certain quantity of beer. babes exist in Baltimore, U.S., where they are known as blackguards and ‘rowdies’.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sl. Dict.

3. (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].

[[UK] ‘Panders, Come Awaye’ in Farmer Merry Songs and Ballads (1897) III 32: True itt is that Babe for yeeres may be a virgin; / But Cupid ffinds the drabb, al ready for a surgyon for the scabb].
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 20 Oct. 5/7: Local babelet went to a recently held fancy dress shivoo, covered with miniature whisky bottles, dice, cards, tote tickets, cigarettes, etc. She was labelled ‘Ruination’.
[song title] Fly Away Kentucky Babe.
[US]N.Y. Tribune 23 Aug. 60: [lyrics] Glide youre babe o’er the floor to that Spanish drag.
[US]R. Bolwell ‘College Sl. Words & Phrases’ in DN IV:iii 231: babe, n. A pretty girl. ‘She’s some babe.’.
[US]N.I. White Amer. Negro Folk-Songs 266: [reported from Durham, NC, 1919] Working on the railroad / Ten cents a day, / Working to get my babe some shoes.
[US]Phila. Inquirer 16 June n.p.: A ‘babe’ is any beautiful dumb young lady introduced to the campus.
[UK]P. Cheyney Don’t Get Me Wrong (1956) 7: I tell you that babe was talkin’ plenty sense.
[US]I. Shulman Amboy Dukes 18: He liked Kenny’s babe better.
[US]Kramer & Karr Teen-Age Gangs 151: Some of the girls went through while we’re talking and I tell you they was some babes.
[US](con. 1940s) H. Simmons Man Walking On Eggshells 156: They had a lot of square cats hanging around the Showbar. They had a lot of square babes around there too.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 71: I hope it’s Gypsy Pearl, man, she’s a fine babe!
[US]A. Young Snakes (1971) 149: He’s even been dating a colored girl—and boy, is she ever a babe.
[Aus]Lette & Carey Puberty Blues 29: Boys’ boards came before everything. It was waves, then babes.
[Aus]G.A. Wilkes Exploring Aus. Eng. 7: In 1942, when there was an influx of American servicemen into Australia, the US War and Navy Departments issued a Pocket Guide to Australia which listed common expressions which might be encountered. The Guide explained that [...] to smooge was ‘to pitch woo’, a sheila was ‘a babe’, the Pommies were ‘the British’, shikkered meant ‘drunk’ and jackaroo was ‘a tenderfoot on a sheep ranch’.
[US]M. Myers et al. Wayne’s World II [film script] wayne: Babe alert! We have red level.
[UK]Guardian Guide 24–30 July 98: He came up with the hitherto untried method of putting hot babes on the cover of a men’s magazine.
[Aus]Ozwords [Internet] As noted in the last issue of Ozwords, babe has come to mean ‘a sexually attractive young person of either sex’, and especially in teenage magazines (primarily aimed at teenage girls) the babes are almost invariably male. A boyfriend is a babester. A babefest is an event, especially a party, attended by many sexily good-looking young people. Thus in a teenage context, the second sentence may well mean ‘I saw the most sexy young guy’.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skinny Dip 39: He’s got a babe stashed somewhere?
[US]J. Ellroy Hilliker Curse 9: My dad said he knew a TV babe named Chris Nelson.

4. a form of address, irrespective of sex, e.g. Where you goin’, babe?

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 61: ‘How’s that, babe?’ he asked coolly.
[US]L.A. Herald 13 Nov. 9/1: [lysics] Kiss your minstrel boy goodbye...bye...babe, my...babe.
[US]M. West Sex (1997) Act II: I’ll promise you a new thrill every day, babe.
[US]N.I. White Amer. Negro Folk-Songs 261: [reported from Auburn, AL, 1915–16] Tell him I’m gone, babe, tell him I’m gone. / If he asks you what wuz the matter, / Tell him you don’t know, babe.
[US]C. Himes ‘The Song Says “Keep on Smiling”’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 88: A hand squeezed her arm and a whiskey-thickened voice whispered, ‘Wanna drink, babe?’.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 41: What is it, babe—low blood-pressure?
[US]H. Ellison ‘Final Shtick’ in Gentleman Junkie (1961) 16: Sure, Marty. Sure, babe.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 221: She [...] came out and, smiling, asked Mike how he was doing. Pretty good babe.
[US](con. 1960s) R. Price Wanderers 26: ‘Hey, Richie!’ ‘Hey, babe, what’s goin’ on?’.
[US]C. McFadden Serial 58: I hear you, babe; I just can’t figure out what space you’re in.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 207: Here’s the hard part, babe.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 156: Yeah! I can see your conundrum, babe!
[UK]Indep. Rev. 15 May 4: Never mind a book, babe, write the song.

5. something excellent, desirable; also as phr. the babes.

[UK]N&Q 12 Ser. IX 466: Babes The. Something very good.
[UK]A. Sillitoe ‘Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner’ Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1960) 24: I looked at an everloving babe of a brand-new typewriter.
[US]S. King Christine 39: No kilometres in little red numbers underneath; when this babe had rolled off the assembly line.

6. (US campus) an unpleasant woman.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Sept. 1: babe – an unpleasant female. A derogatory term used by both males and females.

7. used congratulatorily, a person of either sex (though still usu. female).

[UK]E. Raymond Tell England (1965) 290: Our babe’s done orl right. He’s killed four, and is now standin’ on ’em.
[US]T. Wolfe Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby (1966) 6: The old babes at the row upon row of slot machines.
[Can]Totally True Diaries of an Eighties Roller Queen 8 Apr. [Internet] Gary got a drive home by my mom. I love him so much. I think he’s such a gorgeous babe. He’s a good kisser too.
[US]C. Fleming High Concept 87: All the girls went ‘Oh, it’s Don, the babe’.
[Aus]P. Temple Black Tide (2012) [ebook] This hunk, this absolute babe, has come into my life.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 14 July 5: The ‘ultimate kick-ass fuck-the-system anarcho babe’.
‘Valley Girls’ on Paranoiafanzine [Internet] I mean, guys, like, always want to do it. Like, I went out with this dude Scott, and he like, wanted to do it in the car. Gross me out! Like, it was a Fiat! I mean, I am so sure. Ok, maybe in a Trans Am, but only if the dude is a total babe.

In derivatives

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

very beautiful, very sexy; usu. of a woman, but occas. a man.

[US]M. Myers et al. Wayne’s World [film script] wayne: Tent pole. She’s a babe. garth: She’s magically bablicious.
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 93: There is plenty of talk of [...] women — babe-a-licious girls, babe-a-lonions, and just plain babes.
[Ire]P. Howard Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightdress 101: They’re both pretty babelicious.
[SA]A. Lovejoy ‘The Smell of Tears’ at www.acidalex.com [Internet] 8: Some boy named Kevin whom they both apparently think is babalicious.
babette (n.) [dimin. sfx -ette]

(US gay) a very youthful-looking homosexual man.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 44: babette [kwn SF, ’70] baby-faced teen who appeals to the paternal side of the mature homosexual.
[US]R.O. Scott Gay Sl. Dict. [Internet].

In compounds

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

(US campus) a good-looking woman.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Mar. 1: babalonian – attractive, sexy woman.
[US]Eble Sl. and Sociability 93: There is plenty of talk of [...] women — babe-a-licious girls, babe-a-lonions, and just plain babes.
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]

(US) an apartment used by a man for the seduction of women.

[US]M. Myers et al. Wayne’s World II [film script] We now have an official babe lair.
filmfodder.com [Internet] The lights are dim, the place is clean and the formerly-packed bedroom has been gutted and remodeled into a full-blown babe lair (the mirror above the waterbed is the crowning touch).
[Ire]P. Howard Orange Mocha-Chip Frappuccino Years [ebook] Chapter Three. The One Where Ross gets a Babe Lair.

In phrases

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

(US teen) an admirable, attractive person of the opposite (or preferred) sex.

[UK] ‘Digested Read’Guardian 21 Sept. [Internet] Ceel’s a bit nuts – she says things like she’s already died – but she’s a real babe and the sex is tops.

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]

one who is imprisoned in the stocks or pillory.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Oxford Jrnl 4 Mar. 3/2: Tho’ thou hast scapt the chates for this bout, I may see thee a babe in the wood before tis over: and so the ruffin cly thee.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]B.M. Carew Life and Adventures.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]E. de la Bédollière Londres et les Anglais 312/2: babes in the wood, [...] voleurs qui se sont laissé prendre et qui sont en prison.
[UK]C. Hindley Vocab. and Gloss. in True Hist. of Tom and Jerry.
babe of grace (n.) [lit. ‘child of grace’]

one who looks ‘holier-than-thou’ but is not; a hypocrite.

[UK]J. Cleveland Poem in Character of a London-Diurnall 23: My pious Brother Hearken with reverence [...] Then (finally my Babe of Grace) forbeare.
[UK]Mennis & Smith ‘To a Friend upon his Marriage’ Musarum Deliciae (1817) 26: It is th’ opinion of this place, Thou canst not get a Babe of Grace.
[UK]Rochester ‘Satyr’ in Works (1999) 84: An though sh’ had almost won the bloody Field, / With Suck-prick (Babe of Grace) to this does yield.
[UK]N. Ward ‘A Walk to Islington’ Writings (1704) 78: The next that appear’d was a Young Babe of Grace, / With Merc’ry in’s heels, and a Gallows in’s face; / Whose Saucy Behaviour, and Impudent Air, / Denoted he was Born for a Bartholemew-Fair.
[UK]W. King York Spy 25: We came to Conny-Street, where the Babes of Grace were handing about a dead Rat, and every now and then, toss’d it into the Face of some staring Booby or other.
[UK]Swift ‘A Panegyrick on the D---n’ in Miscellanies V (1736) 137: Let others with Fanatick Face, Talk of their Milk for Babes of Grace.
[UK]Chester Courant 28 Feb. 4/3: He puts a fine parcel of money into his own pocket! [...] quite a filch! Oh a blessed babe of grace!
[UK]Morn. Post (London) 31 Jan. 4/2: Our leaders meet [...] In perconceiot and confidence secure, / Each babe of grace squats down a connoisseur.
[UK]‘Jack Muggins’ in Rum Ti Tum! in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) III 173: Ven von of them beggard informers, / Employed by the babies of grace, / [...] / Nabb’d Jack for a cruelty case.
[UK]Leicester Jrnl 14 Apr. 2/7: Pretty well this for a sucking babe of grace who is desirous of teaching us our duty to God.