Green’s Dictionary of Slang

ivory n.

[lit. or fig. uses of SE ivory used in manufacturing all these items]

1. [early 18C+] in pl., dice; thus ivory roller n., a dice-player.

2. [late 18C+] usu. in pl., a tooth; also attrib.

3. [mid-19C+] a piano; in pl., piano keys; also attrib.

4. [late 19C–1930s] (US) poker chips.

5. [late 19C–1950s] billiard balls.

Pertaining to a piano

In compounds

ivory-bender (n.)

[1920s] (US) a piano-player.

ivory-hammerer (n.) (also ivory-spanker)

[late 19C+] a pianist.

ivory-hound (n.)

[1930s] (US) a piano player [+ -hound sfx].

ivory-pounder (n.)

[late 19C+] (US) a piano player.

ivory-thumper (n.)

[20C+] (US) a piano player.

General uses

In compounds

ivory-box (n.) (also ivory case)

[19C+] the mouth.

ivory-carpenter (n.) (also ivory-snatcher)

[1940s–50s] (US) a dentist.

ivory dome (n.) [dome n. (1)]

[1910s–30s] (US) a fool; a fool’s empty head.

ivory-domed (adj.)

[1910s–1930s] (US) stupid.

ivory-turner (n.)

[early–mid-19C] a skilful dice-player.

In phrases

clean one’s ivories (v.)

[early 19C] to have a drink.

flash one’s ivory (v.) (also flash one’s ivories)

[19C] to smile, to grin.

rattle the ivories (v.)

1. [mid-19C+] to throw dice.

2. [late 19C] to play a piano.

roll in someone’s ivory/ivories (v.) [sing. use until mid-19C]

[late 18C–late 19C] to kiss.

spank the ivories (v.)

[1940s] (US Black) to play the piano.

sport one’s ivory (v.)

[late 18C–early 19C] to grin.

wash one’s ivories (v.) (also sluice the ivories, wash the ivory)

to drink.