Green’s Dictionary of Slang

spot v.1

1. to mark or note as a criminal or suspected person.

[US]Sun (N.Y.) 20 June 2/2: The officer observing a ‘Snow Ball’ approaching, who would be likely to ‘spot’ him with the convict, ‘sherried’.
[US]‘Greenhorn’ [G. Thompson] Bristol Bill 45/1: The officer, without knowing who he was, any other than that he was a conspicuous and ‘spotted’ man, immediately took Bill into custody.
[US]Galaxy (N.Y.) Mar. 193: He knew all the shoplifters and pickpockets, and thus was able to ‘spot’ any of them the moment they entered the shop, and so could save the firm and its patrons thousands of dollars every year.
[Aus]S. James Vagabond Papers (3rd series) 14: One man would throw or push another down after he had kicked the ball, and without [...] provocation. The aggrieved one would ‘spot’ his antagonist and repay in like manner.
[Scot]Dundee Courier 4 July 7/5: He strongly advised me to return to the North [...] and trust to luck not to be ‘spotted’ by those who had seen me before.
[NZ]Tuapeka Times (Otago, NZ) 12 Aug. 6/4: A criminal may be ‘spotted’ on account of slang which he uses.

2. to inform against.

[UK]Dickens Our Mutual Friend (1994) 159: This man had ‘spotted’ the other, to save himself and get the money.

3. to place a watch on, to observe, to spy on; thus spotting n.

Eve. Mirror (N.Y.) 2 Nov. 2/2: ‘Spotting.’ The last new word on the town is spotting — finding the residence of. A police man tracks a culprit until he ‘spots’ him.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 80: Don’t stop , sir – don’t stop, or some of ’em will be ‘spotting’ you!
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 May. 9/4: Not a solitary ‘bushy’ would ‘spot’ a horse for even a cake of cheap tobacco.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 Nov. 13/3: When [the Queen] was a young and ardent maiden she ‘spotted’ her dear Albert, proposed to him right out, and insisted upon hurrying forward an unpopular marriage.
[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 63: spot, v. To discover, detect.
Lincs Echo 28 Mar. 3/4: Inspector Basham ‘spotted’ the game, and made the capture of cards, money, etc.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 418: Spot. To point out. To examine a place for future operations. [...] Spot a lay. To prepare a place for robbing.
[US]J. Fishman Sex in Prison 84: The ‘wolves’ or ‘top men’ housed among the normal inmates in the prison, who ‘spot’ those among the younger prisoners whom they wish to make their ‘girls,’ and who ‘court’ them.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 1 in AS XI:2 126/2: To spot for someone. To act as lookout for an addict while he takes a shot in a public place or in a prison where a guard may see him.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]‘Blackie’ Audett Rap Sheet 42: Scotty Lawrence had noodled out the general way we would have to take and had men spotting all the ranches in the district.
[UK]R.L. Pike Mute Witness (1997) 98: What I should have done, of course, was spot a man at the apartment to catch this guy. [Ibid.] 127: Mary Kelly and Quinleven are still outside spotting the place.

4. (UK Und., also spot off, spot out) to reconnoitre possible sites for future burglary or identify victims for pickpocketing; thus spotted adj.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 54/2: We cood go e-out thru’ t’day and ‘spot-off’ a thing, an’ do it wen we’d a myn to. [Ibid.] 43/1: He [...] was immediately ‘spotted’ out as the ‘flat’ who had before ‘blewed his poke,’ and ‘piped off’ for another ‘dip’. [Ibid.] 19/1: We can ‘spot’ as we go along, and at our return ‘graft’ as many as we can of the ‘drums spotted’.
[US]Night Side of N.Y. 61: When they ‘spot’ a provincial person, or a newly-arrived foreigner, who looks as though it might pay to cultivate his acquaintance, one of the gang will ‘pipe’ or ‘dog’ him, to find out where he puts up.
[UK]M. Davitt Leaves from a Prison Diary I 26: To obtain the requisite knowledge of the interior of a place which is ‘spotted’ for operations, the game of ‘sweethearting the slavey’ is gone through by the best-looking member of the gang.
[UK]Clarkson & Richardson Police! 314: If a house is ‘spotted,’ some time elapses before all is ripe.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 22 July 2/7: A publican [...] has a racehorse named Derby [...] I have it spotted and you had better go into Boggabri and see if you can spot another.
Jackson Dly News (MS) 1 Apr. 7/3: Crook Chatter [...] ‘“Spotting a joint” is determining a good place to rob’.
[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 221: spot a lay To prepare a place for future crime.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 203/2: Spot, v. 1. To select and mark for robbery; to examine movements of a person or the site of an intended crime.
[US]B. Jackson Thief’s Primer 103: As far as using a professional spotter – having someone going out to spot for us and then we give him 25 per cent or something like that – we never did do that.
[NZ]G. Newbold Big Huey 254: spot (v) Conduct intelligence work prior to committing a crime.

5. (US) to kill, to murder.

B. Harte Flip and Found 24: It’s an even thing if she wouldn’t spot me the first pop [DA].
[US]Odum & Johnson Negro Workaday Songs 150: Han’ on my gun, / Finger on de trigger, / I’s goin’ to jail / ’Cause I’s done spot my nigger.
[US]B. Appel Brain Guy (2005) 195: Holy Christ. McMann spotted. Tough.
[US]R. Chandler Big Sleep 82: At a dollar a rental you take one hundred and twenty-five grand [...] That’s enough to spot a guy for.

In phrases

on the spot

(UK Und.) looking for places that can be broken into and robbed.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 80/1: Next day, Joe and I went out ‘on the spot’ [...] ‘grannying’ all the ‘drums’ that were likely to be easily ‘cracked’.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

In exclamations