Green’s Dictionary of Slang

nigger n.1

also nagur, neager, neeger, nega, negah, negar, neger, niger, nigga, niggah, niggar, niggor, nigguh, niggur, nigra
[ult. Lat. niger, black in colour, thence Early Mod. Eng. (later dial.) niger; thus advocated by HDAS, although the OED and DSUE prefer Sp. negro, black. Nigger has been used in a variety of combs. since 19C; both Webster III and the OED list a number of these, usu. referring to birds, animals and crops, without comment – the assumption being that, for better or worse, they are an accepted (if local) usage; while they are also based on stereotypes, it is more that of colour than of racist assumptions. Those combs. listed here, usu. unlisted in the standard dictionaries, may well have been colloq. in the 19C, but by their intrinsic hostility are, de facto, sl.; otherwise, nigger implies the usual derog. stereotypes as allotted to blacks: poverty, laziness, stupidity, lasciviousness, a propensity to mindless hedonism and violence]

1. [17C+] a derog. term for a black person, orig. a slave.

2. [early 19C+] a general derog. term applicable to anyone regardless of race/skin colour; in context, a foreigner.

3. [mid-19C] used as neg. stereotype, but without an actual black subject, a lazy or generally inadequate person.

4. [mid-19C+] used as a derog. term between blacks; also as term of direct address.

5. [mid-19C+] (US black) used between blacks, with no moral/racial implications; late 20C+ use, typically in rap lyrics, can be sen as ‘reclaiming’ the term from its white/derog. use.

6. [mid-19C+] any non-white foreign person.

7. [mid-19C+] (chiefly Aus./N.Z.) an Aborigine, a Maori.

8. [late 19C+] a subservient person, a servant.

9. [mid-19C–1910s] (also negro) a ‘nigger minstrel’, i.e. a white person performing in blackface; also attrib.

10. [late 19C+] anything coloured black, e.g. the black numbers of roulette.

11. [1950s+] (US black) a close male or female friend, companion, boyfriend or husband, usu. constructed with possessive pronoun; thus my nigger

12. [1960s+] (US) a fellow human being, of any race or skin colour.

13. [1970s+] (US black) a non-black person who is considered to act in a very positive manner in relation to black culture or who identifies strongly with it.

In derivatives

niggerish (adj.) [early 19C+] (US)

used by blacks and whites, exhibiting perceived negative black stereotypes; e.g. lazy, couldn’t-care-less, stubborn; a general derog. term of abuse.

niggeritis (n.) [sfx -itis] [20C+]

1. (W.I.) the urge to lie down and take a nap after a heavy meal.

2. (US) a fig. disease, based on a racist attitude to black people (also used of inter-black attitudes).

niggerize (v.)

[1970s+] (US) to be politically marginalized, i.e. to be rendered ‘black’ and de facto unimportant.

niggerology (n.) [sfx -ology n.]

1. [mid-19C] (US) a derog. term for abolitionism.

2. [1950s–60s] (US) a derog. term for a black studies course at college or school.

niggersome (adj.)

[late 19C] (Aus.) having a dark complexion.

In compounds

nigger and halitosis (n.) (also nigger steak and a bad breath) [the brown colour of liver + the effect of (raw) onions on the breath]

[1940s–50s] (US) liver and onions.

nigger baby (n.)

1. [mid-19C] (US) a cannon-ball [coined by Confederate General Hardee (1815–73) during the siege of Charleston; the cannons from which the missiles were fired were known as swamp angels].

2. [late 19C+] (US) a small liquorice or chocolate sweet or candy shaped like a baby.

nigger bait (n.)

[1950s–60s] an excess of chrome accessories on an automobile.

nigger ball (n.) [SE ball, i.e. the colour and shape]

[1960s+] (S.Afr.) a large, round, black aniseed flavoured sweet, which gradually changes as one sucks away successive layers.

nigger box (n.) [box n.1 (4); negative stereotyping]

[1950s+] (US black) television.

nigger catcher (n.) [captured runaway slaves were roped to this flap and forced to run home alongside their master on his horse]

[mid-19C] (US) a small slotted flap on a saddle.

nigger chaser (n.)

[late 19C+] (US) a firework that once lit leaps around along the ground [in UK, a jumping jack].

nigger day (n.) [the one day of rest permitted to slaves]

[1930s+] (US) Saturday.

nigger daytime (n.) [the time at which slaves were allowed their rest]

[19C+] (US) night time.

nigger dick (n.) [dick n.1 (5); the shape and colour]

[2000s] (US black) a large cigar.

nigger driver (n.)

see separate entry.

nigger-drunk (adj.)

[1940s–60s] (US) very drunk.

nigger fishing (n.) [the implication is of the lazy black fisherman]

[1910s+] (US) leisurely fishing (orig. for for catfish or carp).

nigger flicker (n.) [SE flick knife]

[1950s+] (US black) a weapon, usu. a small knife or a razor blade with one side heavily taped to preserve the user’s fingers.

nigger gin (n.)

[1900s–30s] (US) inferior or synthetic gin.

nigger golf (n.)

[1910s] (US) the game of craps.

niggergram (n.) (also nigger-mouth) [SE (tele)gram/sfx -mouth]

[20C+] (W.I.) a stupid rumour, demeaning gossip.

nigger ham (n.) [both are pink]

[1940s–60s] (US) a water melon.

niggerhead (n.)

see separate entries.

nigger heads (n.) [SE head, alleged resemblance]

[1940s–50s] (US prison) prison-cooked prunes.

nigger heaven (n.) (also nigger gallery)

1. [mid-19C–1940s] (US) the top gallery of a theatre; cites 1880, 1906 refers to a church [this gallery was the only one that black theatregoers could afford/were allowed].

2. [1900s] (US) a state of enjoyment that is derived from vulgar activities.

3. [late 19C–1960s] a black neighbourhood.

In compounds

nigger joint (n.) [joint n. (3b)]

[20C+] (US) a cheap bar, saloon or restaurant.

nigger juke (n.) (also nigger jook ) [juke n.1 (1)]

[1930s–40s] (US) a cheap bar, saloon or restaurant.

nigger kickers (n.) (also nigger stompers) [SE kick/stomp]

[1960s+] (US) large boots.

nigger killer (n.) (also nigger choker)

1. [mid-19C–1940s] (US) a yam or sweet potato [the supposed results of over-eating them].

2. as a weapon.

(a) [late 19C-1970s] a slingshot.

(b) [1940s–70s] a revolver.

(c) [1960s] a large pocket-knife.

nigger knocker (n.) (also nigger-beater)

[1960s+] (US) a stick or club; as often used against blacks.

nigger knots (n.) [SE knots; used as an insult between black people]

[20C+] (W.I.) thick, tough black hair.

niggerlip (v.)

1. [1940s+] to moisten the end of a cigarette while smoking it.

2. [2000s] to slobber on a bottleneck or can when drinking straight from the container.

nigger liquor (n.)

[1920s+] (US) any form of bad liquor, esp. when illicitly distilled.

nigger logic (n.) [the black person stereotyped as child-like and simple]

[20C+] (US) any form of reasoning considered erroneous, over-simplistic, based in fantasy, i.e. totally illogical.

nigger-lover (n.)

see separate entry.

nigger luck (n.) (US)

1. [mid-19C–1940s] good luck, the implication is of unfairness.

2. [1940s] bad luck, which one must make the best of, come what may.

nigger-meat (n.) [meat n. (1)]

[1980s] a white woman who associates with black men.

nigger mess (n.)

[1950s+] (US black) problems within the black community, which should be solved within that group.

nigger news (n.)

[mid-19C–1960s] (US) gossip; not necessarily about or from black people.

nigger night (n.)

[1920s+] (US black) Saturday night.

nigger pancake (n.) [SE pancake; alleged resemblance]

[1960s] (US) a lump of manure.

nigger pot (n.)

[1900s–60s] (US, mainly Southern) illicitly distilled whisky.

nigger-rich (adj.)

[1910s+] (US) very poor or deeply in debt but loaded down with flashy material status symbols.


see separate entries.

nigger rigger (n.) [? nigger rig v.]

[1980s] (US prison) a white inmate who is seen as overly friend to black ones.

nigger row (n.)

1. [late 19C–1900s] (US) the black area of a town or city.

2. the black wing in the Tombs Prison, NYC.

nigger’s bankroll (n.) (also nigger bankroll, ...roll) [SE bankroll/roll n.; thus negative stereotyping]

[1920s–80s] (US) a roll of $1 bills or a wad of small denomination notes inside one larger denomination note.

niggers’ duel (n.)

[late 19C–1900s] (US) an argument, a set-to in which no blows are actually struck.

nigger shooter (n.) (also nigger-trigger)

[late 19C+] (US) a slingshot.

nigger spit (n.)

[late 19C] the lumps in Demerara sugar.

nigger steak (n.) [SE steak; it is particularly dark]

[1930s–50s] (US black) liver.

nigger stick (n.)

[1960s+] (US) an oversized baton, used by policemen and prison officers.

nigger sticker (n.)

[1960s+] a large pocket-knife.

nigger talk (n.) [SE talk]

[mid-19C–1940s] (US) chatter, irresponsible gossip.

nigger tip (v.)

[1940s] (US) to tip badly.

nigger toe (n.) [SE toe; alleged resemblance] (US)

1. [mid-19C–1940s] a type of potato.

2. [late 19C+] (also nigger-heel) a Brazil nut .

niggertown (n.)

see separate entry.

nigger war (n.)

[mid–late 19C] (US, Southern) the US Civil War (1861–5).

nigger work (n.)

[mid-19C+] (US) menial work; ill-performed work.

nigger yard (n.) [Carib.E, negro-yard, that area on a plantation where the slaves were quartered]

[20C+] (W.I.) any notably rough area in the slums.

showcase nigger (n.) (also showcase coon)

see sep. entry.

In phrases

act the nigger (v.) [mid-19C+]

(US black) to act in a manner white racists expect of black people, i.e. foolish, subservient, clownish.

big nigger (n.) [the blackness of the spade suit]

[20C+] (US) in poker, a game in which the high spade splits the pot.

black nigger (n.)

[19C–1950s] (US black) a derog. term of address used by one black man to another.

dark as a nigger’s pocket (adj.)

see under dark adj.

get one’s nigger up (v.)

[20C+] (US) to lose control, to lose one’s temper.

I’m a nigger

see separate entry.

keep-a-nigger (adj.)

[1990s+] (US black) intended to maintain a relationship, e.g. used of a child deliberately conceived by a woman with the intention of keeping a lover who had only desired a brief relationship.

let off a little nigger (v.)

[late 19C+] (US) to act in a crazy, uninhibited way, to let off steam.

my nigger (n.) (also my nigga) [1960s+] (US black)

1. a major influence, a role-model, a close friend.

2. a general term of address.

nigger in a blanket (n.) [SE blanket; alleged resemblance]

[1930s–40s] (US, Western) a pudding made with dark fruits rolled inside pastry.

nigger it (v.) [the social situation of many US blacks]

[mid-19C+] (US) to live in poverty.

nigger out (v.) [stereotype of blacks as incompetent farmers]

1. [mid-19C–1940s] to exhaust land by using it constantly without fertilization.

2. [late 19C+] (US) to back out, to renege on.

nigger up (v.)

[1950s+] (US) to decorate in a vulgar manner; thus niggered-up adj.

not as nigger less

[mid-19C] (US) in no way less.

prairie nigger (n.)

[2000s] (US black) a derog. term for a Native American.

red nigger (n.)

1. [mid-19C] (US) a Native American.

2. [20C+] (US/W.I.) a person both of whose parents are of mixed-African/white descent.

street nigger (n.)

1. [late 19C] a burnt cork artiste, who plays and sings for a living.

2. [1970s] a sophisticated ‘streetwise’ black man.

sweat like a nigger (at election) (v.)

see under sweat v.2