Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lead n.


1. [19C+] a bullet.

2. [mid–late 19C] a collection of money, e.g. by a street performer; thus money in general (see cite 1940).

3. [1900s] a gun.

In compounds

lead pill (n.) (also leaden capsule)

[mid-19C–1950s] (US) a bullet.

lead pipe (n.)

1. [1940s] (US teen) an unpopular individual.

2. [1900s–50s] (US prison) prison-cooked spaghetti.

lead plum (n.)

[1920s–30s] (US) a bullet.

lead poisoning (n.) (also lead cocktail, ...medicine, ...poison, ...supper)

[late 19C+] (orig. US) shotgun shells, revolver bullets, esp. when lodged in a victim’s body.

lead-pusher (n.) (also lead-chucker, -spitter, -sprayer)

[20C+] (US) a gun.

lead sandwich (n.)

[1970s] (US) a bullet.

lead towel (n.)

[mid-18C–early 19C] a pistol.

In phrases

cold lead (n.) (also hot lead)

[early 19C–1920s] a bullet.

eat lead (v.) (also yam lead) [note 16C SE eat iron, to be stabbed]

[1920s+] (orig. US) to be shot, usu. fatally.

feed someone lead (v.)

[1940s–50s] (US) to shoot, usu. to shoot dead.

get the lead (v.) (also take the lead)

[late 19C–1920s] to be shot.

get the lead out (v.) (also get the lead out of one’s arse, ...ass, ...britches, ...pants,, ...tail) [SE lead weighs one down]

[20C+] to hurry up, to stop dawdling; usu. as imper.

lead in one’s pencil (n.)

see under pencil n.

lead up (v.)

[1990s+] (US black) to shoot.

pump lead (v.) (also squeeze lead)

[late 19C+] (US) to fire a gun.

shake the lead out (v.) (also shake the lead from one’s feet, ...out of one’s boots, ...pants, ...shorts, ...tail)

[1910s+] (orig. US) to make an effort, to ‘get a move on’, to stop being lazy.

sling lead (v.)

[mid-19C-1950s] (US) to fire a gun; to shoot.

throw lead (v.)

[late 19C+] (US) to shoot a gun.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

lead balloon (n.)

[1950s+] (US) a failure; usu. in phr. go over like a lead balloon.


see separate entries.

leadhead (n.) [-head sfx]

[1940s+] (US) an idiot; also as adj.

lead-pipe cinch (n.) [the solidity of a SE lead pipe + cinch n.1 (2)] (US)

1. [late 19C] a firm grip.

2. [late 19C+] (also lead pipe, lead pipe trick, pipe, pipe cinch) an absolute certainty, an easy task; thus as adj., certain, easy.


see separate entries.