Green’s Dictionary of Slang

swellhead n.2

also swell bean, swelled-head
[backform. f. swell-headed adj.]

1. a braggart, a boaster, a show-off.

[UK]‘Peter Corcoran’ ‘Lines to Philip Samsonbread’ in Fancy 88: Country swell’d heads may afford you renown.
[US]J.J. Hooper Adventures of Captain Simon Suggs (1851) 46: As for the present directory, they’re all a pack of d——d swell-heads.
[US]N.Y. Dly Tribune 29 June 6/1: Aristocrats: swell-heads I call them, Sir - nothing but swell-heads.
[US]H.L. Williams N.-Y. After Dark 29: Two or three [...] mutter unholy wishes that they may meet that big swellhead in the crowd.
[US]C. Gordon Boarding-School Days 35: Where’s Bullock and Gracie?—don’t see them with you swell-heads lately [DA].
[US]Nat. Republican (DC) 4 Jan. 4/4: I meet swellhead [...] Swellhead and I discuss Swinburne.
[US]San Antonio Light (TX) 16 June 5/1: A tall, aesthetic young man [...] A great swell-head.
[UK]Belfast News Letter 26 May 5/7: ‘Mugwump’ . . . is synonymous with the New York term ‘big bug,’ or the Washington expression ‘swellhead’ .
[UK]Dundee Courier 6 Jan. 6/2: Mrs Swellhead— ‘Doctor, how can I cure fleas on my darling poodle?’.
[US]Wash. Times (DC) 8 May 38: [cartoon title] The Sorrows of Solomon Swellhead.
[US]Eve. Public Ledger (Phila., PA) 13 Dec. 4/3: Are you a [...] swell-head, a puddin’-head or any other kind of head?
[US]Abbeville Press & Banner (SC) 8 Mar. 4/3: The swell bean said he’d like to fight, / But for her sake he’d tarry.
[US]Eve. Star (Wshington, DC) 3 Dec. 4/2: She hated a case of swelled head as much as I did.
[US](con. 1900s) S. Lewis Elmer Gantry 241: That’s the worst swell-head and four-flusher in America, that Binch.
[UK]J.B. Priestley Good Companions 342: In Bruddersford you are always on the lookout for swelled heads.
[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 8: All right, swell-head.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 13 Jan. 1/6: he is the first Hull-born champion and there is no swelled-head about him.
[US] in M. Daly Profile of Youth 117: Aw, this school is run by snobs and swelled heads.
[US]E. De Roo Young Wolves 138: Mr. Swelled Head. Can’t get enough of the boloney they write about him.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 378: swellhead. A vain person; one with delusions of grandeur.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]Richmond Enquirer (VA) 6 Oct. 3/4: It is such ‘swelled head’ notions that has, and ever will, keep Virginia poor.
[UK]Yorks. Gaz. 24 Dec. 5/4: Oh! I can knock the socks off ’n these swell-head teachers and not half try!

3. (also swelled bean, swelled head, swelled nut, swollen head) conceit, arrogance; thus have the swell-head v. [bean n.1 (4)/nut n.1 (1b)].

[US]G.W. Harris Sut Lovingood’s Yarns 61: Wif a onintemitant attack of swell-head.
[US]Tarboro’ Southerner (NC) 28 May 4/2: Though a native born big-bug, he never had the swell-head.
[US]Wichita Eagle (KS) 8 Dec. 11/2: But ‘swelled head’ or ‘big head’ [...] is known as ‘long head’.
[UK]Shields Dly Gaz. 20 June 5/4: After two or three hours he got the swell-head, and went out to chin with the boys.
[US]W.C. Gore Student Sl. in Cohen (1997) 16: swelled head Conceit.
[US]Ade More Fables in Sl. (1960) 190: It was said of him that he was Eccentric and appeared to have a Case of the Swell Head.
[Aus]H. Nisbet In Sheep’s Clothing 264: The candid friend is like a black draught; wholesome, perhaps, during periods of plethora and ‘swollen head,’ but decidedly debilitating if too long continued.
[UK]Marvel III:60 30: Bit of a swelled-head about you since you pushed yourself on the Tankervilles, I guess!
[UK]Manchester Courier 14 Feb. 6/2: There is no doubt that the Zulu is flattered by these discussions [...] and is apt to be afflicted with ’ swell-head’.
[US]Perrysburg Jrnl (Wood Co., OH) 29 July 1/2: Education and a diploma cause ‘swell-head’.
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 206: swelled-head, conceit. ‘Most Sophomores have the swelled-head bad.’.
[US]J. Tully Beggars of Life 213: He got the swell-head.
[UK]J.B. Priestley Good Companions 342: Inigo too he admired as a piano-player and liked as a friendly young chap with not a bit of swelled-head about him.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Haxby’s Circus 184: She won’t get a swelled head will you Maxie?
[US]W.N. Burns One-Way Ride 33: The trouble with that guy was he got the swelled bean. [Ibid.] 195: We sent ’em word to stay in their own backyard. But they had the swell-head and thought they were bigger than we were.
[US]E. O’Neill Long Day’s Journey into Night Act III: You’ve been getting a swelled head lately.
[US]E. O’Neill Iceman Cometh Act II: Just because we act nice to him, he gets a swelled nut.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 153: It was easy to see Pat had got a swelled head since they had made him Deputy Leader of the Party.
[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 135: What it is to have a swelled head!