Green’s Dictionary of Slang

short adj.1

1. of an individual, impoverished, out of cash.

[UK]Chapman & Jonson Eastward Ho! V i: And I not able to relieve her, neither, being kept so short by my husband.
[UK]Farquhar Constant Couple II v: I am very short... at present.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. IV 34: I’m rather short just now – had to give my mother a hundred this evening, for rent!
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) II 180: I’m very short; please to send me two ponies.
[US]Putnam’s Mag. Apr. n.p.: A common practice is to withhold a little of a poor sewing-girl’s pay from week to week, on the plea of being short, and when a handsome aggregate has been reached, to boldly deny the debt.
[US]Appleton’s Journal (N.Y.) 30 Apr. 497/2: The ‘Golden Rule’ struck them as an altogether impossible kind of precept [...] especially when one was ‘stuck and short’.
[UK]A. Griffiths Fast and Loose III 259: I was never so short.
[UK]Star (Canterbury) 19 Oct. 2/1: ‘Kim’ bing naturally ‘a little short’ just now.
[UK]Albert Chevalier ‘The Candid Man’ [lyrics] Well, she was a decent sort, An’ knowin’ I was short, She didn’t mind cuttin’ ex’s down.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 18 Feb. 4/7: It’s not because I’m ‘short,’ / For my ‘sky’s’ not light.
[US]H. Green Maison De Shine 73: I’m a little short to-day, ladies.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 18 Feb. 8/6: She did crack that she was short, / Saying that the joss who run her, / Never slung it, as he ought.
[US]H.G. Van Campen ‘Life on Broadway’ in McClure’s Mag. Dec. 178/1: A man demeans himself by actin’ short with the help when he’s with a lady.
[US]R. Lardner ‘The Water Cure’ in Gullible’s Travels 166: Here, though, was Bess back in town and Old Man Short makin’ up to her again.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 166: He gave me a hundred marks when I told him I was short and wanted to borrow only that small amount.
[US]S. Longstreet Decade 246: I’m a bit short tonight.
[UK]‘Henry Green’ Caught (2001) 73: Per’aps ’e kept ’er short, you know, stinted.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Tomboy (1952) 89: Have you got any money on you? I’m short.
[UK]H. Pinter Caretaker Act I: Oh well ... now, mister, if you want the truth ... I’m a bit short.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 89: We’ll settle up. Now don’t leave yourself short.
[US]G.V. Higgins Rat on Fire (1982) 92: You wouldn’t happen to have that fifty I loaned you, would you? I’m a little short tonight.
[SA]R. Malan My Traitor’s Heart (1991) 73: [...] always short because he pissed away his wages in the shebeens.
[Aus]Penguin Bk of More Aus. Jokes 220: I’m a bit short at the moment, Pete. Could you lend me a cent?
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 328: Probably walked off from folding money, too, when he was already short, only a tenspot.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 81: I borrowed money [...] I was short and he puts it out.

2. insufficient, esp. of money; thus short bread, not enough cash.

[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 8: But Money being short there, we carried it to B---grove [...] to G---e T--ll, a Shopkeeper there, and Tobin sold it to him.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 497: A very good church-going youth, / Of th’ Catechize could read some part, / But to his dad and mammy’s grief, / Was very short in his Belief.
[UK]Samuel Johnson in Boswell Life (1906) II 365: Nay, my dear lady, don’t talk so. Mr. Long’s character is very short. It is nothing.
[UK] ‘The Man About Town’ in Nobby Songster 23: My tin run short, and you may guess, I soon was out of that.
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 344: He asked how much tin was given? and when the knowing Jack purposely understated the sum, he remarked, ‘That’s short earnings.’.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 229: A conductor of an omnibus, or any other servant, is said to be short, when he does not give all the money he receives to his master.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 306: In America, short has to cover the absence or want of everything that ought to be on hand.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 29: Next day they had to make a hot touch for a short coin so as to get the price of a couple o’ sinkers and a good old ‘draw one’.
[Ire]Joyce ‘A Mother’ Dubliners (1956) 144: This is four shillings short.
[UK]P. MacGill Moleskin Joe 74: I’ve done a short tucker stretch for three weeks, and so I’m chancin’ my arm on Glencorrie, for a wee while.
[US]G.S. Schuyler Yellow Peril in Hatch & Hamalian Lost Plays of Harlem Renaissance (1996) 52: Here! what does this mean? You’re five dollars short.
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 31: ‘Awfully short these things,’ he remarked [...] ‘My tobacconist hoards them, you know, for his pet customers.’.
[US]C. Willingham End as a Man (1952) 176: He slowly counted the bills, then looked up. ‘Bud, you’re short!’.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 119: I ain’t never even come to you short, I pay with the full five bills.
[US]D. Goines Dopefiend (1991) 44: Hoping in his heart that they were short.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 136: You cain’t keep it together if you bread too short.
[US]A.K. Shulman On the Stroll 110: Lana wouldn’t have dared go home short; her man would think she was stashing money for herself or taking time off the job.
[US]N. George ‘Rappin’ with Russell’ in Buppies, B-Boys, Baps and Bohos (1994) 48: Unfortunately the brothers had a shaky reputation and short bread.
[US]Dr Dre ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit’ [lyrics] Bitch can’t hang with the streets, she found herself short.
[US]Prince Paul ‘Prince Among Thieves’ [lyrics] He come up short, I’m gonna smoke him.

3. of banknotes, in large denominations [orig. cashiers’ jargon; large denominations mean fewer notes, which take a shorter time to count].

[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 213: Short [...] A similar phrase is used at the counters of banks; upon presenting a cheque, the clerk asks, ‘How will you take it?’ i.e., in gold, or notes. Should it be desired to receive it in as small a compass as possible, the answer is, ‘short’.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Sept. 17/3: A sleepy-looking bushman entered the bank with a £900 cheque. ‘How will ye ’ave it?’ ‘Short!’ And short it was.
[UK]A. Binstead Houndsditch Day by Day 29: The customers, blasé of boodle, who took it ‘short’ and with gloved hands.

4. (US prison) of a prisoner, having only a few weeks or days of a sentence to serve.

[US]H. Simon ‘Prison Dict.’ in AS VIII:3 (1933) 27/1: GET-UP. The morning of one’s release. Boy, I only got sixty-seven more days an’ a get-up —I’m gettin’ short fer fair!
[US]G. Milburn ‘Convicts’ Jargon’ in AS VI:6 441: short, adj. Nearing the day of release. ‘Believe it or not, I’m getting short again, and will be out this time next year.’.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 45/1: Getting short, near the end of a prison sentence (prison).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 192/2: Short, a. (P) Approaching the end of one’s prison term.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 301: I had ‘shortitis’—the impatience which makes the last few weeks unbearably long. [Ibid.] 303: I’m so short now I can taste the street.
[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 90: Me and the Horse were cutting you up last night. He said you were short.
[US]Maledicta V:1+2 (Summer + Winter) 267: The inmate’s papers are his documents dealing with his parole application which, when approved, makes him short.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 28: Short may be used to indicate a person has served the majority of his sentence and is near his release date.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Short: (1) To be near the end of a sentence.
[US]A.N. LeBlanc Random Family 239: Jessica’s roommates were ‘getting short’ – their release dates were approaching.

5. (drugs) of an injection, weak.

[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore 166: Short beer [...] Short go [...] Short order – a smaller-than-usual dose of narcotics.

6. (US milit.) near the end of a term of duty, spec. the twelve-month tours of Vietnam.

[US]J. Crumley One to Count Cadence (1987) 130: I’m so short I can sleep in a matchbox.
[US]Army Reporter Feb. in Maledicta VI:1+2 251: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for I am the meanest motherfucker in the valley. Short! she adds by way of amen.
[US](con. c.1970) G. Hasford Short Timers (1985) 155: I’m so short that every time I put on my socks I blindfold myself.
[US]M. Baker Nam (1982) 91: When I got short – when you’re under seventy-five days or so, you’re starting to be a short-timer – my platoon commander gave me a jive job sending me to the rear [...] to get the mail.
[US]G.R. Clark Words of the Vietnam War 465: Troops kept track of the date on special calendars, and some ‘short’ troops carried a short carved stick (similar to a swagger stick) on which they notched each passing day.
[US](con. 1969) N.L. Russell Suicide Charlie 108: Stan was getting short by then, and we had been discussing who should replace him as squad leader.

7. (drugs) in insufficient quantity for the money paid.

[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 64: The packages started coming up short.
[UK]J. Hoskison Inside 78: Jimmy, you bastard — you owe me. You’re short.

In compounds

short go (n.)

1. (US drugs) short measure on a drug deal; a weak injection.

[US]B. Dai Opium Addiction in Chicago 203: Short go. A small amount of drugs for the money.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 207: short go A weak injection of a narcotic.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore 166: Short beer [...] Short go [...] Short order – a smaller-than-usual dose of narcotics.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 229: short go [...] (2) short weight from the pusher’s supplier.

2. a shortage of drugs.

[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 202: There was a short go of heroin on account of some big wheeler-dealer with millions of dollars’ worth of the stuff had gotten himself busted and this caused a bad shortage.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 229: short go (1) a shortage.
short-hitter (n.)

(US campus) one who cannot hold their drink.

[US]Wisconsin State Jrnl 17 Jan. 1-2: The guy or girl who comes close in passing out after only two or three glasses of beer is called a ‘short-hitter’.
short on (adj.)

badly supplied, wanting.

[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 39: You’re short as my hair on knowing just what life really means.
[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 249: The sailor was long on money and short on leave.
[US]H. Roth From Bondage 387: They were short on brains.
[UK]Observer Screen 9 Apr. 6: When it’s a book as short on plot and long on atmosphere as High Fidelity.
short piece (n.) [piece n. (7a)]

(US drugs) a purported ounce of a narcotic that has in fact been shaved or otherwise reduced.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 1 in AS XI:2 126/1: short piece. An ‘ounce’ or bindle of narcotics, especially morphine and cocaine, which has been shaved with a razor blade or otherwise reduced before it reaches the addict.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Argot of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in AS XIII:3 190/2: short. Var. of short-piece.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.
short pot (n.)

a short measure used to cheat drinkers in a tavern; also attrib.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: short-pots false, cheating Potts used at Ale-houses, and Brandy-shops.
[UK]N. Ward London Terraefilius I 8: He staggers Home [...] and becomes a Generous Cully to his Short-pot Landlady.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].

In phrases

on the short

(US drugs) buying drugs without paying the full price.

[US]G. Pelecanos Drama City 234: The walk-up fiends trying to buy [crack] on the short.
run short (v.)

(US) to run out of money.

[US]Lantern (N.O.) 9 July 3: Please send me two dollars; I run short.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘A Derby Bet’ Sporting Times 28 May 1/4: If one man desires to be honest, and t’other man’s bank’s running short; / Well, a hundred odd’s not to be sneezed at.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

short and sweet (n.)

(US) a small, rare-cooked steak.

[US]Tacoma Times (WA) 2 Nov. 3/5: A ‘short and sweet’ denotes a small steak, blood rare.
short arm (n.)

see separate entry.


see separate entries.

short boy (n.) [the Short Boys gang, fl. c.1850 in New York City]

(US Und.) a thug.

N.-Y. Daily Times 13 Jan. 6/4: The Court room, as usual, was crowded with ‘short boys,’ gamblers and loafers, who seemed to take much interest in the proceedings.
[UK]Essex Standard 18 Feb. 4/7: An American paper says this phalanx consisted chiefly of ‘the dead rabbit, the plug-uglies [...] and the short-boys’.
[US]Congressional Record 12 Apr. 2327/1: We should protect the ballot-box from violence, [...] from the ‘short boys’ and ‘dead rabbits’ of this country [DA].
short-coat (v.)

to circumcise.

[UK]Sporting Times 25 Mar. 1/3: ‘Has your little boy been short-coated yet?’ asked the light-haired lady of the dark one. ‘Not yet. The Rabbi is away on his holidays,’ was the unexpected answer.
short con

see separate entries.

short count (n.)

(drugs) a short measure; also attrib.

[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 26: They were looking for Jack. He had given them short count in some deal.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 229: short count A short weight of a drug given by a supplier to a pusher for resale to the addict, the object being to cheat the pusher.
[US]E. Grogan Ringolevio 43: Kenny put together a short-count dime paper.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 323: No slinking [...] no palming a few vials and hoping against hope that the short-count doesn’t get noticed.
short dog (n.) [dog n.7 (1)]

(orig. US black, also short-dog bottle) a small bottle of cheap alcohol, usu. wine.

[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2 42: Short dog, n. Cheap wine.
[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 137: He [...] shoplifted a short dog of wine.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 187: My father [...] has this ol’ wino friend he’s been knowin’ for years that sit on the corner. So, everytime it’s his birthday, he go buy ’im a short dog – a little bottle of wine.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 19: Pete the Packrat extracted a shortdog of wine from the shopping cart filled with trash attached to his Dalmatian bitch.
[US]B. Gifford Night People 129: At least two dozen black men [...] drinking from or holding in one hand a short dog in a brown paper sack.
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 90: He hit a liquor store. He bought sixty short dogs.
[US]J. Ellroy ‘Hot-Prowl Rape-O’ in Destination: Morgue! (2004) 311: Palsied pensioners toked Tokay in short-dog bottles.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 38: Emboldened by a half-full short dog of rye.
[Aus]J.J. DeCeglie Drawing Dead [ebook] I finished the rotgut [i.e. whisky] in the car [...] It was only a shortdog.
[US]J. Stahl Happy Mutant Baby Pills 231: Nora liked to pull out her short dog of Old Mr Boston and pour a slug into her Starbucks.
short end (n.)

see separate entry.

short end (of the stick) (n.)

see under stick n.

short eyes (n.) [for ety. see shut eyes n.]

(US prison) a child molester.

[US]Newsweek 8 Apr. 81: For the cons the supreme sin is to be a ‘short eyes’—a sexual molester of children.
[US]E. Torres After Hours 104: Now he teams up with the short-eyes.
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 80: The child-molester – the nonce, the short eyes – was the lowest of the low.
[UK]I. Welsh Trainspotting 148: Stoat the baw, they call it [...] Sex Criminal. Child Rapist. Nonce. Short-eyes.
[US]Rebennack & Rummel Under A Hoodoo Moon 120: Fucking up some child’s life didn’t go down well with the old-timers [...] One way they’d dispatch a short-eye was to put a mop wringer through his head like a busted watermelon, which branded them six-by-six.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 5: Murphy had seen [...] a bad-ass prison picture called Short Eyes back in ’77.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 324: Its patients were under commitment as ‘mentally disordered sex offenders,’ commonly known as pedophiles or child molesters, and in convict parlance ‘short eyes’.
[US]G. Pelecanos Night Gardener 172: Inside the Federal joint, he’s marked as a short eyes.
[UK](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 512: The radge jis looked like a fuckin short-eyes n aw, hud stoat written aw ower um.
[US]J. Stahl OG Dad 166: Maybe it was AT&T itself who asked for the Short Eyes slant. No doubt to appeal to all the crusty old sex tourists who spend big money on Cambodian child rape vacations.
short fuse (n.) (also short wick)

(orig. US) a short temper.

[US]N.Y. Times 13 Oct. 4:10: Tully, a fellow notorious around Sausalito for his short fuse.
[US]Atlantic Monthly June 12: He has a temper and is known to the Washington press corps variously as ‘testy,’ ‘peevish,’ and ‘living on the edge of resentment’. But aides say he carries the short fuse in his pocket.
[US]J. Sayles Union Dues (1978) 149: ‘You got a lousy temper, Dawm.’ ‘I got a shawt fuse is all. I boil over easy.’.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 187: short fuse/wick Quick tempered.
short hair (n.) [their shaved heads]

a convict, esp. a new one.

[US]B. Jackson Killing Time 176: Then Capt. Brinkley goes on back to the Judy hole to butcher up some more of the short hairs.
short heels (n.)

see separate entry.

short heist (n.)

see separate entry.

short-histe (adj.)

see separate entry.

shorthorn (n.) [agricultural imagery; cf. longhorn n.] (US, mainly Western )

a newcomer, an innocent.

[US]C.A. Siringo Texas Cow Boy (1950) 45: Mr. Black was a Kansas ‘short horn’.
[US]Outing (N.Y.) Nov. 129/2: Besides a few snipe killed at a swamp called by Shorthorns ‘cineky,’ from the Spanish sienica, we still depended upon Uncle Sam’s subsistence stores for our daily bread [DA].
[US]A.H. Lewis Wolfville 28: It has been a question with me [....] how this old shorthorn and his girl manages for to make out.
[US]J. London Road 173: Gay-cats are short-horns, chechaquos, new chums, or tenderfeet.
[US]W.M. Raine Bucky O’Connor (1910) 97: That shorthorn in chaps and a yellow bandana.
[US]J. London ‘Flush of Gold’ Complete Short Stories (1993) II 1293: Anybody could do him, the latest short-horn in camp could lie his last dollar out of him.
[US]‘Max Brand’ ‘Above the Law’ in Coll. Stories (1994) 38: Are we goin’ to act like a bunch of short horns?
[US]F. Hunt Long Trail from Texas 117: You pimple-faced, milk-fed shorthorn, why don’t ya go back to Kansas where ya belong?
[US]R.F. Adams Western Words (1968) 143/1: shorthorn One not native to the cattle country, a tenderfoot [DA].
[US](con. 1920s–40s) in J.L. Kornbluh Rebel Voices.
short-length (n.)

(Scot.) a glass of brandy.

[UK]Glasgow Citizen 19 Nov. n.p.: Is not the exhilarating short-length of brandy known beyond our own Queen Street? [F&H].
short-limbered (adj.) [SE limber. ‘The detachable fore part of a gun-carriage, consisting of two wheels and an axle, a pole for the horses, and a frame which holds one or two ammunition-chests. It is attached to the trail of the gun-carriage proper by a hook’ (OED)]


[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
short money (n.)

see separate entry.

short-mouthed (adj.)

(W.I.) verbally agile, good at snappy repartee.

[WI]W. Jekyll Jam. Song and Story 4: Negro. Short-mout’ed . English. Quick at repartee.
short-nose (n.)

(US) a .38 revolver, which has a short barrel.

[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 16: You’d smack him down like Whiplash does in the cowboy flick or really light him up like Scarface in that gangster picture—swoon, crack, bang, bang, bang, short-nose, snub-nose pistol, and a machine gun, and a poor fuckin’ loudmouth is laid out.
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 49: If you had let me go for the short-nose.
short sheet (v.) [SAmE shortsheet, the UK ‘apple-pie bed’]

(US) to mistreat, to trick someone; thus short-sheeting n.

[US]O. Ferguson ‘Vocab. for Lakes, [etc.]’ AS XIX:2 110: Short-sheeting is a general term used in connection with practical joking of whatever character.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS.
short short (n.)

(US black) a very short time, very soon.

[US]Ebonics Primer at [Internet] lay it on someone’s hip Definition: to page someone Example: Yo G., I’ll lay one on yo hip in a short short.
short stop

see separate entries.

short story (n.)

see separate entry.

short strokes (n.)

see separate entry.

short time

see separate entries.


see separate entries.

In phrases

short-order shrimp (n.)

(US gay) see cit. 1972.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 22: A drunk sailor leaned up against an alley wall and quickly sucked off is a short-order shrimp.
short pants court (n.)

(US juv.) a juvenile court.

[US]Kramer & Karr Teen-Age Gangs 228: The Adolescents’ Court is known among the youths as the ‘lollypop’ or ‘short pants’ court.