Green’s Dictionary of Slang

fence n.1

[? as a middleman he provides a fence between the thief and the buyer of the goods]

1. (also fencer) a receiver and seller of stolen property.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Fence, c. a Receiver and Securer of Stolen-goods.
[UK]Hell Upon Earth 3: The successful Villains trudge [...] to a Fence, who is one of those honest Persons who gets a livehood by buying stolen Goods.
[UK]C. Hitchin Conduct of Receivers and Thief-Takers 10: There are several Locks, Fences and flash Pawn Brokers, which are Dealers as well as my self in contraband.
[UK]Hist. of Jonathan Wild 4: The Gentlemen of the Kid-Lay, File, Lay, Sneak and Buttock, together with the Locks, and Fences.
[UK]Life and Glorious Actions of [...] Jonathan Wilde 16: The last of this black tribe, is what the thives call [...] Fencers, which are receivers of their stoln Goods .
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 193: She turn’d Fence, that is to say, a Buyer of stolen Goods.
[UK]Ordinary of Newgate Account of the Malefactors executed at Tyburn 18th Mar. 1740 part II 8: The Gang [...] consented to send them to their usual Fence.
[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 13: I carried them to Stockbridge, to another Fence of ours, i.e., a Receiver of stolen Goods.
[UK] ‘Come All You Buffers Gay’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 53: But if you should slape his staunch wipe/ Then away to the fence you may go.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 2 May 179/1: Swift did say, I'll find you a fence; and I sold it to Steers in Dick Swift 's parlour.
[UK](con. 1710–25) Tyburn Chronicle II in Groom (1999) xxvii: A Fence, or a Lock A Receiver of stolen Goods.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 21 Apr. 196/1: He said if I wanted to part with such things, he could help me to a fence; he said that was a man that bought stolen things for I asked what that word meant.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 14 Jan. 124/2: He begged he might not be sent to goal, and he would tell where the things were; only a part were found; he said they were at a fence in Wentworth-street, but did not know the house;.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 26 May 542/1: He is a common fence; he would receive any thing, old ropes, or iron, or any thing else.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 14 Jan. 115/2: The prisoner acknowledged that he had sold it to a fence; that was worth about a pound.
[UK]Vaux Memoirs in McLachlan (1964) 60: I was not at this time acquainted with a Fence, to whom I could dispose of this property.
[UK]High Life in London 30 Dec. 2/2: The house of a notorious ‘fence’ [where] the stolen property was discovered.
[UK]Dickens Oliver Twist (1966) 136: What are you up to? Ill-treating the boys, you covetous, avaricious, in-sa-ti-a-ble old fence?
[US]N.Y. Herald 29 Jan. 1/5: A ‘Fence’ Arrested. – A man named Joseph Page, who has long kept a notorious ‘fence’ at No. 73 Laurens street [etc.].
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 20 Sept. 2/6: An active and intelligent police-officer, who is well acquainted with the thieves and fences of both places.
[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds Mysteries of London II (2nd series) 23: Hold your tongue, you cursed fence!
[UK]W. Phillips Wild Tribes of London 65: No fences! no receivers! Why, just walk down the Lane [...] and if I don’t show you a dozen thieves to one fence, and three fences to one honest man, call me a Dutchman.
[Aus]Goulburn Herald (NSW) 16 Jan. 2/7: They plainly asked Mr. Jacobs whether he would act as ‘fenae’—a slang phrase applied to the numerous ‘middemen’ of London who buy from the thieves and sell to the public.
[US] ‘Hundred Stretches Hence’ Matsell Vocabulum 124: And where the fence and snoozing-ken, / With all the prigs and lushing men.
[US]J.D. McCabe Secrets of the Great City 363: He, therefore, at once takes his plunder to his ‘fence,’ and receives from him, in money, such a price as is usually agreed upon.
[UK]Sportsman (London) 3 Mar. 2/1: Notes on News [...] [H]is lordship [...] expressed an opinion thus:—‘The reception of stolen goods is carried on not that low class (‘fences,’ we presume) only’.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 256: He had been a notorious ‘fence’ — one of the most extensive purchasers of stolen goods in London.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 6 May 6/1: It is in Gotham that the ‘fences’ who furnlsh capital for and purchase the proceeds of all the great robberies are located.
[UK]A. Griffiths Chronicles of Newgate 468: The trade of fence, or receiver, therefore, is very nearly as old as the crimes which it so obviously fostered.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 19 Feb. 3/8: Some sly ‘fence‘ or ‘crooked’ Jew / Or some low-down we-dunno-who.
[UK]M. Williams Round London 100: The ‘fences,’ who were principally Jews, did an enormous trade.
[UK]Marvel XIII:322 Jan. 4: Lipie Lipskie, the Polish Jew fence-keeper! [Ibid.] XIII:325 Feb. 16: Why, he’s making a fortune out of the job, the old fence! (receiver of stolen goods).
[Aus]Register (Adelaide) 13 July 4/6: I’ll be off with a nice little swag to a ‘fence’ I know.
[NZ]Waikato Indep. 12 Apr. 5: I got a bonzer ‘fence’ for fowls - take as many as you can get.
[Ind]P.C. Wren Dew & Mildew 282: Having made certain arrangements, including a treaty with a gentleman who in England would be termed a ‘fence’ [etc].
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 17 Aug. 11/4: Likewise, these coves do be fences, / Pimps, and such like for the force.
[UK]W. Sickert New Age 19 Mar. 631: Luxury carried to its highest point if the ‘fence’ could be not too far away, to advance him a professional proportion of the value of his haul. The ‘fence’ is the dealer or receiver.
[UK]S. Scott Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 265: Widespread syndicates, which work in an orderly, pre-arranged fashion, in league with ‘fences’ (receivers of stolen goods) and garage owners.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 1 Jan. 18/2: Then comes in the ‘fence,’ posing to the world as a tradesman, who for less than a quarter of the value of the stolen goods relieves them of it and passes it on to other unclean hands.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Caesar (1932) 52: Rico went over to see Ma Magdalene, the fence.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 5: I hadn’t yet made the acquaintance of a good ‘fence’.
[Ire]Eve. Herald (Dublin) 9 Dec. 4/6: ‘Fence’ is the name given to receivers of stolen property.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 33: He was a ‘go-between’ to the ‘fences’ and their burglar customers.
[US]W.R. Burnett Asphalt Jungle in Four Novels (1984) 149: Lefty Wyatt [...] saw fit to put several bullets in the best fence in the whole Middle West.
[US]‘Hal Ellson’ Tomboy (1952) 82: ‘Now what?’ ‘We take them to the new fence.’.
[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/5: Other English incorporations [in Australian slang] include: [...] ‘fence,’ a receiver of stolen goods.
[UK](con. 1920s) J. Sparks Burglar to the Nobility 24: Our fences [...] were hard put to flog one load of gear before we were knocking upon their door with the next.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 39: They go to a fence, see, a receiver of stolen goods named Octopus McGillicuddy.
[US]R.D. Pharr S.R.O. (1998) 65: ‘How could he ever get up a bankroll so young [...] a fence has to have ready cash. Lots of cash’.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 12 Oct. 25: Nobby sits with a friend who was a ‘fence’ – retired now, or so he says.
[UK](con. 1950s–60s) in G. Tremlett Little Legs 40: We sold ’em to a fence for £1 apiece.
[UK]G. Burn Happy Like Murderers 172: The owner of the café was a well-known fence for stolen goods.
[US](con. 1975–6) E. Little Steel Toes 163: Legbreakers and burglars are a dime a dozen [...] So are fences.
[Scot](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 355: He knows a no-questions-asked West Indian fence.
[US]L. Berney Whiplash River [ebook] [H]e came off more like a trust-fund brat than a high-end fence for stolen antiquities.
[UK]Vanity Fair 16 Mar. 🌐 Reader was merely a ‘soldier’ on that job, moving the gold between a ‘fence’ named Kenny Noye, who was supposed to arrange for it to be melted down, and dealers in Hatton Garden.
[Aus]C. Hammer Opal Country 292: ‘Faith reckons he’s a fence’.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]W.R. Burnett High Sierra in Four Novels (1984) 314: I didn’t know he was coming out. I thought he had a guy handling the fence end for him out here.

3. (US Und., also fence-house) the place where stolen goods are received, kept and sold.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 76: Fence [...] the house is sometimes so designated in which the fence dwells.
[US]Sun (N.Y.) 20 June 2/2: Con.—Meet me to night at the ‘Pigeon House’ next to the new ‘fence,’ and I’ll go and show you.
[UK]New Sprees of London 21: This ken, like most of the holes about here, is an extensive fence, and swag to any amount is taken in.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 33: For many a year it has been known to the ‘crossmen’ and ‘knucks’ of the town as ‘Jack Circle’s watering place’ and ‘fence’.
[UK]W. Phillips Wild Tribes of London 70: This, you see, is a fence-house; and those what we call Petticoat-lane fencers.
[US]Wkly Varieties (Boston, MA) 3 Sept. 4/3: Pinkus [...] has kept a ‘fence,’ or in other words, a shop for receiving stolen property.
[Aus]Bendigo Advertiser (Vic.) (Supplement) 23 July 1/3: [T]he detective police made a seizure, of what, in the thieves’ slang phraseology, is designated a ‘fence,’ [...] or in other words a receiving house for the purchase of stolen property.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 20 Dec. 11/3: They were waiting in the vicinity of a ‘fence house’ for a pair or ‘supper sneaks,’ or thieves who work dwellings while the family are at tea.
[UK]Sketch (London) 22 Feb. 18: A ‘fence’ means [...] a place for selling stolen goods.
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 195: Wooldrige [...] received information that there was a ‘fence,’ which is a place where stolen goods are stored.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 28 Sept. [synd. col.] He started out life as a second hand clothing dealer [...] Upsairs, under careful guard, he conducted a ‘fence’ where thieves dispose of their loot.
[US]S. Smith ‘The Gumps’ [comic strip] The Gumps’ new home [...] The police think it is a fence for stolen automobiles.
[US]F.O. Beck Hobohemia 27: Pawn shops [...] were not unfrequently fences for stolen goods.
[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2 23: Fence, n. A place where stolen goods are bought and sold; a pawn shop.

4. (US) a bar counter.

[US]C. Connors Bowery Life [ebook] . De mug behind de fence. Aw, say, you give a pain in de neck. De mug behind de fence, dat’s de barkeep, he twists out four scuttles an’ a torch.

In compounds

fence for the coke (n.)

(Aus. drugs) an habitual user of cocaine.

[Aus]Sun. Mail (Brisbane) 13 Nov. 20/7: A confirmed cocaine addict is known as ‘a fence for the ’coke,’ and when he is under the influence of the drug he is referred, to as being ‘angied-up’ .
fence-master (n.)

(UK Und.) a receiver and seller of stolen goods.

[UK]Blackburn Standard 25 Jan. 2/3: Some thieves [...] obtained [...] a large quantity of jewellery, and devised a strange method of sending it to the fence-master in London.
[UK]Manchester Courier 5 Oct. 5/6: [headline] Apprehension of a Supposed 'Fence Master' in Sheffield.
[UK] ‘Six Years in the Prisons of England’ in Temple Bar Mag. Nov. 537: The ‘fence-master’’s the fellow who buys stolen property.
fence-shop (n.)

a shop where stolen property is on sale.

[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 142: You’ll buy a dozen or two of wipes, dobbin cants, or a fam or a tick, with any rascal, from a melting-pot receiver in Duke’s place, to a fence shop in Field Lane.
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 20 Feb. 163/2: I had information of his house being a fence shop - a shop for buying swags. Court. Q. What is that? - A. Buying stolen property.
[UK]Birmingham Dly Gaz. 3 Apr. 8/3: Police-constable Williams visited the shop of a man named Rossiter [...] who is said to have a 'fence shop', and there found the goods.
[UK]Liverpool Dly Post 31 Mar. 7/1: It was evident that she had been a 'fence shop' for the receiving of stolen property.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 3 Jan. 15/1: Concert halls, opium dens, ‘fence’ shops, museums, etc., are as thick as leaves in the forest.
[Scot]Dundee Courier 2 May 7/4: After the bicycle has been subjected to a few alterations, it is boldly put up for sale in the 'fence's' shop.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

fence con (n.) [con n.1 (9)]

(US prison) an escapee, a prisoner who is planning an escape.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 108: Fence Cons Inmates who have escaped or attempted to escape.
fence-jumping (n.) [farmyard imagery, i.e. an animal jumping the fence that separates different breeds]

(N.Z.) race mixing.

[NZ]Dominion (Wellington) 29 Aug. 9: The population [...] is mainly Inuit Greenlanders with mongoloid features, pale brown skin and black hair, but there has been much fencejumping during the past 300 years and the resulting mix has produced attractive people [DNZE].
fence parole (n.)

(US prison) the attempt to make an escape by climbing the prison fence or wall; such efforts, inevitably, lead to death.

[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 177: Mira! Dude’s goin for a fence parole.
[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July 🌐 Fence Parole: Escape.
[US]A. Vachss Getaway Man 13: If someone is trying to make you that kind of kid, you can go for a fence parole—that's what they call it when a kid runs.
fence-railing (n.)

(US Und.) house-breaking.

[US]N.Y. Times 12 Aug. 12: A new type of burglar which has sprung up in the United States within the past few years, and whose operations are not alone confined to safe burglary, but to ‘hold-ups,’ ‘house burglary,’ and what is termed ‘fence railing,’ and are known to the police of the country as ‘yeggmen.’.

In phrases

give the fence a run (v.) [the image of a bull smashing through or jumping over a fence on the way to a cow]

(N.Z.) to fulfil one’s sexual urges.

J. McClenaghan Travelling Man 21: ‘There’s one or two good-looking housemaids here.’ [...] ‘Thinking of giving the fence a run?’ [...] ‘And so are you if I know anything.’ [DNZE].
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 87: give the fence a run Engage in sex, as the bull intends when he is running along the fence separating him from the cow paddock.
on the fence (also jump over the fence)

in the process of turning from heterosexual to homosexual (or vice versa from a gay perspective).

[US]G. Legman ‘Lang. of Homosexuality’ Appendix VII in Henry Sex Variants.
[US]Guild Dict. Homosexual Terms 15: fence, to be on the (v.): To be undecided as to whether one should forsake heterosexuality for homosexuality (or vice versa).
[UK]R. Antoni Grandmother’s Erotic Folktales 77: They wanted to know what do we mean to say the Syrian was an old buller? Well Mrs Carmichael smiled and she said Mary, and I [...] said jump-over-the-fence, and Mrs Carmichael said softman, and I said borrow-the-Bishop’s crosier.
over the fence

1. (Aus./N.Z.) extreme, beyond the bounds of taste.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 8 Oct. 4/8: Well, fair dinkum, you’re over the fence, Percy.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 17 Apr. 2nd sect. 9/1: They Say [...] That the game of playing handies in full view of the rightful is far over the fence.
[Aus]Kia Ora Coo-ee 15 May 4/2: There was the Dickens to pay in a mess hut […] one dinner time, when the boys, who were green from Australia, saw myriads of tiny, white, boomerang-shaped objects in the stew. ‘It’s over the blinking fence,’ cried one chap, and he voiced the general opinion. [Ibid.] 15 Aug. 17/2: ‘Me!’ I cried. ‘Why, I’m weak as a kitten! It’s over the blooming fence. I’ll see Sister!’.
Queensland Times (Ipswich) 8 Mar. 11/3: I reckon it’s over the fence to chuck off at members like that.
[Aus]K.S. Prichard Haxby’s Circus 79: I reck’n Bruiser’s over the fence. He makes trouble.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. 28: Over the fence, unreasonable, beyond the pale of common-sense or justice.
[Aus](con. 1936–46) K.S. Prichard Winged Seeds (1984) 25: It was over-the-fence, Paddy pointed out, seein’ all the hard work Bobby had done.
[Aus]J. McNeil How Does Your Garden Grow Act III: Swamper leaned out from the bottom bunk at Wocko and said . . . he said, ‘Ah, you’re over the bloody fence!’.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 80/2: over the fence unacceptable behaviour, which Partridge thinks from local rules for cricket.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].

2. (Aus.) out of trouble.

[Aus]L. Esson Woman Tamer in Ballades of Old Bohemia (1980) 63: You ain’t over the fence yet.

3. (Aus.) on the run.

[Aus](con. 1943) G.S. Manson Irish Fandango [ebook] ‘Righto, toughshit. [...] I think you’re a fucking malingerer who’s gone over the fence’.