Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dive n.2

[SE dive. The implication is of both physical and social ‘lowness’; such places were usu. situated in a basement, cellar or other slightly clandestine place into which patrons could ‘dive’ without being noticed. Dive reached its heyday with US Prohibition (1920–33) but the term dive bar has persisted, lending an air of spurious romance to otherwise unexceptional drinking places]

1. (orig. US) an illicit drinking establishment or any similarly down-market place of entertainment, a brothel.

[US] in National Police Gazette 12 Jan. 4: This ‘moll’ keeps a ‘dive’ on Plumb Street, in ‘Nigger Row.’.
[US]Chicago Street Gazette 22 Sept. n.p.: There is a dive on North LaSalle Street, called a wine hall, kept by an old procuress.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Jan. 5/1: He is on the staff of the San Francisco News Letter [...] and has done some service by making and publishing analyses of the liquors served out to the public in the ‘dives’ and saloons of the city.
[UK]Sporting Times 2 Sept. 2/3: Orpheus and Eurydice, generally conceded to be the most disgustingly filthy burlesque ever produced in this country. The Baldwin [Theatre] will soon be ranked among the dives.
[US]Anaconda Standard (MT) 4 June 10/4: A vicious woman prisoner [...] was a denzen [sic] of ‘Dug’s Dive’ [...] the resort of thieves, thugs and evil women.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 23 Jan. 4/2: Neither the ‘dives’ of ’Frisco nor any other part of the world [...] can surpass them [i.e. Sydney ‘sly-grog shops’] for barefaced robbery, drunkenness and foul language.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 194: The seeing New York tourists were grumbling. Their guide had led them into a few mild dives in Chinatown.
[US]J. Lait ‘Canada Kid’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 158: Is they in this here queer tank a joint, a dive, or a hospital where a guy can get a little swallow o’ booze, whisky, alcohol, rum, or fusel-oil?
[UK]‘Sax Rohmer’ Dope 230: I’ve got half a dozen men doing every dive from Wapping to Gravesend.
[US]H. Asbury Gangs of N.Y. 47: The Block contained the famous dive kept by a giant Negro woman known variously as Big Sue and the Turtle.
[UK]E. Glyn Flirt and Flapper 68: Flapper: We’ll go to Harlem to a coloured show and then do the dives.
[UK]L. Ortzen Down Donkey Row 38: Dickie Bell’s goin’ ter knock dahn that stable by the railway arch. Goin’ ter make a boxin’ dive there.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 182: About the only places we could play like we wanted were illegal dives.
[US]L. Uris Battle Cry (1964) 24: We’ve got to end this meeting in dives and sneaking around.
[UK]A. Baron Lowlife (2001) 41: The club is in an alley off Aldgate. Not a spieler but a right dive.
[US](con. 1940s) E. Thompson Tattoo (1977) 226: A dive called the Stockyards Saloon & Recreation, a low, one-room heap of boards held together by tin beer and soft drink signs.
[UK]A. Hollinghurst Swimming-Pool Library (1998) 196: The club went back a bit and under different names had been a modish Sixties dive.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 173: After a night of chaotic carousing in the late-night dives of old London Town.
[UK]D. Seabrook Jack of Jumps (2007) 207: Mary Fleming [...] drank a lot, mostly whisky and mostly at dives in Notting Hill.

2. (drugs) an opium den.

[UK]‘Sax Rohmer’ Dope 90: Of course, her game is beating up clients for the Limehouse dive.

3. any unappealing place; a slum, any form of run-down housing.

[US]Kinsley Graphic (KS) 17 Apr. 3/3: You go down the stairs, which are wet and decayed with filth, and at the bottom you find the poor victims on the floor, cold, sick [...] These are the ‘dives’ nto which pickpockets and thieves go.
[US]F. Packard White Moll 145: This gun won’t make much noise, and it isn’t likely to arouse the inmates of this dive.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Dead Yellow Women’ Story Omnibus (1966) 156: I called Loop Pigattis’ place — a dive down on Pacific Street.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Goldfish’ in Red Wind (1946) 180: There were fishstalls, drinking dives.
[UK]D. Dodge Bullets For The Bridegroom (1953) 24: Whit and Kitty picked the dive nearest to the spot where they parked the car upon their return to Reno.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 133: I started hittin’ up the free lunch shacks just to keep myself alive, / till at last I lucked up on a chance to sleep in a Rampart Street dive.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Mar. 2: dive – something or some place that does not come up to acceptable standards.
[UK]N. Cohn Yes We Have No 221: My mother was living in a dive.
[UK]L. Theroux Call of the Weird (2006) 138: This place is a dive.

4. any place, irrespective of quality.

[US]W. Brown Girls on the Rampage 35: He takes me to his pad. It’s a real snazzy dive.