Green’s Dictionary of Slang

light n.

[orig. printers’ use; ? to cast a light on one’s financial ‘darkness’]

1. [early 19C–1930s] credit; thus strike a light, to open a line of credit; get a light, to obtain credit; have one’s light put out, to have one’s credit stopped.

2. [early 19C+] in pl., the eyes [20C+ usage is usu. US black].

3. [20C+] a small amount of money.

4. [20C+] (W.I.) insanity, craziness; thus have a light, to be crazy [? SE light-headed].

5. [1900s] (US campus) a bright, clever person.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

lightmans (n.) (also lightman, lightments) [-mans sfx]

[mid-16C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) the day; thus bene lightmans ‘good day’.

In compounds

lighthouse (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

bring to light (v.)

[early 19C] of a thief, to produce stolen property in order to claim a reward or quash a prosecution.

lights are on but there’s nobody home

[1970s+] insane, mentally deficient, vacant.

lights (out) (n.) [a fig. evocation of the end of the day in a dormitory or barracks] [20C+]

1. death.

2. unconsciousness.

3. in fig. use, the end.

put someone’s light(s) out (v.) (also beat..., blow…, punch..., shoot..., turn...) [fig. use of SE daylights; the orig. use may have referred to one’s eyes and/or one’s intestines, i.e. ‘liver and lights’, but the ‘electrical’ imagery has long since superseded this]

1. [early 17C; mid-19C+] to kill, to murder; thus rarely, intransitive use, to die

2. [late 19C+] to knock unconscious.

put the light on (v.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) to inform, to betray a comrade to the police.