Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bilk v.

[bilk n.]

1. (UK Und.) to cheat, to swindle; thus bilked adj., cheated; bilking n., cheating.

[UK]J. Cleveland ‘Smectymnuus’ in Morris & Withington Poems of Cleveland (1967) 25: So many Cards i’th’ stock, and yet be bilkt?
[UK] ‘The Pensive Maid’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1891) VII:2 514: That ever I should live to be made such an ass, / To be bilk’d by a woman!
[UK]Wycherley Plain-Dealer Act V: Ay, a great Lawyer that shall be nameless Bilkt me too.
[UK]Rochester ‘Against the Disturbers of the Pit’ Works (1721) 57: Who beat the Bawd last night? who bilk’d the Whore?
[UK]T. Brown Saints in Uproar in Works (1760) I 77: Bred up to plundering of hedges, nimming of cloaks [...] and bilking of their landladies.
[UK]Character of the Beaux 21: A Hector or Bully-Beau, in general, is one who bilks Coaches, runs from Taverns without paying.
[UK]Swift Tale of a Tub I 56: They bilkt Hackney-Coachmen, ran in Debt with Shop-keepers.
[UK]N. Ward Hudibras Redivivus I:5 6: The Lab’rers by the Masons hir’d, / Bilk’d of their Wages, soon grew tir’d.
[UK]A. Smith Lives of Most Noted Highway-men, etc. I 163: Her Talent originally lay in bilking Lodgings.
[UK]Penkethman’s Jests 23: It had sav’d him the Trouble of bilking the Coachman.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 188: The next Landlord she had was a Taylor, whom she employed to make up what she bilked the Mercer and Weaver of.
[UK]Bilker Bilk’d 3: A plague confound all Gaming [...] I lose like a Fool; let me see, this Nest of Plate that I bilk’d Mixum, that Rogue of Vintner, of, fetch’d me thirty Pounds, and lasted me just three Hours at Hazard.
[Ire]D. Bradstreet Life and Uncommon Adventures 80: She had been often bilked by Gentlemen from Ireland.
[UK]Foote The Minor 41: Mrs Cole: He and Jenny Cummins drank three flasks [...] last night. Loader: What, and bilk thee of thy share.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 208: He [...] Not only bilk’d him of his due, / But prov’d an ill-tongu’d rogue like you.
[UK] ‘The Dog & Duck Rig’ in Holloway & Black I (1975) 79: She will meet you with gallows good joaking / And boast of her bilking the prig.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn) n.p.: to bilk. To cheat. Let us bilk the rattling cove; let us cheat the hackney coachman of his fare. Cant. Bilking a coachman, a box-keeper, and a poor whore, were formerly, among men of the town, thought gallant actions.
[UK] ‘The Rolling Kiddy’ in Holloway & Black I (1975) 233: Like his new companions the blowings he is to try to bilk.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Jan. XIX 189/2: No; Coachy remembered nothing of that: ‘and he would not be bilked by e’er a gemman in England.’.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 207: However, my girls, you may be amused, never suffer yourselves to be bilked.
[US]Morning Courier and N.-Y. Enquirer 25 Mar. 2/2: The driver of the carriage, assisted them to alight for this purpose, but no sooner had they got into the Exchange, than they proceeded to make their escape, with the design of bilking the driver.
[UK] ‘Ye Rakehells So Jolly’ Swell!!! or, Slap-Up Chaunter 26: While that’s to be had, let’s be drunk and be mad, / And fling all our wigs in the fire. / Break bottles and glasses, bilk landlords and lasses.
[Aus]Sydney Herald 26 Oct. 2/4: r Rennie gave an im- mense number of examples of similar slang vulgarities [...] To bilk, for ‘to cheat;’ in black and white, for ‘in writing;’ awake for ‘aware;’ knowing, for ‘experienced;’ victualling office, for ‘the stomach;’ a deep one, for ‘a designing fellow;’ fagged, for ‘tired;’ to fleece, for to ‘plunder’.
[UK] ‘The Swell Coves Alphabet’ Nobby Songster 27: B. for bilking bulleys, and old bawds of their pay.
[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 255: We’ve ‘bilked’ (swindled) my nabs out of his ‘pig’ (sixpence).
[UK]A. Smith Medical Student 33: He ‘bilked the pike’ at Waterloo Bridge.
[Aus]Geelong Advertiser (Vic.) 6 Dec. 3/4: She observed that Mrs Nangie had only made the charge against her for the purpose of ‘bilking’ a man.
[US]J. Miller First Fam’lies in the Sierras 111: You say she’s bilked us?
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 257: He would chatter gaily and enter with gusto into the details of some cleverly executed ‘bit of business,’ or ‘bilking the blues,’ – evading the police.
[US]G.W. Peck Peck’s Sunshine 156: To have a female confidence game played on a man would leave less of a sting than to be bilked by a male.
[UK]‘F. Anstey’ Voces Populi 78: Calling yourself a gentleman [...] riding in this man’s keb, and trying to bilk him out of his money.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 23 Sept. 6/5: A few highly respectable, but slightly giddy gentlemen [...] have found their way into the hauints of the strange women and departed [...] bilked by the lady and biffed by the ‘bludger’.
[UK]A.N. Lyons Hookey 17: The ‘pinching of watches’; the humours of ‘bilking’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 19 June 10/5: [headline] Boarding-House Bilkers. A Slavey’s Story.
[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 31 Jan. 11/1: [headline] Not a Grand Duchess But a Street Bilker — Cobber of ‘Corned Beef Maud’.
[UK]Wodehouse Damsel in Distress (1961) 33: ‘Two toffs ’ad a scrap!’ ‘Feller bilked the cabman!’.
[UK]P. Marks Plastic Age 198: He was disgusted with himself, the undergraduates, and the fraternity; he felt that the college had bilked him.
[US]W.N. Burns One-Way Ride 19: Big Jim never bilked a pal.
[US]S. Longstreet Decade 58: Go wenching, breaking windows, skirmishing the watch, bilking cabbies.
[Can]R. Service ‘Aunt Jane’ Rhymes for Reality (1965) 232: When Aunt Jane died we hunted round, / And money everywhere we found, / No death duties will we pay [...] And Aunt Jane will be well content / We bilked the bloody Government.
[US]B. Hecht Gaily, Gaily 172: The arrogant bosses who bilked the workers and called for the state militia to shoot the bohunks down when they became too sassy.
[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 26: I’ve got to say no to that [i.e. a job]. Too much temptation to bilk someone.
[US]M. Baker Bad Guys 24: People who will steal your credit cards, cash your paycheck, bilk you out of your savings, and gorge on your vices.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 22 Jan. 20: Four townies who are bilked by that old rogue Joe Grundy.
[US]J. Ellroy Hilliker Curse 6: They bilked the old cocksuckers and sent them to the poorhouse.

2. to evade payments, esp. of a prostitute’s client; thus bilking adj.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 10: Bilk [...] to run off after performance, without pay: — male.
[US]Cincinnati Enquirer 7 Sept. 10/7: Mace, Bilk, Give, Roast, Skin–Are all synonymous to the verb ‘to beat,’ and are terms that have been felt by many hotel-keepers, saloonists, boarding houses, &c., as they are about the only terms they could ever get out of some of the graceless scamps of the profession, who ‘flew’ without liquidating the claims against them.
[US]Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore I 173: The ‘girls’ in the house mocked [...] the unfortunate victim, poured chamberpots over his head: the standard punishment for a bilking client in a whore house ‘in the old days’.

3. (Aus. Und.) of a prostitute, to rob a client.

[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 14: BILK: [...] a prostitutes [sic] phrase for robbing a man.

In derivatives

bilker (n.)

one who habitually cheats, esp. in refusing to pay a bill, e.g. a cabman’s fare.

[UK]Bilker Bilk’d [play title].
[UK]G. Smeeton Doings in London 98: Pantomime was first performed, in the year 1702, at Drury Lane, in an entertainment called Tavern Bilkers: it died the fifth night.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor IV 223/2: Joe worn’t a five-bobber, much less a bilker.
[UK]H. Nisbet Bushranger’s Sweetheart 65: ‘So I’ve got you at last, my fine swell bilker, have I?’ shouted the landlord.
[UK]A. Binstead Houndsditch Day by Day 80: It ain’t the motors as we ’ave to contend ag’inst so much as the bilkers.
[UK]T. Burke Limehouse Nights 294: Yeh know Punditt’s way with bilkers, doncher?
[US]C. Himes ‘The Something in a Colored Man’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 404: Dare you goes, you black bilker.

In compounds

bilking house (n.) (also bilking crib)

(US/Aus. Und.) a brothel wherein clients are robbed of their money.

[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 14: BILKING CRIB: a house made use of by prostitutes for the purpose of robbery.
[US]O. Kildare My Mamie Rose 70: In places where boxing was not the attraction, the vilest passions of human nature were vainly incited by painted sirens [...] In front of these ‘joints’ frequently called ‘bilking houses’ glaring posters, picturing the pleasures within, were displayed.

In phrases

bilk the schoolmaster (v.)

to get knowledge without paying for it, e.g. the experience that comes with living one’s life.

[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Tom and Jerry II v: Well, don’t grumble – every one must pay for his learning – and you wouldn’t bilk the school-master, would you?