Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lifter n.

1. one who steals packages and parcels; a shoplifter; a pickpocket [lift v.].

[UK]Book of Sir Thomas Moore facs.(S) (1911) I ii: His profession is, Lifter my Lord, one that can lift a pursse right cunningly.
[UK]Shakespeare Troilus and Cressida I ii: Is he so young a man, and so old a lifter?
[UK]Middleton & Dekker Roaring Girle V i: You your self shall cant Better then poor Moll can, and know more laws Of cheaters, lifters, nips, foysts, puggards, curbers, [...] than it’s fit Should be discovered to a noble wit.
[UK]Mercurius Democritus 9-16 Feb. 352: [This] would prove the utter ruine and decay of Pettie-foggers, Lifters, Padds, Priggers, and Cut-purses.
[UK]A Beggar I’ll Be in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 26: A Lifter my Aunt, and a Beggar myself.
[UK]A Newgate ex-prisoner A Warning for House-Keepers 6: A Lifter is one who goes from shop to shop, pretending to buy, but it is to steal [...] They are most women that go upon this design.
[UK]A Character of London-Village 2: So Pickpocket (when Deeper Lifter’s by) Budging aloof, Disowns the Mystery.
[UK]D’Urfey Collin’s Walk canto 4 174: My selfe a Lifter, that have made, Thy Pocket empty as thy Head.
[UK] in D’Urfey Pills to Purge Melancholy III 100: [as cit. c.1661] A Lifter my Aunt, and a Beggar my self.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 24: His Fraternity being thus composed of Lifters, Pickpockets, and Filers.
[UK] ‘The Beggar’ Muses Delight 133: [as cit. c.1661].
[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 138: Lifters is a species of theft executed in the following manner; A genteel looking woman goes into a large shop, and asks to look at some of the newest-fashion lace; she has a small fish-hook in her hand, which she fixes in a piece of lace, and then lets it slip down between her and the counter, at the same time covering it with her coats; this done, she buys a yard of lace, and then in putting her hand into her pocket, pulls a string which is fixed to the hook and communicates with her pocket, into which she lifts the lace by it.
[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795).
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[Aus]Sydney Gaz. 11 Apr. 3/3: I have been preyed upon by sharks, sharpers, flash-men, fencers, rum coves, squatters, nippers, lifters, and all the tag-rag-and-bobtail denoted by the worst words in the Slang Dictionary.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict. 20: Lifter – a robber of shops.
[US]N.Y. Herald 3 Jan. 1/4: [headline] A Female Lifter.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open [as cit. 1835].
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 12 Oct. n.p.: Patrolman Davis [...] may often be seen ‘piping’ [...] where a large number of the ‘lifters’ congregate.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 May. 9/4: I hope I may be painted sky-blue if I wouldn’t rather tumble over the Jericho ‘lifters,’ [...] than ever again set my foot in your old second-hand graveyard.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘A Genteel Occupation’ Sporting Times 22 Feb. 1/2: The lifter is frequently ordered to gaol.
[US]Ade Pink Marsh (1963) 132: ‘Who was ’at cullud rascal ’at tried to make me out chicken-lifter?’ ‘[...] He did n’t say that you stole chickens.’.
[US]C.E. Mulford Bar-20 Days 171: We’re after that cow-lifter, an’ we mean to get him.
[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 28: derrick [...] Current amongst shoplifters chiefly. A ‘hoister’; a ‘lifter’; a ‘booster’; an ‘elevator.’.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 410: Lifter. One who robs shops.
[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 156: These women are just as clever as any male pickpockets, and the actual ‘lifter’ spends years practising her art at home before venturing into the ‘business’.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

2. (UK Und., also lift) a crutch.

[UK]Head Canting Academy (2nd edn).
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Lifter c. a Crutch.
[UK]J. Shirley Triumph of Wit.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Scoundrel’s Dict. 16: A Crutch – Lifter.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict.

3. an act of swindling.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 76: Finesse being used to obtain any man’s secrets, is a fetch; if much labour is employed, resembling a heaving at the capstan, ’tis a heave; but a single effort, by which the person operated upon is brought to think highly of self, is a lifter.

4. (US) a heavy blow [lit. lifting the victim off their feet].

[US]Burlington (IA) Hawk Eye 9 July 1/6: ‘Now,’ continued the hard-headed citizen, ‘Jist gimme one more and make it a lifter.’.