Green’s Dictionary of Slang

heavy n.

1. (US, also heavy man, heavy merchant) an actor playing a serious or tragic part in a melodrama; occas. of an actress (see cit. 1888).

Sth Aus. Wkly Chron. (Adelaide, SA) 23 July 2/7: Dramatic Slang. An advertisement in a London paper runs thus: — 'Wanted, to join, immediately, a leading lady, a singing walking lady, a lady danseuse, and a utility lady, juvenile leading gentleman, heavy man, singing low comedian, and a gentleman dancer .
[US]N.Y. Herald 19 June 5/2: These are [...] the principal figures of the bloody drama, the ‘juveniles’ and ‘heavies’ with Jack Kehoe as ‘leading man’.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 4 Dec. 6/3: [headline] The Heavy Man’s Horrible Vengeance.
[UK]Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday 14 June 51/2: The Heavy Man pursues a course of unmitigated villainy upon the stage.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 24 Jan. 5/1: It’s known for pros. the show has quite / A mystical attraction; / They want to crowd in ev’ry night, / And love it to distraction. [...] / ‘First heavies’ often get a ‘no,’ / And big grow with impiety; / But ‘up’ the men who never go / Are those they call ‘variety.’.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 70: So far it’s as good as playin’ leading heavy in ‘The Shadows of a Great City.’.
[UK]J.C Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 151/2: Heavy merchant (Theatr.). Man who plays the villain.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 9 July 9/3: Then says the ‘heavy’ to the lout: / ‘James, kindly throw this fellow out!’.
[UK]J.B. Priestley Good Companions 412: There were yellowing photographs of heroic actors in togas or bad wigs, bewhiskered old ‘heavies,’ and simpering leading ladies.
[US]F.S. Fitzgerald ‘Pat Hobby, Putative Father’ in Pat Hobby Stories (1967) 81: This man would play the heavy.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[UK]Sam Sly 28 Apr. 1/1: Sam has an idea, that you are very useful in the heavy line, as he met you a short time since heavily laden with dresses for Pizarro.
[US]‘Bill Nye’ Bill Nye and Boomerang 176: I am to appear on the amateur stage in a heavy part.

3. in the context of violence.

(a) a heavyweight boxer.

[US] in S.F. Examiner 8 Mar. 4: He even taken a shy at the ‘heavies’ [HDAS].
J.G.B. Lynch Complete Amateur Boxer 221: I remember in the finals of the heavies at the All-India Championship of 1909 seeing Private Clohessy [...] take on Bombardier Wells .
[US]H.C. Witwer Classics in Sl. 21: Next to Tunney, Sharkey’s the best heavy doin’ business today, and I got as much reason to be in the same ring with him as I got to be in Congress.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 7: The first of the heavies to get up on his toes.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 161: Two old heavies, Joe Bruce and Mick Cohen, were in the ring that night.
[US]F.X. Toole Rope Burns 177: I can get heavies in to wok wit ’im for you.

(b) a thug, a villain, esp. a violent criminal (also as portrayed in cinema and theatre); also in fig. use, e.g. a moralizer [note B.E.: ‘A heavy Fellow, a dull Blockish Slug’].

[US]J. Lait ‘One Touch of Art’ in Beef, Iron and Wine (1917) 212: A comedian! [...] And I thought you were a heavy.
[US]E.R. Burroughs ‘Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw’ in Goodstone Pulps (1970) 9/2: The heavy grabbed the leading lady by the hair.
[US]N.Y. Herald Trib. Mag. 20 Oct. 27/1: The leading or ‘clean’ heavy is the suave, sinister figure behind the villainy, and his menace is conveyed by voice and manner rather than by physical violence. The wretch who performs the strong-arm thuggery is known, by contrast, as the ‘dirty’ or ‘dog’ heavy.
[US]R. Prather Scrambled Yeggs 111: He was chumming around with homicidal heavies as if they were customers at a society bazaar.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 22: A good solid heavy like Chas to deal with the writ-servers.
[UK]M. Novotny Kings Road 195: I’m not anxious to run into a bunch of spade heavies.
[UK]The Ruts ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’ [lyrics] Everyone leaves when the heavies arrive / Someone hits the floor, someone takes a dive.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids (1989) 9: Being able to pay the best wages for their heavies they only got the best.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper From The Inside 83: What we have now is a heavily armed group of rich and powerful underworld heavies.
[US]P. Beatty Tuff 156: Typecast as the heavy, Winston played the same part in the sham as always: he was to be the stick man — a bit player who stayed away from the action, vigilant for the police and the suckered.
[US]Codella and Bennett Alphaville (2011) 5: A Third and D dealer crew heavy i tossed a week ago.
[Aus] A. Nette ‘Chasing Atlantis’ in Crime Factory: Hard Labour [ebook] A couple of heavies to keep the local rednecks at bay.

4. in fig. use, an important, meaningful person.

(a) (US campus) a girlfriend, a boyfriend, an important date.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 108: Get the map on silly her heavy — Ain’t it a riot.
[UK]E. Glyn Flirt & Flapper 15: Flapper: I only met himat the Whoopee Club last Saturday — he’s my new heavy.

(b) (US) an important or powerful person.

[US] in Collier’s 8 Aug. 30: The mob chief is a ‘heavy’ [HDAS].
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 47: The heavy of this piece is John Dewey, a ninety-two-year-old ‘thinker,’ the father of progressive education.
[UK]N. Cohn Awopbop. (1970) 65: If Tommy Steele and Terry Dene were the fifties heavies, Wee Willie Harris and Screaming Lord Sutch provided the slapstick.
[US](con. 1969) C.R. Anderson Grunts xiv: High-ranking staff personnel and unit commanders, the heavies. [Ibid.] 49: Them fucking heavies back in their air-conditioned bunkers.
[UK]K. Lette Llama Parlour 45: God! Spielberg’s here [...] And so is Schwarzenegger’s agent. Shit! And thuh heavies from Columbia.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 27 Mar. 4: Hollywood has stumbled on one of the great ‘heavies’ of modern times.

5. (US) a large, fat person.

E. Paul Impromptu 332: When the girls [i.e. whores] grew older and inclined towards stoutness, they were termed ‘heavies.’.

6. (US Und.) a bankrobber, a safecracker.

[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl. 43: heavy, heavyman, n. A [...] bank robber.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 93/1: Heavy, n. 3. A safe-cracker. 4. The safe-cracking profession.

7. (UK Und.) constr. with the, armed robbery.

S.F. Examiner (CA) 27 June 13/1: Fall For the Heavy — Bank Robbery Conviction.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 54: He drifted into a bit of cannabis-dealing [...] before buying a gun and trying a bit of the heavy.

8. (US/Aus.) hard work, heavy labour.

[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 133: The sort of bludger who manages to ‘lie doggo’ while others ‘do the heavy’.

9. (drugs) a hard drug (heroin, cocaine) rather than a soft one (cannabis etc).

[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 157: Heavy . . . Junk, as opposed to marijuana.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 90: The joint’s clean of heavy.
[US]Current Sl. IV:2 7: Heavies, n. Hard drugs.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 62: Dope is the downer, the heavy.

10. (Aus.) a detective.

[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxv 6/2: heavy: a detective.
[Aus]R. Aven-Bray Ridgey-Didge Oz Jack Lang 31: Heavies Detectives.

11. see heavy wet n.

In phrases

come the heavy (v.)

to act in an aggressive or moralistic manner.

[Ire]J.B. Keane Letters of Irish Parish Priest 29: ‘Joe,’ I said, ‘don’t come the heavy with me. You are the man responsible for Bridget Day’s misfortune.’.
do the heavy (v.)

1. to swagger, to show off.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 9 June 2/5: The two swells then rolled out of the office, doing the heavy, and fully convinced that her Majesty never was and never could be more efficiently and properly represented than by their two worthy selves.
[Aus]Leader (Melbourne) 23 Feb. 7/3: [He] a very extensive swell [...] spent money freely, had first-class appointments, was liberal to his companions, and, in slang parlance, ‘did the extreme heavy’.
[UK] ‘’Arry’s Christmas in the Country’ in Punch 25 Dec. in P. Marks (2006) 29: A smart buttonholder’s not bad / When a feller means doing the heavy.
[UK]A. Chevalier Before I Forget (1902) 232: ’Ere! this won’t do. I can’t afford ter do the eavy an’ lounge abaht!
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 3: I’ve got as much right to go out and do the heavy as any o’ you pin-heads.
[UK]Marvel XIV:358 Sept. 3: Courtin’ the boss’s darter and doin’ the heavy dude in the ranch-house.
[Aus]Aussie (France) 13 Apr. 4/1: Billo out of the 32nd swapped uniforms with an Enzed bloke, and had fourteen days up the Rhine, while his Enzed cobber did the heavy as an Aussie round Amiens.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 73: I’ve even did the heavy on a New Orleans levee.

2. (Aus.) to make strong sexual advances.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 28 Oct. 5/5: Takes her out across to Manly, / Does the heavy on the spoon; / Later finds Hyde Park convenient, / Where there aint no pryin’ moon.
lay heavy on (v.) (also lay on the heavy)

(US/Aus.) to lecture, to sermonize, to reprimand.

[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 88: Then the dude started to lay heavy on me.
[Aus]Lette & Carey Puberty Blues 67: Downstairs we could hear the boys laying on the heavy.