Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bust n.

[dial. var. on SE burst]

1. a ‘break’ or collapse in one’s life or one’s affairs; a failure.

(a) [mid-19C+] (US) an inadequate individual; of circumstances, a serious failure, esp. an embarrassing one or a misjudgement.

(b) [late 19C–1900s; 1960s] (US campus) failure in one’s examinations; a hard examination.

(c) [late 19C+] (also busting) a financial collapse.

(d) [20C+] a demotion.

(e) [1930s] (US tramp) a serious mistake; a piece of very bad luck.

(f) [1990s+] (US black gang) a coward, a weakling.

2. in the context of crime, a break-in, a raid.

(a) [mid-19C+] a burglary; 19C use only in UK but extended in Aus. use.

(b) [20C+] (also bust-up) a police raid, esp. on drug-users or dealers.

(c) [1950s+] (orig. US) an arrest; a criminal charge.

(d) [1950s+] (US black) by metonymy, the police.

(e) [1960s] (US prison) as ext. of sense 2d above, a prison sentence.

3. a break or escape from conventional life.

(a) [mid-19C+] (orig. US, also bust-up) a drinking party, a spree, a celebration.

(b) [1980s] (US campus) an exciting, good experience or event.

4. a physical ‘explosion’.

(a) [1920s+] a blow, a punch [bust v.1 (5b)].

(b) [1960s] (US black) an orgasm [bust v.1 (7c)].

5. [1940s] (US) a false piece of information.

6. see burst n.1

7. see burst n.2

In compounds

bustman (n.)

[1940s+] (Aus.) a burglar, a house-breaker.

bust-out (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

all in a bust (adj.)

[1910s–20s] very excited.

do a bust (v.)

1. [late 19C] (UK Und.) to break into a house.

2. [1950s+] (Aus. Und.) to escape (from prison).

go in for a bust (v.) (also go a bust)

[1930s] to spend extravagantly.

my bust

[1980s+] (US campus) expression of apology: my fault, ‘sorry’.

on a bust [mid-19C+]

1. (also on a buster, on a burster) drinking heavily.

2. failing, doing badly.

3. (US) enthusiastically, to a great extent.

4. in fig. use of sense 1, going to extremes, ‘living it up’.

on the bust

1. [late 19C–1930s] (Aus./UK) on a spree.

2. [1920s–30s] facing financial problems, bankruptcy.

— or bust

[1910s+] an intensifier, suggesting that a failure to accomplish something will lead to disaster.

stick a bust (v.) [ext. use of stick v. (3)]

[late 19C] (UK Und.) to commit a burglary.

take a bust at (v.)

[1920s+] (US) to hit (with the fist).