Green’s Dictionary of Slang

make it v.

1. in senses of existence, achievement.

(a) to subsist, to survive, often as phr. just barely making it, also used in greeting, as in How you making it?

[UK]W. Collins Tom Tiddler’s Ground IV in All Year Round Extra Christmas No. 12 Dec. 22/1: They were artisans and farm-labourers who couldn’t make it out in the old country.
[UK]M. Roberts Western Avernus (1924) 186: Hallo, boys, how are you making it?
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 58: How’re you making it this morning, chum?
[US]J. London ‘Flush of Gold’ Complete Short Stories (1993) II 1288: How’s Dave been makin’ it lately? Strikin’ it as rich as ever, I suppose?
[US]W.R. Burnett Dark Hazard (1934) 279: Wel, old boy, how you making it?
[US]C. Himes ‘Looking Down the Street’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 84: We’ll make it; we’ve always made it.
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 43: Louie had a hard time making it.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Mama Black Widow 224: He had made it on his own.
[US]Cab Calloway Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 27: How could a schoolteacher explain that her own son was having trouble making it in school?
[US]C. Hiaasen Tourist Season (1987) 326: Hey, don’t look so blue. We made it.
[Aus]L. Davies Candy 229: It was all we could do to make it through one day.

(b) to achieve (something).

[US]G.P. Burnham Memoirs of the Secret Service vi: Make it, to appropriate, to gain a desired point.
W.D. Howells Silas Lapham 108: He jumped on board the steam-boat. [...] ‘Just made it,’ he said.
[US]R.A. Wason Friar Tuck 255: Badger-face tried to raise himself on his elbow, but he could n’t quite make it.
[US]R. Gover One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding 41: We jes gotta make it this time.

(c) to be successful; thus make it big, make it good.

[UK] in Variety 24 Mar. 8: The hams that can’t make it anywhere think it’s a walkover in vaudeville [HDAS].
[US] ‘The Bullin Mr. Stavin’ Chain’ in J.F. Dobie Rainbow in Morning (1965) 179: Well, you kain’t make it down / Like the bullin’ Mr. Stavin’ Chain.
[US]E. Anderson Thieves Like Us (1999) 179: You can make it as easy as falling off a log.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues [dedication] To the sweet-talkers, the gumbeaters, the high-jivers, out of the gallion for good and never going to take low again. (You got to make it, daddy.).
[UK]J. Osborne Look Back in Anger Act I: Don’t you worry, he’ll make it. And, what’s more, he’ll do it better than anybody else!
[UK]T. Keyes All Night Stand 96: Thinking you’ll make it if you hang around here, because once it was an exciting place.
[US]D. Goines Inner City Hoodlum 74: They young blacks were beginning [...] to know that they were going to make it. [Ibid.] 197: Sam had always wanted to make it big.
[US]C. White Life and Times of Little Richard 114: Everybody was telling us that we were going to make it big.
[UK]V. Headley Yardie 24: Whapp’n, you don’t wan’ me fe make it ina England?
[US]N. McCall Them (2008) 6: He looked a bit like Otis Redding before he’d made it big.

(d) to manage, usu. in context of movement.

[US]J. London Smoke Bellew (1926) 87: ‘We could make it if they had the souls of clams,’ Kit told Shorty [...] ‘We could have made it to-day if they hadn’t turned back.’.
[UK]S. Scott Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 155: Don’t care if I’m locked up all day if’e makes it. Go on, Comny!
[US]C. Himes ‘The Visiting Hour’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 233: I’ll make it. Just let go. And if I can’t, I’ll make it anyway.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 166: Don’t lean so hard, Zosh. I can’t hardly make it.
[US]E. Hunter Blackboard Jungle 82: ‘Think you’ll make it, teach?’ West asked.
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 137: Just let me git one more chance. I know I’ll make it this time.
[US]E. Bunker No Beast So Fierce 91: ‘You’ll make it.’ ‘I’ll make it — but goddam! I ain’t been convicted yet.’.
[UK]P. Theroux London Embassy 50: I’m afraid I can’t make it.
[US]R.C. Cruz Straight Outta Compton 72: The guys who originally were supposed to be here couldn’t make it.

(e) (US prison) to be granted parole.

[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 808: made it – Granted a parole.

(f) to survive, to stay alive.

[US]J.T. Adams Mountain Murder 23: ‘How is he?’ Haynes asked. ‘He won’t make it,’ said Fields, shaking his head.
[US](con. 1944) N. Mailer Naked and Dead 670: Y’ think Ah’m gonna make it?
[US](con. 1969) M. Herr Dispatches 79: Shit, Sarge, I ain’t gone make it. Oh damn, I’m gone die, ain’t ?
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 157: Word came back from the hospital that Bread didn’t make it.
[US]C. Stella Rough Riders 67: ‘He’s still in a coma?’ ‘The doctors aren’t sure he’ll make it’.

(g) to get on, to relate.

[US]J. Blake letter 5 Dec. in Joint (1972) 98: We tussled some for Auld Lang Syne, but I saw early on that we weren’t going to make it.
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 131: My father [...] Me and this cat can’t make it.
[US]B. Malamud Tenants (1972) 209: I’d have married Irene and gone to San Francisco [...] We might have made it together.
[US]C. White Life and Times of Little Richard 115: I developed a specially close relationship with Paul McCartney, but me and John couldn’t make it.
[US]G. Pelecanos Shame the Devil 138: That he and Lisa wouldn’t make it was almost predictable.

(h) to achieve a climax, to orgasm.

[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 22: You gotta look a long time [...] before you find a pross who ever makes it with a John.
[US]J. Thompson ‘Sunrise at Midnight’ in Fireworks (1988) 181: I haven’t been able to make it since we split.

2. in senses of action.

(a) to do something, to visit or be at a place, to arrive.

[US]W.R. Burnett Iron Man 162: ‘Gonna come over and see me fight, champ?’ [...] ‘Don’t think I can make it.’.
[US]C. Himes ‘Strictly Business’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 141: It was thirty minutes to the hotel where Hot Papa lived. Sure made it in twelve flat.
[US]Milsap Participant Observation Journal in Wallace Skid Row (1965) 32: I guess I’m going to make it on the week end.
[US]M. Braly On the Yard (2002) 83: Make it to church. Some of them Christer broads are all right.
[UK]B.S. Johnson All Bull 91: My mind was made up. A year in Yugoslavia, and then on to join the young country of Israel [...] I never made it.
[UK]I. Welsh Trainspotting 30: Rents cannae make it. Boo-fucking-hoo.
[UK]T. Blacker Kill Your Darlings 72: I may not make it tomorrow.

(b) to move, to get on, to run off; also as imper.

[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 10: ‘Straighten up and walk,’ I said, putting on the tough. I winked at him from the side. ‘Can you make it? Are you stinko?’ [...] He looked me over vaguely [...] ‘I have been,’ he breathed.
[US]L. Block Diet of Treacle (2008) 25: ‘Let’s make it.’ ‘Make it?’ ‘Split [...] Cut out. Leave.’.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 54: ‘Yeah, yeah man,’ Cowboy interrupted. ‘Make it, willya.’.
[US]D. Goines Inner City Hoodlum 71: Let’s make it out there in the alley.
[UK]M. Thelwell Harder They Come 315: Ah got ‘ta make it main, you dig?
[US]G.V. Higgins At End of Day (2001) 152: That guard dying, and then daisy and them makin’ it to Canada.

3. (US drugs) to take drugs, esp. opiates.

[US]Neurotica Aut. 45: Double lock the door, George. I’m gonna make it.
[UK]‘Raymond Thorp’ Viper 34: Frankie offered his own [cannabis] cigarette to me. ‘Why not make it man,’ he said dreamily.
[US]Rigney & Smith Real Bohemia 61: I turned out on heroin for the first time in 1957 [...] and by ’58, I was really making it [constantly using].
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 155: make it [...] To do, achieve, accomplish something; specifically, to inject a narcotic and experience a high.

4. to stop doing something, to abandon.

[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 55: Aw, make it with that jive, man.

In phrases

make it (with) (v.)

1. to have sexual intercourse; either hetero- or homosexual.

[[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 76: ‘Slashing!’ said Bet; ‘and he’s a spicy looking cove, too; he’s got a nobby nut and whiskers. I think I shall make it all right there myself, ven my old man goes out on a month’s cadge.’ [...] ‘What!’ thought she; ‘make it all right with the chanter? She doss with him? Bust her precious boiler!’].
[US]‘R. Scully’ Scarlet Pansy 146: One of the two [...] spoke audibly, indicating Fay – ‘Ain’t it grand?’ ‘Grand,’ said the other, ‘It’s most marvellously gorgeous. I’d like to make it.’ She feigned not to hear.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 429: How’s ole Lizzie? You makin it with her at all? [...] She was good trimmin, right enough.
[US]H. Huncke ‘A Story – New York’ in Huncke’s Journal (1998) 17: He [...] had threatened to beat her if he caught her making it with anyone else.
[US]J. Mills Panic in Needle Park (1971) 65: I hadn’t made it with any girls since I’d been home from jail that time.
‘Ricki Francis’ Kings X Hooker 48: ‘You stinkin’ fag ... you’ll never make it with a woman’.
[US]Cab Calloway Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 47: Before we knew it we had made it together.
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 112: To make it in the back of steamed-up Minis.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 63: ‘I could make it quick.’ ‘You won’t be making it anyhow tonight Nicky.’.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 31 Mar. 23: The ex-nerd who makes it with the prom queen.

2. to appear attractive.

[UK]‘Raymond Thorp’ Viper 92: I disliked her the moment we met. But I obviously made it with her in a big way.

3. (US) to have an orgasm.

[US] Algren ‘Day of the Alligator’ in Algren Lonesome Monsters (1963) 204: I’ve never been able to make it any other way ever since.
[US]H.S. Thompson Hell’s Angels (1967) 199: A lot of women can’t make it with just one guy at a time, they can’t get their jollies.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 134: She grabbed his charging hairy butt with both hands and truly made it with a man for the first time in her life.