Green’s Dictionary of Slang

beak n.1

[Hotten (1859) + Ware suggest OE beag, a necklace worn as a badge of office]

1. (also beeks) a judge, a magistrate; often in phr. up before the beak, in the magistrate’s court [poss. f. harman n.].

implied in budge a beak under budge v.1
[UK]B.M. Carew ‘The Oath of the Canting Crew’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 50: Never snitch to bum or beak.
[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 42: A rum Beak; a good Justice.
[US] ‘Flash Lang.’ in Confessions of Thomas Mount 19: A judge, a beeks.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn).
[UK]Sporting Mag. Apr. XVI 26/1: [...] paid my respects to Sir William, and the rest of the beaks.
[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 26 Sept. 5/1: [I]n consequence of his recent appearance before the Beak, for an assault.
[UK] ‘The New Policeman’ in C. Hindley James Catnach (1878) 211: In a shake I was walked before a beak.
[UK] ‘The Chummies’ Society’ Fun Alive O! 55: Next morning before the old beak, / We went and I thought he’d have pitied us.
[UK] ‘Bet Farrell’ in Gentleman’s Spicey Songster 39: Said the beak, come tell me good woman, / What ’tis you have got to state.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 6 Sept. 4/2: No lobsters blue nor beak, I trust, will on our sport be pouncing.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 16 Oct. 55/1: [I]nstead of being arraigned by a judge, disgorges to a ‘beak’.
[UK]Talfourd & Seymour Sir Rupert, the Fearless I iii: I want to bring him before the beak.
[UK]C. Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend III 133: I am not a regular beak; because I have not got authority from the Crown.
[US] ‘Hundred Stretches Hence’ in Matsell Vocabulum 124: And where the buffer, bruiser, blowen, / And all the cops and beaks so knowin’.
[Aus]Melbourne Punch 9 Aug. 7/1: ‘Slangiana’ [...] Why, dearest, call your boldness, cheek? / By all serene express your joy? / A magistrate why call a beak?
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 6/2: They were locked up, to hear what the ‘beak’ would say in the morning.
[UK]J. Greenwood Wilds of London (1881) 169: Brave fellows who, scorning to flinch or to falter, / Defy full-wigged beaks, and don’t care for the halter.
[Ind]‘Aliph Cheem’ Lays of Ind (1905) 138: There's Tomkins, our Civil and Sessions Judge, / A pompous, ponderous Beak.
[NZ]N.Z. Observer (Auckland) 18 Sept. 4: Mr Barstow, usually the most punctual as well as the most beneficient of beaks.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 Mar. 22/2: In the past, if at stray times we’ve licked ‘em, / The beak made the fine pretty hot, / And we felt less like victor than victim / When the time came for paying the ‘shot.’.
[UK]M. Davitt Leaves from a Prison Diary I 151: We were both taken by the Kopper and the beek only giv me 14 days.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 12 Dec. 2/3: They were [...] duly fined by the indignant ‘beak’.
[UK]E.V. Page ‘The Magistrate’ 🎵 I hope to see you all again up before the ‘Beak’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 July 12/2: Apropos to the honorary beaks who drop in casually to see how the Building Society case is progressing at Melbourne City Court, it is not generally understood that one magistrate can ‘commit’ if he wishes to.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 81: There was me up ’fore the beak answerin’ a charge.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ In Bad Company 10: A man can get a lawyer, and fight out his case before the P[olice]. M[agistrate]., and the other beaks.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘Penny Numbers’ Sporting Times 11 July 1/3: ‘She has nothing to do with the case,’ said the beak.
[US]‘The Lang. of Crooks’ in Wash. Post 20 June 4/1: [paraphrasing J. Sullivan] A Magistrate is an undignified beak.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Hitched’ Songs of a Sentimental Bloke 79: I felt like I wus up afore the Beak! / But my Doreen she never turns a ’air.
[UK]Breton & Bevir Adventures of Mrs. May 106: ‘Do you deny having the goods?’ the Beak arsts.
[UK]‘George Orwell’ Down and Out in Complete Works I (1986) 190: The beak give me seven days.
[US]San Quentin Bulletin in L.A. Times 6 May 7: BEAK, judge.
[Aus]R. Park Poor Man’s Orange 27: Been up before the beak more times than you could count.
[Aus]S.J. Baker in Sun. Herald (Sydney) 8 June 9/5: Detective Doyle's list includes such old English slang words as [...] ‘beak,’ a magistrate.
[NZ]I. Hamilton Till Human Voices Wake Us 25: The last of thirteen appearances in front of the beaks.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit 46: Hauled before the beak at Vinton Street police court.
[US](con. 1950-1960) R.A. Freeman Dict. Inmate Sl. (Walla Walla, WA) 7: Beak – a magistrate, judge, etc.
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 182: A waster and a vagabond the beak said.
[UK]P. Willmott Adolescent Boys of East London (1969) 150: The beak says they’re only sorry because they got caught.
[Aus]Adamson & Hanford Zimmer’s Essay 43: Someone who keeps doing the same naughty really bugs the beaks.
[UK]P. Reading ‘Sortie’ Diplopic 29: Next day the Beak – ‘Oh, tell me, are you drunk frequently?’.
[UK]Guardian G2 4 Aug. 17: Harrelson accused the hapless beak of being a ‘puppet’ hell-bent on ‘keeping the truth from the jury’.
[UK]‘John le Carré’ Constant Gardener 500: Arrested him. Extracted a voluntary confession. He came up before the beak last week.

2. (also beaky) a sheriff’s officer, a policeman.

[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Tom and Jerry II vi: Landlord, you dog! which door de beak come in?
[UK]Vidocq Memoirs (trans. W. McGinn) III 75: Spy if you twig any coves or beaks.
[UK]Thackeray Yellowplush Papers in Works III (1898) 315: To use a commin igspreshn, the beaks were after him.
[UK]Thackeray Catherine (1905) 639: Mrs. Polly, with a wonderful presence of mind, restored peace by exclaiming, ‘Hush, hush! The beaks, the beaks!’ Mrs. Briggs knew her company: there was something in the very name of constable which sent them all a-flying.
[UK]T. Taylor Still Waters Run Deep II 2: A fellow who risks... the spinning of a roulette wheel is a gambler, and may be quodded by the first beak that comes handy.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor (1968) I 415: At first the beaks protected us, but we got found out, and the beaks grew rusty.
[UK]S.O. Addy Sheffield Gloss. 13: Beeak [sic], a constable.
[US]C. Castleman Getting Up: Subway Graffiti In N.Y. 172: Beakies or shooflies [MTA inspectors].

3. a newspaper/journal reviewer, i.e. a ‘judge’ of literature etc.

[UK]Pierce Egan’s Life in London 17 Oct. 4/3: We are not for reviews [but] our ogles as are quick and our heads as clear as any of the beaks of the periodicals.

4. (UK prison/Und., also beakman) a prison warder.

[UK]‘Cock-Eyed Sukey’ in Cove in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) IV 219: The beakman tips the gallows word, The kids again now mount the Tread.

5. a schoolmaster.

[UK]A. Lunn Harrovians 34: Beaks will believe any bilge.
[Scot]‘Ian Hay’ First Hundred Thousand (1918) 113: In private life I am a beak at a public school.
[UK](con. 1912) B. Marshall George Brown’s Schooldays 6: I hear the beaks are rather fond of lacing.
[UK]Willans & Searle Complete Molesworth (1985) 259: Masters i mean. Beaks.
[UK]Wodehouse Jeeves in the Offing 12: Mr Herring and I were discussing our former pre-school beak.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 beak n. headmaster.

In derivatives

beakdom (n.)

the magistracy.

[Scot]Paisley Herald 24 Mar. 1/3: The world was recently well nigh brought to an untimely end by a collision between Beakdom and Bumbledom, or a clash between the Coroner’s jurisdiction and the police.

In compounds

beak-runner (n.) [SE runner]

(UK Und.) an officer of the law, lit. ‘a runner for the magistrate’.

[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 136: Aye, do, why should you be dubber-mum’d? there’s no hornies, traps, scouts, nor beak-runners amongst them.
beaksman (n.)

a policeman; a police-office clerk.

[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Tom and Jerry II vi: land.: Gentlemen vagabonds; the traps are abroad, and half a thousand beadles and beaksmen are now about the door. billy: De beak! Oh curse a de beak!
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 7: Beak’s-man — a Police officer. The clerks and others about the Police-office receive the same appellation.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.