Green’s Dictionary of Slang

rag n.1

1. with ref. to money [SE rag, a small amount, extended to a small amount and then any sum of money, thus sense 1b the minimally valuable farthing; the mid-19C introduction of banknotes adds secondary ref. to rag, a piece of cloth].

(a) money in general.

[UK]Shakespeare Comedy of Errors IV iv: Money by me! heart and good will you might; But surely, master, not a rag of money.
[UK]Beaumont & Fletcher Captain IV ii: jac.: ’Twere good she had a little foolish money, To rub the time away with. host: Not a rag, Not a denier.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn).
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang.
[UK] ‘Bobby and His Mary’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 95: The blunt ran shy, and Bobby brush’d, / To get more rag not fearing.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict. 27: Rag – money; I’ve no rag, meaning I’ve no notes.
[US]N. Carolina Standard (Raleigh, NC) 23 June 4/1: Billy Barlow — A New Rag — Currency Song. We’ll have rags and rag money, and Billy Barlow! [...] So hurra! for the ‘shinnies’ of Billy Barlow.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open 97: Balsam, rag, rhino, money.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 72: rag A dollar. ‘Not a rag,’ not a dollar.
[US]G.P. Burnham Memoirs of the US Secret Service 91: The restaurant keeper did not object to take these spurious notes [...] these bogus rags could thus readily be passed in that establishment.
[UK]W.E. Henley ‘Villon’s Straight Tip’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 176: Suppose you screeve, or go cheap-jack? / [...] / Or thimble-rig? or knap a yack? / Or pitch a snide? or smash a rag?
[US]Wash. Post 3 July 3/1: We’ve got enough rag ter buy 100 tins at 10 per. It’s a regular puddin’.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 415: Rag. Currency.

(b) a farthing.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Rag c. a Farthing. Not a Rag left, c. I have Lost or Spent, all my Money.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.

(c) usu. in pl., a banknote, paper money; also attrib.

[Ire]J. Trumbull M’Fingal 97: O’er heaps of rags, he waves his wand, / All turn to gold at his command [DA].
[UK]‘T.B. Junr.’ Pettyfogger Dramatized I iii: wolf: Dam’me! couldn’t one get a few of his rags? sly: Why aye, to be sure, master—I’ve got a bit of a rag of his in my pocket, now. There, give me a checque for it, and deduct 20l. for the accomodation. [Ibid.] 109: Rag. An Acceptance, or Note.
[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 27: The shiners! Lord, Lord, what a bounce do I say! / As if we could hope to have rags done away.
Guards 124: [H]e dropped the paper currency (yclept the rag, by radical democrat Cobbet).
[US]C.A. Davis Letters of Major J. Downing (1835) 50: ‘None of your rags,’ says I, ‘but the real grit [i.e. gold].’.
[UK]Bell’s Life in London 5 May 2/1: When there’s neither coin nor rag, / My business must be done complete.
[US]N.-Y. Trib. 3 Dec. n.p.: The people may whistle for protection, and put up with what shinplaster rags they can get [B].
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 11 May 3/3: She then took from the mantel sheld a piece of Bell’s Life containing four ‘rags’ for £1 each.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 31/1: I wouldn’t take twenty ‘quid’ just now for my ‘rags’.
[US]M. Thompson Hoosier Mosaics 34: ‘Hand me in the rag chips — gold don’t feel good to my fingers,’ answered Bill Powell, swaggering again and grasping the currency with a hand that shook with eagerness.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 64: Rag, a bank-note.
[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 251: Rag. paper money.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 188: rag Paper money.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 173/2: Rag. [...] 2. A one-dollar bill. 3. Paper currency.
[US]A.S. Fleischman Venetian Blonde (2006) 141: Now I was short of [...] bank rags, he’d help me.

(d) (US Und.) in pl. counterfeit notes.

[US]Night Side of N.Y. 63: The counterfeiter [...] usually selects the approach of falling night as the time for putting his worthless ‘rags’ in circulation.
[US]Number 1500 Life In Sing Sing 258: Getting the rags from a greaser. Buying counterfeit paper money from an Italian.

(e) (US Und.) a confidence game based on stocks and shares [ext. of sense 1c, banknote, to any monetary document].

[US]D. Maurer Big Con 304: The rag An intricate big-con game very similar to the payoff, except that stocks are used instead of races. The insideman poses as an agent for a broker’s syndicate which is trying to break the bucket-shops. The mark profits on several investments, is sent for a large sum of money, and is fleeced.
[US]R. Prather ‘Double Take’ in Best of Manhunt (2019) [ebook] One of my first clients was an Englishman who had been taken on the rag, a stock swindle, for $140,000.

2. as ext. versions of SE.

(a) a flag.

implied in rag carrier
[Ind]‘Aliph Cheem’ Lays of Ind (1905) 48: [T]he glorious old flag, / Which English affection and slang calls ‘the Rag’.
[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 1: I realised that it was up to me to roll up again and do my bit towards keeping the old rag flying.
[US](con. 1906) Green & Laurie Show Biz from Vaude to Video 100: George M. Cohen came through with [...] ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag,’ which he originally wrote as ‘You’re a Grand Old Rag.’.
[US]H. Ellison Web of the City (1983) 133: You go on up there with the white rag.

(b) an article of clothing, esp. a dress; also attrib.; thus raggery, clothes.

[[UK] R. Corbett ‘The Mad Zealot’ in Ebsworth Merry Drollery Compleat (1875) 235: I keep him aloof, / With armour of proof, / Though here I have never a rag on].
[UK]Fielding Joseph Andrews (1954) I 61: Though there were two greatcoats about the coach [...] The two gentlemen complained they were cold, and could not spare a rag.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Apr. XVIII 21/1: She never left off a rag, so long as it would hang on her back.
[UK]B.H. Malkin (trans.) Adventures of Gil Blas (1822) II 179: An over-powering band of robbers [...] left us not a rag but what we carry on our backs.
[UK]‘Bill Truck’ Man o’ War’s Man (1843) 219: Your own pair of wet heavy woollens, with the never a dry rag under them.
[UK]Sinks of London Laid Open 49: She had taken every rag he had, even the very shirt off his back.
[UK]Thackeray Newcomes I 347: Old hags, such as Michael Angelo painted, draped in majestic raggery.
[UK]J. Greenwood Seven Curses of London 303: If she sees you she’ll tear every rag from your back.
[Aus]H. Nisbet Bushranger’s Sweetheart 68: While we had a rag or copper left to steal [...], we knew that we should never get rid o him.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Child in the Dark’ in Roderick (1972) 683: Your poor wife slaving her fingernails off for you in this wretched hole, and not a decent rag to her back.
[NZ]Truth (Wellington) 6 Apr. 6/2: The big rag emporiums of Christchurch.
[UK]T. Norman Penny Showman 17: Old mother EVE, before the Dragon, / Led her stray, had not a rag on.
[US]C. Himes ‘With Malice Toward None’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 49: I haven’t got any [hats] anyway, but that old rag from last year.
[US]E. Ferber ‘You’re Not the Type’ in One Basket (1947) 534: It’s the only decent rag I’ve got.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 117: Anyone could drive his rag-van.
[US]Mad mag. Jan. 49: His rags were, like, way-out, Pops!
[US]E. Bunker Little Boy Blue (1995) 82: Coins fuck up the hang of my rag.
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 122: Spend heart-wrenched hours at the boutique deciding what to wear / ragged up.

(c) a theatre curtain.

[US]G.G. Foster N.Y. in Slices 120: ‘Take that be Jo! Watch! murder! Take him off! Hyst der rag!’ [...] and so up goes the curtain.
[US]Life in Boston & N.Y. (Boston, MA) 8 Oct. n.p.: When the ‘rag’ went down, Melton came out and uttered some kind of garbage.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 9 Feb. 3/5: [He falls] to the sounds of slow music and the drop of the ‘rag’.
[UK]Referee 20 June, n.p.: Poor Miss A-- was left for quite a minute before the rag could be unhitched and made to shut out the tragic situation [F&H].
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 64: Rag, [...] a curtain (theatrical), e.g. up with the rag.
Marshall Pomes 44: Which brought down the rag on no end of a mess [F&H].
[UK]Sporting Times 18 Mar. 1/4: His dear old voice could still be heard leading our glee quartette in their ‘Poor ole Joe’ which brought the rag down!
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘At the Cross Roads’ Sporting Times 29 Oct. 1/3: The ‘rag’ was about to descend on Act Three.
[UK]E. Pugh Cockney At Home 191: Give the band the cue to play ’em out, and ring down the rag.

(d) a pocket handkerchief.

[UK] ‘Othello’ in Swell!!! or, Slap-Up Chaunter 22: At parting, he gave her a rag; / Says he, – ‘my dear let that keep your sneezer right’.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc.
[UK]Liverpool Mercury 2 Dec. 3/1: In cant a handkerchief would be called a ‘billy’ [...] or a ‘Kent rag’; while in slang it would be called a ‘rag,’ a ‘wipe,’ or a ‘clout’.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[Aus]D. Ireland Burn 3: ‘Want a rag,’ he says [...] ‘Blow while you’re at it.’.

(e) a towel.

[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 233: Ther revolvin’ arm [of a machine] was bent out, ’n’ it got home a left lead ’n’ er right cross, ’n’ ther rag went in from ther Pelican’s corner.

(f) (US) a necktie.

[US]Wash. Post 10 Dec. 4/5: A necktie is a ‘rag.’.

(g) a wig.

[US]M. West Drag (1997) III i: (Clem pushes through the crowd with Duchess’s wig. He throws it to Duchess.) clem: Take your rag.

(h) a baby’s nappy.

[UK]C. Harris Three-Ha’Pence to the Angel 128: As soon as the kid’s rags started ’anging about and ’ad ter be washed ’e found ’e ’ad a lot of business outside.

(i) a bandana.

[US]J. Hersey Algiers Motel Incident 184: I never saw him in the house without a hat or head rag on.
[US]J. Wambaugh Glitter Dome (1982) 67: He wore his hair processed and had his marcelled hairdo wrapped up in a rag.
[US]T.R. Houser Central Sl. 17: crip rag A handkerchief to indicate gang membership.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 6 Feb. 24: It’s said that a bandana is also used in a bizarre initiation ritual by The FTRA: three people urinate on a bandana – a ‘rag’ – then a ‘prospect’, prospective recruit, rolls it up and wears it around his neck for at least five days.
[US](con. 1990s) in J. Miller One of the Guys 49: ‘[T]hey always wore them blue rags and black rags and all that. And, I asked them, “Well you part of a gang?”’.

(j) (US black) by metonymy from sense 2i, a gang member.

[US]G. Smitherman Black Talk.

(k) (W.I./UK black) the semi-uniform clothes worn by a ragamuffin n.

[UK] in R. Graef Living Dangerously 166: For my sentence, I came in rag (ragamuffin’s clothes — unlaced trainers, baseball jacket and jeans).

(l) an convertible automobile’s soft top.

[US]‘Dutch’ ? (Pronounced Que) [ebook] KG was driving his old black ’88 Seville with the beige rag.

3. with ref. to speech [red rag n.] .

(a) the tongue.

[Aus]E. Dyson ‘Barracking’ in Benno and Some of the Push 142: But you can’t stop little Benjamin once he gets flutterin’ his rag in public.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 955/1: from ca. 1825.

(b) abuse, teasing, talk; usu. as ragging.

[UK] ‘The Cly-Pecker’ in Swell!!! or, Slap-Up Chaunter 39: Then I heard not a sound – but the slang of her rag.
[US]J. London ‘’Frisco Kid’s Story’ in High School Aegis X 15 Feb. 2: He didn’t understand de words I talked, an’ den I’d cut de rag short an’ tell ’im wot dey ment.
[UK]Magnet 15 Feb. 7: It would be a good idea to give him a form ragging.
[UK]Gem 30 Sept. 12: We shall get an awful ragging from the Head.
[UK]E. Pugh City Of The World 44: They may not indulge in ‘rags’ or tussles with the police in West End music-halls on Boatrace Night.
[UK]‘J.H. Ross’ Mint (1955) 31: When Sailor starts a rag, China produces a superb haw-haw voice that takes off the officer-type.
[Aus]Aus. Women’s Wkly 9 Feb. 13/2: Come on in. We’re having a bit of a rag.
[UK]Willans & Searle Complete Molesworth (1985) 106: All boys get together with super rags wheezes japes and pranks.
[US]P. Munro Sl. U. 156: rag [...] 2. low blow, insult, burn.

4. a newspaper or magazine [derog. ref. to its worthlessness, but note the use of rags in paper-making].

[[UK]R. North Examen 323: Would one expect in Print [...] such Malice and Knavery as lies here, scarce fit for Midnight Grubstreet Rags?].
[UK]London Life 21 June 4/2: A certain publisher [...] is annoyed at some remarks made in what he terms our penny rag.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 Aug. 4/2: Mr. Smith’s appointment to the trusteeship of the Public Library seems to have given offence to the religious rag, which denounces ‘Mephisto’s’ predilection for the better observance of the Sabbath as irreligious and profane.
[UK]Gloucester Citizen 20 Feb. 3/2: A very scurrilous and blackguard article appeared last week in that rag [...] from the pen of Ouida’s bootlicker, Legge.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 July 12/4: Why should we take account of what that obscure little Tory rag says? [...]. A fig for St. James’s Gazette!
[UK]Kipling ‘The Last Term’ Complete Stalky & Co. (1987) 266: Now you cut along an’ finish up your old rag, and Turkey and me will help.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Lord Douglas’ in Roderick (1972) 493: The editor of the local ‘Capitalistic rag’ stayed there.
[Aus]W.S. Walker Zealandia’s Guerdon 101: We ought to be able to sell about five thousand extra copies of ‘the rag’ next week.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 6 Mar. 2nd sect. 10/6: The tone of this Bostonian’s letter is not calculated to increase the circulation of the Melbourne rag amongst its white readers .
[Scot]Conan Doyle Lost World 41: ‘You must behave yourself, dear. Mr. Malone is a Pressman. He will have it all in his rag tomorrow, and sell an extra dozen among our neighbors’.
[UK]E. Pound letter 21 July in Read Letters to James Joyce (1968) 31: I can send the two poems to that Chicago rag if you can stand it.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 207: She’s got Rosie to write an article for that rag of hers.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ Red Wind (1946) 112: You have a story no rag could be made to soft-pedal.
[UK]‘Henry Green’ Loving (1978) 95: What can you believe in these Irish rags?
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 14: You could maybe write up something in one of the rags about him.
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 16: The other rag gave me a good spread.
[UK]K. Amis letter 6 Nov. in Leader (2000) 341: I thought I had a review in the Spectator, but the bloody rag keeps coming out without my review in it.
[WI]V.S. Naipaul House For Mr Biswas 357: ‘A capitalist rag,’ he began to say. ‘Just another capitalist rag.’.
[US]L. Bangs Psychotic Reactions (1988) 53: Even if I did turn in my chain an’ colors a year or two back for a gig in the rags.
[UK]A. Burgess 1985 (1980) 179: You have enough to do this evening without reading rags or gawping at the box.
[Aus]B. Humphries Traveller’s Tool 19: Described in one foreign rag as ‘the gay capital of the world’.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 289: The outlaw was still the hero [...] of pulp rags and Saturday serials.
[Aus]J. Byrell Lairs, Urgers & Coat-Tuggers xvi: In the same rag he read how the races were not at Randwick that very day.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 27 Nov. 6: More a matter for the national media than the local rags.
[US]E. Weiner Drop Dead, My Lovely (2005) 51: This Man, one of those men’s lifestyle rags.
[Aus]P. Temple Broken Shore (2007) [ebook] What this rag doesn’t say is buying Stone’s Creek mouth’s no use unless you can get to it.
[US]J. Ellroy Hilliker Curse 5: Armand Ellroy subscribed to scandal rags and skin magazines.
E. Petulengro Caravans & Wedding Bands 11: He headed downstairs to read the paper — the ‘rag’ as he liked to call it.
[US]J. Hannaham Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit 49: Some thin rag she’d never seeen before called AM New York.
[UK]J. Meades Empty Wigs (t/s) 411: Encounter, ‘our tame rag’ Angleton called it.

(a) (US black) a magazine.

[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 76: Magazine—Rag.

5. a sheet of paper; a form.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 20 Apr. 3/2: On Mr Pugh politely stating that cash was the ‘ticket’, Mr Gibson directed his clerk [...] to fill up a ‘slice of rag’ [to which he] thereto affixed his sign Manual.


(a) (N.Z.) a low playing card in a suit.

[NZ]cited in DNZE (1998).

7. with ref. to menstruation.

(a) a sanitary towel.

[[UK]‘Experiences of a Cunt Philosopher’ in Randiana 6: I [...] caught her changing the linen bandage she had been wearing round her fanny [...] I tried to get hold of the rag where the dark crimson flood had saturated it at worst].
[US](con. 1927) in Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore (1992) II 618: R is for rags, that are used I presume / To wrap up a cunt when it’s nicely in bloom.
[US]W. Burroughs Naked Lunch (1968) 75: That little bitch of a criada trimming her rag.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 213: R is for rag to catch the flow from the womb.
[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 113: I wouldn’t let you fuck it! But you sho’ as hel could suck it! Just as soon as I pull this bloody rag out!
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 157: There are also a variety of graphic expressions to characterize sanitary napkins – rag, diaper, jellyroll, jelly sandwich.

(b) a menstrual period.

Online Sl. Dict. 🌐 n 1. menstrual period. (‘My rag is really heavy this month.’).

8. as a derog. [abbr. wet rag under wet adj.1 , but ? ult. 16C–19C SE rag, a derog. description of a person, a ‘rag of a man’].

(a) (N.Z.) a derog. term for a man.

[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 164: There were some tough rags in that little bunch. One king-hit and I was a goner.

(b) a weakling.

[US](con. 1960s) R. Price Wanderers 97: If I was a chick lissenen’ to that song I would think . . . man, that guy’s one fuckin’ rag.

9. (US) a second-rate, run-down car.

[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 10: Nobody would want to steal this boring rag.

10. see rag house

11. see rag top

In compounds

rag baby (n.)

1. a dollar bill [SAmE rag baby, a war bond that had been issued in exchanragge for paper dollars at a time when the value of a paper dollar was 40 cents on the dollar in coin].

Wkly Kansas Chief (Troy, KS) 30 Dec. 3/2: Police Judge Flick [...] ordered that the aforesaid Thomas Jefferson inflate the city exchequer to the amount of a two dollar ‘rag baby’.
[US]Leavenworth Wkly Times (KS) 27 Apr. 1/4: We must sell more than we buy. Then the rag baby and the gold dollar will both stand upon the same platform in peace.
[US]Atlanta Constitution 16 Nov. 2/6: ‘The dollar of our daddyites’ and the ‘rag baby,’ as they are pleased to designate silver coin and greenbacks.
[US]Record-Union (Sacramento, CA) 20 Oct. 4/6: It’s dollars to ragbabies that there will be an end to them before the clock strikes six.
[US]Eve. Public Ledger (Phila., PA) 17 May 8/5: The paper currency of the government is a ‘Rag Baby’.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]Stark Co. Democrat (Canton, OH) 15 July 1/2: They are opposed to all wild cat, red dog, rag baby money schemes of issuing paper dollars without limit.
[US]Daily Capital Jrnl (Salem, OR) 22 July 2/4: Nobody then can advocate that these bonds, bought for rag-baby-value dollars, shall be collected in more than rag-baby-value dollars.

3. see also SE compounds below.

rag box (n.)

see separate entry.

rag chewer/chewing

see separate entries.

rag gorger (n.) (also rag gorgy) [Rom. gorgio, a (non-gypsy) man]

a wealthy man.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 261: rag-gorgy: a rich or monied man, but generally used in conversation when a particular gentleman, or person high in office, is hinted at; instead of mentioning his name, they say, the Rag-gorgy, knowing themselves to be understood by those they are addressing.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue [as cit. 1812].
[UK]Metropolitan Mag. XIV Sept. 333: We were both of one age and fly; resolved to get a cly full of ridge, if we could but [...] meet with the rag-gorgies.
rag-out (n.)

(US campus) a person who plays tricks; something unpleasant.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Mar. 6: rag out – [...] the cause of disgust or amusement: You rag out! You’re always playing tricks on me.
rag shop (n.) [shop n.1 (2)]

a bank; thus rag-shop boss, a banker, rag-shop cove, a banker, a cashier.

Niles’ Register 29 Aug. 3/2: However, we see in the newspaper; that the cashier of a ‘full bred’ rag shop in the western country, lately stabbed and killed a respectable citizen seeking the payment of debts due to him [DA].
[UK]‘Alfred Crowquill’ Seymour’s Humourous Sketches (1866) 22: [She] takes all the money I get at the rag-shop.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 197/1: I’ve got five times as much for writing a squib for a rag-shop as for a ballad that has taken me double that time.
[UK]Sl. Dict.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 64: Rag Shop, a bank.
[Aus]G. Casey It’s Harder for Girls 18: She could get a job in one of the big ragshops in the city.
rag trade (n.)

1. the purchasing of counterfeit banknotes and the subsequent passing them off to innocent victims.

Glasgow Citizen 19 Nov. n.p.: Is not the exhilarating ‘short length’ of handy known beyond our own Queen Street that it is not registered here? And we miss the rag trade whose worthy members do the above named goes [F&H].

2. the garment industry; (cite 1846 presumably ref. to actual trading in rags; thus rag trader n., a person in the industry.

[[UK]W.T. Moncrieff Heart of London II i: craig: Aby Houndsditch. aby: Here. covey: Of the Rag Fair Fencibles].
[[UK]Censor (London) 18 Jan. 6/1: [C]ounter-jumpers in the wholesale rag trade].
[[US]T. Haliburton Nature and Human Nature II 372: His coat [...] had got pawned to a Jew at Rag-alley].
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 131: Most of them are in the gown business, known locally as the ‘rag trade’.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 92: Several of Wally’s clients had been making fortunes out of the black market end of the rag trade.
[UK]Oz 3 2/3: Mary Quant [...] and four hundred other original dress designers [...] are making more money each than Balenciaga ever did in the rag trade.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 24 Oct. 74: ‘Hyme, my brother,’ he said, slapping a rag trader on the back.
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 88: In the affluent 1960s ‘teenagers’ became a valuable market for the rag trade.
[UK]Observer Mag. 16 May 30: Chigwell [...] where his father moved after years in the East End rag trade.
[UK]Guardian 31 Mar. 28: The heart of the West End rag trade, north of Oxford Street.
rag week (n.) [punning link to university rag weeks]

the menstrual period.

[UK]Roger’s Profanisaurus in Viz 87 Dec. n.p.: rag week n. [...] 2. The time of the month when the no bathing flags fly.
[Scot]I. Welsh Filth 144: It’s aw fuckin meat tae Bruce Robertson, rag week or no, the bloodier the better!
‘UK Snowy’ ‘Christmas Blackmail’ at 🌐 She started her periods early and when I got her into bed, all the pretty little innocent that she was, I found it was still her rag week.
ready rag (n.)

cash (rather than credit).

[UK]Flash Mirror 19: G. Guttle [...] has just opened a slap up grub and bub shop [...] (for ready rag only), where he sells panum, lap and peck of every sort.
Courier (Hobart, Tas.) 27 Oct. 3/1: [advert, from UK source] I, having plenty of ready rag in my Kick, grabbed the chance.

In phrases

get one’s rag out (v.)

1. (also get one’s rag up) to lose one’s temper.

[UK]S.O. Addy Sheffield Gloss. 185: ‘To get one’s rag out’ is to get into an excessively bad temper.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Macquarie’s Mate’ in Roderick (1972) 121: Well, old man, you needn’t get your rag out about it.
[UK]Marvel 17 Nov. 476: Got his rag out because his old father showed him up in front of us.
[UK]‘Sapper’ No Man’s Land 220: When the moment comes, and you’ve got your rag out and are seeing red.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 110: Yes, Menton. Got his rag out that evening on the bowling green because I sailed inside him.
[UK]J. Curtis Gilt Kid 231: Although she was half doolally she was apt to get her rag out pretty quick.
[Ire](con. 1890s) S. O’Casey Pictures in the Hallway 218: Oh, sit down, and don’t get your rag out.
[NZ]N. Marsh Died in the Wool (1963) 223: I’m sorry if i got my rag out, sir.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 17: He had called her a slab-sided cow and that had got her rag out.
[UK]‘Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter at Butlins 44: I say, you fellows, what’s the row? What are you getting your rag out for?

2. to make someone else angry.

[UK]N&Q Ser. 7 VI 38: To rag a man is good Lincolnshire for chaff or tease. At school to get a boy into a rage was called getting his rag out.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 Nov. 3/2: I thought it up to any bloke to know / The proper time er day to shut ’is ’ead. / ’E got me rag out an’ I told ’im so; / The girl an’ cove ’ad plainly got ’im set, / Though both of them was shick an’ drippin’ wet.
[UK]K. Mackenzie Living Rough 176: This got his rag up.
[UK]C. Harris Three-Ha’Pence to the Angel 40: We on’y called ’er Agatha to get ’er rag out.
[UK]C. Wood ‘Prisoner and Escort’ in Cockade (1965) I iii: You’ve got his rag up now Jupp.
give rag (v.)

(W.I.) to tease and joke aggressively and competitively.

[US]R.D. Abrahams ‘Joking: The Training of the Man of Words’ in Kochman Rappin’ and Stylin’ Out 218: Known by a number of names in the United States, such as rapping or signifying [...] in the West Indies it is called giving rag, making mock, and giving fatigue.
go south on rag week (v.)

to perform cunnilingus on a menstruating woman.

[Scot]I. Welsh Dead Man’s Trousers [27]: He idly wonders if Mikey is a pussy eater, whether he goes south on rag week, and if he brushes his teeth after.
have the rag on (v.)

1. of a woman, to be menstruating.

[UK] ‘These Foolish Things’ in Bold (1979) 212: That rusty bedstead we had our first shags on / The week of silence when you had the rags on.
[Aus]‘Whoa Back, Gee Back’ in Mess Songs & Rhymes of the RAAF 33: I took my girl out parking, I laid her on the some bags, / But when I started fooling around, Found she had the [rags].
[US] in Randolph & Legman Ozark Folksongs and Folklore (1992) I 418: Girl with a rag on – NO GOOD!
[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 49: If a babe has the rag on [...] that’s different.
[US](con. 1960s) R. Price Wanderers 188: What’s wit’ you, you got the rag on or somethin’?
[US]H. Selby Jr Song of the Silent Snow (1988) 68: Having the rag on is one thing but this ridic—.
J. Schrantz Boo’s Foster Homes and Beyond 81: Yeah, so we just sat around and talked all night [...] Oh, well, what’s a guy going to do when a broad’s got the rag on?

2. to act foolishly or eccentrically, to be annoyed.

[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn 53: Tony’s place is so dreary [...] and I guess I just have the rag on tonight anyway.
[US]G.V. Higgins Cogan’s Trade (1975) 89: He must’ve had the fuckin’ rag on or something.
R.K. Tanenbaum Corruption of Blood 100: Oooh, who’s got the rag on today? [...] Maybe you’re suffering from lack of nooky too.
P. Puglionisi Four Diavolos 202: ‘I guess he’s got the rag on.’ Pino said ‘Fuck him.’.

3. of a man, to be bleeding after anal intercourse or rape.

[UK]J. Meades Empty Wigs (t/s) 618: He bled through his coarse striped uniform - ‘He’s got the rags out - the little diddy sweetheart!’.
lose one’s rag (v.) (also lose the rag)

to lose one’s temper.

[Ire]J. Morrow Confessions of Proinsias O’Toole 158: I lost the rag.
[UK]A. Payne ‘Get Daley!’ Minder [TV script] 50: Daley, I’m going to lose my rag.
[Ire]P. Howard The Joy (2015) [ebook] I just lose me rag with the cunt. [...] He goes off in a snot.
[UK]J. Hoskison Inside 77: Unless you’re prepared to back it up don’t lose your rag.
[Ire]P. Howard Miseducation of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly (2004) 128: It’s enough to wreck anyone’s head so eventually I lose the rag with him.
[UK]Guardian Weekend 23 Oct. 25: Eventually, he lost his rag.
[Scot]L. McIlvanney All the Colours 43: I knew how quickly you could lose the rag.
[Ire]L. McInerney Rules of Revelation 279: speed. The boss/manager/pimp at the brothel lost the rag with me because he was getting complaints.
on the rag

1. menstruating; thus off the rag.

[US]H. Ellison Web of the City (1983) 34: She just came off the rag and Candle ain’t gonna waste no time.
[US] C. Baker et al. CUSS.
[Aus]Lette & Cary Puberty Blues 25: I bluffed it for a few days . . .‘Oh, I’m on m’rags.’.
[US](con. 1963) P. Conroy Lords of Discipline 144: I am the shit that comes from a woman when she’s on the rag!
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 31: ‘I’m on my rags’ (or ‘red rags’) is [...] curiously reverting to a time before sanitay napkins were widely available and when strips of towelling and sheets were worn during menstruation.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 233: A feminist magazine (doubtless called On the Rag or some such).
[UK]Guardian Weekend 28 Aug. 3: The rastafarian who won’t let his girlfriend into the kitchen when she’s ‘on the rag’.
[UK]Observer Rev. 9 Apr. 12: It’s bad timing that I should be coming on the rag just now.
[US]Re’al ‘Bull’ Oney Hellions! 32: He really got his cookies off on guys like that. Then, like a woman off the rag, he got nicer.
[Aus]T. Spicer Good Girl Stripped Bare 26: The menarche, a visit from Aunt Flo, on the rag, the curse, call it what you will.
[US]N. Walker Cherry 266: [S]he pressed against me and grabbed my cock. I tried to take her pants off but she stopped me and said she was on the rag.
[UK]M. Herron Joe Country [ebook] ‘You’re too old to be on the rag’.

2. irritated, testy, bad-tempered; thus share the rag, to be hostile, to place blame on someone else.

[US]Baker et al. CUSS 180: Rag, on the Constantly complaining and irritable.
[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 235: He always calls me ‘Sergeant’ when he’s on the rag.
[US]R. Price Breaks 293: I didn’t know why he was on the rag, but that was his problem.
[US](con. 1985–90) P. Bourjois In Search of Respect 23: The fat yak is on the rag. He’ll get over it.
[US]C. Stella Jimmy Bench-Press 67: She’s been on the rag since the other day.
ride the rag (v.)

see under ride v.

share the rag (v.)

(US gay) to be hostile, to pass responsibility onto another.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 178: share the rag (kwn SF, ’70) to be hostile; to shift the guilt to another’s shoulders, to pass the buck.
take the rag out (v.)

(US) in fig. use, to control one’s temper, to cheer up.

[US]A. Rodriguez Spidertown (1994) 124: Man, I can see you in a lousy mood again. Like, take the rag out already, bro’.
work the rag (v.) (also pull the rag)

(US Und.) to perform a stock swindle.

[US]L. Block ‘Badger Game’ in One Night Stands (2008) 25: I just got finished working the rag in Dallas. [Ibid.] 29: He had told her he had just finished pulling off a rag, a phony stock con.

In exclamations

get off the rag!

a dismissive excl.; the implication is that the addressee is lit. or fig. suffering from menstrual ill temper.

[US]A. Maupin Tales of the City (1984) 11: ‘Get off the rag, bitch!’ He left her standing in the frozen food department.
E. Brill I Looked Over Jordan 166: She’d stand, hand on hip, sneering, ‘Get off the rag, Dot’.
M.S. Willis Higher Ground 131: Well, I hope you get off the rag before rehearsal. One Teresa Spinett is enough.
Lynch & Woods Off the Rag 7: Later, when I heard women being told to ‘get off the rag’ or [...] ‘being such a rag’, I was able to connect these phrases with premenstrual [...] irritability.
F. DiPietro Portobello Road 36: ‘Oh get off the rag!’ I told her.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

rag-ass (n.) (also rag-arse) [rag-ass ]

a contemptible person, usu. impoverished or dishevelled; also as a derog. term of address.

F.L. Buss Dignity 72: You, rag ass, how come you didn't come when I called you last night?
[UK]J. Mowry Way Past Cool 273: I ain’t spectin no shit from Wesly an his little rag-asses.
J.A. Costa Portal in Time 105: It’s classy, not like you, you rag ass.
[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 27: No way in the world is this smacked-up rag-arse getting his yellowing fingertips under my clothes.
rag-ass (adj.) [SE rag + -ass sfx (1)]

(US black) impoverished, contemptible.

D.J. Gerrity Never Contract 60: You call that rag-ass young cunt a woman? That’s a fucking stick.
J.E. Wideman Philadelphia Fire 150: These detention-center concentration-camp rag-ass prisons we call public schools.
rag bag (n.)

see separate entry.

rag-cat alley (n.)

(US) a backstreet, the poor, run-down part of a city.

[US]J. Washburn Und. Sewer 107: While the millionaire’s daughter will never reach the condition existing in rag-cat alley the women of our highest society in the underworld comes to the lowest dive and crib.
rag head (n.)

see separate entry.

rag house (n.) (also cot house) [the canvas sides or roofs that such buildings often had] (US)

1. a cheap rooming house or ‘hotel’, esp. in a town based on an oil-drilling camp.

[US]L. Clappe in Shirley Letters (1949) 49: In this rag and card-board house, one is compelled to hear the most sacred names constantly profaned by the drinkers and gamblers who haunt the bar-room.
S. Dalrymple From Pithole to California 19: Petroleum Proverbs [...] You can give a toolie water but you can't make him drink. Those who live in a rag house shouldn't throw bones.
R.F. Harlow Biog. of E.W. Hill 99: Every oil rig, every house in the field, large or small, rag-house or oil company camp, all were potential ice customer.
[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 49: Bunking in the dingy half-canvas cot houses — rag houses, they were called.

2. (also rag) a tent.

[US]E. Custer Tenting on the Plains (rev. edn 1895) 117: After narrating the downfall of his ‘rag house,’ he dryly remarked that [...] he was not going to have much uninterrupted sleep.
Ohio Educational Mthly 55 205: A little girl down in Meigs county says that a tent is a rag house.
Travel 25 42: Forthwith the tent stove is set up in our ‘rag house,’ as the mountaineers call the 9 x I5 foot wall tent.
Shoe Workers’ Jrnl 23 22: Evicted miners living in tent colonies, or ‘rag house villages,’ with scarcely any food to feed their families, with only rags to protect their bodies in damp and freezing weather .
[US]Maines & Grant Wise-crack Dict. 13/1: Rag – Tent in a circus.
[US] ‘Jargon of the Und.’ in DN V 460: Rag-house, A tent.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 154: Rag House.–A tent.
rag-mannered (adj.) [SE rag adj., a general derog. term]

aggressively uncouth, very badly mannered.

[UK]J. Collier Profanesse and Immorality of the Stage (1730) 143: This young Lady, swears, talks smut, and is upon the Matter just as rag-manner’d as Mary the Buxome.
letter in J. Dunton Bodleian mss (1818) 759: I would not have you think that I am so rag-mannered as not to return you my thanks for your beneficence.
rag mob (n.) [mob n.2 (3)]

(US Und.) a team of confidence men working ‘the rag’, a trick based on persuading the victim that they can profit from a fixed stock swindle.

[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 101: A rag mob played a rancher against the wall for seventy-five big ones.
rag shop (n.)

a second-hand clothing shop.

Music Hall & Theatre Rev 23 Mar. 86/2: [Y]oung fellows who earn £1 7s. 6d. per week and go about booking gaiters and things at the rag shops.
rag top (n.) (US)

1. a truck that has an open back, which, when loaded, is covered with a tarpaulin.

Motor Truck News 41/1: Rag top: open-top trailer using a tarpaulin for covering.
[US]M. Tak Truck Talk 127: Rag top: 1. a low-sided trailer with metal bows over the top to support a tarpaulin [...] 2. an open top van with a tarpaulin covering over the top.

2. (also rag) the car or truck’s soft top.

Collier’s Mag. 115 82: He didn’t have enough gas to drive around and if it really started to rain the rag top of the convertible would leak like a sieve.
T. Gifford Hollywood Gothic 100: Eddie’s ragtop had a small tear that let the rain draw a bead on the back of the seat .
[US]Steve Earle ‘Billy and Bonnie’ 🎵 Blew down the highway with the ragtop down.
[US]‘Master Pimp’ Pimp’s Rap 109: He was driving a metallic green Jag with a peanut butter rag.
[US]Gillian Welch ‘Look at Miss Ohio’ 🎵 Running around with the ragtop down.
[US]G. Pelecanos (con. 1972) What It Was 136: She dropped the ragtop of her Pontiac [...] and drove north.

3. (also ragger) a car with a ‘convertible’ soft top .

Life Mag. 22 Mar. 108/1: He centers on a rag-top with a stick that sells for $1,900, then he asks five bills ($500) for his piece.
[US]Pop. Science Apr. 88: Your dreams of four-wheeled glory were no match for the tired, but durable folklore perpetuated largely by curbstone experts who have never owned what they derisively call a ‘rag top’.
[US]Current Sl. I:2 5/1: Rag top, n. Convertible.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 112: Like you got your pimp ride [...] long and sleeky lookin’, black blade wid a rag top.
[US]R. Spottiswoode 48 Hrs [film script] Reggie: What kind of car do you want? Jack: A convertible. I’m a rag top man.
[US]J. Ellroy Suicide Hill 273: It was a mint-condition ’54 Chevy ragger, candy-apple sapphire blue, canary yellow top.
[US]J. Wambaugh Golden Orange (1991) 70: A VW ragtop that runs worse than New York City.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 263: Across the street was a Merc sports rag-top.
[US]UGK ‘Front, Back and Side to Side’ 🎵 Go swing down sweet rag top and let me ride.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 33: An up-and-coming sniff retailer wants to treat himself to a BMW rag-top.
[US]J. Ellroy Widespread Panic 178: [A] ’49 Ford ragtop, tan over blue.
rag water (n.) [the effect of over-indulgence, ‘these liquors seldom failing to reduce those that drink them to rags’ (Grose, 1796)]

spirits, esp. gin.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Rag-water, a common sort of Strong-waters.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Rag Water. Gin, or any other common dram: these liquors seldom failing to reduce those that drink them to rags.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 72: rag-water Intoxicating liquor of all kinds. If frequently taken to excess, will reduce any person to rags.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 64: Rag-water, liquor of all kinds, if indulged in it reduces the consumer to rags.
ragweed (n.) [weed n.1 (1d)/SE ragweed, a form of hardy weed, of the genus Ambrosia]

1. (drugs) inferior quality marijuana (but note cite 2001 Looser, which suggests strength).

[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970).
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 210: ragweed poor grade of marijuana.
[US]D.E. Miller Bk of Jargon 338: ragweed: Low-potency marijuana.
[US](con. 1986) G. Pelecanos Sweet Forever 51: Mutt and Jeff were back on the couch, cooking their heads on some rag weed.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 17: Ragweed — Inferior quality marijuana.
[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 151/1: ragweed n. see skunk.

2. heroin.

[US]ONDCP Street Terms 17: Ragweed — [...] heroin.

In phrases

rag on every bush (n.) [the custom of pious visitors of hanging a rag on the holly-bush growing near the side of a holy well; the image is of one who lacks fidelity to a single saint, but offers it to every one]

(Irish) a man who pursues a number of women at the same time; thus (cite 1906) the subjects of such attentions.

D.I. Moriarty The Wife Hunter 130: Those sogers and sailors have a rag on every bush.
[UK]N&Q 3 ser. 9 June 474/1: A Rag Upon Every Bush. This saying [...] is usually applied to young men who are in the habit of showing ‘marked attention’ to more than one lady at a time. I do not remember having heard it anywhere but in Ireland.
[Ire]C.J. Kickham Knocknagow 141: ’Tis dhroll [...] I, that had my fling among ’em all, an’ never lost a wink uv sleep on account uv any girl that ever was born, to be this way! Sally Mockler called me a rag on every bush, no later than last night.
[UK]Contemp. Rev. 51 250: We don’t believe in him; he has ‘a rag on every bush.’ The reference is to ‘well-dressing.’ You will sometimes see a bush near a holy well covered with offerings in the shape of shreds of coloured rag.
Katharine Tynan Daughter in the Fields 141: I was just the same myself when I was his age — a rag on every bush, and ‘whistle and I'll come to ye, my lad,’ with every girl I met.
[Ire]P.W. Joyce Eng. As We Speak It In Ireland.
Somerville & Ross Mount Music 248: A strong, cocky young boy he is too [...] Sure didn’t I tell him it was what it was he had a rag on every bush !
A.A. Brill Psychoanalysis 106: His mother said that ‘she was a rag on every bush,’ meaning that she was owned by a great many men. This recalled to him that while he was separated from his wife he met a great many women who were ‘a rag on every bush.’ He did not yield to temptation, but entertained a great many forbidden fancies .
[Ire]Share Slanguage.
take the rag off the bush (v.) (also take the rag off all creation)

(US) to surpass, to excel, to outdo.

[US]J.K. Paulding Westward Ho! I 123: Well, Sam, you do take the rag off the bush, that’s sartin.
[US]D. Crockett Almanack in Meine Crockett Almanacks (1955) 107: I can take the rag off – frighten the old folks – astonish the natives – and beat the Dutch all to smash.
[US]T. Haliburton Sam Slick in England I 226: Why it’s rather takin’ the rag off the bush, ain’t it?
[US]T. Haliburton Sam Slick’s Wise Saws I 82: To be the elect of twenty-five millions of free, independent, and enlightened white citizens [...] takes the rag off of European monarchs; don’t it? [Ibid.] 116: ‘Do you hear that, Matey’ said he; ‘don’t that take the rag off the bush?’.
[US]T. Haliburton Nature and Human Nature I 37: The fun of the forecastle! [...] I think I would back that place for wit against any bar-room in New York or New Orleans, and I believe they take the rag off of all creation.
[US]B.H. Hall College Words (rev. edn) 384: rag. [...] The common phrase ‘to take the rag off,’ i.e. to excel, seems to be the form from which this word has been abbreviated.
T. Haliburton Season-Ticket 362: ‘Well! I never in all my born days!’sais I, ‘it takes the rag off the bush quite, that, if you didn’t row them all up Salt River, it’s a pity!’.
Gleanings in Bee Culture 5 35: By the by, we are making a bee hive that ‘takes the rag off the bush’.
J.A. Joyce Checkered Life 197: San Francisco by gas-light ‘takes the rag off the bush’.
[US]F. Dumont Dumont’s Joke Book 73: That last song took the rag off the bush.
[US]W.N. Harben Abner Daniel 264: You are a jim-dandy, young man [...] You take the rag off the bush.
[US]D.S. Crumb ‘Dialect of Southeastern Missouri’ in DN II:v 333: take the rag off, v.phr. To excel; to outshine.
[US]Bayler & Carnes Last Man Off Wake Island 293: The raid simply ‘tore the rag off the bush’ so far as my lofty radio station on Pagoda Hill was concerned.
[US]Z.N. Hurston Seraph on the Suwanee (1995) 762: Well, if this don’t take the rag clean off the bush!
[US]Randolph & Wilson Down in the Holler 291: Take the rag off the bush: phr. Sometimes this expression denotes only profound astonishment.
[US]R. Coover Public Burning (1979) 110: Gawdamighty, you do take the rag off the bush, boy!