Green’s Dictionary of Slang

blue murder n.

also bloody murder
[blue adj.5 + SE murder]

1. cries of terror, horror, alarm; usu. in phrs. below.

implied in scream blue murder below.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 8: BLUE MURDER, a desperate or alarming cry.
[US] ‘Widow Mulroony’s Ball’ in Donnybrook-Fair Comic Songster 19: Tim Mulkeaghy struck out at poor Micky Gerall – / So began the blue murder at Mulroony’s ball.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Feb. n.p.: The deacon resisted violently, [...] he kicked the policeman on the calf of the leg, and hollered out ‘blue murder,’ ‘fire and brimstone,’ and wanted to know, in fact, what this was all about.
[UK]J.S. Winter Eng. Illus. Mag. Dec. 179: The dingy person dropped his victim and howled what the half dozen officers [...] graphically described as blue murder [F&H].
[UK]F.W. Hume Hagar of the Pawn-Shop 154: Oh, my bloomin’ eyes! if this ain‘t robbery an’ blue murder!
[UK]Marvel 17 Nov. 471: Don’t stand looking blue murder at him!
[Aus]L. Stone Jonah 26: I ran down the yard, an’ ’ollered blue murder.
[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Duck an’ Fowl’ in Moods of Ginger Mick 17: While the live ducks quacked blue murder frum their corner uv the floor.
[UK](con. 1916) F. Manning Her Privates We (1986) 153: ’E just lugged ’is man out the back door an’ into the yard, wi’ the old girl ’ollerin’ blue murder.
[US]N. Van Patten ‘Vocab. of the Amer. Negro’ in AS VII:1 27: Blue murder, cf. Bloody murder.
[US]J. Conroy World to Win 321: Oooh! I was scared! [...] I guess I was squalling bloody murder.
[NZ]F. Sargeson ‘I’ve Lost My Pal’ in A Man And His Wife (1944) 50: George began walking over to the dog. It barked blue murder.
[UK]G. Kersh They Die with Their Boots Clean 5: And we comes out, we does, yelling red, white and blue murder.
[Aus]L. Glassop We Were the Rats 36: It is inconceivable that a girl will allow you to merge her curves with your angles on a dance floor, but will clout you one in the mug and scream blue murder if you put your arm around her in a public place.
[UK]N. Marsh Final Curtain (1958) 73: Was I tickled! Pauline and Milly looking blue murder and poor little Cedric bleating.
[UK]C. Harris Three-Ha’Pence to the Angel 187: Like ter see my old man, if ’e’d caught me skylarking [...] blimey, it was blue murder a minute after ten when I was a girl.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Sat. Night and Sun. Morning 24: The gaffer ran out of his office when he heard her screaming blue-murder.
[UK](con. 1936) A. Wesker Chicken Soup with Barley I ii: There’ll be blue murder if it carries on like this.
[US]C. Himes Crazy Kill 79: Iron Jaw was supposed to start yelling bloody murder.
[UK]N. Dunn Up the Junction 83: Fat Lil hollered blue murder.
[US] in E. Cray Erotic Muse (1992) 5: She yelled bloody murder; ‘Well,’ cried she, / ‘There’s a bloody big something getting up me!’.
[US](con. 1940s) M. Dibner Admiral (1968) 40: She was screaming blue murder.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 39: So here’s the Gyppos [...] yellin’ blue murder.
[US]E. Thompson Garden of Sand (1981) 53: He curled in a ball holding his head with both hands, howling blue murder.
[UK]E. Braithwaite ‘Rites’ in Arrivants 202: An’ then blue murder start: / ‘Kill one o’ dem, Clyde’, some wise-wun was shoutin’ ‘knock he skull off.
[SA]M. Tholo 5 Dec. in Hermer Diary of Maria Tholo (2001) 152: And then it was blue murder. The police were powerless. [...] This was war.
[UK]A. Bleasdale Who’s Been Sleeping in my Bed 54: She yelled blue murder.
[UK]B. Chatwin Songlines 35: The boy was shrieking blue murder and frothing from the sides of his mouth.
[US](con. 1940s) P. Cumper One Bright Child 102: Stand on a chair and scream blue murder, of course!
[UK]N. Cohn Yes We Have No 56: A woman is screaming blue murder.
M.E. Dassad ‘Chickenhawk’ at [Internet] Karen screamed bloody murder as the two cocks tore into her lower body.
[UK]Guardian 19 Mar. 29/2: Any British operative is obliged [...] to shout blue murder if he or she receives intelligence reports that suggests someone is being tortured.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Oct. 43/2: [I]n the glorious days of lambing down, when Jerry was younger and grew fat and independent, he dispensed some astonishing mixtures – known as tanglefoot, snake-juice, paralysers, double-distilled lightning, mulga rum and blue-murder rousers.

In phrases

like blue murder (adv.)

1. to a great extent; very much.

[US]Brother Jonathan I Extra vii: All hallooing and roaring like blue murder.
[US]Spirit of Democracy (Woodsfield, OH) 19 Sept. 1/6: The bar [i.e. bear] began to roar enough like blue murder.
[UK]Huddersfield Chron. 2 Aug. 3/3: It was blwin’ like bloody murder, savin’ your presence.
J. Smith Humourous Scotch Stories 67: The first thing I saw was Bassy [...] wi’ a wicked young pig fastened on his nose, an’ squealin' like blue murder.
L.L.Greene Jubilee Hall 165: One fellow squeaked like blue murder .
[UK]H. Nesbit Bushranger’s Sweetheart 144: She screeched out like blue murder, until she had raised the house and forced me to jump the window.
[Aus]‘Miles Franklin’ My Brilliant Career 258: And the long and short of it is that I hate dairying like blue murder.
[US]M. Bodenheim Georgie May 99: There’s one fellah ah’d love to do up brown [...] Blabbing lak blue murdah’n fo’ his measly five.
C, Jay Brink of Silence 156: We got to a spot where the currents cross and it began to blow like blue murder.
W. Trevor Elizabeth Alone 100: A patient had carried on like blue murder .
P. Bridgmont Liberation of an Actor 137: Courage? Courage! I screamed like blue murder. I howled and hollered until one of your stretcher-bearer types collected me.
N. Chauncy Tangara 28: Please don’t yowl like blue murder, my darling, he's a very kind doctor.

2. (also like blue stink) very quickly, at top speed.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Dec. 7/2: [A]n’ the ole ’oss starts goin’ like blue-murder.
[UK]Cheltenham Chron. 25 Oct. 6/8: [He] heard a boy screaming like blue murder.
[UK](con. 1912) B. Marshall George Brown’s Schooldays 93: We’ve got to hare out of here like blue stink if we don’t want to be nabbed.
Railway Mag. 141 124/2: Ever since, he had always caned any non-steam loco like blue murder in the Box area to ensure the same thing didn't happen again .

3. very aggressively.

[US]Baxter Spring News (KS) 5 Nov. 7/2: They came at us from all points [...] screaming, shouting men waving swords and blazing away at us like blue murder.
F. Swinnerton Rosalind Passes 77: She looked at him like blue murder; I thought there was going to be a scuffle .
scream blue murder (v.) (also holler blue murder, shout..., yell…, scream bloody murder)

to be in a state of hysteria, utterly and completely overwrought or terrified.

[UK]Parterre 2 36: [I] shouted blue murder, for I saw the ship was settling down fast.
Boston Post (MA) 21 June 2/4: A rum crazy subject [...] She let into the watch pell-mell and had to be carried in a hand-cart. Still she screamed out blue murder as she was jaunted through the streets.
Harpers New Mthly Mag. May 854/1: He was one o’ them mutton-fed chaps as can’t stand much, for he landed among the fiddlers, and squealed blue murder!
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 209/2: My wart patients seldom come twice, for they screams out ten thousand blue murders when the acid bites them.
Ballarat Star (Vic.) 19 Nov. 4/2: Witness proceeded to say that she screamed out blue murder; and that she was so frightened that she scarcely remembered anything.
Ottowa Free Trader (IL) 14 Sept. 6/1: Had he been under this roof, you would have screamed blue murder long ago.
[US]Dillon Trib. (MT) 18 July 1/5: A girl might scream blue murder and her cries be unheard.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 83: He [...] was a’ dancin’ on his mattress and a’ yellin’ blue murder.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 23 Dec. 1/3: The children howled in chorus — ‘blue murther’ in fortissimo .
[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 241: By’n bye she was screamin’ perlice ’n’ blue murder.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 27 May 8/2: He wouldn’t care if we were to tie her up and cart her screaming blue murder through the streets.
[US]‘J.M. Hall’ Anecdota Americana II 10: A man in one of the rooms had been screaming blue murder for an hour.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 169: The last we saw of them they were flying down an alley, screaming bloody murder.
[UK]‘Charles Raven’ Und. Nights 156: He screamed blue murder to the Chief Officer.
[Aus]‘Charles Barrett’ Address: Kings Cross 49: Although I couldn’t hear anything, I’ll be those kids were yelling blue murder about their pulled ears.
[US]T. Thackrey Thief 217: The papers are going to scream bloody murder.
[UK]N. Barlay Curvy Lovebox 170: By tha time I’m out to let them out they ah screaming blue murdah.
[UK]Guardian Weekend 10 July 25: Campbell could be screaming bloody murder to get me out of here.
[US]G. Tate Midnight Lightning 45: His scream-bloody-murder guitar.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 3 39: The poor mad bugger has been screaming blue murder ever since.
[Aus]L. Redhead Thrill City [ebook] ‘The one screaming bloody murder about her caesarean and her fanny?’ the nurse said.