Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dead adj.

1. [mid-18C+] of a bottle, finished, empty.

2. [mid-19C+] of people, forgotten; of things, ideas, unfashionable, out of style.

3. [late 19C–1920s] of a house or place, uninhabited, empty, deserted.

4. [late 19C–1940s] (US tramp) reformed.

5. [1900s–30s] having no knowledge.

6. [1920s+] of a place, esp. a club, a party, boring, unexciting.

7. [1950s+] finished, lost, spec. arrested, captured.

8. [1960s] (US black) penniless.

9. [1990s+] (US campus) facing trouble.

10. [2010s] (US) on bad = good pattern, first-rate, excellent.

In phrases

dead hook (v.)

[late 18C-early 19C] (UK Und.) to kill, to hang.

have someone/something dead (v.) [predates sense 7 above; var. on knock cold under knock v.]

[1900s] (Aus./US) to have at one’s mercy; to dominate completely, to astound.

SE, meaning not alive, in slang uses

In compounds

dead alive (adj.) (also dead and alive)

1. [mid-19C] stupid, dull-witted.

2. [mid-19C+] of a person, miserable, down in the mouth; of a place, depressed, depressing.

dead ass

see separate entries.

dead bird (n.) [like the bird, it cannot ‘move’; note Stephens & O’Brien, Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. (ms.; 1900–10): ‘derived from pigeon shooting [...] the prowess of any champion shot that “anything he aims at is a ‘dead bird’”.’]

1. [late 19C+] (Aus.) a certain bet, a sure thing.

2. [1900s–10s] (US) a hopeless case or situation.

dead card (n.) [SE dead card, a card that has been discarded in a game and is no longer to be used by the players]

1. [late 19C–1900s] (US) something that is unlucky, unfashionable or unpopular.

2. used of an individual, one who is characterless, dour.

dead cargo (n.)

[late 17C–19C] (UK Und.) the proceeds of a robbery that have turned out to be less valuable than hoped.

dead chicken (n.)

[1960s+] (US) a doomed person, a lost soul.

dead-drop area (n.)

[2010s] (UK Black / gang) an area that is invisible to CCTV cameras.

dead duck (n.)

see separate entry.

dead-end street (n.) [synon. for cul-de-sac; there is in dead an extra implication of passivity on the woman’s part]

[19C; 1990s+] the vagina.


see separate entries.

dead fall (n.) [the drunks ‘fall down dead’ + ? pun on SE deadfall, a trap for large game]

1. [mid–late 19C] a cheap, poss. corrupt casino.

2. [mid-19C–1950s] (US) a rough saloon.

dead fink (n.) [ety. unknown]

[20C+] (Irish) an attractive young woman.

dead fish (n.)

[1920s] (US) an impoverished individual; one who has lost all their money gambling.

dead game (adj.)

[late 19C–1950s] (US campus) dissolute, ostentatious; usu. as dead-game sport.


see separate entries.

dead heat (n.) [pun on SE (neck)tie/tie (dead heat or draw)]

[1980s] (Aus.) a necktie.

dead horse (n.)

see separate entries.

dead house (n.)

1. [mid-19C–1940s] (Aus.) a room in an outback public house set aside for those who are incapably drunk.

2. (US tramp) a saloon that does not offer a free lunch.

3. [late 19C–1920s] (US) a particularly unappealing bar or saloon.

4. (US) a prison.

dead Indian (n.) [the negative stereotype of allegedly alcoholic Native Americans]

[1960s] (US) an empty bottle.

dead knowledge (n.)

[1900s] (Aus.) deceit, cunning; thus dead-knowledge man, a cunning or deceitful man.

dead lag (n.) [lag n.2 (2)]

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) one who is certain to be imprisoned.

dead leg (n.)

[1960s–70s] a down-and-out, a failure.


see separate entries.


see separate entries.

dead man

see separate entry.

dead marine (n.) (also marine, marine officer, marine recruit) [orig. naut. jargon, now mainly Aus. use; Fraser & Gibbons, Soldier & Sailor Words & Phrases (1925): ‘William IV., when Duke of Clarence and Lord High Admiral, at an official dinner, is related to have said to a waiter, pointing to some empty bottles, “Take away those marines!” An elderly major of Marines present rose and said: “May I respectfully ask why your Royal Highness applies the name of the corps to which I have the honour to belong to an empty bottle?” The Duke, with the unfailing tact of his family, saved the situation. “I call them marines because they are good fellows who have done their duty and are ready to do it again!”’]

[late 18C+] an empty bottle.

deadmeat (n.)

see separate entry.

In compounds

dead neck (n.) [i.e. one who is dead from the neck up]

[1910s–60s] a very stupid person.

dead one (n.)

see separate entry.


see separate entries.

deadpicker (n.)

1. [1930s–40s] (US tramp) one who robs passed-out drunks.

2. [1940s] (US) a general term of abuse; thus adj. deadpicking.

dead pigeon (n.) [1910s–50s]

1. (US) a guaranteed and absolute failure, often in the context of a forthcoming election.

2. one who is doomed.

3. one who is unconscious.

dead president (n.) (also dead man, dead one, president) [the pictures of US presidents that are printed on the various denominations]

[1940s+] (US) a $1 bill; thus in pl. money.

dead pudding (n.)

[late 19C] (US campus) something easy.

dead rabbit (n.)

1. [mid–late 19C] (US) a street thug, a hoodlum [the New York City street gang, known as the Dead Rabbits, who would parade brandishing such a corpse, the symbol of their defeated rivals, as their standard].

2. [1900s–40s] a hopeless person, one who has absolutely no chance.

3. [1960s–70s] an impotent penis, incapable of erection.

dead rag (n.) [the do-rag n. (2) or bandanna handkerchief, worn by gang members to indicate their affiliation]

[1980s+] (US black gang) a dead gang member.

dead shot (n.) [SE dead shot, an expert marksman]

1. [mid-19C] (US) very poor quality or adulterated whisky [it ‘kills’ the drinker].

2. [1970s+] (US black) sexual intercourse, whether vaginal or anal.

dead stock (n.) [Carib. stock, animals bred for slaughter]

[1990s+] (W.I.) a ‘non-event’.

dead time (n.) [time n. (1)] [1970s+] (US prison)

1. any time spent in prison that does not actually diminish one’s sentence.

2. any period of one’s prison sentence when one is prohibited from associating with other prisoners.

dead turkey (n.)

[1940s+] a hopeless person, a person or thing that has absolutely no chance.

dead ’un (n.)

see separate entry.

dead whiteboy (n.) [play on dead president : before 2009’s Barack Obama, all US presidents had been white men]

[1990s+] (US black) a dollar bill of any denomination.


see separate entries.

In phrases

dead as...

see separate entry.

dead for (adj.) [var. on SE dying for]

[late 19C–1960s] (Aus./US) desperate for, in great need of.

dead on (adj.)

see separate entry.

give someone the dead hand (v.)

1. [late 19C] (US campus) to betray.

2. [1970s] (US) to grope a woman in a crowd, e.g. on a tube train.

wouldn’t be seen dead with (someone) in a 40-acre paddock

[late 19C+] (orig. Aus.) an expression of extreme dislike.

In exclamations

play dead!

[1950s] (US teen) be quiet!

SE, meaning complete, utter, in slang uses

In compounds

dead cop (n.) [cop n.1 (2)]

[late 19C-1900s] (Aus.) a sure winner, also attrib.

dead-copper (n.) [copper n. (3)]

[1920s+] (Aus.) a police informer.

dead cunt (n.) [cunt n. (4)]

[1990s+] (Aus.) a strong term of abuse.

dead finish (n.)

1. [late 19C] an outback drinking saloon.

2. [late 19C–1900s] (Aus.) the absolute, the complete; the end.

dead hand (n.) [SE hand, an expert + pun on SE]

[19C+] (20C+ Aus.) an expert.

dead nark (n.) [nark n.1 (6)] [20C+] (Aus.)

1. something very unsatisfactory.

2. a spoilsport.

3. a very bad temper.

dead nip (n.) [? SE nip, a fragment, a small portion]

[late 19C] an unimportant project that turns out to be a failure.

dead oodles (n.) [ety. unknown, but Cohen, Studies in Slang (1985), suggests progression from scadoodles by mispron. of first syllable]

[mid-19C+] (orig. US) a large quantity, many.

dead ringer (n.)

see separate entry.

dead shit (n.)

[1980s+] (Aus.) a general term of abuse; also as adj.

dead square (n.) (also dead white)

[late 19C] (US) an honest individual.

dead tumble (n.) [tumble n. (1a)]

[1930s–50s] (US Und.) an obvious give-away, discovery in the act of a crime.

In phrases

dead ring of

[1910s+] (Aus./N.Z.) the absolute image of.

on the dead (level) [ext. of SE phr. on the level]

1. [late 19C] (US) unarguably, without escape.

2. [late 19C+] in earnest, sincerely, straightforwardly, honestly.