Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dust n.

[lit. and fig. uses of SE dust; NB ‘Sl. Terms & the Gypsy Tongue’ in Baily’s Mag. Nov. 1871 suggests origin in Rom. / Hindi duster, money]

1. [17C–19C] money; often as down with one’s dust [? SE gold-dust, but note the religious equation of money with dirt; note Egan, Book of Sports (1832): ‘Sovereigns were golden dust, which blew about in the breath of his opinion’].

2. a blow.

3. [mid-18C–1920s] a fight, an argument, a disturbance; often as kick up (a) dust [the dust kicked up].

4. as powdery substances.

(a) [mid–late 19C] (Aus./N.Z.) gunpowder.

(b) [late 19C–1930s] (Aus.) flour; thus as v., to fill (a bag) with flour [note S. & O’B.: ‘Overground flour is said to be killed and known as dust [...] No doubt unscrupulous squatters were not above buying and keeping inferior flour for travellers, who gave it the nicknames of dust, and by transference it has become general for all flour’].

(c) [1900s–80s] (Aus./US) tobacco.

(d) [1910s] (US Navy) salt.

5. in drug uses [all these drugs (except marijuana) come in powdered form].

(a) [1910s+] (also Jesus dust) heroin.

(b) [1910s+] cocaine; thus dusted adj.

(c) [1940s–50s] morphine.

(d) [1950s] marijuana; also attrib.

(e) [1970s+] phencyclidine; also attrib.

(f) [1980s+] marijuana mixed with phencyclidine, cocaine or any other powdered drug.

In compounds

dustbag (n.)

[late 19C–1900s] (US) a wallet.

dust bunny (n.)

[1980s+] (US drugs) a user of phencyclidine.

dusthead (n.) [-head sfx (4)]

[1970s+] a phencyclidine user or addict.

dust joint (n.) [joint n. (5c)]

[1970s+] (drugs) a cigarette made with phencyclidine.

In phrases

douse one’s dust (v.)

[mid-19C] to pay a debt.

down with one’s dust (v.) (also down with the dust)

[mid-17C–mid-19C] to lay down one’s money, esp. as imper.

Jesus dust (n.)

see sense 6a above.

kick up (a) dust (v.) (also raise a dust)

[mid-18C+] to cause a commotion; to perform in an energetic manner (see cite 1838).

SE in slang uses

In compounds

dust-bin (n.)

[1940s] (US black) a grave.

dust-cutter (n.)

[late 19C–1950s] (US) a drink, esp. as a ‘pick-me-up’ or ‘reviver’.

dustman (n.)

see separate entries.

In phrases

bite the dust (v.) [popularized as US ‘Wild West’ cliché]

1. [mid-18C+] to die.

2. [mid–late 19C] to fall over.

3. [late 19C+] (Aus./US, also chew dust, lick the dust) to be defeated or prevailed over [note Psalm LXXII: ‘They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust’].

dust it away (v.)

[late 17C–early 19C] ‘to drink about’ (Grose, 1785).

no dust on [the image of dust gathering on a conservative or old-fashioned person]

[late 19C] (US) up to the minute, highly fashionable.

take the dust (v.) (also chew dust) [the dust emanating from the passing vehicle]

[late 19C–1950s] (US) to be overtaken in a car.