1. fig., as a part of the body.
(a) [late 17C] the penis.
(b) [19C+] a baby’s penis.
(c) [late 19C+] (also bell) the clitoris.
(d) [1910s+] the chin; esp. in phr. on the button, a blow square on the chin.
(e) [1920s–70s] (US) a man’s or woman’s nipple; occas. an animal’s, e.g. a pig.
(f) [1930s] a pimple.
2. from the circular shape.
(a) [late 18C–mid-19C] a counterfeit shilling.
(b) [19C] a shilling (5p).
(c) [mid-19C] any coin; thus shiny buttons n., money.
(d) [1920s] [US] a dollar.
(e) (Aus.) an accelerator.
(f) [1940s] (US Und.) a form of confidence-trick in which a criminal posing as a detective accuses the victim of passing counterfeit money and confiscates it for ‘examination’.
(g) [1940s-50s] (US Und.) in pl., derisively small amounts, e.g. of money, stolen goods.
3. [1950s] (US street gang) a switchblade knife, which is activated by a button on the handle.
4. in drugs uses.
(a) [1960s] (drugs) a capsule containing heroin or opium.
(b) [1960s] peyote.
(c) [1960s+] (S.Afr. drugs) a Mandrax (methaqualone) tablet; thus button-kop n., a regular Mandrax user (lit. button-head).
[1990s+] the finger used by a woman to masturbate herself or her partner.
see separate entry.
SE in slang uses
[late 19C+] a (hotel) page.
[17C] a button thief.
[1940s–60s] (orig. US black) a braggart or boaster, a loudmouth.
see separate entry.
[1980s+] anyone who operates a console.
[1910s] (Aus.) a trick played on a naïve woman by a man, bent on intercourse, who removes a button from his coat and promises that it will serve adequately as a contraceptive pessary.
[1920s–70s] (UK Und.) the police.
[2000s] house music.
[late 19C] a state of solvency or profit.
[mid-19C+] eccentric, one of many phrs. implying the subject is ‘not all there’.
[1930s] (US) to experience orgasm, to relieve sexual tension.
[late 19C–1960s] to be ‘sharp’, to know what is going on, to be impervious to hoaxers.
[20C+] to be pertinent or relevant or precisely what is required.
[1940s] (Irish) to urinate.
[late 19C+] to be eccentric, crazy.
[mid-19C+] to lack intelligence, to be slightly eccentric or odd.
[mid-17C–19C] worthless, useless.
[mid-16C–early 19C; 1980s] one is terrified, or jittery.
1. [20C+] right on target, usu. of a blow.
2. [20C+] up to the minute, fully aware.
3. [1920s+] exactly on time, as required.
see bust one’s buttons under bust v.1
1. [1960s+] to make someone feel special, turned on, loved etc.
2. [1930s+] to manipulate someone emotionally, usu. to annoy, to irritate.
1. [1910s+] to set an event or a chain of circumstances in motion.
2. [1920s] to shoot.
[1940s+] (orig. US) to panic.
[1950s] (US) to murder.
see sweet as (a) nut under sweet adj.1
[20C+] (Ulster) to be less than wholly intelligent.
[mid-19C+] a mild excl. of amusement.