Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dark adj.

1. (later use W.I.) stupid, ignorant [SE dark, unenlightened, uninformed, as in dark ages].

[UK]T. Shadwell Squire of Alsatia IV i: I am not so dark neither; I am sharp, sharp as a needle.
[WI]Francis-Jackson Official Dancehall Dict. 12: Da’k backward: illiterate, not sophisticated: u. ‘im da’k yuh see/he’s very stupid, dumb.

2. (20C+ use Irish/W.I.) weak-sighted, nearly or actually blind.

[Ire]T.C. Croker Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland (1862) 29: The Irish [...] use the word dark as synonymous with blind; and a blind beggar will implore you ‘to look down with pity on a poor dark man’.
[UK]Kendal Mercury 3 Apr. 6/1: The screever is a character who claims recognition as a professor of the fine arts [...] with fish, flowers, etc. drawn upon the flaga or pavement with coloured chalk Some of these ‘dark’ gentlemen [...] procure for themselves canine companions .
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 393/2: ‘It’s five years, sir,’ she said, ‘since I have been quite dark, but for two years before that I had lost the sight of one eye.’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 19 Nov. 14/4: ‘[T]he poor man is shtone blind, that’s fer why not.’ / ’Twas the troot, sir; the man had bin makin’ the goo-goo eye was dar-rk frim his birth.
[Ire]L. Mackay My Oul’ Town 93: Poor Ned was blin’, or, as they say up the country, ‘dark’, from his birth.
[Ire]B. MacMahon Honey Spike n.p.: ‘I’m dark,’ the old man quavered [...] ‘I’m as dark as midnight’ [BS].

3. (UK Und.) hidden.

[UK]Newcastle Courant 9 Sept. 6/5: When we enter the chovey and dub the jigger, slour us in and remain dark until you hear a cat mew.

4. culturally / ethnically pertaining to black people and as such usu. derog, but see cite 1978; see combs. below [dark n. (2)].

R. Charles Brother Ray 64: I played a lot of music which had originally been done by blacks and then reinterpreted by whites. [...] These tunes got dark all over again [...] when I got my hands on them [...] 268: [T]here’s no way Middle America was going to permit some dark cat to shake his ass on TV with millions of white chicks [...] hollering for more.

5. (Aus. Und.) angry (with).

[Aus]Tupper & Wortley Aus. Prison Sl. Gloss. 🌐 3. Ill-disposed. As in ‘to be dark on someone’.
[Aus](con. 1945–6) P. Doyle Devil’s Jump (2008) 75: Christ, he’d be dark if he knew we were even talking about him like this.

6. (UK black) aggressive, very serious.

[UK] in R. Graef Living Dangerously 174: It’s too dangerous [in Hackney], too many dark (dangerous) people.
[UK]N. Barlay Hooky Gear 38: His . . . mood . . . which is fuckin dark when . . . ever your . . . name . . . come up.

7. (UK teen) a general negative, bad, unpleasant, second-rate etc.

[UK]C. Newland Scholar 120: You must think I’m a dark cunt, to come off wi’ dem talks dere.

In compounds

Dark City (n.)

(S.Afr.) the township of Alexandra, near Johannesburg.

in Drum (Johannesburg) 40: A velvet pall [...] hung over Alexandra township [...] In this evening frock, the ‘Dark City,’ as it is called, could compete for loveliness with any other town [DSAE].
A. Sampson Treason Cage 207: The people of the ‘Dark City’ of Alexandra, an unusually stubborn and independent suburb of a hundred thousand Africans lying just outside the municipality .
[SA]L.F. Freed Crime in S. Afr. 109: The township known as ‘Dark City’, is notorious as a crimogenic area.
P. Juma Portrait of Apartheid 245: One of them is called ‘Alexandra’. There are no street lights in Alexandra; so it has been nicknamed ‘the dark city’.
P. Dreyer Martyrs and Fanatics 163: Because there was electricity on only a very few streets, Alexandra was called ‘Dark City,’ and crime was rife.
City Press 1 Sept. on 🌐 ‘Hope begins to glow in the Dark City’ After a prolonged pause in meaningful development, relief is in sight for 350 000-plus residents of Alexandra.
dark cloud (n.)

(usu. Aus./US) a derog. term for a black person, a Native Australian.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Apr. 24/4: That evening the colored folk of P.M. saw stars, blood and hair. One dark cloud stopped a bottle with its ear, another was seen dressed in its boots only. After dark none were seen at all.
[US]B.T. Harvey ‘Addenda – The Northwest’ in DN IV:ii 163: dark cloud, n. A negro.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 231: I spotted a dark cloud (he meant a negro).
[US]J.T. Farrell ‘The Fastest Runner’ in Amer. Dream Girl (1950) 24: Suddenly, Tony shouted: ‘Dark clouds’.
(ref. to c.1900) Wentworth &Flexner DAS.
[US]I.L. Allen Lang. of Ethnic Conflict 46: Color Allusions, Other than ‘Black’ and ‘Negro’: [...] dark-brethern, dark-cloud [1900. Also used for any gathering of blacks].
dark man (n.)

(Aus.) a derog. term for an Aborigine.

[Aus]D. Ireland Burn 66: Keep outa this, blackface [...] You heard, dark man. Shut your trap.
dark meat (n.)

see separate entry.

dark o’clock (n.)

night time.

[Ire]J.-P. Jordan Joys of War 62: The next patrol was out at dark o’clock again. [...] By the time we reached our objective it would be first light in an hour.
darkroom (n.)

(N.Z. prison) a holding area for newly arrived prisoners.

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 52/2: darkroom n. the waiting room where a new inmate is placed when he first enters the prison, before he is escorted to his wing and cell.
dark-sambo (n.) [sambo n.1 (3)]

(W.I.) a person of mixed race, with one-quarter white to three-quarters black.

‘Commissioners of the Almshouse v. Whistelo’ in Criminal Law Cases (NY) III (1825) 200: My father was white; he was a Scotchman, a servant ; and my mother was a dark sambo.
Trans. of Ethnological Soc. new ser. I 4: the aboriginal native was nearly black — a very dark Sambo (to use the West Indian term) but not a Negro.
[WI]cited in Cassidy & LePage Dict. Jam. Eng. (1980).
Police Jrnl: a Review for the Police Forces of the Empire 1 Jan. 209: She was dark sambo (very dark brown) in colour.
R. Jamieson Centre of the Labyrinth 8: You is a pretty one. A class of a dark sambo girl!
dark stuff (n.)

(US) a black person, usu. a woman, in a sexual context.

J. Roe Same Old Grind 152: Her face an ebony mask, Zehya did the royal high-step down the lounge aisle [...] ‘Hey, dark stuff, bring it over here,’ called a customer.
[US](con. 1964–8) J. Ellroy Cold Six Thousand 241: ‘Suppose I want dark stuff?’ ‘You call Al at the chambermaids’ union. It’s good trim, if you don’t mind schtupping in a mop closet.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

dark cell (n.) [its lack of amenities]

(UK / US prison) a prison punishment cell.

Reports from Committees on Secondary Punishments 25 Mar. 6: What is the longest period that any person has been put in solitary confinement in the dark cell ?
Reports from Commissioners 26 July 305: You were reported for not picking oakum [...] and for noise, and [...] you were then placed in the dark cell.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 56/1: Dark-cell (p) In some prisons, a small, ill-ventilated, lightless cell used for punishment and psychopathic observation. ‘Fritz broke up (wrecked his cell) last night. They got him In the dark-cell waiting for the bug doctor (psychiatrist) to gander (look) him over. If he ain’t nuts, that joint will shove him over the line (drive him Insane).’.
dark cully (n.) [cully n.1 (2)]

(UK Und.) one who keeps a mistress and only dares visit her surreptitiously at night.

[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: dark Cully a marry’d Man, who keeps a Mistress, and creeps to her in the Night, for fear of Discovery.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. 1725].
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum.
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
dark engineer (n.) [SE engineer, to manipulate, to perform]

a villain.

[UK]N. Ward London Spy I 11: I have had most of these Dark Engineers you saw my patients; for they are seldom free from Clap.
dark (hole) (n.)

1. the vagina.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

2. (US prison) a punishment cell.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA) 23 Feb. 5/4: The captain [...] decided that I should be triced up by the thumbs for six hours each day for three days and that i should be put in irons and kept in the dark hole for thirteen weeks.
[US]Sun (NY) 25 Jan. 3/1: The Horrors of the dark Hole, Atlanta’s Star Torture Chamber [...] No mattress or bed — just floor [...] Men were kept there weeks at a timew [...] chained standing for intolerable periods.

3. (S.Afr. gay) the anus.

[SA]K. Cage Gayle.
dark house (n.)

1. a room used to confine the insane.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 291/2: ca. 1600-1850.

2. a tavern offering bedrooms for the night.

[UK]W. Killigrew Pandora Act I: The dayly terror of getting such diseases as inhabit your dark houses, has frightened me into better purposes.
[UK]N. Ward London Spy III 48: [heading] A Chamber in the Dark-House at Billingsgate, and, its Furniture Described.
dark lantern (n.)

a thief’s candle or light, made so as to shut out the light when not needed.

[UK]C. Hitchin Regulator 19: A Glim-stick, alias Dark Lanthern.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 36: I’m agoin’ to open it with a jimmy and a dark lantern, to be sure!
dark lanthorn (n.) (also dark lantern) [he metaphorically diverts the light of his lantern from the robbery]

1. a servant or agent who takes and transmits a bribe offered to his master.

[UK]Wycherley Love in a Wood I i: joyner.: You are the Picklock and dark-Lanthorn of Policy.
[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: A Dark-Lanthorn, the Servant or Agent that Receives the Bribe (at Court).
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]B.M. Carew Life and Adventures.
[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.
[UK]Satirist (London) 6 May 147/2: ‘Come, strike up Dark-lanthern!’ says I, / Ven the old ’un beginned for to scrub.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open [as cit. 1835].
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict.

2. (US) an African-American.

[US]Life in Boston & N.Y. (Boston, MA) 23 Aug. n.p.: Not far from No. 4 there is a nest where a woman ties up [...] It is said to be a resort of both colors, though dark lanterns predominate.
darktime (n.)

(US black) the night.

[US]A.E. Duckett ‘Truckin ’round Brooklyn’ in N.Y. Age 11 July 7/1: Hilda Byrd sits on her stoop every darktime [...] waiting for Frank Simpkins.

In phrases

dark-and-tan (adj.)

(US) for an African-American clientele.

[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 18 June [synd. col.] It’s a new dark-and-tan Harlem spot.
dark as a nigger’s pocket (adj.)

very dark.

D.P. Thompson May Martin 26: I’d go for you and take a bear out of a trap, if ’twas as dark as a nigger’s pocket, for I always knows bow to fight .
B.F. Presbury Mustee 426: It was dark as a nigger’s pocket afore we fetched her.
H. Castlemon Frank in the Woods 121: After a few minits’ lookin’ — or, I should say, feelin’ — for the cave war as dark as a nigger’s pocket — I found the young painters.
(ref. to 1863) J.M. Polk Memories of the Lost Cause n.p.: It was as dark as a nigger’s pocket. I was sleepy, hungry and tired. I could feel the gray-backs moving around.
J.M. Polk Nth and Sth American Railway Rev. 29: It was as dark as a nigger’s pocket. I was sleepy, hungry and tired.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Oct. 48/1: For a while the sorely-tried convoys stumbled up that twisted gully, as dark as a nigger’s pocket, every night, cursing all the way up to the spring and down again.
V. Rowans Loving Couple 91: ‘Dark as a nigger’s pocket in here,’ Fran said, sweeping her mink coat around her.
dark as the inside of a cow (adj.) (also darker than a yard down a bear’s throat, ... the inside of an old boot) [UK use is naut. only]

(Can./US) very dark.

B. Auerbach Black Forest Village Stories (trans.) 235: The moon retired behind a large cloud; so that [...] it was almost ‘as dark as the inside of a cow’.
[US]‘Mark Twain’ Roughing It 37: We fastened down the coach curtains [...] and made the place as ‘dark as the inside of a cow.’ as the conductor phrased it.
[UK]Leicester Chron. 21 June 6/1: I assure you the streets roundabout were, as Mark Twain puts it, dark as the inside of a cow.
[US]Dly Morn. Astorian (OR) 20 Dec. 3/1: Till ten yesterday morning it was as dark as the inside of a cow.
[US]Omaha Dly Bee (NE) 30 July n.p.: There I was ion the middle of a black threacherous bog in a night as [...] dark as the inside of a cow.
[US]A.H. Lewis Boss 315: The night’s as dark as the inside of a cow.
[US]Eve. Bull. (Honolulu) 21 June 7/1: Old Peter Jackson, who was as dark as the inside of a cow on a dark night, was adored by a tremendous following.
[US]A. Baer Two and Three 3 Mar. [synd. col.] This dinge had a complexion that darker than the inside of an old boot.
[US]D. Runyon Runyon à la Carte 129: It is darker than a yard down a bear’s throat except when it lightnings.
dark it (v.) (also keep it dark)

to say nothing; esp. as imper. dark it! be quiet! keep quiet!

[UK]Era (London) 14 Mar. 3: ‘Keep it dark,’ says he.
[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[Aus]Bird o’ Freedom (Sydney) 7 Feb. 3/3: ‘Why don’t you keep it dark’.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 23 Jan. 3/6: ‘Cabbie, ’ sez he, ‘keep it dark; / It don’t do for folks to know as / How I do this bloomin’ lark’.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 36: ‘Keep it dark, Sonny’ [...] ‘Who are you, tellin me to keep quiet?’.
dark out (v.)

(UK black) to kill.

[UK]‘Q’ Deadmeat 261: If [...] the shit did go off, I was ready to dark them out.
play dark (v.)

to feign ignorance or incompetence.

[UK]Pall Mall Gaz. 15 May 12/1: A race of budding swindlers [...] classed with Mr Charlton who plays ‘dark’ at billiards in the hope of getting some money ‘on’ before contending for the cue.