Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tabby n.

also tabbie, tabby cat
[SE tabby cat, ult. tabby, striped or watered silk (orig. produced in the Baghdad suburb of Attabiy), and thus applied to the colouring of the cat; thus theatrical jargon tabs, an old woman; note Aus. WWI milit. tabby, a woman (irrespective of age)]

1. an old lady, usu. as pej.; also attrib.

[UK]Dryden An Evening’s Love I i: The Whisking of a Silk-Gown, and the Rash of a Tabby-Petticoat, are as comfortable Sounds to these rich Citizens, as the Chink of their Pieces of Eight.
[UK]Four for a Penny 3: He playing the Pimp, lodges the Tabby-petticoat and Russet-breeches together in the same Bed of Lavender.
[UK]G. Colman Yngr Jealous Wife II ii: I am not sorry for the coming-in of these old tabbies, and am much obliged to her ladyship for leaving us to such an agreeable tête-à-tête.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 246: This made th’ old tabbies swear they’d never / Fall out, but live good friends for ever.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[Ire]J. O’Keeffe Life’s Vagaries 23: A variety of gambling tabbies, honourable black legs, and rickety children.
[UK]G. Colman Yngr Poor Gentleman II ii: How these tabbies love to be toaded!
[US]J.K. Paulding Bucktails (1847) IV iv: Silence, you old Tabby – d’ye see this? (Holds a pistol).
[UK]D. Carey Life in Paris 235: Nor looked my Tabby so / When my old wife was young.
[UK]Thackeray Yellowplush Papers in Works III (1898) 282: Efry old tabby and dowyger at my Lord Bobtail’s turned up the wights of their i’s when they spoke of him.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 2 Dec. 2/7: It seems that the tabbies were considerably puzzled how to circumvent the fair one.
[UK]J. Strang Glasgow and Its Clubs 351: Every old tabby in the town was heard lamenting the deep degeneracy of modern times.
[UK]Reynolds Newspaper (London) 24 Mar. 5/2: He writes amatory epistles to an old tabby.
[UK]J. Hatton Cruel London I 36: Talk of women! – why, men are as frivolous and full of gossip and scandal as the tabbies at a West End kettle-drum.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Jan. 7/4: Her ladyship had not had time to talk with toadies or to be katooed to by tabbies.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 2 Aug. 14/1: A Melbourne journalist was sent to ‘do’ a Mothers’ Meeting in Collingwood, a gathering of the rich and quasi-scientific tabbies, to preach at the poor and ignorant.
[UK]Leeds Times 3 Feb. 6/4: These people would have slandered us by saying [...] very nasty things, you know, such as Spitfire Tabbies.
[UK]A. Binstead More Gal’s Gossip 1: Only the most impulchritudinous pollies and mediaeval tabbies still cling to the powder-puff.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 3 Apr. 1/1: Tabby-cat afternoon teas.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 12 Feb. 1/1: Those spiteful tabbies who were not pretty enough to be cast as fairies, etc.
[US]C.L. Cullen Eddy 90: ‘The tabby!’ broke out Laura [...] ‘Don’t you mind the shocking old cat, Louise.’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 6 Aug. 2nd sect. 9/1: They Say [...] That a lot of croquet and tabby cat soirees will not now be bossed by the ambitious madam.
[Aus]F. Garrett diary 13 Mar. [Internet] On opening pocket (it was sewn) little slip of paper inside. ‘To the wearer of this coat may God bless and keep you and wishing you a safe and speedy return’, then follows address in Stoke on Trent of a tabbie.
[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 19 Dec. 3/1: Dearly beloved Blokes and Tabbies, — Before I ’op off I want to drum yer that I'm ‘butcher’s ’ook’ over certain ’appenings in this joint during the past week.
[US]S. Lewis Arrowsmith 56: The old tabbies, and the beastly old men, always telling the same old jokes.
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson Shearer’s Colt 138: All the old tabbies on the ship will be at that table.
[UK]A. Christie Body in the Library (1959) 138: ‘Funny old Tabby,’ thought Dinah.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 14: I picked a good-looker for a secretary. It added to your prestige. Most of the blokes had plain-looking tabbies, a bit long in the tooth.
[Aus]H. Drake-Brockman ‘The North-west Ladies’ West Coast Stories 158: Those old tabbies!
[Aus]N. Keesing Lily on the Dustbin 96: ‘Then,’ mum continues, ‘I “ran into” dear old Mrs Jones.’ ‘That old tabbie!’ dad snorts [...] ‘That old perambulating ragbag!’.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 57: ‘Tabby’ has a longer history in British and US slang as a term for an elderly spinster.

2. the female pubic hair and genitals [play on cat n.1 (2a)].

[UK]Morris et al. Festival of Anacreon Pt II 49: Dolly could never see where was the harm, To suffer her master to keep tabby warm.

3. a young woman, esp. an attractive one.

[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 228: Met at every corner — Snuffy Tabbies, and Boosy Kids.
[Aus]T. Skeyhill ‘The Sniper’ Soldier Songs from Anzac (1916) 21: When you get back to Australia [...] An’ your tabby runs to ’ug yer, / You’ll feel inclined to duck.
[Aus]Aussie (France) X Jan. 14: Variously called by the male species ‘The Tabbie,’ ‘The Bint,’ ‘The Cliner’ and ‘The Skirt’. [Ibid.] XII Mar. 6/1: I nearly did me block on a bonzer tabby I met over there.
[Aus]Gippsland Times (Vic.) 2 Nov. 5/2: A tabbie wot wud pull yew on / Wud wanter be well potty.
[UK](con. WWI) Fraser & Gibbons Soldier and Sailor Words 275: Tabby, A: A girl.
[UK]A.E. Strong in Partridge Sl. Today and Yesterday 287: It’s time I struck a sweet job. In London, for preference; there I can have a mag to a tabby.
[Aus]Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld) 1 Aug. 8/2: I’ve danced with decent sheilas, and waltzed with some good sorts, / Have hopped with pretty tabbies, some proper, some good sports.
[Aus]D. Stivens Courtship of Uncle Henry 73: No wonder Thompson tried getting fresh with the social tabbies.
[Aus]D. Niland Shiralee 122: The silly cow, makin’ up to the tabbies and that.

4. (Aus./US Und.) a prostitute.

[Aus]C.J. Dennis ‘Duck an’ Fowl’ in Moods of Ginger Mick 17: An’ the tabbies pitch the weary johns a tale, / ’Ow they orl is puffick ladies ’oo ’ave not bin pinched fer munce.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Prostitutes and Criminal Argots’ in Lang. Und. (1981) 117/1: bladder. An unattractive prostitute. Also [...] tabby, tart, tomato, each expressing varying degrees of unattractiveness.

In derivatives

tabbyism (n.)

the tendency to act as a querulous, interfering old woman.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Feb. 4/4: Is some one […] not going to take the old party in tow and prevent an untoward termination to such troublesome tabbyism?

In compounds

tabby party (n.)

a party consisting only of women.

[Jane West] Ringrove II 222: These Euphrosynes who are so very pleasant while two or three marrying men are hovering about them, that if they ever deal in a commodity the reverse of wreathed smiles, they be not liberal in exhibiting them in what they call a tabby party.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 317: Tabby party a party consisting entirely of women, a tea and tattle gathering.
[UK]Belfast News Letter 17 Sept. 6/2: Threeold ladies who were returning from a tabby party, not having taken too much punch, but [etc.].
G.G. Coulton Father Rhine 96: ‘A tabby party!’ whispered Schultz across to me [...] and I really blushed for him; married men grow so brutal in those ways!