Green’s Dictionary of Slang

doss n.1

also dos
[Lat. dorsus, the back, on which the sleeper lies]

1. a place to sleep, a bed, a lodging; also, the cost of a night’s lodging (see cites 1882, 1891).

[UK]H. Brandon Dict. of the Flash or Cant Lang. 162/2: Doss – a bed.
[UK]Swell’s Night Guide 77: She stalled a lushy swaddy to a doss t’other darky.
[UK]Westmorland Gaz. 19 Nov. 5/3: German said they were going to ‘late a doss’, meaning that they were going to seek a sleeping place.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 356/21: I [...] was invited by my companion to a ‘dos’ in an open shed in Islington. [Ibid.] III 202: At night, the men and women used to sleep in a kind of barn [...] they’d say to me, ‘Come up to the doss and give us a tune’.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 55/1: When she awoke in the morning she found herself in ‘doss’ with the ‘bloke’ and no one else near her.
[US]J.H. Nicholson ‘Bunkum in Parvo’ in Opal Fever 110: Say for a night, we want grub and a doss.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 17 Jan. 14/1: Mr White’s place was called in the slang of thieves [...] a ‘thripenny doss,’ the word ‘doss’ being gypsy talk for bed.
[Scot]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 9 June 7/5: I had to manage somehow to get the browns where-withal to pay my ‘doss’.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. (2 edn) 3: Doss - A bed.
[UK]Pall Mall Gazette 9 Sept. 3/2: If you want a doss, a doss is provided. A wooden framework, about as wide as the widest part of a coffin, and a wooden pillow and a blanket of leather .
[UK]Birmingham Dly Post 31 Mar. 3/4: [T]the landlady [...] always declared that the man had not paid his ‘doss’ (lodging money).
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 19 Feb. 2/8: To speak of bed [...] is ‘dab,’ ‘doss’, [...] ‘bug walk’.
[UK]Regiment 9 May 90/2: [S]leeping [...] on wooden guard beds or any other convenient ‘doss’ .
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 116: Bit o’ food an’ a night’s doss.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 17 Oct. 1/3: [He] avowed the hieroglyphics [...] represented an order for a night’s doss at the Kent-street refuge.
[US]Wash. Times (DC) 14 Sept. 10/3: Dos — A bed.
[US]J. London People of the Abyss 163: To pound one’s wife to a jelly and break a few of her ribs is a trivial offence compared with sleeping out under the naked stars because one has not the price of a doss.
E. Dyson ‘Two Battlers & a Bear’ in Lone Hand (Sydney) June 123/2: He had met the Dago Antonio at a cheap Melbourne doss.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 26 Jan. 4/8: The crook from a doss or a den / Rubs hides with the company-floater.
[US]F.H. Tillotson How I Became a Detective 91: Dos – A bed.
[UK]D. Stewart Tragedy of the White House in Illus. Police News 20 Aug. 12/4: ‘I can get a doss (sleep) at Bendigoes’ .
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 Nov. 44/1: That day I’d a sprat dinner; two beers an’ a ninepenny doss. Nex’ day I was on me uppers, an’ at night slep’ in the grass paddick they calls the Domain.
[US]J. London ‘The Princess’ Complete Short Stories (1993) III 2465: Let’s forget the long road we’ve traveled since, and hit our doss in the good old fashion.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 74: Still they get their feed all right and their doss.
[UK]N. Lucas London and its Criminals 225: They will not have to ask twice for ‘doss’ money.
[UK]‘George Orwell’ Down and Out in Complete Works I (1986) 177: ‘Kip’ is Danish. Till quite recently the word ‘doss’ was used in this sense, but it is now quite obsolete.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 60/2: Doss. Sleep; a bed; a bedroom.
[UK]G. Melly Owning Up (1974) 26: I never reproached you when you made this house a doss for band boys and barrow spivs.
[UK]M. Walters Echo 199: So I jumped the silly bugger and tied him up in my doss before one of the psychos could kill him.
[Scot](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 33: Matty’s no quite the same boy that he kent back in that Shepherd’s Bush doss in ’79.
[Scot]I. Welsh Dead Man’s Trousers 116: [of a hotel] I’ve an account at this doss.

2. (also dossland) a sleep.

[UK]A. Mayhew Paved with Gold 118: Into this branch-curtained retreat the lads crept on all fours, one after another, to enjoy their ‘doss,’ as, in their slang, they called sleep.
[UK]Chelmsford Chron. 21 Aug. 8/2: He at first said he meant to have a ‘doss’ (sleep), and then he said he was after mushrooms.
[Aus]Sydney Sl. Dict. 10/1: My tom-tart buzzed a squatter for his skin while he was in doss. She speeled from the crib and he was turned out. I think she hocussed his lush. Last night she was flashing the gilt in S-’s drum.
[UK]J. Keane On Blue Water 200: After that, we thought it was time to douse the glim and turn over in our pews for a doss.
[UK]Swindon Advertiser 17 Oct. 3/2: I thought we had better have a ‘doss’ (sleep) under the hedge.
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 114: They can curl up and have a ‘doss’ (sleep).
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 2 Dec. 3/3: She comes late there of a rnornin’, / Takes it easy — has her doss.
[UK]Marvel III:58 16: I’m a-goin’ down to Mother Hogan’s kitchen for a bite and a doss on the floor.
[UK]A.G. Empey Over the Top ‘Tommy’s Dict. of the Trenches’ 294: ‘Having a doss.’ Having a sleep.
[US]P. & T. Casey Gay-cat 302: Doss — [...] sleep.
[UK](con. WWI) R. Graves Goodbye to All That (1960) 87: Graves, you lie down and have a doss on that bunk.
[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 27 Aug. 11/1: The jitterbugs copping their outer-vines and skimmers and trucking to the slammer to hit the ozone [...] to climb between the lily-whites and beat out some doss.
[US] ‘Jiver’s Bible’ in D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.
[US]D. Burley N.Y. Amsterdam News 14 Oct. 14A: Time to quit. It’s doss land for me.
see sense 1.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 103: I was going to the runt and some ‘doss’.
[Aus](con. 1930s) F. Huelin ‘Keep Moving’ 17: Just havin’ a doss. [...] We’re travellin’ through.
[SA]Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg) 26 Feb. 🌐 Doss — sleep.

3. (Aus. und.) a prison.

[Aus]Australasian (Melbourne) 17 July 8/5: A prison is [...] the doss.

4. (orig. UK Und.) one month, as part of a jail sentence.

[UK]M. Davitt Leaves from a Prison Diary I 152: I was lugged before the beak, who gave me six doss in the Steel.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 74: Six Doss in the Steel, six months in gaol.
[Aus]Argus (Melbourne) 20 Sept. 6/4: [The sentence] may be six doss in the steel, which is six months, or double it - a stretch, while imprisonment for a long period is a jade, and for life a winder.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 239/1: six doss in the steel – a jail sentence of six months.

5. (US) a rest.

[US](con. 1920s) J. Thompson South of Heaven (1994) 142: Take a doss, bo.

6. in fig. uses.

(a) (US black) an attractive woman.

[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2 21: Doss, n. An attractive girl — She’s a doss. I’ll catch [i.e. seduce] her tonight.

(b) something easy to accomplish.

[UK] Guardian 28 Aug. 11/1: Boys and girls sometimes arrive at the one-time stately home, free of bolts and bars, thinking they’ve landed themselves ‘a doss’.
[UK]J. Cameron Vinnie Got Blown Away 73: Geezers on Open University Criminology reckon that’s a doss.
OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 doss n. [...] (2) An easy task. ‘General Studies is a right doss!’.
[UK]R. Milward Ten Storey Love Song 221: It might actually be more of a doss [i.e than crime] having a nine-to-five occupation.
[Scot](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 445: As fucked as this gig is, it’s a total doss compared tae even the pansiest nick.

(c) any form of aimless, pleasurable activity.

[UK]D. Mitchell Black Swan Green 3: Half the kids in the village’re there [...] Ace doss or what? [Ibid.] 98: ‘So where were you on yer way to, then, Jace?’ [...] ‘Just out. For a doss.’.

7. see dosshouse n.

In derivatives

In compounds

doss-bag (n.)

1. a hammock; a sleeping bag.

Army Educ. Jrnl 7-8 11/2: doss bag — a hammock.
Drugs & Society I 11: I don’t know how many fellows there were, but I was so sore and stiff that I couldn't move out of my doss bag.
R. Hoban Riddley Walker 5: She wer sitting up there in her doss bag she ben smoaking she wer hy.
Joolz Pride of Lions 52: He rolls off the dusty sofa still wrapped in his doss bag and futilely tries to massage his calves.
I. Dale Memories of the Falklands 199: A night out in a Falklands winter without your doss bag and some sort of overhead cover was potentially lethal.
L. Lynch Grey Man 27: Cleaning fresh shit off green nylon is not as easy as you'd think. [...] I needed more time so I swapped Steve's doss bag for mine in the hope he wouldn't notice.

2. (UK juv.) an extremely idle person.

OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 doss bag n. an exceptionaly lazy person.
doss-down (n.)

1. a (cheap) lodging-house.

[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 22 May 1/1: The Surrey Chambers is [...] the swagger doss-down of patrician pencillers.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 22 May 4/7: He came back [...] with the names of the male and female ghouls who ran the chaff-bag doss-down where [...] he bad kept company with a varied and virile assortment of insects.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 333/1: from ca. 1880.

2. a sleep.

[UK]E. Pugh Spoilers 105: Then I goes into Regent’s Park an’ ’as a doss down by the canal.
L. Meynall Mystery at Newton Ferry 175: Why, s’welp me sir, I was having a doss down — a man’s got to sleep somewhere of nights.
[UK]Strand Mag. 115 22: A diet of figs and cheese and porridge and a doss-down under the stars — that’s what the old athletes relied upon.
[UK]H.E. Bates Oh! To be in England (1985) 375: Have a doss-down if you feel like it.

3. (Aus. / N.Z.) a makeshift bed.

A. McAllister Murder on the Bridge 95: Dank, dark, and mouldy-smelling this morning — but not too dusty a doss-down, as 'Arry said, for a bloke as couldn't pay for a better.
[NZ]N. Marsh Died in the Wool (1963) 126: She hated swaggers. Most stations give them their tucker and a doss-down for the night.
B. Wannan Treasury of Aus. Humour 48: Rovers, looking for work and in the meantime asking for free rations and a doss-down in the squatter’s old bark hut for a day or two.
P.M. Clark Autobiography of an Old Drifter 75: Now and again I would stop in town for the night, when the programme was dinner at the Club, with billiards or poker afterwards, and a ‘doss- down’ beside my pal O'Connor.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 66: doss down Rough or makeshift bed or to sleep outdoors or in rough and temporary conditions. ANZ late C19.
Renee Skeleton Woman 113: They attract squatters like Millie, others looking for a doss down for a night or two.
J. Finger Queensland’s Crimes & Criminals 64/1: If you come home with us we will give you a ‘doss-down’ and a feed.
dosshead (n.) [-head sfx (1); lit. ‘sleep head’]

a fool, an idiot, a simpleton.

[Scot]I. Welsh Trainspotting 222: Crushin pills up: what a fuckin doss-heid.
P.F. Hamilton Great North Road [e-book] Her little fists beat against the bathroom door in rage. ‘Let me in, ya dosshead’.
doss-hole (n.)

a filthy room or lodging place.

[UK]D. Seabrook Jack of Jumps (2007) 203: ‘I wouldn’t breathe the air in that room. All the dirty nappies [...]’ It was a doss-hole.
M. Smith Unreal City [e-book] I lingered at the Bateau Lavoir, the dosshole where Picasso invented Cubism.
dosshouse (n.)

see separate entry.

dossing crib (n.) [crib n.1 (6)]

1. a brothel.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 87/1: ‘I’ll tell thee wat we’ll du. We’ll start a ‘dossin’ crib’ an’ see ’ow that pays.’ [...] That night upon going to ‘doss’ I told Jessie how money matters stood between Joe and me [...] ‘My gracious!’ says she in astonishment, ‘diz he waunt ye tae gae’s hauves in keein’ a bawdie hoos?’.

2. a lodging house.

(also doss crib)
[UK]H. Mayhew London Labour I 142/2: Sleeping in barns, out-houses, carts, or under hay-stacks [...] when their funds are insufficient to defray the charge of a bed, or a part of one, at a country ‘dossing-crib’ (low lodging- house).
[Scot]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 25 Jan. 7/6: I seed him at Quigley’s dossing crib last week, having his supper.
[UK]Belfast News-Letter 26 Dec. 7/1: [headline] Christmas Day in the ‘Doss Crib’.
doss joint (n.)

(US black) a hotel.

[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 25 Nov. 7/1: After taking a gapper through your spiel in the Smoky City Fourth estate, I’m stached in my niche in this doss joint diggin’ the ether box.
doss-ken (n.) (also doss-crib, dossing-crib, -drum, -ken ) [ken n.1 (1)/drum n.3 (5)]

a lodging house.

[UK]Comic Almanack Apr. 132: The hulks is now my bowsing crib, the hold my dossing ken.
[UK]New Swell’s Night Guide to the Bowers of Venus frontispiece: Introducing Houses, West-End ‘Walks,’ Chanting Slums, Flash Cribs, and Dossing Kens.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 32: doss-ken, a lodging house.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 142/2: Sleeping in barns, out-houses, carts or under hay-stacks [...] when their funds are insufficient to defray the charge of a bed, or a part of one, at a country ‘dossing-crib’ (low lodging-house).
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 17/1: Betty was well-know [...] for her endeavors to satisfy all who called at her ‘dossing crib,’ a few rows off, where she kept refreshments, &c., for man and beast. [Ibid.] 35/1: Once she as brough to the ‘dossing drum’ down town, and there, while Tommy was yet asleep, ‘pinched him dead to rights’ in the ‘doss’ with a pretty milliner girl.
[UK]Sl. Dict. [as cit. 1859].
[UK]Leicester Chron. 4 Sept. 9/6: The Irish ‘doss-crib’ in Ben Jonson-street was very low; and filthily dirty.
[UK]‘Career of a Scapegrace’ in Leicester Chron. 10 May 12/1: There was no comfort in the ‘dossing-drum’.
[UK]Clarkson & Richardson Police! 237: In ‘flash’ language, the resorts are described, not as lodging houses, but [...] ‘dossing cribs,’ ‘snoozing jugs,’ cadgers’ covers,’ ‘tourist cabins,’ and ‘buskers’ retreats’.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 25: Dossing Ken, a lodging house.
[UK]Mirror of Life 11 May 12/3: The late Mrs. Lancaster, of the Black Bear, used to consider the billiard table good enough to make up the ‘dossing ken’ for boxers.
[UK]Marvel XIII:324 Feb. 1: The scene is an attic in an East End dossing-ken.
doss-man (n.)

the keeper of a lodging house.

[UK]C.M. Westmacott Eng. Spy 1 380: Spring [...] is seen with his bag in the right-hand corner, chaffing weith the Fuck-lane doss man.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 333/1: from ca. 1825.
doss money (n.)

the price of a night’s lodging.

[UK]G.A. Brine King of Beggars 79: Having pocketed his ‘doss money’ he left, quite satisfied.
M.A. Nichols q. in Hayes Jack the Ripper (2006) 35: I’ll soon get my doss money; see what a jolly bonnet I've got now.
Annals of Our Time 20 June 1887-Dec. 1890 48/2: She [i.e. Mary Ann Nichols] had been seen as late as 2.30 a.m., when, not having her ‘doss-money,’ she was turned away from the common lodging-house where she usually slept. This was known as the Buck's Row murder.
[UK]Fortnightly Rev. 61 215: Single people who no longer possess fourpence to pay their doss-money .
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 333/1: from ca. 1870.
doss ticket (n.)

(UK tramp) a ticket giving one the right to a night’s lodging.

[UK]G.A. Brine King of Beggars 100: But to save all bother you’d better get a doss-ticket from the relieving officer. Then when you come in, I'll pretend to take pity on you, and give you supper and breakfast.
[UK]H. Baumann Londinismen (2nd edn).

In phrases

do a doss (v.)

1. to go to sleep.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Slang & Its Analogues II 140: Chuck (or do) a doss: to snooze.
[UK]Bucks Herald 11 Feb. 6/7: Better to do a fi’penny doss / Than never do a doss at all!
Fore’s Sporting Notes 15 283: You and me can do a doss on the floor here, Jake; we’re used to it.
[UK]D. Stewart Shadows of the Night in Illus. Police News 24 Aug. 12/1: ‘He’s fast asleep — doin’ a rare old doss, he is’.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 317/1: from ca. 1850.

2. to go to bed (when ill).

[UK] ‘’Arry on St. Swithin’ in Punch 4 Aug. 49/1: Next day I was doing a doss with rheumatics as bad as be blowed.
on the doss

homeless, living as a tramp.

[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 29 June 1/6: Pluck G. soon gave up going on the ‘doss’ when Spring-heel Jack came about.
[US]J. London People of the Abyss 81: I found that the smallpox was the cause of their being ‘on the doss,’ which means on the tramp.