Green’s Dictionary of Slang

square n.

1. (US) a proper or square meal [abbr.].

[[UK]F. Whymper Travel and Adventure in Alaska 310: A good substantial repast is known as a ‘square’ meal all over this coast, and the term is applied to many other things].
[US] in Frontier X (1930) 252/1: I went in sat down and had some dinner [...] ate a square & talked awhile & then made the rest of the way home [DA].
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 185: We’re doin’ pretty well; have our three squares a day, and all the booze we want.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 172: Generally I can worry along with three squares a day.
[US]H.A. Franck Zone Policeman 88 92: ‘Shorty,’ like the great majority of us, was a very tolerable member of society under the ordinary circumstances of having to earn his ‘three squares a day’.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 54: She’s too fond of her three squares and a few pounds of nut-centre chocolates in between.
[US]G. Milburn ‘The Great Amer. Bum’ in Hobo’s Hornbook 71: He never turns back upon his track / Until he gets a square.
[US]C. McCullers Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1986) 153: Millions of people are ready to do anything [...] just to work for three squares and flop.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Peacock Valhalla 181: I get three squares a day.
[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 135: We can’t even afford a fuckin bed and three squares at a state hospital for Clyde.
[US]A. Sorkin A Few Good Men (1990) 94: Three squares a day.
[US]Mad mag. Aug. 22: Three squares and my own cot. In my day I’d kill for that!

2. (Aus., also square gin) gin, a bottle of gin [the shape of the bottle].

[Aus]Melbourne Punch 12 Oct. 7/2: The toddler is also much at a loss to understand why Hollands in a quadrangular bottle should be called ‘square gin’.
[Aus]Sth Bourke & Mornington Jrnl 5 June 3/4: The called for two ‘gins,’ inviting the landlord to drink [...] he poured gin from a decanter for the men, and his own out of the ‘square’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 28 Aug. 14/1: They drank agoua and bottle beer, till at 1 a.m. the King of the Cannibal Islands called for a bottle of square gin to top up with.
[[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 Mar. 10/4: As a rule, however, these effusions generally show a deal more square-bottle spirit than body].
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 7 Dec. 2/2: The wife went to the cellarette, and [...] put away a stiff nip of Hennessy, followed by three fingers of square.
[Aus]E. Dyson ‘Mr. and Mrs. Sin Fat’ in Golden Shanty (2003) 51: Mrs. Sin Fat would have seized the earliest opportunity of converting the bird into square gin.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 21 Dec. 16/3: The Language of the Bush. / ‘Give us a virtuous lubra!’ / ‘A what?’ / ‘A square gin, please.’.
[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 31 Jan. 11/2: The ony medicine he ever took was ‘square’.
[Aus]E. Dyson Missing Link [Internet] Ch. xiv: He held the bottle towards Nickie the Kid. It was a bottle of square gin.
[UK]E. Hill Territory 435: Next day we were ridin’ back with three bottle of square [...] he reckoned he’d been bitten by a snake, an’ the only antidote was to drink a bottle of square gin straight off.

3. in fig. senses, implying gullibility, innocence, a failure to fit in with group norms [American Dialect Society (Nov. 1958) suggests the steady 1-2-3-4 rhythm played without variation].

(a) (UK Und.) a respectable pose; an excuse, thus a shield from arrest.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 118/1: I found it a difficult matter to attempt a ‘square’ for Folkstone, who, from what had occurred, had evidently been ‘pulling the bag away’.

(b) (orig. US) in general use, a respectable working man or woman .

[US]C. Himes ‘Prison Mass’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 161: More than likely he was a ‘square’, some hard-working laborer.
[US]L. Hughes Tambourines to Glory I iii: Only squares drink ginger ale with scotch.
[US]Kramer & Karr Teen-Age Gangs 123: I try to find out a few things and you sound off like a couple of squares.
[US](con. 1953–7) L. Yablonsky Violent Gang (1967) 281: Work is for squares.
[UK]F. Norman Guntz 222: I read the Observer because I have no wish to be thought a square.
[Aus]‘Charles Barrett’ Address: Kings Cross 47: And the trouble with the adults and squares, mostly, is that they don’t make it their business.
[US]D. Goines Street Players 180: One of them squares out there will be done got some cop’s ear.
[Aus]D. Ireland Burn 124: Speak for yourself, square.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 143: Sister Kallie followed me, presumably to dig the shocked look on the big square’s face.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 4: Squares gave Rings ’n’ Things a pain in the bahakas.
[UK]M. Manning Get Your Cock Out 9: Don’t let the squares drag you down.

(c) (US) a respectable woman.

H. Humes ‘I Would If I Could’ [lyrics] They might satisfy a square / But I’m too hip you see.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 191: You, Miss Square from Nowhere.
[US]Elmore James ‘Fine Little Mama’ [lyrics] She ain’t no square.

(d) (orig. US black) one who is lacking in sophistication or ‘cool’ as judged by the norms of a given peer group.

[US]Tennessean (Nashville, TN) 27 Dec. 2/3: Don’t be a square from Delaware!
[UK]‘Raymond Thorp’ Viper 11: ‘Squares’ - people who weren’t really smart.
[US]A. Zugsmith Beat Generation 58: ‘You’re nothing but a square, after all?’ Stan returned scornfully.
[US]C. Himes Pinktoes (1989) 46: A five-cornered square is a square so square as to have an extra corner; a five-cornered square is a square’s square.
[UK]N. Cohn Awopbop. (1970) 170: My dad’s a square, I hate him.
[US]H.E. Roberts Third Ear n.p.: square n. [...] 2. a person who is out of step or out of the know.
[US](con. 1982–6) T. Williams Cocaine Kids (1990) 97: It must be a secret place to keep the squares out and let the hip, fresh and chill crowds in.
[US]T. Jones Pugilist at Rest 146: She did not like Window because he was such a square and because he had ambitions of graduating from high school.
[UK]Guardian Guide 29 Apr.–5 May 89: It’s the rock’n’roll story of a prissy ‘square’ [...] who falls for the juvenile delinquent.

(e) (US drugs) one who eschews drugs.

[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]W. Brown Monkey On My Back (1954) 255: Sure, the Derricks were okay but they were squares. They didn’t know the score. Their idea of a good time was to go to a movie and have an ice cream soda afterward.
[US]C. Himes Real Cool Killers (1969) 32: ‘How much marijuana you got stashed there?’ ‘I don’t handle it.’ ‘Sheik, this joker’s a square.’.
[US]J. Mills Panic in Needle Park (1971) 11: No ‘square’—the addict’s word for anyone who does not use drugs—can imagine the strength of heroin’s hold.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).

(f) (US black) a man who pursues women and is thus tricked out of his money.

[US]C. Himes ‘A Nigger’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 32: The guy is just another square. Just like all the other white squares he’d seen being debased by Negro women after their sex had gone from their bodies into their minds.
[US] ‘Jiver’s Bible’ in D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.

(g) (gay) a heterosexual, or a gay man who is not used to the gay scene.

[UK]Richard Hauser Homosexual Society 76: You can get some of these squares (non-homosexuals) aboard the ship when it’s hot.
[US]J. Rechy City of Night 116: Did you hear the square spitting, man?
[US]Maledicta III:2 244: Heterosexuals, outsiders, jam, normals, squares, BMs (‘baby-makers,’ Cape Town), and general naph omis.

4. (US, usu. prison) a factory-made cigarette, whether prison-issue or commercially produced [square adj. (1)].

[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 50: She reached in her purse and pulled out a square [cigarette].
[US]H.E. Roberts Third Ear n.p.: square n. 1. a cigarette.
[US]Edwardsville Intelligencer (IL) 30 Mar. 2/3: Cigarettes are sometimes known as ‘squares.’.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall 6: squares – cigarettes.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 109: Got a square, Joe?
[US]P. Beatty Tuff 223: The vagrant put his thumb and forefinger to his lips, ‘You got a square?’.

5. (US black) a sexual deviant.

[US]H.E. Roberts Third Ear n.p.: square n. […] 3. a deviate.

6. (UK Black) a credit card.

personal information.

In phrases

half-square (n.) (also half-squarie)

(Aus.) a sexually experienced woman, positioned in the contemporary moral spectrum between an all-out prostitute and a respectable woman; an ‘amateur’ prostitute.

[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 12 Oct. 11/7: [T]he principal source of infection is not the professional prostitute, but the ostensibly respectable girl or woman popularly known as a ‘privateer,’ ‘love bird,’ or ‘half square tart’.
[US]Trimble 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 79: Actually she’s a half-squarie.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 523: [...] since ca. 1920.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

square-bashing (n.) [SE square, the parade ground + bash v. (1)]

military drill.

[UK]G. Melly Rum, Bum and Concertina (1978) 24: We were told that [...] we would be staying at Skegness for up to five weeks more to do intensive square-bashing.
[UK](con. late 1930s) H.H. Godbold Memoirs of Two Different Soldiers 39: He spent the first three days at Carchington [sic] in Bedford getting kitted out with his uniform. [...] From there to Skegness, and eight weeks’ square-bashing, which they did up and down the seafront.
square one (n.) [the image of children’s board-games, e.g. snakes and ladders]

(orig. US) the starting point, the beginning.

[UK]Times 21 May 9/2: As far as building up a basis for profitable negotiations is concerned the two sides are back in square one.
[US]N.Y. Times 18 June 4:1: The dilemma for the Kremlin is [...] thrown back to square one.
[UK]S. Berkoff Decadence in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 37: You may lose him and start at square one again.
[UK]K. Waterhouse Soho 10: He worked there for a spell too – back to square one.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 184: Back to square one [...] Searching endlessly for a book.

In phrases

catch a square (v.) [the corners in a boxing ring]

(US prison) to prepare for a fight.

[US]Other Side of the Wall: Prisoner’s Dict. July [Internet] Catch a Square: To get ready to fight, as ‘You’d better catch a square, punk’.
[US]Prison Slang Mommyblogger 2 Mar. [Internet] Catch a square and get ready to re-claim your clavo because this asshole’s about to get flat-weeded.
in the square

(US) in the respectable world.

[US] in T.I. Rubin Sweet Daddy 18: Other dumb buggers hung around and now they’re stuck in the square.
square in a social circle (n.) [var. on SE square peg in a round hole]

(US black) a misfit.

[US]M.H. Boulware Jive and Sl.