Green’s Dictionary of Slang

big adj.

1. in size.

(a) [late 16C–mid-18C; 1950s] pregnant.

(b) [late 19C+] (US) used of large amounts of money; thus in gambling use multiples of 10,000; high stakes used in poker games where (as in drugs) the convention talks of nickels ($500) and dimes ($1000); thus big dime ; big nickel

(c) [1980s] in large quantities.

(d) [1990s+] of drugs, in large quantities.

2. in fig. uses.

(a) [late 19C] (orig. US) excellent, wonderful.

(b) [20C+] (orig. US) generous, magnanimous; usu. in phr. that’s big of you.

(c) [late 19C+] important.

(d) [1920s+] successful, popular.

In compounds

big dime (n.)


big nickel (n.)

[1920s+] (US) a sum of $500 or $5000.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

big-able (adj.)

[20C+] (W.I.) massive, frighteningly huge.

In compounds


see separate entries.


see also separate entries.

big auger (n.) [SE auger, a tool that bores holes; thus one who makes ‘a big impression’]

[mid-19C+] (US, mainly Western) an important person, a boss.

big banana (n.) [on model of big cheese n. + showbiz top banana, the star comedian] (US/Aus.)

1. [1960s+] a superior person or one who claims to be so; also attrib.

2. [1980s+] the most important thing, the crux of a matter.

big blink (n.)

[1970s–80s] death.

big blow (n.) [SAusE blow, a storm]

[20C+] (Aus./US) a hurricane.

big board (n.) [SE board, a board at the Stock Exchange on which share prices are displayed]

[20C+] the New York Stock Exchange.

big bob (n.)

[late 19C] an aristocrat, a notable person.

big brother (n.)

[1960s] (US gay) the penis.

big Charlie (n.)

[late 19C] (US) syphilis.

big chief (n.)

1. [1910s+] an important or the most important man.

2. [1960s] (drugs) mescaline.

3. see big boss, the n.

big cigar (n.) [the stereotyped smoking habits of such figures]

[1920s] (US black) a self-important person.

big cog (n.) [play on big wheel ]

[2000s] an important or self-important person.

big cookie (n.)

[1960s] a nuclear bomb.

big cough (n.)

[1920s–30s] (US Und.) a bomb.

big day (n.)

[1930s–50s] (US prison) visiting day.

big deuce (n.) [SE deuce, two]

[1980s+] (US teen) the Second World War.

big dick (n.) [generic use of proper name/dick n.1 (5)]

1. [late 19C+] (US gambling, also big dick from Dixie, big Tom, Richard the Great) the point of 10 in craps dice; usu. ext. as big Dick from Boston.

2. [1960s+] an important person or thing; also attrib.

3. [1930s] (US prison) a ten-year jail sentence.

big dish (n.)

[1940s] (Aus.) a big win; thus go for the big dish, to place a large bet, to gamble heavily.

big ditch (n.) [joc. deliberate understatement] (US)

1. [19C] (also the Big) the Erie Canal.

2. [20C+] the Atlantic Ocean.

3. [late 19C-1960s] the Panama Canal.

big doings

see under big doing.

big dubs (n.) [Carib.E. big-dubs, a large, polished marble]

[20C+] (W.I.) a large and good-humoured man.

big enchilada (n.) [coined by White House chief domestic affairs adviser, John F. Erlichman, to describe then Attorney-General John N. Mitchell]

[1970s+] (US) an important person.

In compounds

big faces (n.)

[2010s] (US black) high-denomination dollar bills (which bear larger than hitherto presidential portraits).

big-feeler (n.)

[late 19C-1970s] (US) an arrogant, self-important person; thus adj. big-feeling, arrogant.

big ferry (n.)

[mid-19C] (US) the Atlantic Ocean.

big figure (n.) [SE figure; a number, a sum]

[mid-19C] (US) large scale; thus go the big figure, to do something on a large scale.

big finger (n.)

[1910s] (US) the senior figure, esp. as a prison warden; thus second finger, deputy warden.

In phrases

big-foot (v.)

[2000s] to act in a superior manner.

big four (n.) [the old practice of manning all police vehicles with four officers]

[1920s; 1980s+] (US black) tough, élite (often physically large) detectives, dealing with organized crime and similar areas; such police officers match their wide powers with indiscriminate physical violence and the general belief (in modern use) that all members of the black community are de facto criminals.

big gates (n.) [metonymy]

[late 19C+] (UK Und.) a prison.

big George (n.) [generic use of proper name]

1. [1940s] (US) a self-important person.

2. [1950s] 25 cents.

big girl’s blouse (n.) (also blouse, girl’s blouse) [the term, now widespread, originated like the similarly deracinated gobsmacked adj. in the north of England] [1960s+]

1. a weakling, an ineffectual person; usu. found as a direct statement, You big girl’s blouse!

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

big guy (n.) [guy n.2 (1)] (US)

1. [20C+] anyone important, or considered as such, e.g. a gang boss.

2. [1980s] a friend; also a joc. form of address.

3. (also big guy in the sky) see big boss, the n.

big hat (n.) (US)

1. [1940s+] an important person.

2. [1960s+] a police officer or state trooper [the headgear worn as part of many US police uniforms].

3. [1970s] (US) a Mexican [the clichéd large Mexican hat].

big hen’s biddy (n.) [biddy n.1 ]

[1930s] (US black) a coward, a weakling.

big huey (Long), the (n.) [play on SE long/Lousiana governor Huey P. Long (1893-1935)]

[1970s–80s] (N.Z. prison) a long sentence.

big idea (n.)

[1920s-30s] (US) a love object, a desirable individual.

big Injun (n.) (also big Indian) [Injun n., lit. ‘big Indian’; thus, note big white chief ]

[late 19C–1900s] (US) an important person.

big J (n.) [? big job]

[1970s+] (US gay) simultaneously fellating and sodomizing one’s partner.

big jobs (n.) (also biggies) [euph.]

[1940s+] (orig. US juv.) excreta; occas. in sing.; thus do big jobs, to defecate.

big jump (n.)

[1910s] (US) death; usu. in phr. put someone over the big jump.

big legs (n.) [? who has trousers with big pockets]

[1970s–80s] a big spender.

big Lizzie (n.)

[1920s] (US gambling) the point of ten in craps.

big lump (n.)

[2000s] (UK prison) a long sentence.

In compounds

big magilla (n.) [play on the Magilla Gorilla show/gorilla n.1 (5); but note Yid. gantz megillah, a whole rigmarole]

[2000s] (US) an important, influential person.

big man (n.)

1. [late 19C+] (also big fellow, big honcho) any form of superior person, esp. in a criminal context; a prison governor [honcho n. (1)].

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

3. [1900s–30s] (US Und.) the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

4. [1910s+] (drugs) a dealer, esp. a major dealer, selling bulk quantities of drugs; also attrib.

5. [1970s] (US black) a gallon of wine.

6. see big boss, the n.

big moment (n.)

[1920s–60s] (Irish/US) the person with whom one is infatuated.

big noise (n.)

1. [mid-19C; 1950s] (US) trouble, disturbance.

2. [20C+] (orig. US) an important, powerful person.

big nose (n.)

[20C+] a derog. name for a Jew; also as adj.

big — -o(h), the (n.) (also dreaded — -oh)

[1970s+] (orig. US) used of landmark birthdays, e.g. those that mark another decade, the big three-o, the big four-o etc.

big parade (n.) [the title of the film The Big Parade (1925), screenplay by Laurence Stallings, although the term is never used in the film itself]

[1920s–50s] (US) the First World War.

big pasture (n.) [as used by cowboys and other Westerners]

[20C+] (US) a prison.

big peach (n.) [rhy. sl.]

(Aus.) the beach.

big people (n.)

[mid-19C+] important, influential people.

big poppa (n.)

[1990s+] (US black teen) any influential black man, a power in his own community, aged 30 and over.

big rod (n.)

1. [1920s+] (US) an important person.

2. [1940s] (US Und.) a machine gun.

big screech (n.)

[1910s] (US) an important person.

big show (n.) [SE show(-off)]

1. [20C+] (US) an important person.

2. [1910s] an important situation.

big six (n.) [? there are six officers; the high number six in dice]

[1950s+] (US prison) the prison riot squad; thus big six talk n., empty, if aggressive talk.

big sleep (n.) [coined by US writer Raymond Chandler (1888–1959) as the title of his book The Big Sleep (1939), although HDAS suggests (without confirmatory citations) that he ‘gave currency’ to the term]

[1930s+] (orig. US) death.

big spender (n.) [usu. slightly derog., the implication being that any such a ‘spender’ will also be a sucker n.1 (3a); note SE use in phrs. like last of the big spenders referring to someone who throws money around]

[1940s+] a fool, esp. as a bettor/gambler .

big squash (n.) [big squeeze , ? on pattern of big cheese n., SE squash, the vegetable]

[1910s–60s] an important person or someone who thinks they are so.

big stuff (n.) [milit. jargon big stuff, heavy artillery shells]

1. [mid-19C+] (orig. US) an important or self-important person.

2. [late 19C] a strong, violent person.

3. [late 19C+] (US) a term of address, usu. slightly derog.

4. [1920s+] (US) a major criminal.

5. [1950s–60s] an important situation, esp. with criminal overtones.

6. [1950s+] (US) a large amount of money.

In compounds

big toast (n.)

[1950s] (US black) an outstanding person.

big top (n.) []

[1920s+] (US Und.) prison, esp. the main cellblock.

big twist (n.) [SE twist of fate]

[1930s+] (Aus.) a cause for celebration, a great success.

big vegetable (n.)

[1910s] (orig. US) an important person, an influential figure, the boss.

big wheel (n.) (also wheel) [the image of a smooth-running, powerful machine]

1. [1930s+] (orig. US) an important, influential person, esp. in business.

2. in attrib. use of sense 1.

big wheeze (n.)

[late 19C-1910s] (US) a senior business figure.

big white chief (n.) [cod Native American]

[1910s+] (orig. US) an important or the most important man.

big yard (n.) [SE yard, the exercise area of a prison]

1. [1940s+] (W.I.) a prison.

2. [1970s] (US prison) a prison recreation area.

In phrases

big-and-plenty (adj.) (also big-and-so-so)

[20C+] (W.I., Gren.) fat and clumsy, and of low quality (used of people and things, e.g. vegetables).

big bout ya(h) (adj.) [lit. ‘big (i.e. important) about you’]

[1980s+] (W.I.) of a person, important.

big dick from Boston (n.)

1. [1930s+] (US gay) a loudmouth.

2. see big dick

big end (of) (n.)

[late 19C–1940s] (orig. US) the majority, the larger share (of loot); thus big end of a month, three weeks.

big enough to choke a bull (adj.) (also big enough to choke a bull, ... calf, ... a cow, ... an elephant, ... a horse)

[late 19C+] (US) of a bankroll, extremely big.

big I, little you (n.)

[1960s–70s] (US) an important person.

big juta, little juta, all same price (adj.) [Hind. juutaa, a shoe, and orig. used of shoes]

[20C+] (W.I.) anything goes, irrespective of size or quality; usu. used of a country person who lacks the city dweller’s standards of choice.

big on (adj.)

enthusiastic about, usu. in negative.

do the big (v.)

[late 19C] (Irish) to self-aggrandize.

In exclamations

big whoop! [SE whoop, a cry (of exultation, triumph)]

[1980s+] (US) a dismissive, sarcastic excl., ‘why bother me?’.