Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dig v.1

1. (US campus) to work extremely hard.

[US]Harvard Register in Hall (1856) 247: Another, in his study chair, / Digs up Greek roots with learned care, — / Unpalatable eating.
[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 12 Feb. n.p.: Asked for Miss Mary; was told she was upstairs [in the brothel] digging.
[US]B.H. Hall College Words (rev. edn) 158: dig. To study hard; to spend much time in studying.
[US]L.M. Alcott Little Women II 177: Laurie ‘dug’ to some purpose that year, for he graduated with honor.
[US]L.H. Bagg Four Years at Yale 702: He is less to be pitied than the one who goes through the four years, digging and grinding for a stand, existing all unconscious of the peculiar and delightful life about him, and graduating in as utter ignorance of its philosophy.
[US]P.L. Ford Peter Stirling 14: Peter dug at his books all the harder, by reason of Watts’s neglect of them [DA].
[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 32: dig, v. To study constantly.
[US]H. Hapgood Types from City Streets 246: He got a ‘wise guy’ to teach him a little business sense and ‘got down’ and ‘dug’.
[US]R. Bolwell ‘College Sl. Words And Phrases’ in DN IV:iii 233: dig, v. To study. ‘I’m going to dig some German.’.

2. (US) to chew snuff.

[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 7 May n.p.: This fight was brought about by Holmes telling one of Bryant’s friends [...] that she dug and had bad breath.
[US]Life in Boston & N.Y. (Boston, MA) 14 Apr. n.p.: She gets drunk once a day, ‘digs’ three times, and swears every five minutes.
[US]N.E. Police Gaz. (Boston, MA) 5 Oct. 6/3: Anne Smith, the snuff digging street walker.

3. (US) to leave quickly, to run off (cf. dig out v. (1)) [one digs oneself out of the current situation or one digs one’s heels into the ground as one runs].

[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 154: He wanted to get his Velvet and Dig.
[US]J.W. Carr ‘Words from Northwest Arkansas’ in DN III:ii 133: dig, v. To leave at once. ‘He’d just better dig and never come back.’.
G.B. McCutcheon Rose in the Ring 334: If it wasn’t for you, Davy, I’d cut it in a minute and dig for the wooly West .

4. (US, also dig up) to search in one’s pockets for money; sometimes refers to tobacco, used in prison for barter (see cit. 1907).

[US]C.L. Cullen More Ex-Tank Tales 100: You dig, dat’s all, an’ save trouble, an’ dig quick.
[US]J. London Road 105: The guy who refused to dig up, went sparkless and smokeless to bed.
[US]T.A. Dorgan Indoor Sports 24 Feb. [synd. cartoon] We’re always diggin’ — it’s either a funeral, wedding, bum voyage [...] christening, or something else .
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 160: I’d dig if I wasn’t so Poor just now.

5. to stab.

[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 11 June 248: [The] prisoner rushed at me and dug me under the chin; I did not see what he had in his hand. He ran away; I started after him, but I had to stop from loss of blood.
[US]H. Simon ‘Prison Dict.’ in AS VIII:3 (1933) 26/2: DIG. To stab.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 3 Oct. [synd. col.] No one of [his friends] could bring himself to the point of playing him dirty or digging him in the back.

6. in fig. use of sense 3, to pay for, i.e. to dig in one’s pocket.

[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 196–7: They were willing to Dig, in order to protect Property Interests against vicious Socialistic Tendencies.

7. (US Und.) to pick pockets (incompetently).

[US]H. Leverage ‘Dict. Und.’ in Flynn’s mag. cited in Partridge DU (1949).
[US]Ersine Und. and Prison Sl. 33: Dig, v. To pick pockets in a clumsy manner.

8. (UK drugs) to inject a drug intravenously.

[UK]B. Hare Urban Grimshaw 254: I don’t mind tooting, but no way am I digging.
[UK]K. Sampson Killing Pool 158: Having a few cans, he says. Digging smack, more like.

In phrases

(at) full dig (adv.)

speedily.

[US]C. Abbey diary 14 Sept. in Gosnell Before the Mast (1989) 71: I was the first to reach it & ran up a small pair of stone stairs ‘full dig’.
dig dirt (v.)

as an imper., get moving fast.

[UK]Oh Boy! No. 20 10: Dig dirt chum. I think I want a word with that speed agent.
dig down (v.) (also dig deep)

(US/Aus.) to pay out of one’s own pocket.

[UK]Wodehouse Psmith Journalist (1993) 264: Dere’s a feller comes round [...] an’ den it’s up to de fam’lies what lives in de tenements to dig down into deir jeans fer de stuff.
[US]B.Q. Morgan ‘Simile and Metaphor in American Speech’ in AS I:5 272: dig down deep.
[Aus]D. Stivens Jimmy Brockett 206: I meant to make the old fox dig down fairly deep to hurt him where he’d feel it most.
[Aus]A. Buzo Front Room Boys Scene viii: Come on now . . . dig deep . . . pay up.
[Aus]J. Hibberd White with Wire Wheels (1973) 87: Come on now . . . dig deep . . . pay up.
dig out (v.)

see separate entry.

dig up (v.)

1. see sense 3 above.

2. see separate entries.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

dig-out (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

dig a hole in the road (v.)

(US) to drive fast.

[US]E. Gilbert Vice Trap 23: Throw her in second at seventy. And dig some hole in the road.
dig horrors (v.)

see separate entry.

dig in the grave (v.)

see separate entry.

dig into (v.)

(US Und.) to rob (a bank), to break into a safe.

[US]J. Callahan Man’s Grim Justice 98: We would have dug into the jugs if the penalty had been the electric chair.
dig up (v.)

see separate entry.

dig with the...foot (v.)

see separate entry.