Green’s Dictionary of Slang

lark v.

also lark about, lark around, lark it, sky-lark
[lark n.3 ]

1. to play tricks, to play around, to enjoy oneself; thus larking n. and adj.

[UK]Egan Boxiana I 6: [note] His Lordship was very fond of larking.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London II 383: A market’s the circle for frolic and glee, / Where tastes of all kinds may be suited; / The dasher, the quiz, and the ’up to all’ — he, / Pluck sprees from the plants in it rooted. / If the joker, or queer one, would fain learn a place, / Where they’d wish for a morning to ‘lark it’.
[UK]Marryat Snarleyyow II 162: So when the next day, with a southerly wind in / His pockets, he came up, my rhino to borrow / ‘You’re welcome,’ says I, ‘Bill,’ as I fork’d out the tin / ‘But when larking to-day – don’t forget there’s to-morrow.’.
[UK] ‘Miseries of a Lord Mayor’ in Lover’s Harmony no. 18 140: Fishwomen lark it at Billingsgate market.
[UK]J. Hannay Singleton Fontenoy II 31: He turned the hands up to ‘sky-lark,’ or amuse themselves.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Digby Grand (1890) 190: Not a dare-devil undergraduate would follow him out ‘larking’.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 211/1: When they enter the booth they get larking, and make derisions, and won’t stand still.
[UK]Kentish Chron. 29 Aug. 4/4: Some plasterers were ‘skylarking’ near the edge of the cliff [...] one of them [...] fell a distance of about 30 feet.
[UK]J. Greenwood In Strange Company 25: Any boy guilty of ‘larking,’ or in anyway disturbing the sober propriety [...] is instantly banished.
[US]Chicago Trib. 4 Apr. 26/1: He used formerly to be one of the great skylarkers, aleways knocking plug hats over their owners’ eyes.
[UK]J.K. Jerome Three Men in a Boat 108: He’s larking about somewhere, that’s what he’s doing.
[UK]Portsmouth Eve. News 29 Apr. 3/4: They commenced skylarking with the result that the boat capsized.
[UK]G.M. Fenn Sappers and Miners 100: I’m not larking. I can’t stir.
[UK]E.E. Rogers [perf. Marie Lloyd] G’arn Away [lyrics] And a chap that thinks he’s a-goin’ to lark about with me, / Stands a chance of gittin’ dotted in the eye.
[NZ]Wanganui Chron. (NZ) 12 July 2/9: He’s sky-larked nineteen summers.
[UK]G.M. Hewett Rat 57: The others were larking about and falling into mischief and other troubles.
[UK]N. Douglas London Street Games 119: They prefer to go to picture-shows whenever they get a chance, instead of larking about the streets.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 7 Feb. 6/4: [headline] Joy-Riders Larking with Lifted Lizzies.
[US]J. Conroy Disinherited 139: S’posin’ I was to keel over dead, how’d he feel about his skylarkin’?
[UK]G. Greene Gun for Sale (1973) 147: Bread and water. A sergeant knocking you around if you try to lark a bit. That’s a home.
[UK]Mass-Observation Report on Juvenile Drinking 11: I’ve been up there twice and each time she’s larking about or reading.
Glouvester Citizen 21 Feb. 2/3: A group of boys who were skylarking on a London tube platform pushed a woman on the line.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Sat. Night and Sun. Morning 24: You could dawdle through the afternoon and lark about with the women.
[UK]F. Norman Guntz 86: I could tell right away without any larking about.
[UK]M. Anthony Green Days by River 113: He knew the difference between pig and wild beast. He was only sky-larking.
[UK]Coventry Eve. Teleg. 5 Aug. 35/6: Skylarking in the road caused the death of [etc].
[UK]‘P.B. Yuill’ Hazell and the Three-card Trick (1977) 126: He’s not a casual sort, so don’t be larkin’ about with him.
[UK]G. Burn Happy Like Murderers 268: [They] would sit up there listening to music and larking about and laughing and having a good time.
[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 152: Tha Scouse lad [...] Always larkin ee is, always loud, drinks like a fuckin fish.

2. to tease.

[UK]Thackeray Vanity Fair 679: Payne was a staid English maid [...] whom Gregory used to ‘lark’ dreadfully with accounts of German robbers and ghosts.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 170/1: I dare say, if I had dressed in rough corderoys, I shouldn’t have been larked at so much.

3. to flirt.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 1 Jan. 3/4: I never saw him and my daughter ‘larking;’ [...] I never saw them together amongst the shavngs.
[UK] ‘Prince of Wales’ Marriage’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 68: He must not go larking along with the gals.
[UK]Lake’s Falmouth Packet 26 Dec. n.p.: The prisoners were in the Two Brewers [...] and got ‘skylarking’ with Mary Ann.
[UK] ‘’Arry on the ’Igher Education of Women’ in Punch 5 Apr. in P. Marks (2006) 151: I thought she was larking, in course, and so tipping my knowingest wink, / Tried a kiss.
Sth Wales Dly News 28 Apr. 7/3: Prisoner’s defence was that he was ‘skylarking’ with the girl in saying he was a detective.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 52: Jimmy’d been larkin’ wiv the slavey.
[NZ]N.Z. Truth 30 Jan. 5/1: He kissed her and squeezed her and ‘skylarked’ with her, but there was no indecency.
[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 172: Boys were guzzling bottled drinks at the counter and skylarking with the weedy blond serving them.

In phrases

and no larking about

and no mistake.

[UK]F. Norman in Vogue Oct. in Norman’s London (1969) 28: It’s a million that you’ll get a carpet the next morning and no larking about.