Green’s Dictionary of Slang

mother n.

1. in senses referring to a woman or female occupations.

(a) [mid-16C–1930s] a madam, a bawd, a procuress; often comb. with a proper name as Mother —.

(b) [mid-19C–1920s] a public house landlady or similar.

(c) [late 19C+] one’s wife.

(d) [1920s+] (also muzzer) the self-proclaimed name of a female owner of a pet, esp. a dog; thus Come to mother, baby.

(e) [1970s] (US black) a married woman.

(f) [1970s] (US black) the senior member of a pimp’s stable of whores.

(g) [1980s] used as a female self-reference.

2. [late 19C; 1940s+] the ultimate example of something, the extreme version of something, something exceptional [popularized in the 1990s as mockery of the hyperbolic use of the phr. mother of all battles by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (1937–2006) to describe the Gulf War, 1991].

3. in male homosexual contexts, usu. implying effeminacy.

(a) [1930s+] (US black) an effeminate (or homosexual) man.

(b) [1940s+] (US gay) a homosexual who introduces another into the gay world.

(c) [1940s+] (US gay) a term used by an effeminate gay man to refer to himself, e.g. Your mother….

4. [1940s–60s] (US black) in pl., constr. with the, the ritualistic name-calling based on insulting one’s rival’s mother.

5. (also motha, mothah, mudder, mutha) as abbr. of var. senses of motherfucker n.

(a) [1950s+] a person, usu. derog.

(b) [1960s] as a comparative.

(c) [1960s+] an unspecified object or situation.

(d) [1960s+] something exceptional.

(e) [1970s+] (US black) an affectionate term used between men.

6. [1960s+] (also mutha, in (drugs) uses [? moota n. or abbr. motherfucker n. or the role of drug as a comforter, i.e. a mother].

(a) marijuana.

(b) a drug seller.

SE in slang uses as a nickname

In compounds

Mother Bunch (n.) [joc. use of the name of a noted late-16C ale-wife]

[late 16C–early 17C] water.

Mother Cunny (n.) [cunny n.]

[mid-17C] generic for a procuress or bawd.

Mother Damnable (n.) [usu. generic but in Caulfield, Blackguardiana (1793) is a picture of a bawd entitled ‘Mother Damnable of Kentish Town Anno 1676’ with an accompanying verse (dated 1676) which notes that ‘So fam’d, both far and near, is the reenown, / Of Mother Damnable, of Kentish Town’]

[late 17C–18C] a procuress, a madam.

Mother Fist (and her five daughters) (n.) (also Mother Five Fingers)

[20C+] the hand, in the context of masturbation.

Mother Ga-ga (n.) [gaga n.1 ]

[1940s+] (gay) a fussy, gossipy, interfering older homosexual.

Mother Knab-cony (n.) (also mother nab-cony, Mother Nabem, nab cony) [nab v.1 (1) + cony n., lit. ‘Mother Snatch-Sucker’]

[late 17C–early 18C] a madam, a bawd.

Mother Midnight (n.) [late 17C–early 19C]

1. a bawd, a madam.

2. a midwife; esp. one who delivers or aborts illegitimate children.

Mother Parker (n.)

[1950s–70s] (US gay) a tough, older homosexual.

General uses

In derivatives


see separate entries.

In compounds


see separate entries.

motherfucking-A (adv.)

see separate entry.

motherlove (n.) [1940s–60s] (US gay)

1. a homosexual man having sex with a heterosexual woman.

2. sexual intercourse between two homosexual men of the same ‘type’, ie passive and passive or active and active.

mother nature (n.)

1. [20C+] (US) menstruation.

2. [1960s+] (drugs) marijuana [mother nature’s own tobacco].

mother’s blessing (n.)

see separate entry.

mother’s cramp (n.)

[1900s] a hernia.

mother’s day (n.) [1960s+]

1. (US black) the day when welfare cheques arrive from the government.

2. (US milit.) payday.

mother’s friend (n.)

[19C] a quinine pessary, an elementary form of contraceptive, whose inefficiency gave it a parallel name, the midwife’s friend.

mother’s life (n.)

[1980s] imprisonment for life.

mother’s milk (n.)

1. [19C+] gin.

2. [mid-19C] brandy.

mother’s ruin (n.) [the drink’s supposed effects]

[1910s+] gin.

mother superior (n.)

see separate entries.

In phrases

be mother (v.) (also be mum)

[1950s+] to serve portions, usu. of food and drink and esp. to pour out cups of tea; thus the invitation will you be mother?, will you serve/pour?

does your mother know you’re out?

[mid-19C+] a sarcastic comment to a person whom the speaker feels should be elsewhere, due to immaturity, foolishness, inexperience etc.

has your mother sold her mangle (and bought a piano)? (also does your mother keep a mangle?) [note 1990s TV comedy character ‘Arthur Atkins’ (the comedian Paul Whitehouse), the cod 1930s music-hall comic with his catchphrase ‘Where’s me washboard’]

[19C] an all-purpose teasing phr., aimed at a passer-by.

have one mother too many (v.) [a bastard should not have any mother at all, i.e. should have been left unconceived]

[20C+] to be illegitimate.

mother-in-law (n.)

see separate entry.

mother of all masons (n.) [a dig at the Freemasons, for no discernible reason]

[19C] the vagina; the phr. is used as a toast.

mother of all saints (n.) [a blasphemous joke]

[late 18C–19C] the vagina, esp. as used as a toast.

mother of all souls (n.) [a blasphemous joke]

[late 18C+] the vagina.

mother of St Patrick (n.) (also mother of St Paul) [a blasphemous joke]

[18C–19C] the vagina.

mother of that was a whisker (n.) [? phr. it has whiskers on it or whisker n.1 ]

[mid–late 19C] a retort to an utterly implausible story.

mother of the maids (n.) [cit. c.1673 puns on sl. and SE Mother of the Maids, governess to the Queen’s maids of honour]

[early 17C–mid-19C] a madam, a brothel-keeper.

mother’s little helper (n.) [Rolling Stones’ song ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ (1966)]

[1960s+] (drugs) the tranquillizer Miltown.

mother-young-girl (n.)

[1990s+] (W.I.) an ageing woman who tries to be younger than her years.

your mother (n.) [the ‘feminization’ underpinning much camp gay sl.]

[1940s+] (camp gay) oneself; thus your mother needs a drink etc.

In exclamations

motherfuck!/motherfucker!/motherfucking A!

see separate entries.

mother of shit!

[1940s] (US) an excl. of surprise or exasperation.


see separate entry.

on my mother’s dick!

(US) an oath, ‘on my honour!’.