Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bit n.1

1. in monetary contexts, esp. a coin of low denomination; as a portion, a share.

(a) [mid-16C–1960s] money; thus a purse containing money.

(b) [late 17C–late 19C] the silver coin of the lowest denomination.

(c) [early 18C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a purse.

(d) [early 19C+] (US) 12.5 cents; but usu. in phrs. two bits n., four bits , six bits , long bit , short bit

(e) [mid-19C–1960s] any low-denomination coin, e.g. threepenny bit, fourpenny bit.

(f) [late 19C–1900s] (US Und.) a bribe, e.g., as offered by a thief to a policeman.

(g) [late 19C–1950s] (US Und.) a share of the profit from a theft.

(h) [1910s] a wager, an investment, an insurance premium.

2. lit. or fig. representing a portion, i.e. a bit of flesh, a bit to eat.

(a) [17C; mid-19C+] a young woman, usu. seen in a sexual context; also in combs. as below or listed at relevant n. [note D’Urfey, Pills to Purge Melancholy (1719): ‘Your most Beautiful Bit, that hath all Eyes upon her’; also ‘Walter’, My Secret Life (1888-94): ‘That little bit of a girl, Jemmy Smith’].

(b) [17C–19C] (also the bit) a euph. for the vagina.

(c) [17C+] sexual intercourse; usu. in combs. as below or at the relevant n.

(d) [1930s+] (Ulster) a worker’s or schoolchild’s packed lunch, i.e. a bit to eat.

(e) [1950s+] as ext. of sense 2a, in gay use, a young man.

3. as a period of time.

(a) [mid-19C+] a short time, a brief period; usu. as for a bit.

(b) [mid-19C+] (UK/US Und.) a prison sentence of any length; thus one-year bit, two-year bit etc.

(c) [1960s] (US drugs) the duration of the effect of a given drug.

(d) [1970s] a period of time in any institution, e.g. a drug rehabilitation hospital.

4. [1950s+] (orig. US jazz) in abstract terms [theatrical jargon bit, a role].

(a) any well-defined action, plan, series of events, or attitudes, usu. but not necessarily of short duration.

(b) the role that one assumes in a situation or in life, e.g. the college-boy bit, the hippie bit.

5. [2000s] (UK Und.) a drug in pill form, e.g. Ecstasy or amphetamine.

6. [2010s] (UK teen) as bits, bitz, one's local neighbbourhhod, esp. in context of a gang.

7. see bit of stuff n. (4)

Pertaining to women/sex

In phrases

bit for the finger (n.)

[19C] sexual fondling.

bit in the corner (n.)

[late 17C] usu. of a woman, a partner in adultery.

bit of both (n.) [play on a bit of other, the n.]

[1990s+] bisexuality; a taste for sex with men and/or women.

bit of brown (n.)

1. [17C] copulation [the brown pubic hair].

2. [mid-19C+] sodomy [brown n. (3)].

bit of cord (n.)

[1940s] an attractive young woman.

bit of cuff (n.) [SE bit + (off the) cuff, i.e. spontaneous sex, or SE cuff, a blow; thus one of the wide range of terms that equate sex with violence]

[late 19C–1900s] a young woman, regarded as a sex object; thus sexual intercourse.

bit of frock (n.) [SE frock]

[late 19C–1910s] an attractive (young) woman.

bit of fruit (n.) [fruit n. (3)]

1. an attractive woman.

2. [1940s] sexual intercourse.

bit of keg (n.) [abbr. SE kegmeg or cagmag, rotten meat or a tough old goose]

[late 19C] sexual intercourse.

bit of melon (n.)

[1900s] (Aus.) an attractive female.

bit of muslin (n.) (also morsel of muslin, muslin, piece of muslin, piece of fine linen) [SE bit + muslin, a cloth used for dress-making, thus metonymy]

[19C–1950s] a young woman; thus young women as a group, the muslin company.

bit of old (n.)

[1990s+] sexual intercourse.

bit of raspberry (n.)

[20C+] an attractive woman.

bit of red (n.) [as opposed to a bit of brown n. (3)]

[late 19C] heterosexual intercourse.

bit of skate (n.) [pun on fish n.1 (1)]

[late 19C+] the vagina.

bit of skin (n.)

[1920s] a woman, a girlfriend; in homosexual context, a young man.

bit of this and that (n.) [euph.]

[1970s–80s] (N.Z.) sexual intercourse.

bit of tickle (n.) [abbr. slap and tickle n.2 ] [1920s+]

1. a woman, regarded as a sex object.

2. sexual intercourse.

bit on a fork (n.) (also bit on a finger) [pun on SE fork, crotch]

[mid-19C] the vagina.

break a bit off (v.) [? the equation of sex and violence]

[20C+] to have sexual intercourse; the idea that the erect penis ‘breaks’ following orgasm.

do a bit (v.)

1. [mid-19C+] to have sexual intercourse; thus do a bit of... in all the combs. that follow.

2. see also prison phrs. below.

do a bit of cock-fighting (v.) [pun on SE cock/cock n.3 (1)]

[19C] to have sexual intercourse.

do a bit of flat (v.) [SE flat; i.e. she is flat on her back]

[19C] esp. of a prostitute, to have sexual intercourse.

do a bit of giblet pie (v.) (also have a bit of giblet pie) [giblets n.]

[19C] to have sexual intercourse.

do a bit of ladies’ tailoring (v.) [play on needle n. (1)/ sew v.]

[mid-19C–1920s] to have sexual intercourse.

downy bit (n.) [SE down, the first feathering of young birds ]

1. [mid-19C] a young prostitute.

2. [late 19C] a young woman, esp. when attractive.

3. [late 19C] the vagina.

fancy bit (n.) (also fancy, fancy article)

[mid-17C–19C] the vagina; thus a young woman.

fresh bit (n.) (also fresh girl)

[mid–late 19C] a sexually inexperienced woman; a new mistress.

get a bit (v.)

[20C+] to have sexual intercourse.

have a bit (v.)

to have sexual intercourse.

have a bit off the chump end (v.) [SE chump-end, the thick end of a loin of mutton]

[late 19C] to have sexual intercourse.

house-bit (n.)

[mid-19C–1910s] a servant who doubles as a lover.

merry bit (n.) (also merry legs)

1. [early 19C] the vagina.

2. [19C] a prostitute.

Pertaining to money

In compounds

bit faker (n.) [faker n. (2)]

[19C] (UK Und.) a coiner, a counterfeiter; thus bit-faking, counterfeiting, coining.

bit house (n.)

(US) a cheap tavern, charging one bit per drink.

bit-maker (n.)

[early–late 19C] (UK Und.) a coiner, a counterfeiter.

bit-queerems (n.) [queer adj. (2)]

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) counterfeit coins.

bit turner-out (n.) [SE turn out, to make]

[early–mid-19C] a counterfeiter.

In phrases

blue bit (n.)

1. [late 18C] (US Und.) counterfeit money.

2. [1980s+] (Aus. prison) a A$10 note.

four-bit (n.)

[mid-19C+] (W.I.) one shilling and sixpence, post-1969 value 15 cents.

four-bit (adj.)

[1920s-30s] low-class, insignificant.

four bits (n.)

1. [late 19C+] (US) 50 cents.

2. see also prison phrs. below.

get a bit (v.) (also get one’s bit)

[late 19C–1900s] to obtain money; thus n. one who solicits loans/hand-outs.

get/have a bit on (v.)

[late 19C+] to make a bet, to wager money on.

long bit (n.)

1. [mid-19C–1950s] (US) 12 ½ or 15 cents, in contrast to a dime or short bit

2. see also prison phrs. below.

red bit (n.)

[1980s+] (Aus. prison) A$20 note.

short bit (n.)

1. [mid-19C–1950s] (US) 10 cents, in contrast to 12 ½ or 15 cents, a long bit

2. see also prison phrs. below.

six-bit (adj.)

[mid-19C+] (US) cheap, worth 75 cents, e.g. a six-bit sandwich.

six bits (n.)

1. [mid-19C+] (US) 75 cents.

2. [1940s] (US Und.) $75.00.

Pertaining to prison sentences

In phrases

big bit (n.)

[1940s+] (US Und.) a long prison sentence.

do a/one’s bit (v.)

[mid-19C+] (US prison) to serve a prison sentence.

flat bit (n.) (also flat time) [SE flat, complete, utter]

[1940s–90s] (US Und.) a sentence served with no remission for good behaviour.

four bits (n.)

1. [1970s] (US prison) a 50-year prison sentence.

2. see also money phrs. above.

long bit (n.)

1. [late 19C+] (US Und.) a sentence of ten years or more.

2. any term of imprisonment over 38 months that must be completed before the prisoner’s becoming eligible for parole.

3. see also money phrs. above.

nice bit (n.)

[1930s+] (US Und.) a long prison sentence, i.e. ten years or more.

pull one’s bit (v.) [SE pull through]

[1960s] (US prison) to survive one’s sentence.

short bit (n.)

1. [1910s+] a short prison sentence.

2. see also money phrs. above.

soft bit (n.) (also soft time) [soft adj. (4) + time n. (1)]

[20C+] (US Und.) a system of imprisonment whereby an inmate must serve 50% of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

split bit (n.)

[1950s+] (US Und.) an indeterminate sentence in prison, subject to the decisions of the parole board.

telephone number bit (n.)

[1930s] (US prison) a sentence of 20 years-plus, but not a life sentence.

Other senses

In phrases

do a bit (v.)

1. see under do v.1

2. see also sex phrs. above.

3. see also prison phrs. above.

spit-bit (n.)

[1970s] (US black) smooth, persuasive talk.

whole bit (n.)

[1960s+] everything; usu. in abstract senses, e.g. one’s attitude, personality, or way of life; all aspects of a situiation.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

bit of (a) (n.)

see separate entry.

bit of all right, a (phr.)

see separate entry.

bit of beef (n.) [? tobacco’s use as an appetite suppressant]

[late 19C–1900s] a quid of tobacco, less than a pipeful.

bit of blood (n.) [SE bit + blood, pedigree]

1. [late 18C–mid-19C] a spirited, mettlesome horse.

2. [early 19C] a dandy.

3. [mid-19C] a joke (as carried out on a social inferior).

bit of Braille (n.) [SE Braille, the alphabet for the blind; the image of ‘feeling something out’] (Aus.)

1. [1930s+] a racing tip.

2. [1940s+] a tip-off.

3. [1940s+] sexual groping.

bit of bull (n.)

[19C] beef.

bit of cavalry (n.)

[early–mid-19C] a horse.

bit of corn (n.)

[1960s] (Aus. Und.) prison food, thus time in prison.

bit of fat (n.) [SE fat, of a profitable occupation]

[mid-19C+] an unexpected advantage.

bit of gig (n.) [SE gig, merriment, fun]

[early 19C] a spree, a bit of fun.

bit of goods (n.)

see separate entry.

bit of goose (n.)

[1930s] a piece of good fortune.

bit of grey (n.) [SE grey (hair); note 1990s business jargon grey matter, an older person recruited to a young firm to give it some gravitas]

[late 19C–1900s] an elderly person who is recruited to attend weddings or funerals and by their presence add a degree of solemnity to the proceedings.

bit of heliotrope (n.)

[1900s] (Aus.) a girlfriend.

bit of hollow (n.)

an item of poultry, e.g. a duck, a turkey.

bit of mess (n.) [? affectionate nickname]

[1950s+] (UK Und.) a prostitute’s male lover, who is neither ponce nor client.

bit of no good (n.)

[1940s+] a good deal of harm; usu. in phr. do oneself a bit of no good.

bit of nonsense (n.)

1. [20C+] (UK society) a mistress.

2. [1950s+] any form of villainy, esp. when easily accomplished.

bit of pooh (n.)

see separate entry.

bit of prairie (n.) [SE prairie, an open space]

[late 19C–1900s] a momentary lull in the flow of traffic down the Strand, then London’s busiest street.

bit of rough (n.)

see separate entries.

bit of scarlet (n.) [? the use of the word bloody adj.]

[mid-19C] an oath.

bit of Spanish (n.) [? use of long, dark Spanish tresses in wigs]

[18C] (UK Und.) a natural wig, made from human rather than animal hair.

bit of stick (n.)

[1980s] £5.

bit of straw (n.)

[early 19C] a straw hat.

bit of stuff (n.)

see separate entry.

bit on the side (n.) [on the side under side n.] [1920s+]

1. an affair; a lover other than one’s regular partner .

2. an act of sexual intercourse with someone other than your partner.

bit to go with (n.) [? parting comment, ‘Here’s a bit to go with’]

[late 19C–1900s] (orig. US) generosity.

give one’s bit (v.)

[1900s] (Aus.) to do anything in one’s power.

have a bit of someone (v.)

[1900s] (Aus.) to assault; to fight with.

have a bit on (v.) (also have a bit in) [SE bit (to drink)]

[late 19C–1930s] to be drunk.

in bits over (adj.)

[late 19C+] obsessed with.