Green’s Dictionary of Slang

knuckle n.

[knuckle v.2 ]

1. [late 18C–mid-19C] a pickpocket; thus go on the knuckle v., to work as a pickpocket; knucklejill n., a female pickpocket [Grose 1796 et seq. suggests ‘a superior kind of pickpockets’].

2. [mid-19C+] (US) in pl., a knuckleduster n. (1), ‘brass knuckles’.

3. [1930+] a fight, violence; thus knuckle-boy, knuckleman, n., a fighter; knuckle-work n., fighting.

4. [1990s+] (US drugs) a wrapper of heroin [the knuckle-like bulge of the wrapped drug].

In compounds

knuckleburger (n.) [SE knuckle + (ham)burger; a play on knuckle sandwich ]

[1970s+] (US) a punch in the mouth.

knuckle-dabs (n.) (also knuckle-confounders) [late 18C–early 19C]

1. handcuffs.

2. the fists.

knuckle-dragger (n.) [1980s+]

1. a fool, a peasant.

2. a thug; thus knuckle-dragging adj., violent.

knuckleduster (n.)

see separate entry.


see separate entries.

knuckle junction (n.)

[1970s+] (US) a fist-fight; in phr. take someone dancing down at knuckle junction, to administer a beating.

knuckle medicine (n.)

[1940s] a blow with the fist.

knuckle-pusher (n.)

[1900s] (US) a boxer.

knuckle sandwich (n.) (also fist sandwich, nuckle sandwich)

[1950s+] (orig. US) a blow from a fist, esp. to the mouth.

knuckle shuffle (n.)

[1990s+] masturbation.

knuckle soup (n.)

[mid-19C] (US) a punch in the mouth.

knuckletalk (n.)

[1910s] (US prison) coded communication between prisoners achieved by rapping their knuckles on their cell walls.

knuckle tonic (n.)

[1940s] a punch in the face or mouth.

In phrases

down on the knuckle (also down on the knucklebone((s) of one’s arse), down on one’s back seam, down to one’s knucklebone, on one’s knucklebone)

[mid-19C–1930s] virtually penniless.

go the knuckle (v.)

[1940s+] (Aus.) to have a fist-fight.