Green’s Dictionary of Slang

knuckle n.

[knuckle v.2 ]

1. 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’].

[UK]J. Fielding Thieving Detected 17: Those only are stiled Knuckles who confine themselves to the picking pockets of watches, snuff-boxes, pocket-books, and money. [Ibid.] 20: Some of the best Knuckles are women.
[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 73: Knuckle, signifies those who hang about the Lobbies of both Houses of Parliament, the Opera-House and both Play-Houses, and in general [...] They steal watches, snuff-boxes, &c.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Knuckles pickpockets who attend the avenues to public places to steal pocket-books, watches, a superior kind of pickpockets.
[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 141: I know you are a bad one upon the knuckle, or else, or else you should have your full wack.
[UK]‘Cant Lang. of Thieves’ Monthly Mag. 7 Jan. n.p.: Files or knuckles Pickpockets.
[UK] ‘Tom the Drover’ No. 30 Papers of Francis Place (1819) n.p.: Suk’ May, she’s a saucy blowen, and can [text illegible] with any Mott in the Town, / At the knuckle, or the lift none so clever.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict. n.p.: Knucklejills female pickpockets.

2. (US) in pl., a knuckleduster n. (1), ‘brass knuckles’.

[US]‘Q.K. Philander Doesticks’ Lady of the Lake 214: Put on brass knuckles, filed at every joint, and meet me in an hour at Willett’s Point.
[UK]Sporting Times 9 June 3/2: [He] took the blow of the steel ‘kosh’ and the biff of the brass knuckles without a grunt.
[US]W.N. Burns One-Way Ride 5: He got into ward politics and ruled a tough constituency with blackjack and brass knuckles.
[US]J.T. Farrell Tommy Gallagher’s Crusade 76: Tommy saw Al O’Reilly slip on brass knuckles.
[US]I. Shulman Amboy Dukes 115: ‘We never owned gats’ [...] ‘All right,’ Gallagher agreed, ‘knives and knuckles’.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 48: I fingered the garbage-can handle in my pocket — my home-made brass knuckles.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 106: Brass knuckles (knuckles, brass).
[US]T. Dorsey Hurricane Punch 44: Mahoney produced a set of brass knuckles [...] Mahoney stowed the knuckles.

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

[US]M. Spillane Long Wait (1954) 52: He’s too much of a big shot to do his own knuckle-work.
[UK]Galton & Simpson ‘The Reunion Party’ Hancock’s Half-Hour [TV script] If you wouldn’t mind stepping outside, I’d be only too willing to oblige with a mouthful of knuckles.
[Aus]W. Dick Bunch of Ratbags 91: Hiya, Terry, how’s our knuckle-boy, eh?
[Aus]J. Wynnum I’m a Jack, All Right 9: He has offered me a mouthful of knuckles if i don’t pay in full.
[NZ]G. Slatter Pagan Game (1969) 164: No slouch when it comes to a bit of knuckle.
[US]‘Red’ Rudensky Gonif 31: Two or three slicings and some knuckles don’t add up to this tough a crack-down.
[UK]K. Sampson Awaydays 11: ‘Let’s! Give! De Wrexham!’ shouts Godden [...] ‘a lirrul birra knuckle!’ scream the mob.
[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 9: Ged’s blags for the last few years have been [...] all planning and stopwatches. There’s hardly any knuckle at all.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 29: Tasmania and the Northern Territory are probably the last two strongholds left of the genuine knucklemen.

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

[US]J. Stahl Permanent Midnight 360: I checked my shoe for the knuckle of tar I’d stashed the night before.

In compounds

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

(US) a punch in the mouth.

[US]Roberts Last Amer. Hero [film] How’d you like a knuckleburger? [HDAS].
[US]Wheeker & Kerby Steel Cowboy [film] Sport, I’m about to feed you a knuckleburger [HDAS].
Weekend Australian Mag. (Sydney) 5 Oct. [Internet] Brisbane’s Casey McGuire decked ex-Bronco turned Rooster Justin Hodges with a vicious right, which was feared to have smashed Hodges’ jaw. [...] The consensus seems to be Hodges is a notorious lair and loud-mouth who probably deserved his knuckle burger.
knuckle-dabs (n.) (also knuckle-confounders)

1. handcuffs.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Knuckledabs, or knuckle confounders, ruffles.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue [as cit. 1785].
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.

2. the fists.

[Ire] ‘Luke Caffrey’s Ghost’ in Chap Book Songs 4: He was steel in de hart, blood to de back bone, flint in de nuckle-dabbers, Manley’s mettle in his lims, your soul!
knuckle-dragger (n.)

1. a fool, a peasant.

[UK]K. Lette Llama Parlour 50: The general public are referred to as ‘knuckle-draggers’, ‘mouth-breathers’ and ‘tree-dwellers’.
[UK]K. Sampson Outlaws (ms.) 24: Would she fuck show out to any of the mushers or the knuckle-draggers.

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

[US]G. Lefferts Litchfield County (CT) Times 6 July n.p.: I immediately wrote a radio script which featured no less than five stabbings [...], two brutal fist fights, and a sleazy bedroom scene between a has-been actress and a young knuckle-dragger [R].
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 228: knuckle-dragger. A thug Knuckle dragger. A lout.
[US]N. Green Shooting Dr. Jack (2002) 53: It’s a stupid game [...] played by a bunch of knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who beat each other senseless.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 183: The fruitcakes, desperos and knuckle-draggers will fall over each other [...] to take the contract.
knuckleduster (n.)

see separate entry.

knucklehead/headed

see separate entries.

knuckle junction (n.)

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

[US]P. Conroy Great Santini (1977) 37: Your father’s gonna take you dancing down at knuckle junction.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 100: Go ahead, what the fuck, settle it at Knuckle Junction.
FFWD Weekly [Internet] If Don Cherry’s rock ’em sock ’em highlights aren’t enough for you and you want to get more in-depth analysis and information on hockey fights, check out Knuckle Junction on the Web.
Sin Bin [Internet] A list of this seasons most bone shakin’, tooth breakin’, rock ’em sock ’em shootouts at the ole’ Knuckle Junction.
knuckle medicine (n.)

a blow with the fist.

[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Ruby Ransom’ Hollywood Detective Dec. [Internet] I gave his wrist a dose of knuckle medicine.
knuckle-pusher (n.)

(US) a boxer.

[US]C. Connors Bowery Life [ebook] Dey wants ter go on de stage an’ look pritty, an’ be among de actorines all de time. How kin a knuckle-pusher be an actor?
Elevator Constructor 14 10/2: We cannot believe that he was a two-fisted knuckle pusher by instinct.
H. Miller Stand Still Like the Hummingbird 167: Call yourself judge, stool pigeon, priest, knuckle pusher, pimp, Salvation Army Nell, prostitute or pickpocke.
knuckle sandwich (n.) (also fist sandwich, nuckle sandwich)

(orig. US) a blow from a fist, esp. to the mouth.

[UK]F. Norman in Sun. Graphic 10 Aug. in Norman’s London (1969) 27: He’s liable to bung you a knuckle sandwich without so much as a by your leave.
[Aus]A. Buzo Norm and Ahmed (1973) 12: I administered a knuckle sandwich to him.
[UK]Robins & Cohen [title] Knuckle Sandwich: Growing Up in the Working-class City.
[Aus]D. Maitland Breaking Out 233: How would you like a couple-a-nuckle sandwiches to chew on?
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 93: To harden gnarled hands to bunch into thick mitts or knuckle sandwiches.
[US]‘Joe Bob Briggs’ Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In 47: Bronk offers Artie a fist sandwich.
[UK]P. Theroux Kowloon Tong 193: ‘I was going to give him a going-away present,’ Bunt said. ‘A knuckle sandwich,’ Betty said.
[Ire]F. Mac Anna Cartoon City 204: ‘Now you’re asking for a fist sandwich,’ Pat said.
[US]K. Huff A Steady Rain I i: Oh, he’s so sensitive. So I wrapped him in a headlock and give him a knuckle sandwich.
knuckle soup (n.)

(US) a punch in the mouth.

[US]C. Mathews Career of Puffer Hopkins 223: ‘Joe Marsh’s distributing knuckle soup, tonight, and he wants you to take a sup.’ ‘Never mind quite yet,’ cried the sturdy-shouldered young gentleman [...] ‘don’t you throw your legs quite so much ox-fashion or knockin’ down time’ll come afore tomorrow daylight!’.
knuckletalk (n.)

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

[US]J. London Star Rover (1963) 157: Our very knuckletalk was a violation of the rules.
knuckle tonic (n.)

a punch in the face or mouth.

[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Half-Size Homicide’ in Speed Detective Nov. [Internet] I spooned him a helping of knuckle tonic; dumped him floundering.

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)

virtually penniless.

[UK]Daily Tel. 4 Aug. 2, col. 1: I once had the honour of being present at a ‘select harmonic’ [...] for the benefit of someone who was down on the knuckle bone in consequence of having been put away since the previous October [...] and only just now released [F&H].
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘On the Shelf and Off It’ Sporting Times 18 Jan. 1: It must be admitted that she was somewhat adjacent to the knuckle, although otherwise hale and hearty.
[UK]F.W. Carew Autobiog. of a Gipsey 413: S’elp me never, I was down on the knuckle when I got there.
[UK]J. Greenwood Behind A Bus 89: I got with queer company and gambled away my money, and wasted time till I was right down on the knucklebone.
[UK]R. Whiteing No. 5 John Street 92: I tell yer, I was down on my back seam then. [...] 294: You blued many another maiden aunt at the races, afore you come down to your knuckle-bone.
[Aus]E. Dyson Fact’ry ’Ands 206: ‘Fair on my knuckle-bone,’ said the printer.
[UK](con. 1930s) Barltrop & Wolveridge Muvver Tongue 18: In really desperate need, he is ‘down on the knucklebones of his arse’.
go the knuckle (v.)

(Aus.) to have a fist-fight.

[Aus]J. Devanny By Tropic Sea and Jungle in DSUE (1984).
[Aus]D. Niland Shiralee 51: They reckon he can go the knuckle, too.
[Aus]S. Gore Holy Smoke 46: I s’pose he picked the biggest jokers among his mob because Shad, Mesh and Ab, bein’ from outa town, was dark horses, and might be able to go the knuckles a bit themselves.
[Aus]C. Bowles G’DAY 81: Before long someone else will stick their bib in, and [...] some bloke decides to go the knuckle and gets done over.
[Aus]Bug (Aus.) 24 Feb. [Internet] Or, most shameful of all, too pissed or just not mean enough to be able to go the knuckle with some other fuckknuckle in a respectable and competent way when 23 sheets to the wind.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 45: The many other terms for fighting give an idea of the importance of this activity in larrikin life. bump, comb down, dish, dong, tob, spike, sort out, stonker, rip into, do, go the knuckle on, weigh into, wipe and quilt.
[Aus](con. 1945–6) P. Doyle Devil’s Jump (2008) 142: Max [...] was jumping around and shadow-boxing [...]all ready to go the knuckle.