Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Indian n.

(US)

1. an uncouth, rowdy person, irrespective of actual race.

[US]J.J. Hooper ‘The Muscadine Story’ in Chittick Ring-Tailed Roarers (1941) 248: Git up, you lazy Injun.
[US]Ade Artie (1963) 30: This guy’s an Indian. He won’t do. He do n’t belong.
[US]C.L. Cullen Tales of the Ex-Tanks 307: ‘Oh, yees two Injuns has come to, has yees?’ said the wardman [...] ‘an’ th’ divil’s own pair yees are, t’ say th’ laste.’.
[US]S. Kingsley Dead End Act I: The little Indians! They oughtn’t to be allowed in the street with decent people.
[US](con. 1945) F. Davis Spearhead 116: Your daughter is a bad girl. Keegan, you’re a bad Indian.
[US]S. Ace Stand On It (1979) 213: ‘F-u-c-k-i-n-g I-n-d-i-a-n,’ he said.

2. a person.

[US]Ade People You Know 55: If he’s the Indian you want to see, I’ll show you where he hangs out.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘Extradited from Bohemia’ in Voice of the City (1915) 202: The young men said he was an ‘Indian.’ He was supposed to be an accomplished habitue of the inner circles of Bohemia.
[US]O. Johnson Varmint 55: Is this the line of talk you’ve been putting out to that bunch of Indians down in the Green?
[US]M. Glass Abe and Mawruss 194: ‘That other crazy Indian over there,’ Morris continued, pointing to the professor.
[US]S.V. Benét Young People’s Pride 175: Good Lord – Paris! Why you lucky, lucky Indian!

3. a cent [a picture of a Native American was engraved on the reverse].

[US]A.R. MacDonald Prison Secrets 311: The borrowed penny [...] inherits the twelve ‘Indians’ in the ‘pot’ [HDAS].

4. a quick temper; usu. as get one’s Indian up

[US]C.G. Leland Memoirs 320: It woke Colonel John Forney up to the very highest pitch of his fighting ‘Injun,’ or, as they say in Pennsylvania, his ‘Dutch’ [DA].
[US]Maledicta III:2 160: Indian n [DA 1888] 1: Temper; Irish and Dutch are used similarly though Indian implies a greater vindictiveness and stubbornness than either of the other; from the popular stereotype.

In phrases

big Indian (n.)

(US) an influential, important person.

[US]C.W. Wills Army Life of an Illinois Soldier (1996) 37: I have four men to guard the prisoners and two orderlies to send errands for me, so I play big injun strongly.
get one’s Indian up (v.) [note B&L differentiate: ‘to say that one has his “Indian up”, implies a great degree of vindictiveness, while Dutch wrath is stubborn but yielding to reason’]

(US) to lose one’s temper; to anger, to irritate.

W.W. Holden Trials 887: I will say that his conduct had got my Indian up a little and I felt a little vixenish about it.
M.E. Thompson No Pockets in a Shroud 67: ‘I see you got your Indian up,’ Bertha would say, as soon as his father would cross the threshold. [...] ‘God don’t like ugly.’.
Indian (up) (v.) (also Indian round)

(US) to sneak up without alerting one’s targets.

[US]H.B. Stowe Oldtown Folks 189: Jack Marshall and me has been Indianing round these ’ere woods more times ’n you could count.
[US]H.B. Stowe Sam Lawson’s Oldtown Fireside Stories (1881) 55: Lordy massy! when a feller is Indianin’ round, these ’ere pleasant summer days, a feller’s thought gits like a flock o’ young partridges.
[US]R.F. Adams Western Words (1968) 83: Indian up — To approach without noise. Commonly used with reference to sneaking [DARE].
[US]Maledicta III:2 161: Indian up v phr Sneak up without noise; from alleged Indian stealth and craftiness.
play Indian (v.)

(US) to ambush.

[US]D. Hammett ‘This King Business’ Story Omnibus (1966) 101: He had a gun in his hand. I took him for a stick-up, so I played Indian on him.
play (the) sober Indian (v.)

(US) to resist joining in a drinking session.

[US]S.A. Ferrall Ramble 221: During these drinking fits, there is always one at least of the party who remains sober, in order to secure the knives, &c. Hence the Americans derive the cant phrase of ‘doing the sober Indian’ which they apply to any one of a company who will not drink fairly [DA].
[US]J. Miller First Fam’lies in the Sierras xxi 184: He had had his carouse, and was now playing sober Indian [DA].
[US]Maledicta III:2 161: Indian, play the sober vi Not to join in drinking.