Green’s Dictionary of Slang

elbow n.1

1. [late 19C–1950s] (US) a detective, a policeman [pun on the ‘long arm of the law’; note Casey, The Gay-cat (1921): ‘“Elbow” comes from the detective’s way of elbowing through a crowd’].

2. [20C+] (also El Bow) rejection, dismissal.

3. [1920s–30s] (UK Und.) a pickpocket’s assistant [he elbows the victim to distract their attention from the pickpocketing].

4. [1940s] (US Und.) a general term of abuse [the victim is elbowed out of the way].

SE in slang uses

In compounds

elbow-bender (n.) (also arm bender, elbow crooker) [20C+]

1. a heavy drinker; thus elbow-bending, drinking.

2. a drinking party.

elbow exercise (n.)

[1910s] (US) drinking.

elbow grease (n.)

see separate entry.

elbow-jigger (n.) (also elbow-scraper)

[mid-19C] a fiddle-player.

elbow man (n.) (also elbow worker)

[late 19C] (US) a beggar, who lit. or fig. ‘nudges’ one for a handout.

elbow-quaker (n.)

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) a violinist.

elbow-shaker (n.) (also elbow-shake)

1. [18C–mid-19C] a dice-player; thus elbow-shaking adj. [the action of shaking the dice cup].

2. by ext. of sense 1, an effete individual.

3. [1950s+] (US black) one who reminds others of a forgotten or overlooked fact or event by (fig.) digging them in the ribs.

elbow-titting (n.)

[1960s] (US) a game whereby a man accosts an unknown woman and rubs his elbows against her breasts before running off – or getting hit or shouted at.

In phrases

big E (n.) [initial letter ]

1. [1980s+] a brush-off, a rejection.

2. [1990s+] dismissal from a job.

crook the elbow (v.) (also bend, an/the elbow, crook an elbow)

[late 18C–1940s] to drink; thus elbow-crooking, drinking.

crook one’s elbow (and wish it may never come straight) (v.)

[mid-18C] a gesture used to emphasise the veracity of one’s statement.

get on one’s elbows (v.)

[1940s] (US) to get angry.

get the elbow (v.)

[1970s+] to be rejected, to be dismissed.

keep one’s elbow down (v.)

to resist drinking alcohol.

more power to your elbow

see under power n.

on the elbow (also on the bow, on the bow-wow) [the scrounger nudges or tugs one’s elbow]

[late 19C+] on the scrounge.

shake one’s elbow (v.) (also exercise one’s elbow, shake the elbow) [the shaking of the dice-box]

1. [17C–19C] to play dice, to gamble; thus elbow-shaking n.

2. [mid–late 19C] to play cards.

up to the elbows (also up to one’s elbows)

[19C+] (orig. US) consumed by, overwhelmed by.

In exclamations