Green’s Dictionary of Slang

back-hander n.

[SE backhander, a blow from the back of the hand]

1. a piece of negative gossip delivered ‘behind someone’s back’.

[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Kate Coventry (1865) 7: I know this was what John calls a ‘back-hander’ at me, but I can be so good-tempered [etc.].
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville Inside Bar (12th edn) 363: This was obviously a back-hander at James.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Feb. 8/3: But if nor love nor ‘greed’ I get / (He thought this a ‘back-hander’), / On your good name I’ll put a ‘set,’ / With wicked lies and slander.
[UK]E. Glyn Visits of Elizabeth 299: It sounds to me like giving back-handers. The French women never talk like this.
[[Aus] Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 6: BACK-HANDED TURN [...] Any injury covertly effected while professing friendship is known as a back-handed turn, such as by way of giving a man assistance or advice which leads him into danger or difficulty].

2. a drink taken out of turn or an extra drink taken while the decanter circulates.

[UK]Thackeray Newcomes II 48: Thank you, Mr. Binnie, I will take a backhander, as Clive doesn’t seem to drink.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Sat. Rev. (London) 798: A kindly host affects not to notice a valued guest, who... helps himself to an innocent backhander [F&H].

3. (also backhand) a bribe; a payoff for services rendered.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 23 Dec. 4/6: I see the Assembly [...] struck off the Encampment vote as a sort of backhander to a Minstry that can’t afford a trifle to bring our countrymen home.
J. Orton Ruffian on the Stair (1967) Scene iv: Are you asking for a back-hander?
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxii 6/1: back handler [sic]: A sling in the form of a bribe to the bobbies.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Outcasts of Foolgarah (1975) 14: What about champagne dinners after every meeting [....] and the back hander copping over beach front developments.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 95: You’ve got to turn up results and, if you do, you’ll get a good backhander off the police.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Hole in One’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] How many times has the landlord settled out of court with a quiet backhander to save all the aggro?
[Aus]C. Bowles G’DAY 25: A crim gives backhanders to the pollies (politicians) and knocks blokes off.
[Ire](con. 1920s) K.C. Kearns Dublin Tenement Life 70: They’d be drinking there all night and they’d get their back-hand then the next morning.
[UK]P. Baker Blood Posse 372: For a back-hander of two hundred dollars one of the workers gave me Billy’s telephone number.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 7: ‘He was investigating.’ ‘Investigating some backhander I reckon.’.
[UK]Guardian G2 24 Jan. 22: Bribes, bungs and backhanders.
[UK]J. Cameron Hell on Hoe Street 105: Jesus. He was wanting a backhander. Grease my way.
[UK]K. Richards Life 349: Sometimes there’s a backhander - ‘I love you too, and here’s some smack!’.
[UK]Sun. Times Mag. 19 Dec. 62/1: The Liffey still smelt of Eurogrease and backhanders.
[Aus]C. Hammer Opal Country 291: ‘[H]e was taking backhanders [...] He was crooked, Nell. As a dog’s hind leg’.

4. a blow delivered with the back of the hand.

[US]Eve. Star (Washington, DC) 22 Apr. 32/3: Thus honoring King Alexis [...] Slavna was giving a stinging backhander to Prince Sergius.
[NZ]I. Hamilton Till Human Voices Wake Us 32: He’d received a back-hander for his temerity.
[UK]Galton & Simpson Hancock’s Half Hour May [radio script] I’ll give you such a backhander.
[Aus]P. Corris ‘Mother’s Boy’ in Heroin Annie [e-book] The guy by the window moved across and hit me with a backhander behind the ear where it doesn’t show.
[Aus]J. Byrell Lairs, Urgers & Coat-Tuggers 152: Yet, despite [...] pitiless kicks and backhanders by contrary old Ma Fortune who so loathed him, it wasn’t until Leonard Quentin Blount reached his thirties that he was considered worthy of the title ‘Lennie The Loser’.