Green’s Dictionary of Slang

creeper n.

[fig. uses of SE, they all creep around]

1. a toady, a sycophant.

[UK]Rowley & Shakespeare Birth of Merlin (1662) III i: Peace you pernicious Rat [...] Away, suffer a gilded rascal, a low-bred despicable creeper, and insulting Toad, to spit poison’d venom in my face!

2. a louse.

[UK]Return from Parnassus Pt II V iv: Are rymes become such creepers now a days? Presumptuous louse, that doth good manners lack, Daring to creepe vpon Poet Furors back.
[UK]Mennis & Smith ‘The Louse’s Peregrination’ Musarum Deliciae (1817) 48: My father and mother, when they first join’d paunches, / Begot me between an old Pedlars haunches; / When grown to a creeper, I know how a pox I / Got to suck by chance of the bloud of his doxie.
[UK]Laugh and Be Fat 19: As he was thus searching, pretendly for the Creepers, up he starts.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn) n.p.: Creepers. Gentlemen’s companions, lice.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
Fun for the Million 491/2: Hast thou noe creepers within thy gay hose? [...] Art thou not lowsey, nor scabby?
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[US] in DARE.

3. a penny-a-line hack journalist.

[US]‘Geoffrey Crayon’ Tales of A Traveller (1850) 155: ‘Creeper! and pray what is that?’ said I. ‘Oh, sir, I see you are ignorant of the language of the craft; a creeper is one who furnishes the newspapers with paragraphs at so much a line. [...] We are paid at the rate of a penny a line.’.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 268/2: from ca. 1820; † by 1890.

4. (Und./police) a sneak-thief, esp. when also a prostitute or her accomplice.

[US] in National Police Gazette 9 June 6: She acted as ‘creeper,’ explaining that the ‘creeper’ did not really creep, but walked to the victim’s clothes.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 277: I rushed him hard. He hung up his clothes, almost over the head of the man I had planted in the room. The creeper got four hundred dollars, in the twinkle of an eye, and slid out.
[US](con. 1900s) C.W. Willemse Behind The Green Lights 72: In the sporting Negro quarter, the creepers frequently were armed with razors.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 197: Heartbroken bummies and the bitter rebels: afternoon prowlers and midnight creepers.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 93: There were creepers and kleptoes and zanies and dipsos.
[US]N. Heard Howard Street 38: Billy had been a creeper at one time, who made his living by breaking into homes and apartments.
[US]Winick & Kinsie Lively Commerce 27: Some prostitutes have associates (‘creepers’). [...] The ‘creeper’ quietly goes through the client’s trousers and takes his money.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 201: Solo creeper Sneak thief operating absolutely alone.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 102: Such a creeper often is a prostitute who supplements her income by creeping out from beneath a bed and stealing a customer’s money.
[US]M. Baker Bad Guys 17: This is Howard talking, jailhouse lawyer [...] and former creeper.
[UK]Guardian 23 Jan. 6: ‘Creepers,’ highly skilled burglars who will go to great lengths to avoid confrontation.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 280: Some sneak thief [...] some creeper.

5. (orig. US black) an adulterous or cheating lover.

[US]Journal of Amer. Folklore 24 354: The ‘creeper’ watches his chance to get admittance into a home, unknown to the husband.
[US]Odum & Johnson Negro and His Songs (1964) 190: Buddy, stop an’ let me tell you / What yo’ woman’ll do: / She have ’nuther man in, play sick on you. / She got all-night creeper, buddy, / An’ you can’t git in.
[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 213: Haven’t you heard of the famous Creeper? [...] Lives off women, a true Eastman. He’s the sheik of the dives.
[US]N. Van Patten ‘Vocab. of the Amer. Negro’ in AS VII:1 27: creeper V. n. A man who invades another’s marital rights.
[US]N. Algren Man with the Golden Arm 24: I would even let that creeper take a hand at the table.
[US]J.L. Dillard Lex. Black Eng. 36: The man doing the cuckolding may be a creeper, a term which occurs frequently in many contexts.
[US]Simon & Burns Corner (1998) 117: Tae is a creeper; he’s been flirting with Tyreeka since the day she moved into the neighborhood.

6. (US black) a police officer.

[US]Drake & Cayton Black Metropolis 568: I wisht they’da let them creepers take you to the station!
[UK]I. & P. Opie Lore and Lang. of Schoolchildren (1977) 395: Nicknames current among boys [...] Creeper, Crook Catcher.

7. a burglary committed when the owners are at home.

[UK] in R. Graef Living Dangerously 188: I preferred to do creepers — burglaries when people are in the house.

8. see creep joint n. (3)

In compounds

creeper joint (n.) [joint n. (3a)]

(US) an opium den where the semi-conscious sleepers are robbed of their possessions.

M. Berger Tea for a Viper (cited in Spears 1986).
[US] ‘Jargon of Marihuana Addicts’ in AS XV:3 Oct. 336/2: creeper joint. A place where semi-conscious smokers are robbed.