Green’s Dictionary of Slang

hustle n.

[hustle v.]

1. (UK Und.) a street robbery.

[UK]W. Perry London Guide 33: A more daring hustle is, where a person being run against violently, as if by accident, and his arms kept down forcibly, while the accomplice [...] draws either his watch, money or [pocket] book .

2. (orig. US Und.) a swindle, a hoax, a get-rich-quick scheme.

[[UK]J. Lindridge Sixteen-String Jack 128: This is a freak as well as a hustle. Dick, plant yourself up the lane, and keep watch].
[US]N. Algren Never Come Morning (1988) 66: Don’t gimme that hustle, Bicek.
[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 90: Did you think we could go on with the dice hustle?
[US]Milner & Milner Black Players 251: Playing golf (which is also a good hustle like pool hustling if one is skilled).
[WI]M. Thelwell Harder They Come 305: It was a boss hustle that Jose had fixed him up with.
[UK]V. Headley Yardie 7: He’d put his life on the line for a hustle so many times.
[US]N. Green Shooting Dr. Jack (2002) 83: What if he’s some guy running a hustle, like those guys that [...] walk into a bank and rob the place?
[US]T. Swerdlow Straight Dope [ebook] [Y]ou don’t watch me when I work my hustle, and I won’t watch you when you work yours.
[UK]M. Herron Secret Hours 221: He didn’t care about the money; he just wanted to be on the right side of any hustle going.

3. toughness, aggression (esp. in context of pursuing money).

[UK]‘Ex-Légionnaire 1384 Hell Hounds of France 221: ‘Wait a minute, you big stiff! Who’s talking about escape? Your blinking American hustle is overstepping itself. I’m suggesting we get the crowd to mutiny against the rotten food’.
[US]J. Bouton Ball Four 18: There are times you have to show hustle, even if it’s false.
[US]C. Goffard Snitch Jacket 31: You showed some heart and hustle out there.
[US]G.M. Graff Watergate 141: Rebozo had made himself into a wealthy [...] real estate investor through strong hustle amid the booming postwar Florida real estate market.

4. (US) any means of survival, often providing little more than subsistence.

et seq. implied in get a hustle on
[US] ‘Jiver’s Bible’ in D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.
[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 87: A hustle here and there.
[Aus]Aus. Women’s Wkly 3 Nov. 10/4: School is the warehouse, if you’ve got a hustle (job) you receive green bark.
[US]J. Mills Panic in Needle Park (1971) 4: Some of the older ones, finding the hustle at last too great to bear, give up the habit completely and never return to drugs.
[US]O. Hawkins Ghetto Sketches 69: I fell short on my hustle one night, Jones was on me, so I came home and stole the baby’s milk money to get down with.
[US]D.E. Miller Bk of Jargon 342: hustle: [...] As a noun, an illegal or other business enterprise put together to raise quick cash.
[US]N. McCall Makes Me Wanna Holler (1995) 90: I tried every nickel-and-dime hustle I ran across.
[US]J. Lethem Fortress of Solitude 427: What’s your hustle to be? Watches? Faggots? Drugs?

5. (US black) a job, a means of earning a living.

[US]D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive 95: You, stud hoss, what is thy hustle?
[US]H. Simmons Corner Boy 83: He could get a part-time hustle somewhere.
[US]E. Shrake Strange Peaches 157: [H]e became serious about photography as a potential hustle.
[UK]Guardian G2 26 Aug. 17: It’s just something I’ve never felt suited to, being in LA, living your life as ... a hustle.
[US]Source Aug. 131: What kind of hustle you’re trying to do. Are you on the street selling hot dogs from a cart? You collecting cans?
[US]G. Hayward Corruption Officer [ebk] cap. 2: Everyone had their own hustle. You had credit card scammers, pick pockets, and real live p[imps.

6. (US black) working as a pimp, prostitute or tramp.

[US] ‘Jiver’s Bible’ in D. Burley Orig. Hbk of Harlem Jive.
[US] in S. Harris Hellhole 127: If you hustle at a place like Miss Bee’s it’s a tough hustle and there ain’t nothing you don’t learn nor any hustle that can scare you once you learn that one.
[US]S. Kernochan Dry Hustle 201: Don’t we have time for one more hustle tonight?

7. (US) a criminal scheme or activity.

[US]J. Horton ‘Time and cool people’ in Trans-action 4 6/2: When I asked the question, ‘When a dude needs bread, how does he get it?’ the universal response was ‘the hustle’ .
[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 307: Woulda got his throat cut in some fruit hustle sooner or later anyway.
[US]T. Robinson ‘Roses at His Feet’ in Dirty Words [ebook] The five or six cats he'd pulled this hustle on shook a little, at least.

8. (US) flattery, deception.

[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 22: ‘Sky’s the limit, self starter’, bullshit hustle like that.

9. (US) a means of seduction, a pass.

[US]J. Sayles Union Dues (1978) 290: And of course then there’s the hustle.
[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 243: hustle […] 2. Sexual overture toward a member of the opposite sex.

In phrases

get a hustle on (v.)

1. (US) to get moving, to get going, to get on with the job etc.

[US] S. Crane ‘The Landlady’s Daughter’ in Stallman (1966) 9: Why don’t some of you smooth people get a hustle on you?
[Scot]Edinburgh Eve. News 31 Dec. 8/5: They have to get a ‘Mighty Hustle On,’ as the Yankees say, to coper with the demand of a bargain-seeking public.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 7 Dec. 1/2: The gallant Sub. [...] is getting a hustle on. and reaping in bags of boodle each week.
[US]Vanguard Library 31 Mar. 4: You Britishers can’t get a hustle on you for monkey nuts.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 17 Oct. 17: For Heaven’s sake get a hustle on! There’s another one gone!
A.J. Cobham Skyways 107: There are other people in the world besides Americans who can get a hustle on.
[UK]B. Lubbock Bully Hayes 16: ‘Get a hustle on!’ roared John Anderson.
Williams & Wilder Long Winter 18 : I’d better get a hustle on, for it won’t be long now till it’s too late to make hay.
W. Walling It’s Too Late to Leave Early 315: Wish time doc would get a hustle on. Gotta bust outta here ’fore I choke.

2. to sustain one’s existence by whatever means available.

D.L. Smith Forbidden 88: She is out there trying to get a hustle on just like I’m trying to get mine on.
hard hustle (n.)

(US) any form of complex and thus potentially highly lucrative confidence trick.

[US]J. Thompson Texas by the Tail (1994) 9: On the hard-hustle, uh-uh. No matter how much you had on the ball, there was still a limit to it.
on the hustle (US)

1. living as a confidence trickster, a swindler.

[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 105/1: Hustle, on the. Stealing; practicing prostitution; gambling; engaging in any criminal racket.
[US]R. Campbell Sweet La-La Land (1999) 37: After dark everybody went out on the hustle [...] ready to do what had to be done for the price of a meal, new Reeboks, a lid of smoke, a chunk of crack.

2. working as a prostitute.

[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 49: You’ll be back on the hustle in two weeks.
[US]C. Hamilton Men of the Und. 322: Hustle, to go on the, To practice prostitution.

3. working hard.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 27 May 6/7: He had been doing very well in S.A,. for some years, but has now gone to Freemantle on the hustle.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 13 Oct. [synd. col.] He had just been hired as new headwaiter at Reuben’s. To show Arnold, the boss, that he was on the hustle, he suggested how to improve things.
[UK]M. Novotny Kings Road 216: Are you still on the hustle?