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).
[UK]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?

3. (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?

4. (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.
[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.

5. (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?

6. (US) flattery, deception.

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

7. (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.

8. (US) a criminal scheme or activity.

[US]J. Wambaugh Choirboys (1976) 307: Woulda got his throat cut in some fruit hustle sooner or later anyway.

9. toughness, aggression.

[US]C. Goffard Snitch Jacket 31: You showed some heart and hustle out there.

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?
[UK]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.
[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?