Green’s Dictionary of Slang

wire n.1

1. [mid-19C] (US campus) a trick, a hoax, a stratagem.

2. [mid-19C–1960s] a telegram [SE in 20C+].

3. [late 19C+] a privately delivered warning or piece of information [note Papua New Guinea Tok Pisin wialis, a gossip, a matchmaker a psychic, f. SE wireless].

4. [1910s] (US tramp) articles constructed of stolen telegraph wire and sold in the street.

5. [20C] (US Und., also wire game) ‘a racing swindle in which the con men convinced the victim that with the connivance of a corrupt Western Union official they could delay the race results long enough for him to place a bet after the race had been run, but before the bookmakers received the results.’ (Maurer, 1940); also attrib.

6. [1920s+] (US) a telephone.

7. [1930s] (US prison) a guard who does favours for the inmates.

8. [1940s] (Aus.) a scolding, a reprimand.

9. [1940s+] (US black) the gossip circuit, the ‘grapevine’; usu. in phr. on the wire

10. [1960s+] any form of electronic eavesdropping device [abbr. SE wire-tapping].

11. [1960s+] the penis; usu. as pull one’s wire

12. [1990s+] (US) the Internet, connected by a modem.

13. [1990s+] (drugs, also wiring) a vein used for the injection of drugs.

14. [2000s] (US prison) a message, a phonecall.

Pertaining to information

In compounds

wire-puller (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

get/give the wire (v.)

[1910s+] (US) to receive or give a warning or message, to inform or be informed.

have the wire on (v.)

[1960s] (US) to keep under surveillance.

hot wire (n.)

[1900s–50s] (US prison) information.

on the wire (also over the wire)

[1930s+] generally known, going the rounds of gossip and rumour.

pull wires (v.) (also pull a wire, pull the wires)

[19C+] to exert influence, esp. behind the scenes; thus wire-pulling/wire-working n.

put it on the wire (v.)

[1960s+] (US black) to circulate gossip or other information.

straight wire (n.) [straight adj.1 (1) ]

[late 19C+] (Aus./N.Z.) the honest truth; also used as an excl. to emphasize the truth of an assertion.

Pertaining to masturbation

In compounds

wire-puller (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

pull one’s wire (v.) (also pull one’s wood)

[1940s+] to masturbate.

pull someone’s wire (v.)

[1990s+] (Irish) to provoke, to fool someone.

twang the wire (v.)

[1950s+] to masturbate.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

wire-draw (n.) [SE wire-draw, to draw out, to persuade by subtle arguing]

[late 16C–18C] (UK Und.) a trick that ensnares a victim; thus wire-drawn, tricked in this way; wiredrawer, a trickster.

wire game (n.)

see sense 5 above.

wire-inspector (n.) [i.e. SE wire, fencing]

[1900s–30s] (Aus.) a boundary rider.

wire parlour (n.)

[1910s] (US Und.) an execution chamber, using the electric chair.

wire-tapper (n.)

[late 19C–1930s] (US) a confidence trickster who claims that he can intercept the wire bringing racecourse results and thus cheat the bookmakers; thus wire-tapping, the swindle itelf; also attrib.

In phrases

down to the wire [horseracing imagery]

[20C+] approaching the crux, the climax; to the very limit.

get under the wire (v.)

[1940s] (US black) to obtain something, e.g. money.

go off the wire (v.)

[1990s+] (US) to lose control.

under the wire [horse-racing imagery]

[1930s+] at the very last minute.