Green’s Dictionary of Slang

nipper n.3

also nip
[children ‘nip around’]

1. a baby; a young boy (pre-teenage).

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[UK]Hotten Dict. Sl. 68: nipper, a small boy.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. [as cit. 1859].
[UK]Sl. Dict. 237: Nipper a sharp lad.
[UK]J. Runciman Chequers 54: They calls it a stream, but I dussn’t say wot I thinks it is afore the nipper.
[UK]Albert Chevalier ‘Our Little Nipper’ [lyrics] I’ve got a little nipper, when ’e talks I’ll lay yer forty shiners to a quid You’ll take ’im for the father, me the kid.
[Aus]W.A. Sun. Times (Perth) 9 Jan. 1/2: The average Australian ‘nipper’s’ knowledge of racing minutiæ, although highly interesting and instructive, is not altogether calculated to assist him when the starting-orders go up for Life's Handicap.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 2: I lived there when I was a nipper.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 20 Jan. 5/7: [of a 12-year-old girl] Up them stairs the nipper slips, and / Soon the door is locked.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The Horses’ in Roderick (1972) 704: He’ll come in handy for one of the nippers to ride now’n then.
[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 83: ‘How about buying the old lady out [i.e. of sweets] and filling up the nippers?’ he said.
[UK]Wodehouse ‘The Making of Mac’s’ in Man with Two Left Feet ) 122: A little freckled nipper he was when I first knew him.
[UK]W. Holtby Anderby Wold (1981) 168: And how‘s the nipper? By Jove, the very image of his father.
[UK]Lawrence & Skinner Boy in Bush 64: Same’s all the nips round here. He went t’ same school.
[UK]T.W.H. Crosland ‘Blighty’ in Last Poems 48: Behold the end of all my woes – / The nipper in his Sunday clothes, / The missus blooming like a rose, Blighty!
[UK]G. Kersh Night and the City 202: Even when you was a nipper, you was like that.
[UK]C. Day Lewis Otterbury Incident 65: Give yer sixpence if yer stays ’ere beside me for ’arf an hour, you two nippers.
[UK]G. Kersh Fowlers End (2001) 181: I got a sweet tooth. I never ’ad enough sweet stuff when I was a nipper.
[UK]P. Terson Night to Make the Angels Weep (1967) II xii: When Sin was a nipper, he was got at in the fields by a gang from the hollow.
[UK]E. Bond Saved Scene iii: An’ the nip’s mother reckons ’e ain’ got a blame ‘isself.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 53: Give you a good piece of advice [...] Same as I always tell the nippers.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Big Brother’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Let me remind you Rodney that you were a six-year-old little nipper when God smiled on Mum and made her die!
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 83: He’d been taking us to court on the old fines since we were nippers.
[US]J. Stahl I, Fatty 89: The poor nipper was so scared he shook.

2. a boy who hires himself out to a costermonger or market greengrocer.

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[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 33/2: Some lads, however, are the smallest class of costermongering youths; and are soometimes called ‘cas’alty boys,’ or ‘nippers’.

3. a small, short person.

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[UK]A. Sillitoe ‘Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner’ in Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (1960) 22: Mike was a nipper compared to me.