Green’s Dictionary of Slang

row n.1

[virtually SE today, row began as sl. and is cited as ‘a very low expression’ in Todd’s revision of Johnson’s Dict. (1818)]

a disturbance, a noisy quarrel; thus what’s the row? what’s all the noise about? (cites 1873, 1896 are weaker use, i.e. what’s the problem?).

[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 16: We were afraid he would make too big a Row when he lost that; that is, a great Noise.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Row A disturbance; a term used by the students at Cambridge.
[UK]T.S. Surr Winter in London III 203: It was reserved for [...] the present evening, to introduce a row, in the lowest sense of that vulgar word; and to add to the list of fashionable pastimes, the demolition of chandeliers [etc.].
[UK]J. Poole Hamlet Travestie I v: You look stark mad, Ophelia! — What’s the row?
[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 210: He bid fair, in a short time, to become as prime an article [...] as either of the above heroes n kicking up a lark, or to mill his way out of a row.
[US]N.Y. Gazette and General Advertiser 2 Dec. 2/1–2: Then commenced the general row, during which peepers were closed, and vast quantities of claret uncorked.
[UK]Duncombe Dens of London 64: The Irishman was outrageous [...] he whooped and bellowed, and was all kicking for a row.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. III 57: Wot the bloody ’ell’s the hodds, now? [...] Wot’s the row?
[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 26 Feb. 534: I have seen men thrust out into the street, and Johnson in rows with them at the door, but not lately—there was a dreadful row with him and Mrs. Timbrell about a month or six weeks ago.
[UK]J.S. Coyne Pippins and Pies 89: ‘Jolly row!’ observed Harry Bumpstead.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 30 Nov. 6/1: Irish Kate [...] laughed with true Irish ecstasy at the prospects of a row.
[UK]Sportsman 14 May 2/1: Notes on News [...] There has been what, in the snobbish slang of the day, is called ‘a jollv row’ at Ashton-under-Lyne. Six-and-twenty people have been more or less cut, bruised, battered, and shot.
[Aus]C. Money Knocking About in N.Z. 122: Knowing that I could do nothing to prevent the row, I went with the crowd to look on.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Little Mr. Bouncer 13: Hullo, Giglamps [...] You look peakyish. What’s the row?
[US]‘Dan de Quille’ Big Bonanza (1947) 272: There’ll be the biggest row in here in about a minute you ever saw!
[UK]Daily Tel. 6 Oct. 2: Now, I’ve got to come home boozed, don’t you know, and you are sitting up for me, and you begin to snack at me about it, and then there’s a jolly row.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 41: Puts me in mind of our old poaching rows.
[US]F. Hutcheson Barkeep Stories 6: ‘Wot’s de row?’ ‘Why didn’t you send me dat getaway money I staked you to last spring?’.
[UK]C. Rook Hooligan Nights 17: He is [...] very bad to tackle in a street row.
[US]A.H. Lewis Confessions of a Detective 205: What’s all the row?
[UK]N. Douglas London Street Games 142: There’s sometimes a smash-up and always a row.
[US]F. Packard White Moll 180: We don’t want any row in dere, on account of Charlie.
[US]C.B. Yorke ‘Snowbound’ in Gangster Stories Oct. n.p.: ‘I couldn’t stop him without raising a row, and that would have been bad for business’.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Spanish Blood’ in Spanish Blood (1946) 16: We figure they had a row.
[UK]M. Marples Public School Slang 149: row. A useful word, with several shades of meaning: (1) a noise, uproar [...] (2) trouble.
[Aus]K. Tennant Battlers 108: Go around getting a hold on a bloke, dragging him out of a row.
[Aus]K. Tennant Joyful Condemned 34: What’s the use of spending all night going round looking for a row?
[UK]K. Amis letter 15 Dec. in Leader (2000) 565: Hilly found some letters I had received and initiated the most strenuous and painful row we have ever had.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 142: Their voices rose to row proportions.
[UK]‘Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter at Butlins 44: I say, you fellows, what’s the row?
[Aus](con. 1930s) F. Huelin ‘Keep Moving’ 25: ‘Cut out the bloody row an’ put th’ light out,’ he bawled.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 362: James, still smarting from the row, came over to make friends.
[UK]K. Waterhouse Soho 31: Subject of another row, that was.

In phrases

kick up a row (v.)

to cause trouble, to create a disturbance.

[UK]G. Parker Life’s Painter 142: Tolobon Nan. Whose a-going to kick up a roue?
[Scot] ‘When Princes and Prelates’ in Burns Merry Muses of Caledonia (1965) 54: By sea & by shore! The Emp-r-r swore, / In Paris he’s kick up a row.
[UK]Gent.’s Mag. 1085: And was very near rustication [at Cambridge] merely for kicking up a row after a beakering party.
[UK] ‘Tom the Drover’ No. 30 Papers of Francis Place (1819) n.p.: When a row was kick’d up in a minute, a bottle at his head she did fling.
[UK]Egan Boxiana I 10: He [...] was fond of kicking up a row, and not afraid to fight his way out of it.
[UK]‘Newgate Melody’ in Morn. Post 17 Apr. 3/4: Since the Jury and the judge, oh Jack Ketch! / Have agreed that Tim Higgins must stretch / Since ’tis too late to kick up a row.
[UK] ‘New Policeman’ in C. Hindley James Catnach (1878) 211: Once if I kicked up a row [...] I was walked before a beak, sir.
[UK] ‘King William IV’ in C. Hindley Curiosities of Street Lit. (1871) 54: Each day and every hour they’ve been kicking up a row.
[UK] ‘She Wore Some Slap Up Togs’ in Gentleman’s Spicey Songster 18: I Saw her in St. Giles’s, and methinks I see her now, / Lugg’d off by policemen, for kicking up a row.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 27 Dec. 2/5: Serjeant Connor [...] said that she was kicking up a row at 2 o’clock on Sunday morning in Harrington-street, being rather excited from the drop she had taken.
[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds Mysteries of London II (2nd Ser.) 362: When I threatened just now to kick up a row in the streets and attract the notice of the police.
[UK]C. Reade It Is Never Too Late to Mend 1 207: It is No. 50 kicking up a row at having his bed and gas taken.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor (1968) III 198: In the evening some countrymen come into the tap-room and kicked up a row with the missus.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 319: The disturber of the public peace is said to kick up a row, and so is the man who brings discord into a public body or party.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 187: The diggers used to [...] kick up a bit of a row sometimes when two lots of men were fighting for the same claim.
[Scot]Eve. Post (Dundee) 29 Aug. 3/2: He continued to kick up a row, and threatened to murder the whole of the inmates.
[UK]Magnet 10 Sept. 12: You came here to kick up a row, but if you make us go for you, you won’t find it pleasant.
[UK]Film Fun 24 Apr. 20: All these jolly little joints [...] started to kick their heels, and kick up a row, and do the jump.
[UK]Wodehouse Carry on, Jeeves 75: A taxi had driven up, and an old boy in a top hat had got out and was kicking up a frightful row about the fare.
[UK]J. Curtis They Drive by Night 201: Coming in here in this state you two and kicking up this row.
row up (v.)

1. to wake up someone roughly and noisily.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 992/2: C.19–20.

2. to scold, to criticize.

[US]N.Y. Herald 7 May n.p.: We hope the President gave his Secretary a good rowing up; he certainly deserved it for his imbecility.
[US]Schele De Vere Americanisms 346: To row up became soon identical with severe scolding or actual punishment.
shut one’s/the row (v.) (also shut (up) one’s noise)

to be quiet, esp. as imper.

[US]Eugene Stratton ‘The Cane Brake Song’ 🎵 Shut yer nooise, gals and boys, now mind I told yer plain.
[UK]Lytton & LeBrunn [perf. Marie Lloyd] What's that for, eh? 🎵 ‘What’s that for, eh? Tell me Ma / If you don't tell me I’ll ask Pa’ / But Ma said, ‘Oh its nothing shut your row’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 2 June 14/1: ‘Shut yer noise,’ he said. ‘Them jokes / Ain’t fer dacent married folks.’.
[US]R. Lardner ‘Champion’ in Coll. Short Stories (1941) 109: Let loose and shut up your noise.
[NZ]J. Devanny Butcher Shop 15: Aw, shut yer row!
[UK]G. Ingram Cockney Cavalcade 137: Shut yer – row, will yer?
[UK]R. Llewellyn None But the Lonely Heart 117: Ah, shut your row, the pair of you.
[UK]C. Harris Three-Ha’Pence to the Angel 19: Vera, will you shut your row?
[UK]J. Arden Live Like Pigs XII: Shut the bloody row!
[UK]Barltrop & Wolveridge Muvver Tongue 76: It ain’t that either, so shut your row.
[UK]T. Wilkinson Down and Out 75: Just get your bloody head down, shut your noise.