Green’s Dictionary of Slang

mitten n.

1. usu. in pl., the hand, esp. the fist.

[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 252: mittens the hands.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. 63: MITTENS, fists.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. [as cit. 1859].
[US](con. 1940s) M. Dibner Admiral (1968) 152: A hell of a lot of good it does a guy with mittens like these.

2. (US) a rejection or dismissal; usu. in phrs. below.

[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 156: Cuss them bad shillin’s, they are always a-comin’ back to you [...] for they won’t take the mitten if you do try to cut them.
[US]E. Eggleston Hoosier School-Master (1892) 86: Young men were timidly asking girls if ‘they could see them safe home,’ [...] and were trembling in mortal fear of ‘the mitten’.
[US]L.W. Payne Jr ‘Word-List From East Alabama’ in DN III:iv 293: bounce, the (grand), n. phr. Summary dismissal; in love or matrimonial affairs, ‘the mitten’.

3. a boxing glove; usu. in pl.; thus mitten-mill n., a prize-fight.

[[UK]J. Phillips Maronides (1678) V 80: Quo he, now let him look to his hittings, / By Jove, I’le handle him without mittins].
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 18 Oct. 2/4: Haddygaddy and the big-un put on the mittens.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 127: mittens. Boxing-gloves. mitten-mill. A glove fight.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 14 Mar. 14/2: While Donald Dinnie and Graham were on the war-path in the back-blocks, rumours by the score used to reach Sydney as to the manner in which the pair said they could chaw up Larry Foley, either with or without the ‘mittens;’ Graham going so far, it was alleged, as to state that he could put our champion through with one hand only.
[Aus]W. Aus. Sun. Times 24 Sept. 7/2: Bill Bludger was the games bloke / That ever donned a mitten.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Sporting Times 28 Feb. 7/4: After the banging of the mittens, the merry joanna will resound [and] several skilled folks will smite the ivories.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 24 Jan. 2/6: Mick Murphy again intends donning the mittens. He is billed to meet Paddy M’Mahon.
[UK]Marvel 3 Mar. 7: Fight it out with the mittens.
[UK](con. 1835–40) P. Herring Bold Bendigo 207: I am ready to make up for it by a bout with the mittens.
[US]Christopher ‘Battling’ Battalino in Heller In This Corner (1974) 148: Took my mittens and I hung ’em up.

4. a handcuff; usu. in pl.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 743/1: –1933.

5. (US Und.) a knuckle duster.

[US](con. 1920s) G. Fowler Schnozzola 49: The callers were nasty-tempered fellows, expert in the use of ‘Tammany mittens,’ as the boys say when speaking of brass knuckles.

In compounds

In phrases

get the mitten (v.)

1. (US) to be turned down as a suitor, to be rejected.

Ladies’ Museum 1 Oct. 38/1: HE’S GOT THE MITTEN. Much is expressed in this short sentence. It tells of hopes withered, and dreams of happiness fled and gone, perhaps forever.
[US]New Yorker 2 July 227/1: The conversation turned upon courting. ‘Well,’ said honest Jack, ’ I never got the mitten but once in my life’.
[US]J.C. Neal Peter Ploddy and Other Oddities 14: Young gentlemen that have got the mitten, or young gentlemen who think they are going to get the mitten.
[US]O.W. Holmes Autocrat of the Breakfast Table 339: A cheaply got-up youth [...] laughed at by the girls in his village [...] ‘got the mitten’.
[US]Ariz. Citizen (Tucson, AZ) 13 May 1/2: Not braver he that leaps the wall / [...] / Than I, who stepped before them all / Who longed to see me get the mitten. / But no, she blushed and took my arm!
[US]Dodge City Times (KS) 12 Apr. 3/3: Now I shall have to do it all over again, and may be get the mitten.
[US]Lippincott’s Monthly Mag. (Phila.) Aug. 241: Popped the question, and got the mitten [F&H].
Ohio Democrat (Logan, OH) 15 Apr. 6/3: An old-time New England expression, ‘getting the mitten’, meaning getting your offer of marriage rejected by your ‘best girl’.
[US]St Louis Republican (MO) 2 Mar. 48/4: I makes a bid for two or three but gets the mitten.
[US]Ocala Eve. Star (FL) 21 Jan. 1/4: Marconi Gets the Mitten [...] Mrs M.E. Holman announced this morning the breaking of the engagement of Miss J. Holman to Marconi.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock’ in Four Million (1915) 193: I’ve got the mitten instead of the scarf.
[US]B.L. Bowen ‘Word-List From Western New York’ in DN III:vi 445: mitten, n. ‘To get the mitten,’ to have one’s suit rejected.
[US]Day Book (Chicago) 27 Mar. 25/1: Harry Farnham has got ‘yes’ from Miss Viola Truman, after sparking her for eleven years and getting the mitten 1,000 times.
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl.
[US]C. Woofter ‘Dialect Words and Phrases from West-Central West Virginia’ in AS II:8 360: The boys all got the mitten at Three Poplars last night.

2. (US campus) to be expelled from a college.

[US]B.H. Hall College Words (rev. edn) 324: mitten. [...] a student who is expelled is said to get the mitten.

3. to be dismissed from employment.

[UK]Punch 1 Mar. 108/2: Lifeboat hands who are found shrinking, Or with fear of danger smitten, Get, not medals, but the mitten [F&H].
give someone the mitten (v.)

(US) to reject a proposal of marriage, to end a relationship.

R. Lockwood Insurgents 99: If I was in her place, I guess I’d give him the mitten ’bout the quickest.
S. Wyman Life and Adventures 39: The girl, on hearing of this, gave me the mitten [...] It did not suit me very well but it did not hinder my going with another girl within the next twenty-four hours.
[US]Bartlett Dict. Americanisms 156: to give him the mitten. This phrase is used of a girl who discards her sweetheart. She gave him the mitten means that she gave her lover his dismissal or discarded him.
C.L. Canfield Diary of a Forty-Niner (1906) 95: She is telling everybody that she has given me the mitten.
[US]J.F. Brobst letter in Brobst Well Mary, Civil War Letters 20: Too bad for Elsie [...] she had no business to give me the mitten then.
O.W. Holmes Guardian Angel 370: Some said that Susan had given her young man the mitten, meaning thereby that she had signified that his services as a suitor were dispensed with.
[UK] ‘’Arry on the ’Igher Education of Women’ in Punch 5 Apr. in P. Marks (2006) 151: Yus, she gave me the mitten.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 16 Nov. 2/4: I want you to understand that [...] my daughter has given you the mitten.
[US]F. Harris Elder Conklin and Other Stories (1895) 4: ‘What does “giving the mitten” mean?’ he questioned [...] ‘Why, jest the plainest kind of refusal, I guess.’.
[US]P.G. McLean ‘A Long Shot’ Variety Stage Eng. Plays [Internet] The beautiful Lady Immerset has given Billy Smith the mitten.
[UK]A. Binstead More Gal’s Gossip 74: I told you in my last how she gave the athletic stockbroker at Hove the mitten.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 176/2: Mitten (Amer., Hist.). Refusal of marriage by a lady. ‘She gave him the mitten.’.
tip someone the mitten (v.)

to dismiss from a job.

[UK] ‘’Arry on Commercial Education’ in Punch 26 Sept. in P. Marks (2006) 123: The Boss tipped me the mitten next day.