Green’s Dictionary of Slang

catch v.1

1. as a mental process.

(a) [late 19C+] to grasp the meaning, often in negative, e.g. I didn’t quite catch...

(b) [late 19C+] to find out, to discover.

(c) [1960s+] to notice, to appreciate.

2. of a person or object, to come into possession of, to take control of.

(a) [early 19C+] to ensnare a victim in a confidence trick or crooked gambling game.

(b) [late 19C+] to obtain, to get, to come into possession of a given item, lit. or fig.

(c) [1960s] (US prison) to make a good impression on.

(d) [1960s+] to seduce.

(e) [1960s+] (US black) of a pimp, to persuade a woman (whether already a prostitute or not) to start working for him.

(f) [1970s] (US black) of a prostitute, to attract a client.

(g) [1990s+] (US black) to steal.

3. to experience; to encounter.

(a) [1920s+] of a show or other type of entertainment, to listen to, to watch; to attend.

(b) [1940s+] (orig. US) to have a casual social encounter with.

4. [1930s] to give.

In compounds

catch-bet (n.)

[mid-19C] a bet made with the intention of ensnaring a gullible punter.

In phrases

catch... (v.)

see also under relevant n. or adj.

catch a body (v.)

[1990s+] (US black) to kill.

catch a case (v.)

[1990s+] (US Und./prison) to be arrested, to be charged with a crime.

catch (a) cold (v.)

1. [late 18C+] to get into trouble, poss. through impetuousness.

2. [early 19C+] to lose out financially, poss. after purchasing a supposed ‘bargain’, which proves to be otherwise.

3. [1980s] (US prison) to be killed.

catch action

see separate entries.

catch a glad (v.) [SE glad(ness)]

[20C+] (W.I.) to experience an outburst of spontaneous joy.

catch a pay (v.)

[1990s+] (US black) to commit a robbery.

catch copper (v.) [ety. unknown]

[16C] to come to harm, to suffer grief.

catch it (v.) [euph. for catch hell under hell n.]

1. [mid-19C+] (also catch it hot, …warm) to be severely reprimanded, punished or beaten.

2. [1910s] to be killed.

3. [1910s–60s] to be shot.

catch nennen (v.) (also catch royal) [nennen n.1 /royal n.1 (3)] [20C+] (W.I., Trin.)

to find it hard to make enough money to live.

catch one’s lunch (v.)

[1960s+] (US) to be killed or to be defeated so comprehensively as to feel physically sick.

catch (the) vapors (v.)

1. [1980s+] (US campus) to act obsequiously; to become jealous.

2. [1990s+] to desire sexually.

catch wreck (v.) [1990s+] (US black)

1. to get into trouble, to be beaten up.

2. to gain respect by one’s activity, spec. to rap freestyle.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

catch-colt (n.) [dial. catch colt, a colt that was bred unintentionally]

[20C+] (US) an illegitimate child.

In phrases

catch... (v.)

see also under relevant n.

catch a fox (v.) [fox v.1 (1)]

[late 17C–18C] to be very drunk; thus caught a fox, drunk.

catch a horse (v.) [euph.]

[20C+] (Aus.) to urinate.

catch and kill one’s own (v.) [the image of the self-sufficient dweller in the outback]

[1970s+] (Aus.) to look after oneself, to sort out one’s own problems without outside aid.

catch ’em-alive (n.)

see separate entry.

catch ’em (all) alive-o (n.)

see separate entry.

catch on (v.)

see separate entry.

catch one’s length (v.) [lit., to estimate the size of the problem]

[20C+] (W.I.) to settle down, to understand what must be done.

catch on the non-plus (v.) [SE nonplussed]

[late 19C] to catch unawares.

catch out (v.) [i.e. to catch a railroad out of town] [1970s+]

1. (US tramp) to leave by train; to ‘ride the rails’.

2. to go to work.

3. (US prison) to leave, to go out.

catch rapid (v.)

[1980s+] (Irish) to catch in the act.

catch someone with their pants down (v.) (also ...breeches down, …drawers, ...knickers down, ...trousers down, catch someone pants down)

[mid-19C+] (orig. US) to find someone in a state of embarrassing unpreparedness, to catch someone ‘red-handed’; often used ‘literally’ of sexual infidelities.

catch the chain (v.) [the chain that links the prisoners together during their journey]

[20C+] (US Und.) to move from a local jail to a proper prison.

catch the flavour (v.) (also get the flavour)

[19C] to get drunk.

catch the owl (v.)

[late 18C–early 19C] to play a trick on an innocent countryman, who is decoyed into a barn under the pretext of catching an owl; when he enters, a bucket of water is poured upon his head.

catch these hands (v.)

[2010s] (US campus) phr. used as a challenge to fight .

catch up

see separate entries.

catch you later (also catch you)

[1930s+] (orig. US black) goodbye.

catch you on the flip-flop [SE flip-flop, a reversal, lit. a somersault]

[1970s+] (US campus) goodbye.

In exclamations

catch ’em alive oh!

see separate entry.

catch me! (also catch me at it!)

[mid-19C–1930s] a defiant excl. implying that one will never be caught.