Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Smoke, the n.

also great smoke, the
[the pall of pollution that, before the clean air legislation of the 1950s, hung over the industrialized city]

1. London, as regarded from the provinces; occas. as Smoke.

[[UK]Foote Lyar in Works (1799) I 277: My provident papa, you know, would never suffer me near the smoke of London].
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict. 237: smoke London. Country-people, when going to the metropolis, frequently say they are on their way to the smoke; and Londoners, when leaving for the country, say they are going out of the smoke.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 298: Smoke London. From the peculiar dense cloud which overhangs London. The metropolis is by no means so smoky as Sheffield, Birmingham, &c.; yet country-people, when going to London, frequently say they are on their way to the smoke.
[UK]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 1 Sept. 7/3: Going to the smoke for the winter? I am.
[UK]Cornishman 14 June 7/1: The Cockneys from the ‘great smoke’ never fraternised with the ‘hardware blokes’ from Birmingham.
[UK]A. Binstead Houndsditch Day by Day 71: What? lend ye yer fare back to the smoke? Not me.
[UK]Marvel 24 Nov. 494: Towards the ‘Smoke’ – London, yer know.
[Aus]Camperdown Chron. (Aus.) 26 May n.p.: Everyone knows ‘Blighty’, but how many would recognise that expressive colloquialism for London, ‘he Smoke’.
[UK](con. 1925) ‘J.H. Ross’ Mint (1955) 199: ‘Running down to Smoke, perhaps?’ jeered Dusty; hitting at my regular game of London and back for tea.
[UK]‘George Orwell’ Down and Out in Complete Works I (1986) 176: These (omitting the ones that everyone knows) are some of the cant words now used in London: [...] Smoke – London.
[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross Of Love And Hunger 34: Six months for knocking off a car. Up in the Smoke that was.
[UK]J. Braine Room at the Top (1959) 187: You know, the jovial type you met in the Smoke at Christmas.
[UK]F. Norman Fings II i: It looks like I’m about to be the guv’nor of ‘The Smoke’.
[UK]J. Barlow Burden of Proof 91: He’d make a killing and clear off to the Cotswolds; a country pub with snacks, [...] to hell with the Smoke.
[UK]A. Burgess Enderby Outside in Complete Enderby (2002) 365: Laid out, brad, in some arsee plum-and-apple in the Smoke.
[UK]P. Fordham Inside the Und. 162: He bolts back to the smoke.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 266: I understand that the Krays and Richardsons came here from the Smoke [...] and were knocked back by the club-owners of the day.
[UK]Guardian Travel 28 Aug. 2: Brighton’s character is the complete opposite of the Smoke.
[UK]S. Maconie Pies and Prejudice (2008) 14: I, like most northerners, maintain a cordial suspicion of ‘the Smoke’.
[US]D.D. Brazill ‘Lady and the Gimp’ in Pulp Ink [ebook] She used to be the singer in that punk band [...] before they moved down to the smoke.

2. (Aus./US) any big city.

[Aus]H.W. Haygarth Recollections of Bush Life in Aus. 6: As he gradually leaves behind him the ‘big smoke’ (as the aborigines picturesquely call the town), the accommodations become more and more scanty .
[Aus]Sun (Sydney) 29 Sept. 15/1: When King became Gov. in 1800 he discovers that these smart alecks were bringing the stuff into the smoke for eight peg a gallon and the public were buying it for two smackers.
[Aus]D. Ireland Burn 73: Looks pretty lousy after the big smoke.
[Aus]L. Davies Candy 54: A Western District farmer down in the big smoke for a couple of days.
[Aus]T. Spicer Good Girl Stripped Bare 112: We’re in Sydney! the big smoke.

3. (Aus.) without def. article, Melbourne.

[Aus]Smith’s Wkly (Sydney) 2 June 21/1: ‘Your mate’s in smoke, and all the Presbyterian coppers in Melbourne are looking for him’.
[Aus]Howard ‘Heat’ in Mann Coast to Coast 128: In smoke for five months [...] Two rooms in Melbourne, we had.

4. (Aus.) Sydney, Melbourne.

[Aus]D. Niland Gold in the Streets (1966) 140: Ed’s a bushy [...] First time in the Smoke.