Green’s Dictionary of Slang

can n.1

[SE can, a container]

1. as a ‘hollow’ part of the body.

(a) [17C+] the vagina.

(b) [1910s+] (US) the buttocks; the anus; also used generically for the whole person (see cite 1952).

(c) [1910s+] (US) used as a euph. for ass n. (2) in various senses, e.g. pain in the can, flatter the can off etc.

(d) [1910s+] (Aus./US) the human head.

(e) [1910s+] the mouth.

2. [mid-19C; 1910s–40s] (US) a bomb; thus can-maker, a bomb-maker.

3. [late 19C] by meton., a barman.

4. as a room, place or container.

(a) [late 19C] a small room, e.g. in a hotel.

(b) [20C+] (US) a water closet, a lavatory.

(c) [1910s+] a prison, a police station lock-up; as generic can, imprisonment.

(d) [1920s] (US Und.) a still.

(e) [1920s+] (US Und.) a safe.

(f) [1930s] (US Und.) a bank.

(g) [2000s] (US) a shipping container.

5. in the context of drugs.

(a) [late 19C–1920s] a 5oz (140g) container of opium.

(b) [1930s] a 1oz (28g) container of opium.

(c) [1930s–50s] 1oz (28g) of morphine.

(d) [1950s+] approx. 1oz (28g) of marijuana.

(e) [1980s] (Aus.) a phial of morphine, sufficient for a single injection.

6. [1900s–20s] a pocket.

7. as vehicles.

In phrases

give someone the can (v.)

[1930s] (US) to dismiss from a job or relationship.

(a) [1920s+] (US) a dilapidated, run-down, malfunctioning vehicle, incl. a ship.

(b) [1940s] a plane.

In compounds

can house (n.) [house n.1 (1)]

[20C+] (US, mainly Chicago) a brothel.

can opener (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

crush the can (v.)

[1940s] (US prison) to escape from jail.

get the can (v.) [sense 1b above]

[1900s] (US) to be dismissed from a job.

go in the can (v.)

[1980s] (US) to accept a bribe; to act in a corrupt manner.

hot in the can (adj.)

[1930s+] (US) sexually aroused.

out on one’s can

[1930s] (orig. US) ejected unceremoniously, thrown out.

In exclamations

give your can a chance!

[1910s] (Aus.) stop talking!

my can!

[late 17C+] a general excl. of disdain, dismissal, arrogant contempt.

shut your can!

[1910s] (US) shut up! be quiet!

SE in slang uses

In compounds

can racket (n.) [racket n.2 (1)]

[late 19C] (US) a party devoted to drinking beer.

In phrases

can of piss (n.)

[2000s] (Irish) a term of abuse.

carry the can (for) (v.) (also carry the shit-can, hold the can, take the can back)

[1920s+] (orig. naut.) to take the blame that should be another’s, to do the ‘dirty work’; esp. as left carrying the can.

chase the can (v.)

[late 19C–1920s] to fetch beer from a bar.

get a can on (v.) [? SE can, a container for beer when taken home from a bar or public house]

[1920s–50s] (US) to go on a drinking spree.

hit the can (v.)

[1900s+] (US) to drink or purchase drinks.

knock someone’s can in (v.)

[1940s] (Aus.) to amaze, to astound.

rattle the can (v.)

[1940s] (US) to beg in the street.

tie a can to (v.) [a child’s tying of a can to an animal’s tail]

1. [late 19C+] (US) to play an unpleasant trick on.

2. [20C+] (also hang a can to, tie a can on, tie the can to) to reject or dismiss (a person).

3. [1920s+] to stop (an activity).

tie the can to (v.)

[1900s–10s] to condemn, to reprimand.

touch the can (v.)

[1950s+] (Aus.) to pay for a round of drinks.