Green’s Dictionary of Slang

black adj.

1. [mid-19C+] depressed, sullen, irritable; thus ext. as black-looking [SE in 18C; a black mood].

2. illegal, from the black market.

3. [1970s+] (Irish) crowded [‘black with people’].

In compounds

black boogaloo (n.) [name of a dance popular in 1960s]

[1960s–70s] (US black) a feeling of depression.

black Monday (n.)

1. [mid-18C–early 19C] the first day back at school after the holidays.

2. [early 18C-19C] the day on which a death sentence is carried out.

In phrases

in black with (adj.)

[2000s] (US) in trouble (with).

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

blackers (n.) [black velvet + -er sfx]

1. [1930s+] blackberries.

2. [1940s] champagne and Guinness, mixed.

blackie (n.) [SE black + sfx -ie, -y; the sfx ensures the term’s negative, patronizing implication]

1. [18C+] (also blackee, blackey, blacky) a black person; usu. African but also Indian, Aboriginal.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

3. [1950s] (US gang) a blackjack.

Pertaining to race

In compounds


see also separate entries.

black ankle (n.) [var. on dominicker n. (2), see for ety]

[late 19C–1930s] (US) a person of mixed race; usu. black, Indian and white.

black belly (n.)

1. [1940s–50s] (US) a derog. term for a black person.

2. [1970s] (W.I.) a policeman.

black belt (n.) (also Belt, the) [SE belt, a zone or district]

[late 19C+] (US) that part of a larger urban area in which the black community lives, the black ghetto; also used in larger scale of a geographical area.

black bottom (n.) (also bottom) [such areas were often on low-lying land, near a river]

[late 19C+] that part of a larger urban area in which the black community lives.

blackbutt (n.)

[1910s] (Aus.) a native Australian.

black cloud (n.)

[1930s] (US) a group of black people.

black dust (n.)

[1980s] (US black) an extremely dark-skinned person.

black head (n.)

[1970s–80s] (UK black) a black person.

black ivory (n.) [their value]

[mid-19C] black slaves.

black plate (n.) [a pun on the US restaurant dish, the ‘blue plate special’]

[1940s+] soul food.

black teapot (n.) [? his duties include pouring tea]

[late 19C] a black footman.

blacktime (n.) [negative stereotyping]

[1990s+] (UK/US black) unpunctuality.

black town (n.)

[19C+] that part of a larger urban area in which the black community lives.

black trash (n.)

[mid-19C+] (Aus./UK) a racist term for black people.

black velvet (n.) [fig. use of SE, based on the smoothness, whether of skin or the drink]

1. [late 19C+] (Aus./N.Z.) any dark-skinned woman; thus a bit of black velvet; occas. of men; by ext., sexual intercourse with someone black.

2. [1960s] (US) a black woman’s genitals.

General uses

In compounds


see also separate entries.

black ape (n.)

see under ape n.

black annie (n.) [the colour + generic use of proper name]

1. [20C+] a police or prison van.

2. [1930s–70s] (US prison, also black aunty) a whip, used for punishments.

black army (n.) [? their chosen clothing, their sinister image; note Aus. black army, a flock of crows]

[1920s] the female underworld.

black arse (n.) [arse n.; the kettle and the pot have both been discoloured by the flame; this is the same phr. as the modern one; but these days the final vulgarism has been quietly dropped]

[late 17C–early 19C] a kettle, esp. in phr. the pot calls the kettle black arse.

black art (n.) (also black act) [SE black art, magic or necromancy; thus extended to a criminal activity that required ‘devilish ability’]

1. [late 16C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) lock-picking.

2. [mid-19C] the profession of undertaking.

black beauty (n.) [the colour of the capsules]

1. [1960s+] (US drugs) biphetamine, a strong amphetamine.

2. [2000s] a depressant.

black bess (n.)

1. [early 18C–mid-19C] a firelock or musket.

2. [late 19C] the vagina.

3. [late 19C] (Aus. Und.) a prison van.

black betty (n.) [SE betty, a pear-shaped bottle, covered with straw and often used to contain olive oil; properly known as a Florence flask]

1. [mid-18C–19C] (US) liquor, esp. a bottle that is circulated among the guests at a wedding party; tradition demands that everyone, irrespective of age, must kiss black betty, take a swig from the bottle.

2. [1930s] (US black) a whip used for punishment in southern US prisons.

3. [1960s+] (also black betsy) a police or prison van.

black bottle (n.) [SE, the use of black carries overtones of death, but presumably the term is also a descendant of 19C ‘black drop’, a dark-coloured medicine, mainly composed of opium, plus vinegar and spices. It was widely believed by 20C tramps that such a drink was administered to men in charity wards whose resulting death saved the administration the trouble of caring for them]

[late 19C-1960s] (US) any poisonous drink, esp. knockout drops.

black bottom (n.)

[mid-18C] the female genitals and pubic hair.

black box (n.) (also black boy, black knob) [the black-painted deed boxes]

1. [late 17C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a lawyer.

2. [early 19C] (Aus. prison) a punishment of 500 lashes [the ‘black box’ being a coffin].

black boy (n.) [(1) his vestments; (2) the soot that covers him]

1. [mid-19C] a parson, a clergyman.

2. a chimney sweep.

black buggy (n.)

[1960s] a hearse.

black cadillac (n.) [fig. ref. to the quality of the car]

[1970s+] (US drugs) amphetamine.

black cap (n.)

[late 19C] (UK Und.) a thief who befriends a servant girl in order to gain her trust and access to her master’s house.

black cattle (n.) [the colour, either of the vestments or of the insects]

1. [18C-19C] clergymen as a group; thus black cattle show, a gathering of clergymen.

2. [late 18C–early 19C] lice.

black coat (n.) [the trad. clothing]

1. [early 17C–1900s] a clergyman, a parson.

2. [1920s+] (Aus.) a waiter.

3. [1930s–60s] (US) an undertaker.

black cove (n.)

1. [early 19C] a prison turnkey; a warder.

2. [mid-19C] a chimney sweep.

black diamond (n.) [SE black diamond, geological – ‘a stone of dubious origin, known for more for its porosity than any endearing quality’ (Johannesburg Mail & Guardian 23/12/07)]

1. [mid-19C] a person whose tough exterior hides a ‘heart of gold’.

2. [2000s] (S.Afr.) an affluent, salaried black person.

black diamonds (n.) [the value of the mineral, if only to the mine-owners] [mid-19C]

1. (also dusty diamonds) coal.

2. a coal heaver.

black dress man (n.) [the uniform of ‘parti-coloured black and drab; one side one colour, one the other; the front of one sleeve black and the back drab, and the reverse with the other sleeve. The same with the breeches...’ (Five Years Penal Servitude p.167)]

[late 19C] (UK prison) a prisoner found guilty of assaulting a warder.

black drop (n.)

[early 19C] (Anglo-Irish) port wine.

black fly (n.) (also black slug) [‘the greatest drawback on the farmer is the black fly, i.e. the parson who takes a tithe of the harvest’ (Grose, 1788)]

[late 18C–mid-19C] a parson.

black hat (n.)

1. [mid–late 19C] (Aus.) a newly arrived immigrant [he would still wear his black, citified hat in the bush].

2. [1960s+] (US) a villain, a ‘baddie’ [the traditional means of identifying a villain in films].

black heath (n.)

[late 18C] the female pubic hair (presumably dark).

black hole (n.) [orig. UK milit.]

1. [early 19C+] (prison) the (underground) punishment cells in a prison.

2. [19C] a police or prison cell.

3. [mid-19C] any room set aside for punishment, e.g. in a workhouse or orphanage.

4. [late 19C–1930s] the vagina; one of a number of terms that equate the vagina with hell or any similar dark, threatening place.

5. [2000s] (S.Afr. gay) in a bar, a darkened room where anonymous sex may take place .

black house (n.) [SE black, evil + house] [mid-19C]

1. a prison.

2. any place of business where the employees are exploited by long hours and low wages.

black job (n.)

1. [late 18C–late 19C] a funeral; thus black job master, an undertaker.

2. [mid-19C] a black child born to a white couple; the assumpion being that the actual father was a black servant.

black lock (n.) (also black lockup) [the blackness of ‘the hole’]

[1970s+] (US prison) solitary confinement for disciplinary reasons; often as behind the black lock(up).

black machine (n.)

[late 18C] (UK Und.) the gallows.

black mamba (n.)

[2010s] (UK drugs) a form of synthetic cannabis.

black man (n.) (also black gentleman) [the Devil, personifying evil, is naturally black]

[17C+] the Devil.

black mummer (n.)

[early 19C] an unshaven person.

black ointment (n.) [its use as a cure for black eyes]

[mid-19C] (UK Und.) a piece of raw meat.

black pot (n.) [SE black pot, a beer mug]

[late 16C–early 19C] a drunkard.

black Protestant (n.) (also black Prod) [SE black as generic for Protestant, on model of ‘scarlet’ for Catholicism] [1960s+] (US)

1. a derog. term used by Catholics to describe a violently anti-Catholic Protestant.

2. a non-practising Protestant.

black rot, the (n.) [it ‘rots one’s brain’]

1. [mid-19C] (UK Und.) a death warrant.

2. [mid-19C] (US) a fit of intense depression.

black sal (n.) (also black sukey) [SE black + sal, abbr. Sarah/sukey, abbr. Susan; poss. ref. to the nursery rhyme ‘Polly Put the Kettle On’ (‘Sukey take it off again’); but note DSUE suggestion Welsh Gipsy sukar, to hum, to whisper]

[mid-19C–1900s] a kettle.

black shark (n.)

[early 19C] a lawyer.

black-shoe (adj.) [the formality of such footwear]

[1950s] (US campus) formal, sober.

blacksock (v.) [the stereotypical cheap pornographic movie, in which the male actors, otherwise naked, often keep on their socks]

[1990s+] (US) to perform in a pornographic movie.

black spy (n.)

1. [late 17C–mid-19C] constr. with the, the Devil; ext. as a derog. term of address.

2. [late 18C–mid-19C] a constable; an informer.

3. [early 19C] a blacksmith.

black stick (n.)

[1930s–60s] (orig. US black) a clarinet; also attrib.

black strap (n.) [SE black strap, molasses, and thus referring to its excessive sweetness]

1. [late 18C+] poor quality liquor, esp. port wine.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

3. [1920s] a variety of chewing tobacco.

4. [1910s–60s] (US) very strong black coffee.

black taxi (n.)

[1970s+] (Aus.) an official limousine that ferries government members etc to and from houses, appointments and the like.

black thing (n.) [euph.]

[mid-18C] the vagina.

blacktop (n.)

1. [1920s] (US tramp) a tent used for the projection of films.

2. [1930s+] (US) a minor road, a back road.

3. [1990s+] an asphalt playground.

black velvet (n.) (also velvet) [based on the smoothness of the drink]

[1930s+] a mixture of stout and champagne.

black water (n.)

[mid-19C–1960s] (US, Western) weak black coffee.

black widow (n.)

1. [1940s] (US teen) an unpopular female.

2. [1970s] (drugs) any black capsule that contains amphetamine [the packaging].

black wings (n.) [the initiate is then given a patch of the appropriate colour and design]

[1950s+] usu. of Hell’s Angels for whom it is an alleged initiation rite, performing cunnilingus on a black woman.

black work (n.) [the pre-eminent role of black in funerary arrangements]

[mid-19C] working as an undertaker.

In phrases

black cat (with its throat cut) (n.)

see under cat n.1

black-on-black (adj.)

[1940s+] (US black) referring to a car with black paintwork and all-black interior upholstery and fittings.

black-pepper brain (n.) (also black-pepper grains, [resemblance to black peppercorns]

[1960s+] (W.I.) very short hair, growing close to the scalp in small balls of fluff; by. ext. a derog. term .

black spice racket (n.)

[early 19C] robbing chimney sweeps.

black 360 degrees (adj.) [360º describes a complete circle; thus totality]

[1960s+] (US black) intensely and specifically black in personality and consciousness.