Green’s Dictionary of Slang

top adj.

1. excellent, first-rate.

[Ire]M. Lonsdale Spanish Rivals I ii: He’s a top fiddler — and I could a’ danc’d Old Roger like a ribbon.
[US]J. Black You Can’t Win (2000) 112: Top dough for you, isn’t it, kid?
[US]H. Ellison Web of the City (1983) 36: See if it’s [i.e. marijuana] top stuff or just crap.
[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 109: Tough! Top guys!
[Aus]Lette & Carey Puberty Blues 9: Once you made it into a surfie gang, you were a top chick, with a spunky boyfriend.
[Aus]C. Bowles G’DAY 1: Darlene is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Foster. Darlene is a top sort. She comes across for some of Shane's mates in the back of their bog wagons.
[US] ‘Old Zebra Dun’ in G. Logsdon Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing (1995) 83: You’re a top hand! I could use you on the drive.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Davo’s Little Something 5: Her curly blonde fair, her blues eyes, her top body.
[UK]Observer 27 Dec. 32: Rave culture. Responsible for...Ecstasy-induced seratonin levels. Top buzz!
[Aus]R.G. Barrett Mystery Bay Blues 251: It was a beautiful spring day [...] What a top day, he smiled.
[UK]N. Griffiths Stump 186: It feels fuckin top.
[UK]K. Richards Life 368: When I got there I saw these top men, Willie Weeks on bass, Andy Newmark on drums and Ian McLagan.
[Aus]N. Cummins Tales of the Honey Badger [ebook] It was a top night and one I’ll remember.

2. extreme.

[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 33: There’s top screaming and shouting and going ahead.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

top... (n.)

see also under relevant n.

top banana (n.) [show business top banana, the leading comic in a burlesque show]

(orig. US) the chief, the boss, the president.

[US]R. Graziano Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) 183: I got to be all-around top banana.
[US]S. Longstreet Flesh Peddlers (1964) 197: He was always a top banana in burly.
[UK]P. Theroux Family Arsenal 198: Never trust the top banana, Murf.
[US]M. Baker Nam (1982) 110: Me being the fucking new guy and the top banana, I had to make up my mind.
[UK]Guardian 30 Aug. 2: He’s my government’s top banana.
top bollocks (n.) (also top ballocks) [ballocks n. (1)]

1. a woman’s breasts.

[Aus]B. Humphries Barry McKenzie [comic strip] in Complete Barry McKenzie (1988) 76: Has she got a decent set of top bollocks?
[Aus]B. Humphries Traveller’s Tool 67: A horny little nurse standing by the cot with a fantastic pair of top bollocks nearly bursting out of her uniform.
[UK]Roger’s Profanisaurus in Viz 87 Dec. n.p.: top bollocks n. Breasts.
posting to www.textmi.com/gemma_k 25 July [Internet] I can’t believe the top ballocks were out!!!! The puppies, the melons, the love punch bags, the fat twins, the big bastards, the funbags....think I still have sun stroke.

2. the best or most popular of its kind [var. on dog’s ballocks n.].

[UK]Indep. Rev. 17 June 20: The sea bass is the top bollocks today.
top brass (n.) [brass n.1 (3a)]

1. (orig. US) in the services or the police, the most senior officers.

[UK]H. Ranfurly diary 2 Jan. in To War With Whitaker (1994) 117: The trouble is your top brass are overconfident [...] your gear is still inferior to the enemy’s.
[US]Bulletin (Phila., PA) 14 Sept. 4/1: The top police brass spreads out a hot carpet for the local cops .
[US]Murtagh & Harris Cast the First Stone 179: Historically, when a police department is under fire, a complete reshuffling of the Top Brass ensues.
[US](con. 1968) Bunch & Cole Reckoning for Kings (1989) 356: We’re being invaded. By the goddamned top brass.
[UK]A. Frewin London Blues 296: He’d been one of the top brass in the Metropolitan Police in the sixties.
[UK]C. Dexter Remorseful Day (2000) 157: When the top brass had finally dispersed.

2. (orig. US) in business or industry, the highest executive manager; also as adj.

[US]N.Y. Herald Trib. 21 Sept. IV 1/1: What frosts us is that this is happening just when it is positively sensational, clientwise, especially with the top brass.
[US]S. Longstreet Flesh Peddlers (1964) 21: I’m not top brass.
[NZ](con. 1930s) H. Anderson Men of the Milford Road 53: I [...] saw Joe the driver with his arm half round the neck of one of those top-brass engineers and talking to him in a very animated manner.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 16 July 4: Kubrick got the top brass, on whose financial support he relied, to come to London.
[UK]Indep. 10 Jan. 9: The BBC’s top brass already endures periodic public bashings.

3. a leader, chief, someone or something of importance; also as adj.

[US]E. De Roo Big Rumble 148: You’re top brass, Claw.
[UK]‘Hergé’ Tintin and the Picaros 52: So you’re the top brass for these boozy brigands!
[UK]H.R.F. Keating Soft Detective 47: I’ve realized my murder’s a top-brass affair. The victim’s famous. He won a Nobel Prize.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 26 Feb. 9: The top brass [...] may be quitting.
top cat (n.)

(orig. US black) the leader of a group, esp. of a clique of down-and-outs.

[US]Laurents & Sondheim West Side Story I i: When you’re a Jet, / You’re the top cat in town, / You’re the gold-metal kid / With the heavyweight crown!
[US](con. 1969–70) D. Bodey F.N.G. (1988) 277: Here we are, muthafucker, the top cats without no top hats.
[Ire]P. Howard The Joy (2015) [ebook] I’m on me way down to the top cat on our landing to see would he put a word in with the screws.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 26 Feb. 8: It’s easier to be the straight man than the top cat.
top covering (n.)

(N.Z.) a sense of perspective, the act of self-control.

[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 104: At this they seemed to lose their top covering altogether, and, being armed with revolvers, opened fire on the crowd.
top diver (n.) [SE dive on top (of)]

1. a lecher, a womanizer.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Top-diver a Lover of Women. An old Top-diver, one that has Lov’d Old-hat in his time.
[UK]New Canting Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. [as cit. c.1698].
[UK]B.M. Carew Life and Adventures.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Top diver, A lover of women. An old top diver; one who has loved old hat in his time.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 91: top-diver a roué.

2. (US gay) a lesbian.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 139: cunnilinctrice, [...] top-diver (Brit gay sl.).
top dog (n.) (also topdog)

1. a dominant figure, usu. in an institution – the boss, a senior member of an organization, a leader.

[UK]Illus. Police News 23 Oct. 5/1: In the end, did not John Bull come out ‘top dog,’ fairly, squarely and above board?
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 7 Apr. 24/1: Weeks was palpably top dog up to the end of the sixth round, wherein Patterson suffered grievously, but afterwards his energy faded.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 13 Apr. 4/6: The home lot [i.e. of footballers] were top dog in scrimmaging power.
W. Sickert Eng. Rev. June n.p.: In the duel between painter and super-goose, it is the super-goose who comes out top dog.
[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 201: After a time we got top-dog in the bombing line. Our system was a simple one : for every bomb the enemy threw into us we gave him at least two in return.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 300: So the wife comes out top dog, what? – Well, that’s a point, says Bloom, for the wife’s admirers. – Whose admirers? says Joe. – The wife’s advisers, I mean, says Bloom.
[UK]R. Hyde Nor the Years Condemn 283: What is he? Rich joker, doing a bit of slumming, or just another creeping Jesus without the dog collar? Or does he think he’s top dog?
[US]T. Dreiser letter 25 Nov. in Riggio Dreiser-Mencken Letters II (1986) 697: Who is the top dog in there?
[US]M. Spillane One Lonely Night 56: Sure, it’s great to be a Commie . . . as long as you’re top dog.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Scene (1996) 115: Give us [...] the big who’s dealing directly with The man next to the Top Dog.
[US]Milner & Milner Black Players 225: The boss player [...] really believes that he is destined to be a ‘top dog.’.
[US]D. Woodrell Muscle for the Wing 147: And we’d be top dogs [...] I remember when we dreamed that trash.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 7: There’d been a great rapport between the bands, an atmosphere of shared destiny, with the Grams the unspoken topdogs.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 29 Feb. 4: One top-dog who will not be part of the new venture is the millionaire human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[US]P. Highsmith Two Faces of January (1988) 58: Rydal Keener had a cocky, top-dog manner.
top dressing (n.)

1. the hair.

[Aus]J.B. Stephens ‘To a Black Gin’ Poems 18: The coarseness of thy tresses is distressing, / With grease and raddle firmly coalescing, / I cannot laud thy system of ‘top-dressing.’.

2. (N.Z.) deception.

[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 215: topdressing Deception, usually in surface presentation, from the fruiterer’s habit of putting the best fruit on top. Mid C20.
top end (n.) (also top, top half)

(Aus.) northern Australia; thus top-ender, topsider, one who lives there.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 8 Dec. 14/1: The appointment of a Bishop for Nor’-West Australia recalls the story told of the first cleric sent up to the Top End.
[Aus]Chron. (Adelaide) 24 Mar. 43/3: [Nicknames] [f]or people in the Northern Territory, Territorians, topenders.
[Aus]N. Pulliam I Travelled a Lonely Land (1957) 135: He’s [i.e. an Aborigine] good with stock [...] and the cattlemen at The Top need him. Let the Topsiders take over the whole abo problem is what I say.
[Aus]T. Ronan Only a Short Walk 29: Any ‘Top-Ender’ who wanted an hotel booking, a tip for the races [...] could wire A.B. McCabe.
[Aus]A. Chipper Aussie Swearers Guide 70: Top Ender. Anyone from Northern Territory.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 30: The top half or top end, referring to that part of Australia roughly north of the Tropic of Capricorn, is widely believed by most other Australians to be ‘the last frontier.’.
[Aus]P. Temple Dead Point (2008) [ebook] Sometimes they come back in a tramp steamer, [...] fucking hang glider, land in Broome, Top End, Tassie.
top floor (n.)

see separate entry.

top hamper (n.)

(US) the head, the brain.

[US]N.Y. Eve. Mail 21 Sept. in Fleming Unforgettable Season (1981) 235: Only once did Merkle show fog in his top hamper.
[Aus]E. Dyson ‘The Fickle Dolly Hopgood’ in Benno and Some of the Push 58: The high-heeled boots she affected accentuated the apparent precipitation of Dolly’s top-hamper.
top hat (n.) [? their 19C attire]

(UK Und.) a detective.

[UK]F.D. Sharpe Sharpe of the Flying Squad 209: One of the gang was heard to say: ‘It’s no good here, boys, there are too many top-hats’ (detectives).
top-hole (adj.)

see separate entry.

top kick (n.) (also top kicker)

(orig. US) the boss, the head of a group, whether legal or criminal; spec. a US army first sergeant.

[US]J.E. Rendinell diary 30 June–5 July in One Man’s War (1928) 129: I met our old top-kick Heinie on the Paris-Metz road.
[US]T.H. Kelly What Outfit, Buddy? 43: Along came Bill o’Rourke, actin’ top-kicker.
[US](con. 1914–18) L. Nason Three Lights from a Match 213: Pap’ Comerford, that used to be my top kick, was the best argufier I ever see.
[US]I. Franklyn Knights of the Cockpit 37: The hardboiled top kick smiled gamely.
[US] ‘C.C.C. Chatter’ in AS XV:2 Apr. 211/1: Instead of sergeants, a civilian corps has barrack leaders, and in place of corporals, assistant leaders; the top kick of the army is known as senior leader.
[US]H.B. Hersey G.I. Laughs 211: First sergeants, who got to be called ‘top-kicks.’.
[US]Mad mag. Aug.–Sept. 25: Who [...] was he getting his combat pay from at the time Braddock was his top-kick?
[US](con. 1917–18) H. Berry Make the Kaiser Dance 239: ‘Oh Christ,’ answered the top kick.
[Aus]Hackforth & Sherman About Face (1991) 61: ‘I can always use another sergeant,’ this giant of a topkick roared.
[US]Codella and Bennett Alphaville (2011) 276: Our new Op 8 topkick had just dropped us off.
toplights (n.)

see separate entry.

top-loft/-loftical/-lofty

see separate entries.

top man (n.)

1. a leading villain.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Dimber damber, a top man, or prince among the canting crew, also the chief rogue of the gang, or the completest cheat, (cant).
[US]R. Chandler ‘Goldfish’ in Red Wind (1946) 169: She and her top man went to see Peeler where he lived.
[UK](con. 1900–30) A. Harding in Samuel East End Und. 284: Top man – Underworld king.

2. a police superintendent.

[UK](con. 1910) A. Harding in Samuel East End Und. 123: He was a police informer – he knew all the top men and it was a top man at the Yard that told me about him.

3. the dominant partner in a homosexual (sado-masochistic) couple.

[US]J. Fishman Sex in Prison 59: They are of the passive type, known variously as ‘punks,’ ‘girls,’ ‘fags,’ ‘pansies,’ or ‘fairies,’ as distinguished from the inmates who take advantage of their favors, that is the active participants. These are known in prison slang as ‘top men’ or ‘wolves.’.
[US]C.B. Hopper Sex in Prison 94: The terms ‘wolf,’ ‘jocker,’ and ‘top-men’ are recognized by staff and inmates as describing aggressive homosexuals.
[US]J. Rechy Rushes (1981) 26: The dark-print handkerchief displayed like a banner in his back pocket, the heavy ring of keys, the tiny silver earring — all worn on his left side — proclaim his role as a dominant man in ‘heavy sex,’ a good ‘top-man,’ one of the best.
[US]H. Max Gay (S)language 43: Top Man — active partner in anal intercourse.

4. see under top v.3

topnobber (n.) [SE top + nob n.2 (1)]

(Anglo-Irish) an important person.

[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 90: O yes, we’ll have all the topnobbers. J. C. Doyle and John MacCormack I hope and. The best in fact.
top piece (n.)

1. a hat.

[US]Night Side of N.Y. 47: Shure, its not the like of me that would wear the koverin’ of such a lively head as the top piece of that impudent hussy.
[US]F. Hutcheson Barkeep Stories 10: ‘He has long hair an’ a screwy silk top-piece’.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ John Henry 89: I didn’t know whether to puff up and get chesty, or hustle for my coat and my top-piece and go home.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 149: I makes him chuck the linen for a sweater; but I couldn’t separate him from the shiny top piece.
[US]T.A. Dorgan Silk Hat Harry’s Divorce Suit 3 June [synd. cartoon strip] Darn it there goes my kelly. Whoa!!! I can’t go to court minus my top piece.
[US]‘Ellery Queen’ Roman Hat Mystery 205: You’re looking for a hat – a nice shiny top-piece such as the swells wear.

2. (also top storey) the head, the brain.

[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 18 Dec. 1/2: What is a kiss? A kiss is a question asked at the top storey.
[US]Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 14 Dec. 23/2: Australian English [...] A head is a ‘top-piece’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 6 Sept. 14/4: The large, pink, balcony hat was a furnishing to the tricky top-storey.
[US]C.L. Cullen More Ex-Tank Tales 45: The hunch flashed into my top-piece.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 31 Jan. 4/6: His valedictory letter [...] suggests that he is slightly gone in the top storey.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth, WA) Supp. 19 Dec. 25: You’ll beat Snowball’s top-piece off.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 3 Oct. 47/1: It took an afternoon of surf-bathing to clear my top-piece, and about 5 p.m. I met Maroney.
T.A. Dorgan Judge Rummy’s Court 5 Feb. [synd. strip cartoon] Judge my old top piece ain’t been right since I had shell shock. I’m a dumb-bell.
[Aus]D.H. Lawrence Kangaroo 365: They’ve got more greedy brains in the seats of their pants than in their top storeys.
[Aus]Morn. Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 12 Sept. 6/3: I don’t think I’m quite right in the top storey.
[US]Howsley Argot: Dict. of Und. Sl. 52: top story – head.
[UK]J.G. Brandon Gang War 201: You is ’igh up in the C.I.D., and as everybody knows the best flamin’ top-piece as they’ve got in the ’ole works.
[Aus](con. 1936–46) K.S. Prichard Winged Seeds (1984) 32: Some of us old battlers’ve got a bit stiff in the joints and rusty in the top piece.
[UK]K. Lette Mad Cows 226: The second sign that she was loose in her top storey.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad 170: Smart up in the top storey Intelligent.
top-ropes (n.)

(later use Aus.) stylish, extravagant lifestyle; also as adv.; thus carry (on) top ropes/sway away on all top ropes, to live in a self-indulgent or hedonistic manner.

[UK]Lex. Balatronicum n.p.: To sway away on all top ropes; to live riotously or extravagantly.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue [as cit. 1811].
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 91: top-ropes Extravagant or riotous living.
[UK] ‘’Arry on the Road’ in Punch 9 Aug. 83/1: It’s fun and good form all in one like, and when sech top-ropes yer can carry, / Who cares if it does come expensive?
[US]Trumble Sl. Dict. (1890) 36: Top-ropes. Extravagant or riotous living.
[UK] ‘’Arry on a ’ouseboat’ in Punch 15 Aug. 77/1: While top-ropes I can carry, / It ain’t no soap-board slop about ‘Quiet’ will put the kibosh on ’arry.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 26 May 5/4: I never told Mr Robert Greathead that Mrs Seymour was carrying on top ropes.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 23 June 32/1: Well, she fancied another man – haristocratic kinder bloke: white shirt an’ studs, and all that sorter thing. They got married, and carried on top-ropes for a bit. Then he lost his billet and took to drink, and they got down until they were as low as get out.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 18 Jan. 35/2: After that my mate and I used to carry on top-ropes, and people wondered why we were allowed to.
top-row

see separate entries.

top-rung (adj.)

see separate entry.

top sawyer (n.)

see separate entry.

top sergeant (n.) [‘she takes command of the girls’ privates’]

(gay) a masculine lesbian.

[US]G. Legman ‘Lang. of Homosexuality’ Appendix VII in Henry Sex Variants.
[US]R.S. Gold ‘Vernacular of the Jazz World’ in AS XXXII:4 279: top sergeant. A Lesbian.
[US]K. Worthy Homosexual Generation Ch. xvi: A Pimp: She does not work and is supported by the earnings of other female prostitutes. She is a jockey or top sergeant. She dresses like a man and although she is white, she often prefers to live with a colored girl.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular.
top set (n.) (also topwork)

a woman’s breasts.

[UK]A. Sillitoe Start in Life (1979) 89: She came up behind and pressed her topwork into my back.
www.bbfans.co.uk 22 Aug. [Internet] I think Liisi is teasing us, I don’t think she has any intentions of flopping her top set out.
top-shackled (adj.)

drunk, fuddled, confused in the head.

[UK]N. Field Woman is a Weathercock III ii: O good old woman she is top-shackled. She’ll be as drunk as a porter.
top shelf(er)

see separate entries.

top shot (n.)

see separate entry.

top side(r)

see separate entries.

top ’uns (n.)

a woman’s breasts.

[UK]F. Norman Bang To Rights 176: Er look at that sort down the front there she aint arf got some top ’uns.
top whack

see separate entries.

top woman (n.)

a senior or most favoured prostitute among a group working for a given pimp.

[UK]G. Sheehy Hustling 113: Intimidated, his top woman must either match them or recruit even fresher talent to supplement her own earnings.
R. Decker Patterns of Exposition 168: Top woman in this ‘family’ – the pimp’s favorite, who brings in the most money — is called his ‘wife.’ The rest are known as ‘wife-in-laws.’.

In phrases

bit off the top, be a (v.)

to be mad, highly eccentric.

[UK]Manchester Courier 1 Feb. 6/7: To be ‘barmy (on the crumpet)’ or ‘a bit off the top’ are the most generally known phrases [for eccentricity]; ‘not to have all one’s chairs at home’ is [...] often heard in Lancashire.
on top

1. discovered, unmasked, found out; usu. as come on top.

[UK]G.F. Newman Sir, You Bastard 7: His earner had come on top.
[UK]G.F. Newman A Prisoner’s Tale 16: He would have taken his nicking had he really been involved in the blag and it had come on top.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Layer Cake 114: If it comes on top they’ll be screamin that they’re political prisoners and all that shite.
[UK]B. Hare Urban Grimshaw viii: On top: The Babylon or its agents are upon us. [Ibid.] ‘Sparky! [...] It’s on top! Let’s nash.’.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 230: They [...] had some nice little touches before it all came on top for them.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 54: Didn’t wanna go to Jamaica cos it’s on top at the airport.

2. used of a situation that has escalated beyond control.

theculturetrip.com ‘Guide to London Slang 10 Jan. [Internet] On top – when a situation goes absolutely crazy.