Green’s Dictionary of Slang

screw n.1

1. in sexual contexts [screw v. (2a)].

(a) [18C–early 19C] a prostitute.

(b) [mid-19C+] an act of sexual intercourse; also in fig. use.

(c) [mid-19C+] one’s partner in intercourse, esp. as a good screw or bad screw; usu. applied to a woman.

(d) [1960s] (US) a synon. for fuck, the phr.

(e) [1960s] a dismissive and pej. ref. to a woman, relegating her to the status of a pure sex object.

2. with ref. to a key or lock.

(a) [late 18C+] (UK Und., also skeleton screw) a (skeleton) key.

(b) [early 19C] a robbery achieved with a skeleton key.

(c) [late 18C+] (also bull-screw) a turnkey; a prison warder.

(d) [1980s+] (US) a police officer.

3. in terms meaning hard tasks or taskmasters.

(a) [19C] (US campus) a particularly demanding instructor.

(b) [19C; 1970s] (US campus) the essays and examinations they set.

(c) [early 19C–1930s] a miser [? they screw down their money or screw it out of creditors].

(d) [1900s] (Aus.) a station overseer.

4. [early 19C] (US) a pressurised or stressful situation; note put the screw(s) on

5. [mid-19C–1910s] an old and/or broken-down horse[? racing jargon screw, to force a horse to the front; thus a horse can be made to gain a better than expected place; note late 19C local New Orleans screw, a fool].

6. [mid-19C-1900s] a horse, with no pej. sense.

7. in senses of SE screw out of, i.e. one’s employer.

(a) [mid-19C+] wages, salary; also attrib. see cite 1890.

(b) [1900s] pocket money.

(c) [1960s–70s] a swindle.

8. [late 19C] a pick-me-up, a tonic [it ‘pulls one together’].

9. [1900s] (Aus.) an unpleasant old woman.

10. [1900s–40s] (orig. Aus.) a look, a stare, a gaze, esp. a challenging one.

Pertaining to sex

In compounds

screwdriver (n.)

see separate entry.

In phrases

dry screw (n.)

see separate entry.

still-screw (n.)

[1920s] (US black) an upright act of sexual intercourse while slow-dancing.

three screws (n.) [brandname, Three Screws + pun on sense 1b above]

[1920s+] (Can.) an aluminium container holding three condoms.

throw someone a screw (v.)

[1940s] to have sexual intercourse with.

Pertaining to a key or lock

In derivatives

screwess (n.)

[1950s+] (Aus./UK prison) a female prison officer.

In compounds

screwdriver (n.)

see separate entry.

screwman (n.)

[1930s–50s] a thief, a burglar.

screwsman (n.)

1. [19C+] a skilled house-breaker.

2. [mid-19C] (UK prison) a warder, a turnkey.

In phrases

big screw (n.)

[1920s–30s] (US prison) the Deputy Warden.

fake a screw (v.) [fake v.1 (3)]

[19C] to make a skeleton key.

screw on wheels (n.)

[1980s+] (Aus. prison) a parole officer.

superscrew (n.)

[1980s+] (Aus. prison) an over-officious warder.

under the screw

[19C] in prison.

Other senses

In phrases

have a screw at (v.) (also give a screw at, take a screw at)

1. [20C+] (orig. Aus.) to stare at in an aggressive manner.

2. [1910s–70s] to stare, to survey.

royal screw (n.) [royal adj. (1) + screwing n. (2a) ]

[1950s–60s] (US) an act of extreme harshness or unfairness, as meted out on oneself or to another person.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

screws, the (n.) [SE screw; the pains it causes]

[mid-19C+] rheumatism, sciatica, fibrositis.

In phrases

a screw loose

1. [late 18C–1920s] a phr. used to suggest that something has gone wrong, or is missing or forgotten in a situation or arrangement; usu. as there’s a screw loose somewhere.

2. [early 19C] a phr. used of one who feels unwell.

3. [early 19C–1920s] a phr. used to suggest that something is wrong with a person, their reputation or behaviour.

4. [early 19C+] (also a wheel loose, a wire loose, screws loose) a phr. used to describe someone who is considered eccentric, insane or retarded; often as have a screw loose.

5. [mid-19C] a phr. said of people who are on bad terms.

6. attrib. use of sense 3.

drop a screw (v.)

[1910s] to be insane.

lose a screw (v.)

[1960s] to be insane.

put a screw into (v.)

[1910s] (Aus.) to hit.

put on the screw (v.) [SE screw, that which tightens]

[mid–late 19C] to set a limit on credit; either institutional or individual.

put the screw(s) on (v.) (also get one’s screws into, put on the screw(s), put the screws to, put the screw(s) upon, put the scissors on) [SE thumbscrews; note sense 4]

[early 19C+] to pressurize.

under the screws [SE thumbscrews]

[early 19C] under pressure.