Green’s Dictionary of Slang

dance v.

1. to have sexual intercourse, used in a variety of phrs., see below; thus dancing, sexual intercourse.

[UK]Dekker & Webster Westward Hoe II i: Were I the proprest, sweetest, plumpest, Cherry-cheekt, Corrall-lipt woman in a kingdome, I would not daunce after one mans pipe.
[UK]Rowley, Dekker & Ford Witch of Edmonton I ii: Let the Bride and Bridegroom dance at night together: no matter for the Guests.
[UK]T. Randolph Hey for Honesty III iii: The wenches I’ll tumble and merrily jumble, Together we’ll dance a clatter-de-pouch.
[UK]Wandring Whore I 3: The several Pictures of Dancing, Backwards, Forwards, and every way discovered and introduced amongst us with more Freedom.
[UK]Coffee-House Jests 229: [They] begin with Mall Stanhopes Delight, and then Go to Bed in the dark, and at last Under and Over; and so danced them ... one after another.
[UK] ‘Billy & his Mistress’ in Ebsworth Bagford Ballads (1878) II 505: We’ll call for a Room, and we’ll dance on the floor.
[UK]Tongue Combatants 17: What tho in Dancing I had Skill / ASnd well could Touch the Lute, / Those things converted are to ill / And made of Disrepute.
[UK]J. Crowne Married Beau II i: I am stung with a wanton Tarantula, and shall never be cur’d till I hear my Wedding Fiddle: and have danc’d a Jig with a Husband i’Bed.
[UK]London-Bawd (1705) Ch. v: He danc’d the Corranto’s two or three times; and might have done it oftner if he wou’d.
[UK]N. Ward Adam and Eve 7: [She is] the greatest Enemy to Dancing, because the Head of her Prophet was made the Reward of a jig; yet she dearly loves to follow the first false Step that was taken in the beginning.
[UK]Robertson of Struan ‘A Song’ Poems (1752) 275: You may thrum on the Fiddle, as she can well dance / And like two merry Beggars may feast.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 121: He [...] ready stands, if you’ll go soon, / To dance a jigg, or rigadoon.
[UK]Merry Song Called Love in a Barn 4: Thou can’st dance in bed, my dear, / and that’s the prettiest sport.
[UK]Crim.-Con. Gaz. 30 Mar. 103/2: Questions and Answers. Q. Whether tis more dangerous for ladies to dance on ropes or on the ground? A. On the ground, because that sport has been the occasion of many a shrewd fall to the ladies.

2. to be hanged, used in a variety of phrs., see below.

[UK]Dekker Honest Whore Pt 1 V ii : Thou wilt daunce in a halter, and I shal not see thee.
[UK]Middleton Widdow of Watling-streete I iv: I fear I shall dance after their pipe for’t.
[UK]T. Randolph Hey for Honesty IV i: This is a rascal deserves to ride up Holborn, And take a pilgrimage to the triple tree, To dance in hemp Derrick’s coranto: Let’s choke him with Welsh parsley.
[UK]Motteux (trans.) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1927) II Bk V 493: Oh! they will cost me an estate in hempen collars [...] they will take the pains to dance at a rope’s end.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 142: If it is any of our Fortune to be made swing in a Rope, and dance the Hempen Dance, we think him happy to be so freed from Care and Trouble.
[Ire] ‘De Kilmainham Minit’ Luke Caffrey’s Gost 7: When I dance tw’xt de Ert and de Skies / De Clargy may bleat for de Strugler.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Dec. VII 163/2: And if I’m at last led a dance with a noose, / With such dancing I never shall wear out my shoes.
[UK]J. Bell Jr. (ed.) Rhymes of Northern Bards 242: John Thompson [...] will find it is true, / That thieving is worse than the sword; / In the space of an hour, / He’ll dance on the moor, / Attach’d to a rope, or a cord.
[US]G. Thompson Jack Harold 57: Just as I was prepared to dance the hempen hornpipe, up comes a chap and hands a slip of paper to the sheriff.
[UK]W. Pratt Ten Nights in a Bar-Room IV ii: You’ve got to dance a dance without any music pooty soon, and if I don’t have a crowd to see you double-shuffle off your mortal coil I ain’t no judge of Italian fandancy, I can tell you!
[UK]C. Whibley ‘Sixteen-String Jack’ A Book of Scoundrels 125: The very year in which Jack danced his last jig at Tyburn.
[US]Hostetter & Beesley It’s a Racket! 223: dance—To die by hanging.
[US]J. Tully Shadows of Men 110: If one of us should be shuffled off to the gallows to dance with broken arches before Thy throne, it would not be amid such beauty.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 56/1: Dance. [...] 2. To be executed by hanging.

3. (also dance the stairs) to steal from first or higher floors, usu. in the daytime when residents are downstairs and not in bed.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 24: dancing Sneaking up stairs to commit a larceny.
[US](con. 1910s) D. Mackenzie Hell’s Kitchen 84: Many a job was planned in Millie’s flat [...] Many a ‘dance job,’ that is a daylight marauding, was framed. [Ibid.] 122: ‘Dancing’ is practised more often than any other method. It consists in getting in and out of a house in daylight in a very little while.
[UK]S. Jackson Indiscreet Guide to Soho 121: Those who ‘dance the stairs’ (rifle flats in double-quick time while their owners are out).
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 180: Dancing Stealing from offices above ground level where one must use stairways. Stairs – Fred Astaire – dancing.

Pertaining to sexual intercourse

In phrases

dance Barnaby (v.) [17C phr. dance barnaby, to enjoy oneself; ult. presumably a lost country dance]
[UK]Etherege Comical Revenge V ii: Send for a Parson, and we will dance Barnaby within this half hour.
[UK]T. Duffet Psyche Debauch’d I 455: Con yo Whistle and Dance Barnaby?
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Barnaby to dance Barnaby, to move quick and irregularly. See Cotton, in his Virgil Travesti; where, speaking of Eolus he has these lines, Bounce cries the Port holes, out they fly, / And make the World Dance Barnaby.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn) n.p.: Barnaby. An old dance to a quick movement. See Cotton, in his Virgil Travesti; where, speaking of Eolus he has these lines, Bounce cry the port-holes, out they fly, / And make the world dance Barnaby.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
dance Sallinger’s round (v.) (also dance Sallenger’s round, ...Sellenger’s round, ...Sellinger’s round, ...St. Lager’s round) [Sallenger, St Leger. ‘St Leger’s Round’ was a popular ballad c.1600, according to Nares, Glossary (1822), ‘of an indelicate character’]

to have sexual intercourse; also as a n.; in cit. 1672–94 the context is ambivalent: the phr. may only apply to an actual dance.

[UK]‘Junius Florilegus’ Odious, Despicable, and Dreadfull condition of a Drunkard 6: [This] makes them like Rats baned Rats, drunk and vent, vent and drinke; Sellingers round and the same againe.
[UK]T. Randolph Hey for Honesty I i: I dare swear this scurvy Tom Piper of Delphos did not play him so much as one fit of mirth, not a jig or Sellinger’s round. [Ibid.] III iii: I’ll kiss if I can our dairymaid Nan, / Together we’ll billing be found: / Let every slouch dance clatter-de-pouch, / Together we’ll dance a Sellenger’s round.
[UK] ‘The Northern Lasse’s Lamentation’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1893) VII:1 169: They never can be half so merry as we, / When we are a dancing of Sallinger’s round.
[UK]J. Oldham ‘Third Satire against the Jesuits’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1891) VII:2 307: ’Twas found a good and gainful art of old / (And much it did our Church’s pow’r uphold) / To feign Hobgoblins, Elves, or alking Sprites, / And Fairies, dancing Sallenger o’ nights.
[UK]Mundus Muliebris Preface: They danc’d the [...] Spanish Pavan, and Selengers Round upon Sippets.
[UK]N. Ward London Spy II 30: ’Twill make a Parson Dance Sallingers-round.
[UK]W. King York Spy 30: Nothing but Sallenger’s Round was reciprocally Danc’d, till both were rather tir’d, than satisfied.
[UK]Laugh and Be Fat 11: The lady was as good as her Word, and nothing but Sallenger’s Round was reciprocally danc’d, till both parties were rather tir’d.
[UK]The May-Pole‘’ in Rummy Cove’s Delight in Spedding & Watt (eds) Bawdy Songbooks (2011) III 113: Begin, says Harry, — I, I, says Mary, / We’ll lead the Paddington Pound. / Do, says Jess, — O no, says Bess, / We’ll have St Ledger’s round.
[US]E. Field ‘A French Crisis’ in Facetiae Americana 19: She’d nest-hide, dance ‘St. Lager’s Round,’ and do it with her tail.
dance the cushion dance (v.)
[UK]J. Taylor ‘A Bawd’ in Works (1869) II 96: There are many pretty prouocatory dances, as the kising dance, the cushin dance, the shaking of the sheets, and such like.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Farmer Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 233: Rempeller. To copulate; ‘to dance the cushion dance’.
dance the kipples (v.) [Scot. kipple, couple]
[UK] ‘I Rede You Beware o’ the Ripples’ in Farmer Merry Songs and Ballads (1897) I 253: Gif you wad be strang, and wish to live lang, / Dance less wi’ your arse to the kipples, young man.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
dance the miller’s reel (v.)
[UK]Burns ‘Mill, Mill, O’ in Works (1846) 128: The mill, the mill O [...] And the coggin o’ Peggy’s wheel O / Tha’ sack and the sieve, and a’ she did leave / And danc’d the miller’s reel, O.
dance the reel(s) of bogie (v.) [? ref. to river Bogie, Aberdeenshire]
[UK] ‘The Cald Kail of Aberdeene’ in Scottish Ballads (1859) 20: The lasses about Bogingicht, Their leems they are baith cleen and right, / And if they are but gird’d tight, / They’ll dance the reell of Bogie .
[UK]Sporting Mag. June XVIII 135/2: He would that evening have attempted the reels of Bogie with ‘a lovely Cyprian,’ of his acquaintance.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Farmer Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 207: Pécher. To copulate; ‘to dance the reels o’ Bogie’.
dance the shaking of the sheets (without music) (v.) (also dance to the tune of the shaking of the sheets) [SE shaking of the sheets, ‘an old country dance, often alluded to, but seldom without an indecent intimation’ (Nares, Glossary, 1822)]

to have sexual intercourse; also as a n.

[UK]Misogonus in Farmer (1906) II iv: cac.: The vicar of St. Fools, I am sure, he would brave: To that daunce of all other I see he is bent. sir john: Faith, no! I had rather have Shaking o’ th’ sheets [...] or Catching of quails.
[UK]Lyly Pappe with an Hatchet E: O tis his best daunce next shaking of the sheetes.
[UK]Dekker Shoemakers’ Holiday V v: I danc’d the shaking of the sheetes with her six and thirtie yeares ago.
[UK]J. Cooke How A Man May Choose A Good Wife From A Bad Act II: Now come lets dance the shaking of the sheets.
[UK]J. Shirley School of Complement III i: I thought of nothing but dancing the shaking of the sheets with my sweet-heart.
[UK]Massinger City-Madam II i: The shaking of the sheets, which I have danc’d Again, and again with my Cockatrice.
[UK]E. Gayton Pleasant Notes III vii 25: He knew not what a dance the Don would lead him, before he return’d to the shaking of the sheets, with his Joan Gutierez.
[UK]Mercurius Democritus 3-10 Aug. 91: Poor Tom is hopeless of enjoying the pleasure of sheet-shaking.
[UK] ‘West-Country Jigg’ in Ebsworth Roxburghe Ballads (1891) VII:2 344: The piper he struck up, and merrily he did play, / The shakeing of the sheets, and eke the Irish hay.
[UK]N. Ward London Spy XV 356: Some Labouring Drudge with Twenty pounds he meets, / Who longs to dance the Shaking of the Sheets.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Farmer Vocabula Amatoria (1966) 89: Danser. To copulate; ‘to dance to the time of the shaking of the sheets’.
[US]E. Field ‘A French Crisis’ in Facetiae Americana 19: She’d dance the ‘Shaking of the Sheets,’ fa-doodle, wap and shag.

Pertaining to judicial hanging

In phrases

dance a last measure (v.)

to be hanged.

Dobson’s Dry Bobs n.p.: If his uncle had not stood his very good friend, he had bid his kinsefolkes al adew with his heeles, and daunced his last measures upon the gallowes.
dance in/on a rope (v.) (also )

to have sexual intercourse; thus dancing of the ropes, an act of sexual intercourse; rope-dancer n., a person who engages in such an act.

[UK]Massinger City-Madam III i: You would have me foot it To the Dancing of the Ropes, sit a whole afternoon there.
[UK]‘Du Parc’ (trans.) Comical Hist. of Francion n.p.: If any of them chanc’d to be made dance ith’ rope, they thought him happy to be so freed of the care and trouble attends the miserable indigent [N].
[UK]Foote Bankrupt III i: Writers in Journals, like rope-dancers, to engage the public attention, must venture their necks every step they take.
[UK]J. Lindridge Sixteen-String Jack 312: My mind won’t be easy [...] till I see him dancing upon the invisible tight-rope at Tyburn.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 65: dance on a rope To be hanged.
dance old boss’s jig (v.)

(UK und.) to be hanged.

[US]Cairo Bull. (Cairo, IL) 5 Nov. 2/3: [from The Graphic, London] I’ve been inclined to make a change / Since Jerry hopped the twig, / And sang his dismal ditty, boys, / And danced old boss’s jig.
dance off (v.) (US)
[US]R. Chandler Big Sleep 92: Even if you don’t dance off up in Quentin, you have such a bleak long lonely time ahead of you.
dance on/in (the) air (v.) (also dance on)

to hang; also as n. dance in the air.

[Ire]Kilmainham Minit in Walsh Ireland Sixty Years Ago (1885) 88: De Clargy stept down from his Side, / And de Dust-cart from under him floated, / And left him to Dance on de Air.
[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford I 116: I shall drink no more, for my eyes already begin to dance in the air; and if I listen longer to your resistless eloquence, my feet may share the same fate!
[UK]G.W.M. Reynolds (trans.) V. Hugo Last Day of Condemned 39: He swore he’d make me dance on air, / To please the folks at Tuck-up fair.
[US]Dly Globe (St Paul, MN) 2 Feb. 1/5: Dancing On Air. A Quiet hanging Affair at St Louis [...] A.T. Lawrence [...] was hung in the jail-yard.
[Aus]K. Mackay Out Back 191: Let there be no bungle. A mistake now may mean a dance in the air for all of us.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Oct. 12/4: There died recently in Maoriland a man who, 49 long years ago, was ordered by a Judge to dance on the air or to climb a tree by his neck.
[US]J.M. Cain Postman Always Rings Twice (1985) 173: It don’t cost me a thing to make you dance on air. And that’s what you’re going to do. Dance, dance, dance.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 119: Guy Browne had left the penal station with the vowed intention of ‘dancing on’ [...] rather than return to it.
dance on nothing (v.) (also dance on nothing in a hempen cravat, ...to the tune of a tolling bell) [the sheriff has jurisdiction over the hanging, thus the sheriff’s door is that of a prison, outside which the hanging took place; hempen cravat under hempen adj.]

to hang; also as n., a judicial hanging.

Gentleman’s Mthly Intelligencer Aug. 409/1: Another swore roundly, that I had turned well to windward, and left death and the devil to leeward; and a third more vociferously exclaimed, I was born to dance upon nothing.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Oct. IX 48/1: It will be lucky for these galloping heroes, if they escape a gallop or dance upon nothing, before the Debtor’s door of Newgate.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: An old fancy chaunt ends every verse thus:– ‘For we are the boys of the Holy Ground / And we’ll dance upon nothing and turn us round.’.
[UK]Dickens Oliver Twist (1966) 350: Serve me so again, and us two’ll dance upon nothing in less than six weeks arterwards.
[UK]T. Hood ‘Miss Kilmansegg & Her Precious Leg’ Poems (1846) I 177: The felon condemned to die [...] elopes / To caper on sunny greens and slopes / Instead of the dance upon nothing.
[[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 3 July 3/3: If he was John Ketch, he hoped he would have the pleasure of [...] giving him the opportunity of dancing upon nothing.
[UK]London Dly News 2 Dec. 2/2: Another synonym for being hanged is dancing on a nothing in a hempen cravat.
[US]C.H. Smith Bill Arp 158: Any man found guilty of treason ought to be talked to by a preacher right under a gallows, and then be allowed to stand on nothing for a few hours.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 378: You shall dance now, Tomkins. You’ll dance upon nothing one day, Tomkins!
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 June 22/1: But with the terrible scene our correspondent has witnessed apparently breaking in upon him when he wrote he exclaims, ‘If I have to dance on nothing some day, surely I can claim that the last person I shall see have the face of a man, or at least the nose of a man!’.
[UK]Burnley Exp. 8 Aug. 4/8: Other phrases now almost [...] obsolete were ‘to dance upon nothing’ [...] to walk up Ladder-lane and down Hemp-street’.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 14 Apr. 5/3: He loved to see men dangle, / And he liked to see them strangle, / KIck their heels upon nothing while suspended from a beam.
[UK]Marvel III:58 17: They’ll never rest till they find out what became of him and his murderer is dancing on nothin’ to the tune of a tolling bell.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 29/1: Dance on nothing, lynching.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 139/2: dance on nothing To be hanged. Obs.
dance the Newgate hornpipe (v.) [Newgate, the site of London’s major prison and public executions]
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 788/2: ca. 1825–80.
dance the Tyburn hornpipe on nothing (v.) [the role of Tyburn as an execution ground]
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 1282/2: late C.18-mid-19.
dance the Tyburn jig (v.) (also do the Tyburn jig) [Tyburn, the site of London’s main 18C gallows, was in the then village of Paddington, near the modern Marble Arch]
[UK]Vanbrugh Relapse Epilogue: Did ever one yet dance the Tyburn Jigg, With a free Air, or a well powder’d Wigg?
[UK]Farquhar Love and Bottle II ii: Which is best, Mr. Nimblewrist, an easie Minuet, or a Tyburn Jig?
dance upon nothing (v.) (also dance on nothing in a hempen cravat, ...to the tune of a tolling bell, stand on nothing) [the sheriff has jurisdiction over the hanging, thus the sheriff’s door is that of a prison, outside which the hanging took place; hempen cravat under hempen adj.]

to hang; also as n., a judicial hanging.

[UK]Sporting Mag. Oct. IX 48/1: It will be lucky for these galloping heroes, if they escape a gallop or dance upon nothing, before the Debtor’s door of Newgate.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Sept. XX 323/2: Do these vain people never think of the poor creatures that dance upon nothing?
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: An old fancy chaunt ends every verse thus:– ‘For we are the boys of the Holy Ground / And we’ll dance upon nothing and turn us round.’.
[US]S. Smith Major Downing (1834) 174: Shooting is too good for him. He must dance upon nothing with a rope round his neck.
[UK]T. Hood ‘Miss Kilmansegg & Her Precious Leg’ Poems I (1846) n.p.: The felon condemned to die [...] elopes / To a caper on sunny greens and slopes Instead of the dance upon nothing.
[UK]Daily News 2 Dec. n.p.: Another synonym for being hanged is dancing on a nothing in a hempen cravat [F&H].
[US]C.H. Smith Bill Arp 158: Any man found guilty of treason ought to be talked to by a preacher right under a gallows, and then be allowed to stand on nothing for a few hours.
[UK]H. Mayhew London Characters 347: Nor is the phrase ‘to die dancing on nothing’ a very commiserate figure of speech.
[Aus]M. Clarke Term of His Natural Life (1897) 378: You shall dance now, Tomkins. You’ll dance upon nothing one day, Tomkins!
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 13 June 22/1: But with the terrible scene our correspondent has witnessed apparently breaking in upon him when he wrote he exclaims, ‘If I have to dance on nothing some day, surely I can claim that the last person I shall see have the face of a man, or at least the nose of a man!’.
[UK]Marvel III:58 17: They’ll never rest till they find out what became of him and his murderer is dancing on nothin’ to the tune of a tolling bell.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 29/1: Dance on nothing, lynching.
[US]Wentworth & Flexner DAS 139/2: dance on nothing To be hanged. Obs.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

dance a haka (v.) [Maori haka, a posture dance, accompanied by chants; a war-dance]

(N.Z.) to express one’s pleasure.

[Aus]Baker N.Z. Sl.
[NZ]P.L. Soljak N.Z. 116: New Zealand colloquialisms which are of Maori origin include: [...] dance a haka: to celebrate.
[NZ]B.J. Cameron Collection (TS July) n.p.: haka do a haka (v) To express glee [DNZE].
dance a lunching-drum (v.)

(Aus. und.) for a sneak-thief to rob hotel rooms.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 27 Apr. 6/4: it is quite common for a well-dressed thief to take apartments in an hotel and ‘barber’ all the inmates; in other words, to get up in the night, visit all the rooms, and steal as much as possible. This, in technical language, is called ‘Dancing a lunching-drum’ .
dance in the hog trough (v.) (also dance in the pig trough) [? to have no suitors and have, therefore, to dance with the swine] (US)

of an older sister, to be left unmarried when a younger sister has already found a husband.

[US]J.F. Brobst letter in Brobst Well Mary, Civil War Letters 98: I must write to my sister today. She has got married and is laughing at me because I have to dance in the pig trough.
[US]F. Warnick Dialect of Garrett County, Maryland 6: Dance in the hog trough, v.phr., when a younger sister or brother married before an older one, the latter was said to have to ‘dance in the hog trough’ [DA].
dance in the sandbox (v.) [var. on SE throw sand in one’s eyes]

(US black) to scheme, to deceive.

[US]C. Major Juba to Jive.
dance on someone’s lips (v.) (also dance on someone, ...someone’s face)(US black)

1. to hit in the face.

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 105: A number of terms for fighting warn the opponent [...] just where he can expect a fist or knuckle to fall – go upside one’s head, get in one’s eye, dance on one’s lips.
[US]E. Bunker Mr Blue 48: They danced on me a little. It’s no big deal.

2. to kick in the face.

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 234: dance on (one’s) lips [...] 2. Kick in the face.
dance someone around (v.) (US)

1. to deceive, to ‘mess around’.

[US]G.V. Higgins Cogan’s Trade (1975) 59: I got absolutely no reason, think the guy’s dancing me around.

2. to harass, to pressurize.

[US]C. Stroud Close Pursuit (1988) 92: I thought you were thirsty. Now you want to dance some niggers around?
dance the stairs (v.)

see sense 3 above.