Green’s Dictionary of Slang

boys, the n.

1. (also boyz) one’s (male) social circle; one’s companions or ‘gang’.

[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 236: Go not yet, for now’s the time, / The ‘boys’ are all bang-up and prime.
[UK]Phoenix (Sacramento) 22 Nov. 2/2: I saw all the ‘boys’, and distributed to them the papers and ‘you bet’, they were in great demand [DA].
[US]M. Thompson Hoosier Mosaics 221: ‘By the way, who was that singing just now over in the saloon there?’ ‘Don’t know, didn’t hear ’em. Some of the boys, I s’pose.’.
[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 103: He had a big game one evening, and had downed quite a number of the boys, but he did it on the square.
[UK]Bird o’ Freedom 1 Jan. 2/3: She alludes to the male members of the company as ‘the boys’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Jones’s Alley’ in Roderick (1972) 42: He had a great aversion to running in ‘the boys’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 6 Aug. 4/8: He was no puking Holy Joe / [...] / He was, in fact, one of the boys / Who loved life.
[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 21: Many of the boys are getting the rough stuff at home today on account of New Year’s pledges.
[Ire]Joyce ‘Counterparts’ Dubliners (1956) 88: He knew where he would meet the boys: Leonard and O’Halloran and Nosey Flynn.
[UK]‘Sapper’ Bulldog Drummond 69: Wouldn’t it be better, Hugh, to whip up two or three of the boys and have a real scrap.
[UK]V. Davis Gentlemen of the Broad Arrows 37: I reckon two hundred of the boys are game to take a chance.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 264: The boys will be here any minute.
[US]N. Cassady letter in Charters (1993) 199: She was [...] making quite a stir among the boys.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 195: If I had a couple a bucks I could see somea the boys tanight and maybe we’d pick somethin up.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 3: I was kicking him on the ground when his boys arrived on bikes.
[US]T. Wolfe Bonfire of the Vanities 336: Well, I mean I’d heard about Angie and The Boys, but I didn’t believe it.
[US]Eble Campus Sl. Nov. 1: boyz – group of close male friends.
[US]T. Udo Vatican Bloodbath 25: It’s yer mammy, Billy, she’s giein line ups for aw’ the Bhoys at ten pee a shot.

2. (orig. US) a criminal or violent gang, esp. the hangers-on of a corrupt politician.

[Aus]P. Cunningham New South Wales II 202: The buoyant spirits of ‘the boys’ were knocked under for a time by these mishaps.
[UK]Lytton Paul Clifford I 220: Whatever the noise as is made by the boys / At the bar as they lush away, / The devil a noise my peace alloys / As long as the rascals pay!
[US]W.H. Thomes Bushrangers 135: [of bushrangers] ‘You can’t go there now [...] It’s thirty miles from here, and the boys is all along the road [...] and it’s rough treatment they’d give you.’.
[US]Tunkhannock Republican (PA) 6 May 3/4: ‘Little Africa’ was shaken to its very centre [...] on the occasion of a grand dance at the house of Chauncey Wright. The ‘boys’ did not behave very well.
[US]Cincinnati Enquirer 13 June 4/2: There are intimations by cable that Arabi Pasha has been practicing what would be called among the ‘boys’ in America ‘monkey business’; that he has been pretending to be thrashed when he wasn’t [...].
[UK]A. Binstead Houndsditch Day by Day 16: Dick Diggins was ‘one of the boys’ and feared nothing in the world.
[US]‘Old Sleuth’ Dock Rats of N.Y. (2006) 17: How was it the boys chanced to ‘drop’ to him?
[Aus]‘Banjo’ Paterson ‘The Downfall of Mulligan’s’ in Three Elephant Power 61: The boys listened with a bored air and reckoned that [...] the priest would have learnt that they were well able to look after themselves.
[UK]S. Scott Human Side of Crook and Convict Life 16: The Australian ‘boys’ had to get rid of him because he talked too much when drunk.
[UK]‘Leslie Charteris’ Enter the Saint 11: He was leader of a particularly tough race-course gang, generally known as ‘The Snake’s Boys’.
[US]H. Wilson ‘I Was King of the Safecrackers’ in Hamilton Men of the Und. 136: I explained it to the boys.
[US]H. McCoy Corruption City 18: Nemo was here by three with a couple of the boys.
[US]M. Spillane Return of the Hood 83: I heard noises like that from the boys. Moe tried to tell me and so did Carl Hoover.
[US]Cab Calloway Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 98: Texas went on a road tour and the ‘boys’ never allowed her to return.
[UK]T. Blacker Fixx 84: The vulgar lout who had criticised his colour co-ordination needed a new face after the boys had finished with him.

3. (US) the police.

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 29 May 5/2: Mr. A. D. Douglas [...] is an inspector of native police[...] He [is] adored by ‘ the boys’ — as the native troopers, who are mostly Wide Bay blacks, are known.
[US]J. Flynt World of Graft 62: The spotter must have sized me up to be ‘one of the boys’. [...] It is my misfortune to be sometimes taken by the Upper World for a detective.
[US]D. Hammett ‘The Tenth Clew’ in Continental Op (1975) 13: I’ll have a couple of the boys out calling on all the typewriter shops [...] to see if they can get a line on this one.
[US]R. Whitfield Green Ice (1988) 17: That was the trouble – the boys would get five – when they needed four.
[US]R. Chandler High Window 155: If I went down to headquarters and told the boys everything you have told me, they would laugh in my face. And I would be laughing with them.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 94: Due to a newspaper story in the Examiner the boys have got Rudy down at headquarters sweating him over Leon’s disappearance.
[US]C. Himes Blind Man with a Pistol (1971) 112: Did the boys downtown make him?
[UK]‘Derek Raymond’ He Died with His Eyes Open 32: One word from me to the boys over at Lewisham and bang goes your license.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 98: It takes a lot of pictures to pay off attorneys and grease the boys downtown.

4. criminals in general, esp. the thieves and swindlers who frequented race-courses or dog-tracks.

[UK]A. Binstead Pitcher in Paradise 172: It enjoys a doubtful sort of immortality as one of the very hottest stamping grounds of ‘the boys’ [...] many of whom ‘worked’ the meeting.
[UK]J. Curtis Gilt Kid 277: They were just the sort of people who got the boys a bad name and started people chucking off hot air about the ‘lower criminal classes’.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 14: It caused him no concern to be seen in an hostelry favoured by the ‘boys’.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 17: Up there [i.e. prison] I meet a lot of the boys.

5. the employees or hangers-on of a particular world, e.g. advertising or boxing.

[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 83: There are favoured spots within the Republic at which being known by the Boys behind the Desk is the very Essence of Fame.
[US]J. Lait Put on the Spot 43: The boys had called their city editors.
[US]B. Schulberg Harder They Fall (1971) 85: If you want to see how the boys handle this one, stick around until everybody has left the joint.
[US]J. Scarne Complete Guide to Gambling 674: The Boys – inveterate gamblers.
[US]C. Hiaasen Stormy Weather 213: Greedy cocksucking hypocrites, and you may quote me to the boys in New York.

6. (Irish) Republican revolutionaries, esp. when fleeing capture.

[Ire]L. O’Flaherty Informer (1958) 153: Not that I didn’t do me bit to help the boys, God bless 'em, but ’tisn’t the boys that done the fightin’ that get the jobs .
[Ire]J. Ryan Remembering How We Stood 136: The old days when the Black and Tan war was at its fiercest, some of the ‘boys’ on the run were given refuge in the house of a Mrs Clougherty .
[Ire]L. Redmond Emerald Square n.p.: [...] ‘’an’ the Boys must think we live on fresh air.’ The ‘boys’ referred to were the Shinners.

7. as the –– boys, individuals conforming to a specific job description, e.g. the software boys, the public relations boys.

[US]R. Chandler ‘Blackmailers Don’t Shoot’ in Red Wind (1946) 107: You know how the law boys love my sort.
[UK]V. Davis Phenomena in Crime 62: The press ‘boys’ came along at the double.
[US]R. Chandler Little Sister 180: They’ll [...] line them up for the camera boys after they pull the raid.
[US]R. Chandler Long Good-Bye 227: As Ohls and I went in Sheriff Petersen was standing behind his desk and the camera boys were filing out by another door.
[US]R. Chandler Playback 107: If you had taken an overdose, the homicide boys would be told.
[US]C. Cooper Jr Syndicate (1998) 58: I had to be on my tippy-toes, now that the state boys were after me.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 25: Pressure from [...] the income tax boys.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 92: You think they can’t put the junk boys out of business?
[UK]C. Newland Scholar 3: Your pub’ll get a visit from the Vice boys.
[US]G. Pelecanos Shame the Devil 132: Hey, the federal boys were surveiling it for months.

8. (UK/W.I.) the immigrant West Indian community.

[UK]S. Selvon Lonely Londoners 8: This was a time, when any corner you turn, is ten to one you bound to bounce up a spade. In fact, the boys all over London.
[UK]C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners 15: Suzette [...] enjoys the life, and naturally is very popular among the boys.

9. the US Mafia.

[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 19: The boys suddenly fell in love with petroleum and are funneling great sums into Texas.
[US]G.V. Higgins Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) 74: It’s a goddamned front for the boys. They all get reportable income from Arliss and none of them work there.

10. (US campus) the male homosexual community.

[US]‘Lou Rand’ Gay Detective (2003) 39: A raid on an after-hours drinking joint that caters almost exclusively to the boys.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS 87: Boys, one of the An effeminate male.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 36: the boys a homosexual group; the subculture of the male homosexual.