Green’s Dictionary of Slang

air n.

[mid-19C–1980s] (US) nonsense, rubbish, empty chatter.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

air bags (n.)

1. [1940s+] (US black/Harlem) the lungs.

2. [2000s] the female breasts.

airball (n.) [SE ball/-ball sfx]

[1980s+] (US) an idiot, a fool, someone who has nothing but air, and no brains, in their head.

air biscuit (n.)

see separate entry.

air blast (n.)

[2000s+] (drugs) an inhalant.

air-brain (n.)

[1980s] (US, orig. teen) an idiot, a fool, someone who has nothing but air instead of brains.

air-condition (v.)

see separate entry.

air dance (n.)

[1920s+] (US prison) a hanging.

air express (n.)

[1980s] (US gay) sexual intercourse with an airline steward.

air guitar (n.)

[1980s+] the non-existent (or at best cardboard cut-out) ‘guitar’ that is ‘played’ by fans of heavy metal rock bands; occas. ext. to other ‘instruments’.


see separate entries.

air hook (n.) [the shape]

[1950s] (US) the nose .

airlock (v.)

see separate entry.

air loft (n.)

see separate entry.

airmail (n.) [pun]

1. [1950s+] (UK/US) garbage (and, in prison, human waste) that is thrown out of windows, esp. in tenements and prison, instead of being taken to dustbins, loaded into disposal chutes etc; thus airmailer n., the person responsible.

2. [2000s] (US) a stone or similar heavy weight dropped from a freeway overpass, building roof etc.


see separate entries.

air pudding (n.) (also wind pudding)

[mid-19C–1920s] (US) nothing, esp. nothing to eat.

air raid

see separate entries.


see separate entries.

In phrases

ain’t holding no air

[1970s+] (US black) unimpressive, lacking credibility, lacking the basic knowledge required to take care of oneself within the ghetto.

air pie (and a walk around) (n.)

[late 19C–1930s] a clerk’s lunch, i.e. no food.

blow air (v.)

[1950s] to waste time.

breathe someone’s air (v.)

[1990s+] (US prison) to get on someone’s nerves, to invade someone’s privacy.

catch air (v.) [catch v.1 (2b)]

1. [1920s–70s] (US black) to leave quickly, to rush off.

2. [1950s] (US) to take a break.

get the air (v.) (also get the fresh air)

1. [20C+] (US) to be dismissed or rejected, esp. in the context of a love affair.

2. [1910s] (US) to leave, also as interj.

give someone the air (v.) (also give someone the fresh air, ...the gate)

[20C+] (orig. US) to dismiss, to reject, esp. when ending a love affair.

give somewhere the air (v.)

[20C+] (US) of a place, to leave.

go up in the air (v.) (also go up on the air)(US)

1. [20C+] to lose one’s temper.

2. [1900s] (US) to fail, to collapse.

3. [1900s–10s] to lose one’s senses, to become over-excited.

hand (someone) the (fresh) air (v.)

[1910s] to dismiss from employment.

have air and exercise (v.) (also take air and exercise)

1. [late 18C+] to be whipped at the cart’s tail as a judicial punishment; to be similarly punished in prison.

2. [early 19C] to be placed in the pillory.

3. [mid-late 19C] (prison) to serve a (short) prison sentence.

hit the air (v.)

[1920s–50s] (US) to leave, to depart.

in one’s airs (adj.)

1. [mid-18C] emotional, hysterical.

2. [late 19C] distant, stand-offish.

3. [1930s] drunk.

let the air out of (v.)

1. [1940s–60s] (orig. US black) to stab someone.

2. [1940s+] (also let the air from) to debunk.

3. [1950s] (US) to let down, to deflate emotionally.

pound the air (v.)

[1920s] (US Und.) to sleep.

take the air (v.)

[1910s–40s] to leave, to escape; often as imper.

toss someone in the air (v.)

[late 19C] (US) to jilt, to break off a relationship with.

up in the air (adj.)

1. [late 19C–1910s] (US) crazy.

2. [20C+] (also up in the sky) annoyed, irritated.

3. [20C+] happy, in a good mood.

4. [20C+] doubtful, speculative, hypothetical.

5. [1910s] (US) incompetent.

6. [1910s+] (US) cocky, self-opinionated.

In exclamations

take a bite of air!

[1940s–60s] (US black) go away!