Green’s Dictionary of Slang

abigail n.1

[a character in Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s play The Scornful Lady (1610), although she was poss. so named in allusion to the expression ‘thine handmaid’ used in the Bible by Abigail the Carmelitess, 1 Sam. 25:24–31]

1. a lady’s maid.

[[UK]Beaumont & Fletcher Scornful Lady dramatis personae: Abigail Younglove, waiting-woman to the Lady].
[UK]T. Killigrew Parson’s Wedding (1664) II vi: And ugly, her Abigail, she had her say too?
[UK]E. Gayton Pleasant Notes II 46: Abigail discovers whom her Mistresse dreames of. [Ibid.] 50: Mrs Abigail, I pray how is it, that you are so forward.
[UK]Pepys Diary 28 Dec. n.p.: By coach to the King’s play-house, and there saw ‘The Scornful Lady’ well acted, Doll Common doing Abigail most excellently, and Knipp the widow very well.
[UK]S. Parker Reproof to Rehearsal Transposed 260: Friends that you so often remember, Gillian the Cook-maid, and Abigail the Chamber-maid.
In Reply to Ladies And Bachelors Petition 4: Whereas they [the chaplains] petition to be freed from any obligation to marry the Chamber-maid; we can by no means assent to it; the Abigail, by immemorial custom, being a Deodand, and belonging to Holy Church.
[UK]T. Brown Amusements Serious and Comical in Works (1744) III 36: That Mrs. Abigail there, who is one of her servants. [Ibid.] 140: The next we encounter’d was a Quaker, and his handmaid, with whom our merry pilot began his drollery, viz. Well done, holy ones, I see Aminadab will have his Abigail.
[UK]W. King York Spy 67: Who are those Abigails, said I? They are Ladies Women, answer’d he, that meet and prostitute themselves every Thursday Night and Feast themselves amongst the Journeymen and Apprentices, with Cakes and Ale.
[UK]J. Addison Drummer III i: Thy four chief domestics are — a withered Abigail — a superannuated steward — a ghost — and a conjurer.
[UK]Hell upon Earth 4: People of Quality’s Chamber-Bells ringing for their Valets and Abigails.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c 321: Mrs. Abigail led him to the Room appointed.
[UK]Garrick Lying Valet (2nd edn) Epilogue: You’ll find but few without this useful failing. Lady or Abigail, my lord or Will.
[UK]Cleland Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1985) 121: He vouchsafed to play the male-Abigail on the occasion, and spar’d me the confusion that would have attended the forwardness of undressing myself.
[UK]Richardson Sir Charles Grandison (1812) II 108: I was a perfect Abigail to her in the affair [...] two sisters agreed to manage a love affair, have advantages over even a lady and her woman.
[UK]G. Colman Jealous Wife I i: A debauch’d batchelor [...] whose most refined commerce with the sex, has been to in order to delude country girls at your quarters, or to besiege the virtue of abigails.
[UK]Smollett Humphrey Clinker (1925) I 62: An antiquated Abigail, dressed in her lady’s cast clothes.
[UK]Nightly Sports of Venus 32: [advert] Now, Madam Merrytail, if you, or your Abigail can but find out where this charming Pamphlet was bought, it is a thousand to one but you hit upon the very place to meet with them.
[UK]Bon Ton Mag. Mar. 39/2: The Abigail [...] informed the father of the plan.
[UK]Sporting Mag. Nov. XIX 92/1: Hearing the Abigail sing, told her, I supposed she was an Abbey Girl.
[US]Horry & Weems Life of General F. Marion (1816) 150: His wife, in sense and domestic virtues, was as an Abigail.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[Ire]Spirit of Irish Wit 111: An extremely rough voyage rendered the Abigail so sick, as to be unable to attend her lady.
[UK]W. Combe Doctor Syntax, Consolation (1868) 177/1: Half a score of Abigails / Attack’d me with their mops and pails.
[UK]Lytton Pelham I 184: At the end of that time the abigail (the duchesse had the grace to disappear) released me.
[UK] ‘The Blue Vein’ Fanny Hill’s Bang-up Reciter 27: Cried Ned, to all Abigails frail, / That there’s more fun in kissing than jalluping ale.
[US]D. Corcoran Pickings from N.O. Picayune (1847) 93: Closing the front doors and window shutters, and reporting themselves, through the coloured Abigail, ‘not at home’.
[UK]G.J. Whyte-Melville General Bounce (1891) 21: Though her fingers are occupied in folding Blanche’s handkerchiefs, and ‘putting away’ her gloves, shoes, and etceteras, the Abigail’s thoughts are even now far away.
[UK]G.A. Sala Twice Round the Clock 174: They [...] must keep the mysterious ‘ladies’ wardrobe shops’ known to the Abigails in aristocratic families.
[UK]Derby Day 57: A buxom Abigail admitted the gentleman.
[UK]J.H. Carter ‘Blood-Stained Boot-Jack’ in Log of Commodore Rollingpin 252: What! steal Miss Abigail and run away?
[US]A. Trumble Mysteries of N.Y. 26: ‘She is an admirable servant [...] Whe George thinks of me, then Abigail, he will consider that there is no place like home’.
[US]A.C. Gunter M.S. Bradford Special 176: ‘A-ah, Madame!’ cries the abigail, triumphant.
‘Lawrence Lynch’ High Stakes 65: Van Duyn turned to the abigail. ‘May we open the window?’ ‘If the gentleman pleases,’ the woman returned stiffly.
[Aus]Sunday Times (Perth) 17 July 1/1: The chief actors in the affair were the buxom slavey and paterfamilias’s 12-year-old nipper [...] the amorous abigail was given a fortnight’s wages and thrown off the premises.
[Aus]Sunday Times (Perth) 29 Nov. 4/8: Somehow they’d [i.e. jewels] slipped from my Abigail’s grip.

2. (US) a prostitute.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 24 June 3/4: She invited him to a bed-house [...] While there [...] and while a deep sleep was upon him, the frail Abigail stole $60 from him.

3. (Aus./UK) a chambermaid; a waitress.

[UK]London Life 7 June 7/1: [T]he extraordinary resemblance between some of the ladies of the demi-monde [...] and the abigails of his hotel.
[Aus]Sunday Times (Perth) 18 Nov. 1/1: Maud is the domineering Abigail who holds them all in subjection [and] even Bung and his sister-housekeeper apologise before asking her for more hash.
[Aus]Sunday Times (Perth) 10 Dec. 95/2: Where to and fro the Abigails flirt with the plates of grub.

4. (camp gay) an ageing, conservative homosexual.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular.
[US]Maledicta III:2 222: Even the British, perhaps less youth-conscious than Americans, despise old Abigail and the pension-book crowd.
[US]R.O. Scott Gay Sl. Dict. 🌐 abigail: A gay nickname for a middle-age gay that is in the closet, or that the approach to love and life is conservative.