Western Slang, Lingo, And Phrases
See also: Cowboy Proverbs
Ever wonder what some of them thar’ words mean when you’re reading an Old West novel, watching a historic movie, or maybe even digging through your grandparents’ old letters? Well, here’s a guide to help!
From the wild and wooly mining camps to the rampages of the Civil War, to the many cowboys riding on the range, these folks often used terms and phrases that are hard to figure out today. Yet other sayings still remain in everyday language, though usually specific to certain regions.
From the pages of period newspapers, books, and century-old dictionaries comes the slang, lingo, and phrases of the American West. Even if you’re not looking for a definition, you’ll get a peek into the charm and character of a historic era.
|Abisselfa – By itself.
Abandons – Foundlings. Also applied to a street prostitute.
Above-Board – In open sight, without artifice, or trick.
Above One’s Bend – Out of one’s power, beyond reach.
Above Snakes – If you were “above snakes,” you were above ground – meaning still alive.
Absquatulate – To leave or disappear.
Ace in the Hole – A hideout or a hidden gun.
Ace-High – Depending upon the context, this might mean “first-class and respected”, or it could mean a winning poker hand.
According to Hoyle – Correct, by the book. “Hoyle” is a dictionary of rules for card playing games.
Acknowledge the Corn – To admit the truth, to confess a lie, or acknowledge an obvious personal shortcoming.
Acock – Knocked over, defeated, astounded, suddenly surprised.
Acorn Calf – A weak or runty calf.
Acquisitive – Booty, plunder.
Acreocracy – Signifies a landlord interest.
Across Lots – The fastest way possible, in the most expeditious manner.
Actual – Money.
Adam’s Ale – Water.
Addle-headed – Empty-headed, not smart.
Addle-pot – A spoilsport
Advantage – Pocket advantage – Carrying a derringer in a coat pocket that is charged and at half cock. Sometimes a shot is fired through the pocket itself.
Afeared – Scared, frightened.
Afterclaps – Unexpected happenings after an event is supposed to be over.
Afly – To become an expert at.
Agee, Ajee – Askew, crooked.
A Hog-Killin’ Time – A real good time. “We went to the Rodeo Dance and had us a hog-killin’ time.”
Airin’ the Lungs – A cowboy term for cussing.
Airin’ the Paunch – Vomit, throw-up, regurgitate. He’s “airing the paunch” after a heavy bout of drinking.
Airish – A little cool.
Air Line Road – A railroad track when it passes over the level unbroken prairie.
Airtights – Canned goods, such as canned beans, milk, or fruit.
Alfalfa Desperado – What cowboys often called a farmer.
A Lick and a Promise – To do a haphazard job. “She just gave it a lick and a promise.”
All Abroad – At a loss, not comprehending.
All Beer and Skittles – Unpleasant, not so happy.
All Down But Nine – Missed the point, not understood. This referenced missing all nine pins in bowling. (Yes, there was bowling during Old West times.)
All-fired – Very, great, immensely; used for emphasis. He is just too all-fired lazy to get any work done around here. Also “hell-fired” and “jo-fired.”
Allers – Always
All My Eye – Nonsense, untrue.
All Over – Bearing a resemblance to some particular object
All-overish – Uncomfortable. “I was just all-overish around that steely-eyed man.”
All the Caboose – Everywhere
All the Shoot – The whole assembly, all the party.
All to Pieces – Completely, absolutely.
Allot Upon – To intend, to form a purpose. “I allot upon going to Boston.”
All-Standing – Without preparation, suddenly.
Ambush – The scales used by grocers, coal-dealers, etc. Call such because the were always “lying in weight.”
Among the Willows – Dodging the Law.
Amputate Your Timber, or mahogany – Go way, run off.
Anasazi – Navajo for “ancient ones,” this word describes an ancient tribe of the Southwest. Some Navajo say this meaning is a mistranslation for a word that means “ancient enemies.” Another interpretation is “ancient ancestors.”
Angelicas – Young unmarried women.
Angolmaniacs – Another name for those “back east,” ultra-English.
Angoras – Hair-covered, goat-hide chaps. Especially good in cold weather.
Annex – To steal. This became popular at the time Texas was annexed, which was regarded by many as a theft.
Anti-fogmatic – Raw rum or whiskey. “I see that bartender is mixing a couple of anti-fogmatics.”
Anti-goglin – Lopsided.
Apple – Saddle horn.
Apple Jack – A liquor distilled from cider, also called cider brandy.
Apple Peeler – Pocket Knife
Apple Pie Order – In top shape, perfect order.
Arbuckle’s – Slang for coffee, taken from a popular brand of the time. “I need a cup of Arbuckle’s.”
Argufy – Argue, to have weight as an argument.
Argy – Argue
Arikara (also Arikaree) – This term is believed to mean “horns,” after this tribe’s ancient custom of wearing hair ornaments that stuck upright and were made of bone.
Arkansas Toothpick – A long, sharp knife. Also known as a California or Missouri toothpick.
Armas – Spanish forerunner of chaps. Cowboys fastened two large pieces of cowhide to the side of the saddle that protected their legs from thorns and brush.
Ary – Either.
Ash-Hopper – A lie cask, or box for ashes, resembling a hopper in a mill.
Ask No Adds – Ask no favor.
At Sea – At a loss, not comprehending. “When it comes to understanding women, I’m at sea.”
Attitudinize – To assume an affected attitude.
Atween – Between.
Atwixt – Between. “There were hard feelings atwixt them.”
Auger – The big boss.
Axle Grease – Butter
Bach – To bachelor it. For men to keep house without a woman’s help. Pronounced, and sometimes spelled, “batch”.
Backdoor Trots – Diarrhea
Bacon – Meaning to save one’s self from injury. To save one’s bacon.
Back Seats – An obscure and modest position, usually referring to politics.
Back Staircase – A derisive term for a bustle. Also called a “bird cage” or “canary cage.”
Bad Box – To be in a bad box, is to be in a bad predicament.
Bad Egg – A bad person.
Badlands – From a French term meaning “bad country for travel.” The term applied to barren areas of South Dakota, as well as other inhospitable western locations.
Bad Hoss – A bad or wild horse.
Bad Medicine – Bad news.
Bag of Nails – Everything in confusion, topsy-turvy.
Bait – Food
Baker’s Dozen – Thirteen.
Bake – To overheat a horse by riding too fast, long, or hard.
Bakes – One’s original stake in a game.
Balderdash – Nonsense, foolishness; empty babble.
Baldface Dishes – China dishes.
Ballast – Money
Balled Up – Confused.
Ballyhoo – Sales talk, advertising, exaggeration.
Balmy – Sleepy, weak-minded, dull.
Balls – To make a mistake, to get in trouble. Or, rubbish such as “all balls” – all rubbish.
Bamboozle – To deceive, impose upon, confound. “After Nick had bamboozled about the money, he was arrested.”
Banagher – To bang
Banco or Bunko Steerer or Roper – A sharper, confidence-trick man.
Banded – Hungry
Band Wagon – Peddler’s wagon.
Bandero – Widow’s weeds.
Bangtail – A wild horse – mustang.
Banjo – A miner’s term for a short-handled shovel.
Banquette – The name for a side-walk in some of Southern cities.
Bar Dog – Bartender.
Bared – Shaved
Barber’s Cat – Half-starved, sickly-looking person.
Barber’s Clerk – A conceited, over-dressed fellow who tries to act like a “gentleman.”
Barefoot – An unshod horse.
Bark – To scalp.
Barkin’ at a Knot – Doing something useless; wasting your time, trying something impossible.
Barking Irons – Pistols.
Barnum – “To talk Barnum” is to not indulge in extravagant, hugh falutin’ talk, but talks in a quiet manner.
Barrens – Elevated lands, or plains upon which grow small trees, but never timber.
Barrow-tram – A rawboned, awkward looking person.
Barrel Boarder – A bum, a low sot.
Barrel Fever – A hangover.
Base Burner – A drink of whiskey.
Bat – A frolic, a spree.
Batting His Eyes – A gambler’s term for men who look on but don’t play.
Battlin’ Stick – A stick to stir clothes in the wash pot.
Bat Wings – Chaps.
Bay – A horse of light-red color.
Bay-window – Pregnancy.
Bazoo – Mouth. “Shut your big bazoo.”
Beads – The bubbles which rise on a glass of wine or spirits.
Bean Eater – A Mexican
Bean Master – The cook
Bear Sign – A cowboy term for donuts made while they were on the range. A cook who could and would make them was highly regarded.
Beating the Road – Traveling on a railroad train without paying, usually referring to a bum.
Beat the Dutch – To beat all or beat the devil. “It was rainin’ to beat the Dutch.”
Beat the Devil around the Stump – To evade responsibility or a difficult task. “Quit beatin’ the devil around the stump and ask that girl to marry you.”
Becase – Because.
Bed Ground – Where cattle are held at night.
Bed Him Down – To kill a man.
Bed-house – Brothel.
Bed-fagot – Prostitute.
Bed-post – A moment, an instant, jiffy. “He got over here in the twinkling of a bed-post.”
Bed-rock – Not able to go lower. “Is that the bed-rock price?”
Bee – A gathering of friends, family and neighbors to get a specific job done Usually used with women’s quilting get togethers – a quilting bee.
Bee in Your Bonnet – An idea.
Beef – To kill. (This came from killing a cow for food.) “Doc Holiday beefed a man today.”
Beef-headed – Stupid, dull as an ox.
Beef Tea – Shallow water where cows have stood.
Been in the Sun – Drunk
Been Through the Mill – Been through a lot, seen it all.
Bee-sweetening – Honey
Beetle-crushers – Feet
Beeves – Cattle
B’hoy – A rowdy young man, reveler or ruffian.
Beliked – Liked; beloved.
Bellyache – Complain.
Belly Cheater – A cook.
Belly Robber – The cook.
Belly Through the Brush – Dodge the law.
Belly Wash – Weak coffee.
Belvidere – A handsome man.
Bend an Elbow – Have a drink. “He’s been known to bend an elbow with the boys.”
Bender – Initially referred to a spree or a frolic. Later, and now, also used to describe someone on a drinking binge.
Benzinery – A low-grade drinking place. Cheap whiskey was sometimes called benzene.
Berdache – An Indian male who dressed and lived entirely as a woman, fulfilling a cultural role within the tribe. Sometimes called in Indian languages a “would be woman” and sometimes thought of as a third sex. Common among the tribes of the Americas, these men-women had social and religious powers. They might be givers of sacred names; leaders of ceremonial dances; visionaries and predictors of the future; matchmakers; etc. Understood as following a vision by most Indians, they were not tolerated by whites. They persist today, discreetly.
Best Bib and Tucker – Wearing your best clothes. “There’s a dance Saturday, so put on your best bib and tucker.”
Betterments – The improvements made on new lands, by cultivation and the erection of buildings.
Bettermost – The best.
Betty – A pear-shaped bottle wound around with straw which contains Italian olive oil.
Between Hay and Grass – Neither man nor boy, half-grown.
B’hoys – Noisy young men of the lower ranks of society.
Bible – A small packet of papers used to roll cigarettes. Also called a “dream book” or a “prayer book.”
Bible Bump – A bump (or cyst) on the wrist or hand that old timers say would disappear if whacked by a large book – such as the bible.
Biddable – Docile, obedient, tractable.
Biddy – Hen. Also used to refer to a nagging or complaining woman.
Biff – To strike in ones face.
Big Augur – Ranch Owner.
Big Bug – Important person, official, boss. “He’s one of the railroad big bugs.”
Big Figure – To do things on on a large scale.
Big Fifty – A .50 caliber Sharps rifle used by professionals for buffalo hunting. It was 16 pounds unloaded, with three-quarter inch, 120-grain black powder cartridges loaded for differing ranges.
Biggest Toad in the Puddle – The most important person in a group.
Biggity – Large, extravagant, grand, hauty.
Big Guns – Men of importance, great people.
Big Jump – Death.
Big Nuts to Crack – A difficult or large undertaking.
Big Pasture – The penitentiary
Big Sugar – Ranch owner.
Bill Show – A Wild West show. Probably derived from the names of the two leading show promoters – William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Gordan William “Pawnee Bill” Lillie.
Bilk – Cheat.
Bime-By – By-and-by, soon, in a short time.
Biscuit – Saddle horn.
Biscuit Roller – The cook.
Biscuit Shooter – The cook.
Bishop – An appendage to a lady’s wardrobe, more commonly called a bustle.
Bite the Ground – To be killed.
Bit House – A cheap saloon.
Black-eyed Susan – A six-gun.
Black – To look black at one is to look at one with anger or deep resentment.
Black-Leg – A gambler.
Blacksmithing – Pimping for a prostitute.
Black Snake – A long whip.
Black Spot – Shade.
Blackstrap – Gin and molasses
Black Water – Weak coffee.
Blame – Euphemism for damn.
Blarney – Stories, flattery, tall tales, idle discourse.
Blather – Impudence. “I’ll have none of your blather.”
Blatherskite – A blustering, noisy, talkative fellow.
Blazes – Euphemism for hell or the devil.
Blow – To taunt; to ridicule. Also means to turn informer on an accomplice.
Blow Out – A feast; also called a tuck out.
Blue – Drunk.
To Look Blue At Someone – To look at one with displeasure or dissatisfaction.
Blue Belly – A Yankee.
Blue Devils – Dispirited. “I have the blue devils today.”
Blue John – Skimmed Milk
Blue Lightnin’ – A six-gun.
Blue-Skins – A nickname applied to the Presbyterians, from their alleged grave deportment.
Blue Stocking – An epithet applied to literary ladies.
Blusteration – The noise of a braggart.
Boatable – Navigable for boats, or small river-craft
Bobbery – A squabble, argument.
Bobtail Guard – The first cowboy guarding the cattle at night.
Bockey – A bowl or vessel made from a gourd.
Bocking – Cotton or woollen cloth used to cover floors or to protect carpets.
Bodega – Spanish term for a cheap saloon.
Boggy Top – A pie baked without a top crust.
Bog-Trotter – One that lives in a boggy country.
Bogus – A liquor made of rum and molasses.
Boil Over – A horse that starts bucking.
Bolt – To swallow food without chewing
Bonanza – The discovery of an exceptionally rich vein of gold or silver.
Bone Orchard – Cemetery.
Boodle – A crowd of people.
Boogered Up – Crippled or badly injured.
Boot-licker – The equivalent of an ass-kisser.
Boom Along – A seaman’s term meaning to move rapidly.
Boose – Drink liquor.
Boosy – Fuddled or a little intoxicated.
Boosily – Lazily, in a state of intoxication.
Boot Yard – This was a cemetery, especially for those who died with their boots on; also called boothill, bone yard, bone orchard, grave patch.
Bonny – Clapper or Bonny-Clabber – An Irish term for sour buttermilk.
Bo-Peep – To play at bo-peep. To peep out suddenly from a hiding place, and cry bo! a children’s game.
Born Days – All one’s lifetime; since one was born. “In all my born days I never saw a man so big.”
Bosh – Nonsense. “It was absolute bosh what he said.”
Boss – The best, top. “The Alhambra Saloon sells the boss whiskey in town.”
Bossy – A familiar name applied to a calf.
Boston Dollar – A penny.
Bothahrayshun – A bother
Bottom – Low land with rich soil.
Bottom-Lands – In the Western States, this name was given to the rich flat land on the banks of rivers.
Bottled Courage – Whiskey.
Bouncing – Large, heavy. “Sally gave birth to a bouncing baby girl.
Bouge – To swell out, to bulge.
Bowie-Knife – A knife from ten to fifteen inches long and about two inches broad, so named after its inventor, James Bowie.
Box Herder – The person in charge of the “girls” at a brothel or saloon. Their job was to keep the “ladies” in line.
Brack – A breach, a broken part.
Brain Tablet – Cigarette.
Brand Artist – A rustler who alters brands with a running iron.
Brash – Brittle.
Breachy – A term applied to unruly oxen.
Bread Jerker – Adam’s apple.
Brick in One’s Hat – To be drunk. That old man’s got one hellofa brick in his hat.
Brigham Young Cocktail – Strong whiskey.
Brisk Up – To come up with life and speed, take an erect or bold attitude.
Broke in Two – A horse bucking.
Bronc Buster – A cowboy who could tame wild horses. Contrary to popular thinking, not all cowboys could ride just any horse, though most could ride any broken mount. But the bronc buster, also called a “bonc peeler” and a “bronc breaker,” was a breed apart. These men, with a special type of “horse sense” earned not only the esteem of the other cowboys, but usually better wages.
Broken Wind – A lung infection in horses.
Broomtail – A long, bushy-tailed range mare, usually unbroken. Also called a “broomie.”
Brother-Chip – A fellow-carpenter; in a more general sense, a person of the same trade.
Brown Study – Deep thought; absence of mind. “He is in a brown study.”
Brown Gargle – Coffee.
Brush – A skirmish, or fight.
Bub – Brother
Buckaroo – A cowboy, usually from the desert country of Oregon, Nevada, California, or Idaho.
Bucket of Blood – A violence-prone frontier saloon.
Bucket Shop – A gin mill or distillery.
Bucking the Tiger – Playing Faro or poker. Also referred to as “twisting the tiger’s tail.”
Buckle Bunnies – Female groupies who follow and befriend rodeo riders.
Buck Up – Cheer up; chin up.
Buckle To – Set about any task with energy and a determination.
Buckra – A white man, applied to white men by the blacks of the African coast.
Buffaloed – Confused.
Buffalo Soldiers – Black soldiers of the U.S. army who fought Indians and policed the frontier in the years following the Civil War. The term was derived from the men’s hair which the Indians thought resembled the fur of the buffalo. Not all of the recruits were former slaves; most were free blacks of Northern parentage and many had served with distinction during the Civil War.
Bug Juice – Booze, firewater, whiskey.
Build a Loop – Shaking out a coil of rope in preparation for roping.
Bull – An officer of the law.
Bullboat – A craft with a willow frame covered by buffalo hide.
Bulldoze – To bully, threaten, or coerce.
Bulldozer – A big person.
Bull Nurse – A cowboy.
Bully – Exceptionally good, outstanding. (Used as an exclamation.) “Bully for you!”
Bully For You! – Well done, good job, good for you.
Bullwhacker – A person who drives a team of oxen, usually walking beside them.
Bumblebee Whiskey – Liquor strong enough to “sting.”
To Bundle – A man and woman lying on the same bed with their clothes on, usually separated by a “bundling board.” The practice was used when there was a scarcity of beds
Bungo – A kind of boat used at the South.
Bunko Artist – A con man.
Burg – A town, rather than the common camps and small settlements.
Burn the Breeze – Ride at full speed.
Burnt His Fingers – When a person has suffered loss by a speculation, he is said to have burnt his fingers.
Burrow Milk – Nonsense.
Bushwhack – A cowardly attack or ambush.
Bushwhacker – A raw countryman, a green-horn. Also applies to ambushers.
Buss – Kiss.
Button – A young boy.
Buzzard Bait – A worn out horse.
Buzzard Food – Dead.
By Hook or Crook – To do any way possible.
Buster – Anything large in size or a man of great strength.
Buster or Bust – A frolic, a spree. “They were on a buster, and were taken in by the police.”
Bustle – A pad stuffed with cotton or feathers, worn by ladies for the double purpose of giving a greater prominence to the hips, and setting off the smallness of the waist.
By The Bye – By the way, in passing.
By Good Rights – By right, by strict justice, entitled. “By good rights Mr. Clay ought to be President of the United States.”
By Gum! – An inoffensive oath
By The Skin Of One’s Teeth – When a man has made a narrow escape from any dilemma, barely.
Caboodle – The whole thing. Also called “kit and caboodle.”
Caboose – A ship’s cooking-range or kitchen.
Cady – Hat
Cahoots – Partnership, company or band. “Those to are in cahoots together.”
Calaboose – Jail.
Calamity Jane – Obviously the hard-cussing, heavy-drinking frontier woman, but is also a gambling term for the Queen of Spades.
Calash – A covering for the head, usually worn by ladies to protect their head-dresses when going to evening parties, the theatre, etc.
Calf Slobbers – Meringue on the top of pie.
Calibogus – Rum and spruce-beer.
Calico – A paint horse.
Calico Queen – Prostitute.
California Collar – A hangman’s noose.
California Prayer Book – Gambling term for a deck of cards.
California Widow – A woman separated from her husband, but not divorced. (From when pioneer men went West, leaving their wives to follow later.)
Callin’ – Courting.
Calk – Sharp points of iron on horse or ox shoes to prevent their slipping on ice.
Came Apart – A horse bucking.
Candle-light – Dusk. The dance will start at early candle-light.
Canister – Gun
Canned Cow – Canned milk.
Cannon – A revolver
Can Openers – Spurs
Can’t Come It – Cannot do it. “You can’t come it over me so.”
Caporal – The ranch foreman or roundup boss.
Cap the Climax – To beat all, surpass everything.
Cardinal – The name of a woman’s cloak, from the red or scarlet habit worn by cardinals.
Carryall – A four-wheeled pleasure carriage, capable of holding several persons.
Cash In – To die.
Catalogue Woman – A mail order bride.
Catawampous – Fiercely, eagerly, awry, cockeyed, crooked, skewed. Also “catawamptiously.”
Catawamptiously Chawed Up – Completely demolished, utterly defeated.
Catch A Tartar – To attack one of superior strength or abilities.
Catch a Weasel Asleep – Referring to something impossible or unlikely, usually used in regard to someone who is always alert and seldom or never caught off guard. “You can’t sneak up on that dude any sooner than you can catch a weasel asleep.”
Catgut – Rawhide rope.
Cattle Baron – A cattle owner with numerous herds of stock, welding power and influence in an area.
Cattle Kate – A female cattle rustler.
Cats-Paw – To be made a cats-paw of. To be made a tool or instrument to accomplish the purpose of another.
Catstick – A bat used by boys in a game at ball
Catty-Cornered – Diagonally across. “The Courthouse is catty-cornered from the drugstore.”
Cavort – To frolic or prance about, to be lively, having fun.
Cat Wagon – A wagon that carried prostitutes along cattle trails
Cayuse – A cowboy’s steed.
Causey – A causeway, or way raised above the natural level
Cavallard – Caravans crossing the prairies.
Caveson – A muzzle for a horse.
Celestial – A term used in the West to refer to people of Chinese descent; the word derives from an old name for China, the “Celestial Empire.”
Chalk – Not by a long chalk. When a person attempts to effect a particular object, in which he fails, we say, “He can’t do it by a long chalk.”
Chap – A boy, lad, a fellow.
Charivari – (Commonly pronounced shevaree.) – A custom of serenading the newly married with noise, including tin horns, bells, pans, kettles, etc. This “serenade” is continued night after night until the party is invited in and handsomely entertained.
Chaw – Chew.
Chaw Up – To use up, demolish.
Chickabiddy – A young chicken. Used also as a term of endearment for children.
Chew – Eat
Chew Gravel – Thrown from a horse.
Chip – The money drawer in a bank.
Chink – Money.
Chinking And Daubing – The process of filling with clay the interstices between the logs of cabins.
Chirk – To make a peculiar noise by placing the tongue against the roof of the mouth, to urge horses on. Also refers to people as cheerful, good spirits, comfortable.
Chisel or Chiseler – To cheat or swindle, a cheater.
Chitlins – Fragments, small pieces. Also, refers to Chitterlings.
Chitterlings – The intestines of a pig that have been prepared as food.
Chock – To put a wedge under a thing to prevent its moving.
Chock Up – Close, tight, fitting closely together.
Chock-Full or Chuck-Full – Entirely full.
Choke Strap – A necktie.
Choke the Horn – To grab the saddle horn, something no cowboy wants to be seen doing.
Chop – A Chinese word signifying quality, first introduced to mariners in the China trade. Soon became a common word of seamen applied to fine silks, teas, tobacco, etc.
Chopper – The cowboy who cuts out the cattle during a roundup.
Chow – Food, dinner.
Chuck – To throw, by a quick and dexterous motion, a short distance.
Chuck – Food.
Chucklehead – A fool.
Chuck-Line Rider – An unemployed cowboy who rode from ranch to ranch, exchanging a bit of news and gossip for a meal. Also called a “grub-line rider.”
Chuck Wagon Chicken – Cowboys humorously used the term for fried bacon.
Chuffy – Blunt, surly, clownish.
Churched – Expelled from church.
Churn Twister – A derogatory term for a farmer.
Claw Leather – To grab the saddle horn, something no cowboy wants to be seen doing.
Civism – Love of country, patriotism.
Civilizee – A civilized man, one advanced in civilization.
Clap Or Clap Down – To set down or charge to one’s account.
Clap-Trap – An artifice for attracting applause, used chiefly in theatrical or political events. Later, applied to someone’s mouth that constantly makes noise.
Clean his/your plow – To get or give a thorough whippin’.
Clean Thing – Denotes propriety or what is honorable. “He did the “clean thing” and turned himself in.”
Clip – A blow or a stroke with the hand. Also refers to running away – to “cut and run.”
Clitchy – Clammy, sticky, glutinous.
Clinch Mountain – Rye whiskey.
Clodhopper – A rustic, a clown.
Close-Fisted – Stingy, mean.
Clothes-Horse – A frame-work for hanging clothes on to dry after they have been washed and ironed, in the form of an opening screen.
Clothesline – Rope.
Clout – A blow or strike, usually with the fist.
Clum – Past tense of climb.
Coal-Hod – A kettle for carrying coals to the fire. Also called a coal scuttle.
Cocinero – The camp cook – also called “coosie” and “cusie.”
Cocked Hat – To knock someone senseless or to shock him completely. Old Joe knocked him into a cocked hat.
Coffee Boiler – Shirker, lazy person. (Would rather sit around the coffee pot than help.)
Coffin Varnish – Whiskey.
Coil – Rope.
Cold as a Wagon Tire – Dead.
Cold Meat Wagon – A hearse.
Colors – The particles of gold gleaming in a prospector’s gold pan.
Cooling yer heels – Staying for a while. “He’ll be cooling his heels in the pokey.”
Come a Cropper – Come to ruin, fail, or fall heavily. “He had big plans to get rich, but it all became a cropper, when the railroad didn’t come through.”
Compressed Hay – Cowchips.
Conniption Fit – A fit of hysteria.
Consumption – Tuberculosis.
Continental – The money issued by Congress during the Revolutionary War. It eventually became synonymous with anything worthless.
Converter – A preacher.
Cookie – Ranch or cattle drive cook.
Coon’s Age – A long time.
Coosie – The camp cook.
Coot – An idiot, simpleton, a ninny.
Copper – A copper coin such as the American penny or British.
Copper a Bet – Betting to lose, or being prepared against loss. “I’m just coppering my bets.”
Copperhead – Northern person with Southern, anti-Union sympathies.
Corduroy Road – A road or causeway constructed with logs laid together over swamps or marshy places.
Corks – The steel points fixed under the shoes of horses, in the winter, to prevent them from falling on the ice.
Corn-Cracker – The nickname for a native of Kentucky.
Corn-Dodger – A kind of cake made of Indian corn, and baked very hard.
Corned – Drunk.
Corn-Juice – Whisky.
Corral Dust – Lies and tall tales.
Cottonwood Blossom – A man lynched from the limb of a tree.
Cotton To – To take a liking to.
Countrified – Rustic, rude.
Couldn’t hold a candle to – Not even close. “She couldn’t hold a candle to that beauty across the room.”
Coverlid – A bed-quilt, counterpane.
Cowboy Cocktail – Straight whiskey.
Cowboy Up – Tuff-up, get back on yer horse, don’t back down, don’t give up, and do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt, give it all you’ve got.
Cow Chip – Dried cow manure.
Cow Grease – Butter, also called “cow salve.”
Cowhand – A cowboy, also called cowpoke, cowprod, and cowpuncher.
Cowhide – A particular kind of whip made of raw hide; it is also called a raw-hide. Term also refers to flogging with a cowhide – “to cowhide.”
Cow Juice – Milk
Cow-Lease – A right of pasturage for a cow, in a common pasture.
Cowpunching – Driving the cattle to market.
Cow Sense – Intelligence.
Cow Wood – Cowchips.
Crack – Most famous, best.
Cracked – Crazy.
Cracker – A small hard biscuit.
Cracker – A poor white person of the South, named after the crackling whips used by rural Southerners. There are several definitions of this word dating back before the 17th Century, however this was the definition in the Old West, and could have been derived from “Cracker Cowboys” of Florida, which used whips and dogs to capture cattle instead of lasso’s.
Crackerbox – A rodeo rider’s term for a bronc saddle.
Cracklings – Cinders, the remains of a wood fire
Crack Up – To brag or boast.
Cradle-Scythe – Called also simply cradle. A common scythe with a light frame-work, used for cutting grain instead of the sickle.
Crambo – A diversion in which one gives a word, to which another finds a rhyme. If the same word is repeated, a forfeit is demanded. It also refers to drinking.
Crash – A coarse kind of linen cloth used for towels.
Crawl His Hump – To start a fight.
Crazy as a Loon – Very crazy.
Creepmouse – A term of endearment to babies.
Crimany – Exclamation of surprise.
Critter – Creature, varmint. Sometimes used to describe a contemptible person.
Croaker – Pessimist, doomsayer. “Don’t be such an old croaker.”
Crock – The black of a pot; smut, the dust of soot or coal.
Crocky – Smutty.
Crooked As A Virginia Fence – A phrase applied to anything very crooked; and figuratively to persons of a stubborn temperament.
Cross-Grained – Perverse, troublesome.
Cross-Patch – An ill-tempered person.
Crotchety – Whimsical; fanciful.
Crotchical – Cross, perverse, peevish.
Crowbait – Derogatory term for a poor-quality horse.
Crowbar Hotel – Jail.
Cruller – A cake made of a strip of sweetened dough, boiled in lard, the two ends of which are twisted or curled together.
Crumb Castle – A chuckwagon.
Crumb Incubator – A cowboy’s bed.
Crummy – The caboose of a railroad train.
Crusty – Sturdy, morose, snappish.
Cubby-Hole or Cubby-House – A snug place for a child. Later, also used to denote any small space.
Curly Wolf – Real tough guy, dangerous man. “Ol’ Bill is a regular curly wolf, especially when he’s drinkin’ whiskey.”
Curmudgeon – An avaricious, churlish fellow, a miser.
Curry Favor – To seek or gain favor by flattery, caresses, kindness.
Curry the Kinks Out – To break a horse.
Cush – Sweet fried cornmeal cake. Also called “cushie.”
Cuss Words – The swear words back then are pretty much the same as they are now, though they were not used as prevalently back then. Profanity was frowned upon by polite society and old west cowboys rarely would swear in front of a lady.
Cut A Caper – The act of dancing in a frolicksome manner
Cut a Dash or Cut a Swathe – Make a great show; to make a figure.
Cut A Figure – To make an appearance, either good or bad.
Cut And Come Again – Implying that having cut as much as you pleased, you may come again; in other words, plenty; no lack; always a supply
Cut And Dried – Readymade.
Cut And Run – To be off, to be gone.
Cut Didoes – To get into mischief, frolicksome.
Cut Dirt – To run; to go fast.
Cut a Path – Leave, go. Are you ready to cut a path out of here?
Cut a Rusty – To go courtin’.
Cut a Swell – Present a fine figure. “He sure is cutting a swell with the ladies.”
Cut His Suspenders – A departed cowboy.
Cut Of His Jib – The form of his profile. “I knew him by the cut of his jib.”
Cutting Horse – A horse with the ability to cut cows out of a herd.
Cut Up – To criticize with severity; as, “he was severely cut up in the newspapers.”
Cut Up Shines – To cut capers, play tricks.
Cut Stick – To be off, to leave immediately and quickly.
Cutter – A one horse sleigh.
Dab Or Dabster – One who is expert in anything, a proficient.
Daisy – Good; excellent.
Dander – Passion, emotion, anger. “Her eyes blazed giving evidence to how he quickly he could get her dander up.”
Dang – Euphemism for damn.
Dangler – An express train.
Dash – Euphemism for damn.
Dead-Alive – Dull, inactive, moping.
Dead As A Door Nail – Utterly, completely dead.
Deadening – When new areas were settled in the west, “clearings” were made by cutting down the trees. Others were “girdled,” or when the majority of trees are deadened, the clearing was called a deadening.
Dead Man’s Hand – A poker hand consisting of a pair of aces and a pair of eights. Traditionally, Wild Bill Hickok was holding this hand when he was shot dead by Jack McCall. Some sources dispute the hand, saying that it really contained two jacks, not aces and two eights.
Dead Meat – A corpse.
Deadshot – Strong liquor.
Death On – Very fond of or very talented at. He made a “death on” speech at last night’s meeting.
Deef – Deaf.
Demijohn – A glass vessel or bottle, with a large body and small neck, protected and strengthened by a covering of wicker-work.
Desert Canary – A burro.
Deuce – A euphemism for devil.
Devil – An expletive, expressing wonder or vexation, sometimes used as a term for mischief.
Devilish – Atrocious, enormous, excessively, exceedingly
Devil’s Addition – Red Light District.
Deviltry – Mischief, devilry.
Dice House – Bunkhouse.
Dickens – Euphemism for devil, overmuch, a lot – a word most often used in explanations of confusion or pain; “the dickens you say,” or “it hurt like the dickens.”
Dicker – Barter, trade.
Didn’t Have a Tail Feather Left – Broke
Die-up – The deaths of several cattle from exposure, disease, starvation, or other widespread catastrophe.
Difficulted – Perplexed.
Diggers – Spurs.
Diggings – One’s home, lodgings, or community. Also commonly referred to prospector’s mining claims.
Dilly-Dally – To delay.
Ding – Beat, bang, used tedious repetition, as, “Why do you keep dinging that in my ears?”
Ding or Dinged – Excessively, very. “It is so ding hot out here.”
Dipping – Chewing snuff.
Dip Snuff – A manner of using tobacco, generally by wetting a small stick and dipping it into snuff (tobacco) and placing in the mouth. Sometimes tied in a small bag to chew it.
Directly – Soon. “She’ll be down, directly.”
Dirk – A dagger, dirking would refer to stabbing with a dagger.
Dinero – From the Spanish, a word for money.
Dish – To ruin, to frustrate. “He dished us too.”
Disremember – Forget or choose to forget.
Ditched – Arrested.
Ditty – A which-i-ma-call-it.
Dive – Bunkhouse.
Docity – Quick comprehension, usually used in a negative way. “He has no docity.”
Doctor – The cook on board a ship, so called by seamen.
Dog Cheap – Anything exceedingly cheap.
Doggery – A cheap saloon.
Dogie – An orphaned calf or small calf; by extension, any cattle.
Dog House – Bunkhouse.
Dogs – To go to the dogs. destruction, ruined, destroyed. “She has let that house go to the dogs.”
Dog Soldiers – Part of the warrior society of some plains Indian tribes.
Doings – Cooked food, also called fixins.
Done Brown – Thoroughly, effectually cheated or bamboozled.
Done Up – Ruined by gambling or extravagance
Don’t Care a Continental – Don’t give a damn.
Don’t Get Your Dander Up – Anxious; excited.
Dough Belly – The cook.
Doughgods – Biscuits.
Dough Boxer – The camp cook.
Dough Puncher – The camp cook.
Dough Wrangler – the Camp cook, also called “Dough Puncher.”
Douse-the-Lights – Lights out. Time to hit the hay.
Dowd – A woman’s night-cap.
Down In The Mouth – Dispirited, dejected, disheartened
Down to the Blanket – Almost broke.
Doxology Works – A church.
Drabble – To make dirty by dragging in dirt and water, to wet and befoul, as, to drabble a gown or cloak.
Dragged Out – Fatigued, exhausted, worn out.
Dram Shop – A small drinking establishment, used in the early 19th century.
Drat or Dratted – A good-humored oath meaning very, exceedingly.
Draw – Drawing your gun “border style” consisted of pulling your pistol, worn backward in the holster, by putting your arm across the front of your body. This fancy stuff was popular down around the Mexican border.
Draw Cuts – A common way of deciding by lots, by drawing paper or straws.
Dreadful – Very, a lot, exceedingly. “He’s just got a dreadful amount of money.”
Dreambook – A small packet of papers used to roll cigarettes. Also called a “prayer book” or a “bible.”
Driving the Nail – A sport consisting of attempts to drive a nail into a post with rifle or pistol fire.
Droger – Lumber droger, cotton droger, etc. A vessel built solely for burden, for transporting cotton, lumber, and other heavy articles.
Drumming – Soliciting of customers in a retail establishment, such as “can I help you find something?”
Dry Gulch – To ambush someone, especially when the ambusher hides in a gully or gulch near a road and jumps the passersby.
Ducky – Used in early century as term of endearment.
Dude – Commonly, the term applied to an Easterner, or anyone in up-scale town clothes, rather than plain range-riding or work clothes. However, the term began as an insult, as cowboys first used the word to mean a pimple or boil on someone’s backside, caused by riding in the saddle all day when one wasn’t used to it. Hence, the cowboys called those “wanna-be” wrangers “dudes.”
Dug-Out – A canoe or boat, hewn or dug out of a large log.
Dull Music – A term applied to anything tedious.
Dump – Jail or boarding house.
Dumpish – Sad, melancholy
Dun – To dun is to urge for payment, to demand a debt in a pressing manner
Dunderhead – Blockhead, dolt.
Dusted – Thrown from a horse.
Dynamite – Whiskey.
Dyed In The Wool – Ingrained, thorough.
Eagle – A gold ten dollar coin.
Ears – To be by the ears, denotes being in a quarrel or fight.
Eatin Irons – Silverware.
E’en A’most – Almost.
Elephant – Short for ‘to see the elephant’; to go to town, or to see the world, usually for the first time.
Equalizer – A pistol.
Eucher, euchered – To out-smart someone, to be outwitted or suckered into something.
Eventuate – To issue, come to an end, close, terminate.
Excuse-me-ma’am – A bump in the road.
Exfluncticate – To utterly destroy.
Exodusters – The Biblically inspired name taken by black emigrants who departed the post-Civil War South for the promised land of Kansas.
Express – The mails or mail stage.
Fag – In cowboy talk, to get out fast.
Fagged Out – Fatigued, worn out.
Fair to Middlin’ – Feeling pretty good.
Fair Shake – A fair trade, a satisfactory bargain or exchange.
Falutin – See High-Falutin
Family Disturbance – Whiskey
Fandango – From the Spanish, a big party with lots of dancing and excitement.
Faro – A card game that took its name from faroon, a derivative of pharaon (pharoah.) The Pharoah was the king of hearts in a regular deck of cards. Players bet on the order in which cards would be drawn from a box.
Fat In The Fire – To have one’s plans frustrated. “If I don’t get this job completed, the fat’s going to be in the fire.”
Feeze – To be in a feeze is to be in a state of excitement.
Feller – Fellow. “That big feller over there is the sheriff.”
Fetch – Bring, give. “Fetch me that hammer.” “He fetched him a punch in the nose.”
Fetch Up – Stop suddenly.
Fice – A worthless dog, mongrel. Also referred to as fiste and tyst.
Fid Of Tobacco – A chew, or quid of tobacco.
Fiddle – A horse’s head.
Fiddle Faddle – Trifling discourse, nonsense
Fight like Kilkenny Cats – Fight like hell.
Fill a Blanket – Roll a cigarette.
Find One’s Self – To provide for one’s self through labor and wages.
Fine as cream gravy – Very good, top notch.
Finefied – Made fine, dandified.
Finical – Nice, foppish, pretending to superfluous elegance.
Fire-New – Brand new.
Firewater – Liquor
First-Swathe – First quality.
Fish – A cowboy’s rain slicker, from a rain gear manufacturer whose trademark was a fish logo. “We told him it looked like rain, but left his fish in the wagon anyhow.”
Fish or Cut Bait – Do it or quit talking about it.
Fit – Often used instead of “fought.”
Fit – A short return after intermission, a turn, a period or interval. “I almost lost my crops after that fit of cold weather.”
Fits And Starts – At short and sudden intervals interruptedly.
Five Beans in the Wheel – Five cartridges in the six chambers of a rvolver. Westerners often left the chamber under the hammer empty for safety reason.
Fix – A condition, predicament, dilemma.
Fix One’s Flint – To settle, to do for, to dish.
Fixin’ – Intending. “I’m fixin’ to get supper started.”
Fixings or Fixins’ – Cooked food, also called “Doings.” Arrangements, embellishments, trimmings, garnishings. The term was also used for the tobacco and paper needed to roll cigarettes.
Fix One’s Flint – To settle a matter.
Flack – Sales talk, advertising, exaggeration.
Flannel Mouth – An overly smooth or fancy talker, especially politicians or salesmen. “I swear that man is a flannel-mouthed liar.”
Flap-Jack – A fried cake, pancake, fritter.
Flat – A foolish fellow, a simpleton. Also refers to a flat-bottomed boat.
Flats – Low lands, valley
Flat Out – To collapse, to prove a failure.
Flea-Trap – Cowboy’s bedroll.
Flinders – Shreds, splinters, broken pieces
Fling – A sneer or contemptuous remark
Flitter – A corruption of the word fritter, a pancake.
Flummux – Perplex, embarrass, put to a stand.
Flunk Out – To retire through fear, to back out.
Flusteration – Heat, hurry, confusion
Fob Off – To delude by a trick.
Fogy – A stupid fellow, as, “He is an old fogy.”
Folded Up – A horse bucking.
Fore-Handed – To be in good circumstances, to be comfortably off.
Fork a Hoss – To ride a horse.
Fornent – Opposite to.
Forted In – Entrenched in a fort.
Forty Rod – Liquor.
Four-flusher – A cheat, swindler, liar.
Fox Boots – To fox boots is to repair them by adding new soles or leather.
Free-Soilers – People opposed to the extension of slavery. The name came from the Free-Soil Party, which existed from 1848 to 1854.
French Leave – To depart without taking leave, to run away.
French Pox – Syphilis.
Freshet – A flood or overflowing of a river due to heavy rains or melted snow.
Frolic – A celebration, party or a wild time. Also sometimes used to instead of “fight.”
Frump – To mock, to insult.
Fuddled – Tipsy, drunk.
Fudge – An expression of contempt, usually bestowed on absurd or talking idlers.
Fuffy – Light, puffy, soft.
Full as a Tick – Very drunk.
Full Chisel or Full Drive – At full speed, executed with everything you’ve got.
Full-Rigged – A saddle that is completely leather-covered.
Full Split – With the greatest violence and impetuosity
Funkify – To frighten, to alarm.
Fuss – Disturbance. “They had a little fuss at the saloon.”
Fussed Dark – Twilight
Gad – Spur.
Gadabout – One who walks about without business
Gaff – To spur a horse.
Gal-Boy – A romping girl or tomboy.
Gallnipper – A large mosquito.
Gallowses – Suspenders, braces.
Galvanized Yankees – Former Confederate soldiers who served in the U.S. Army in the West following the Civil War.
Game Leg – A lame leg.
Gammon – Humbug, deceit, lies.
Gat – A gate or passage.
Gay Cat – One who cases banks and towns for future jobs
Gee Up – A term used by teamsters to their horses and oxen, when they wish them to go faster. “To Gee” means to agree.
General Treat – A general treat is a treat of a glass of liquor bought by one person in a tavern to the whole company present. Buying a round of drinks.
Gerrymandering – To arrange the political divisions, so that in an election, one party may obtain an advantage over its opponent, even though the latter may possess a majority of the votes in the State.
Get a Wiggle On – Hurry.
Get Gaited – Get going in a hurry. Gait refers to the rate a horse moves, which is far faster, so “get going.”
Get it in the Neck – Get cheated, misled, bamboozled.
Get my/your back up – To get angry. “Don’t get your back up, he was only joking.”
Get Shed of – Get rid of.
Get the Mitten – To be rejected by a lover. “Looks like Blossom gave poor Buck the mitten.”
Get The Wrong Pig By The Tail – To make a mistake in selecting a person for any purpose. “I got the wrong pig by the tail in debating with that particular man.”
G’hal – A rowdy girl, reveler or ruffian girl.
Gig – Spur a horse.
Ginnin’ About – Moving around fast.
Girls of the Line – Prostitutes.
Gitty-up – Go, Move. A term used to get the horse to start moving.
Give Him Jessy – To give a flogging.
Give the Mitten – When a lady turns down a man’s proposal or discards him.
Glut – A wooden wedge.
The Go – The mode, the fashion. “This is all the go.”’
Go It Strong – To perform an act with vigor or without scruple.
Goat Meat – Venison killed out of season.
Go Boil Your Shirt – Take a hike, get lost, bug off.
Go Heeled – To carry a six-shooter, also “packing iron.”
Goings On – Behavior, actions, conduct.
Gone Coon – A goner, past recover, a lost man. Also called a gone sucker and a Gone Goose.
Gone Goslin – Done for, doomed.
Gone Up the Flume – Yield, lost, dead.
Goney – A stupid fellow.
Gospel Mill – A church.
Gospel Sharp – A preacher.
Gotham – New York City.
Go the Big Figure or Whole Figure – To go to the fullest extent in the attainment of any object, do things on a large scale.
Got the Bulge – Have the advantage. “We’ll get the bulge on him, and take his gun away.”
Go the Whole Hog – Out and out in favor of anything. A softened form of the phrase is to go the entire animal.
Go Through The Mill – A metaphor alluding to grain which has been through the mill.
Goyathlay – Means “one who yawns.”
Grab a Root – Eat a meal, especially a potato.
Grab the Apple – Taking hold of the saddle horn to avoid falling off. Also called “grab the nubbin.” In either case, this was not something a self-respecting cowboy wanted to be caught doing.
Grail – Small particles of any kind.
Granger – A derogatory term for farmer.
Grassed – To be thrown from a horse.
Grass Widow – A divorcee.
Greatle – A great while.
Greased Lightning – Anything very fast.
Greasy Belly – The camp cook.
Greenhorn – An easterner innocent of cowboy ways. Also referred to as greeners, green peas, and tenderfoots.
Greens – Leaves and green vegetables used for food.
Gringo – A derogatory word for Anglos. One source claims it comes from a shortening of the title of a popular song during the Mexican War: “Green Grow the Lilacs.”
Grist – A quantity or bunch. “There’s been a mighty grist of rain lately.”
Gritty – Courageous, spirited.
Grocery – A bar or saloon.
Grog – To seamen, gin and water, or any spirit and water.
Groggery – A bar or saloon.
Growlers – Buckets, cans, or pitchers carried by apprentices or children to the saloon to be filled with beer and returned to the workplace during the day. They were called “growlers” because of the grating noise when slid across the bar. Fetching the beer from the saloon in a growler was called rushing the growler, working the growler, or chasing the can.
Grub Pile – Referring to a meal or to the chuckwagon.
Grub Slinger – The cook; also referred to as grub spoiler or grubworm.
Grubstake – To provide the materials a prospector needs, including food and money, in return for a percentage of any claim that the prospector might find.
Grum – Surly; gloomy; glum.
Grunter – A hog.
G.T.T. – Gone To Texas. A common expression in use following the Civil War. People would find the letters G.T.T. carved into their doors, left by a kin. Many outlaws went to Texas.
Gull – A cheat, fraud or trick. Also, refers to a stupid animal or person, one easily cheated.
Gully Washer – A hard rain.
Gummy! – An exclamation.
Gump – A foolish person, a dolt.
Guttersnipe – A homeless child who roamed and slept in the streets.
Gut Hooks – Spurs, also called gut lancers.
Gut Line – Rawhide rope.
Gut Warmer – Whiskey.
Hack – A hackney coach.
Haint – Have not.
Hair Case – Hat.
Hair in the Butter – A delicate situation.
Hair Pants – Chaps made from a hair-covered hide.
Half Seas Over – A sailor’s expression for intoxicated, drunk.
Halloo or Hallow – Shout, hoot, to cry out loudly.
Hammer And Tongs – In a noisy, furious manner. “They went at it hammer and tongs.”
Hand And Glove – Intimate, familiar, closely united as a hand and its glove.
Hand Runnin’ – Consecutively.
Hanger-On – A dependant, one who eats and drinks without payment.
Hang Fire – Delay.
Hang Up One’s Fiddle – To give up. The opposite would be to “hang on to one’s fiddle.”
Hanker or Hankering – To have an incessant wish, strong desire, longing.
Happifying – Making happy.
Hard Case – Worthless, bad, unpleasant, – often referring to a person.
Hardfisted – Covetous, close-handed, miserly.
Hard Money – A common term for silver and gold, rather than paper money.
Hard Pushed or Hard Run – Hard pressed, to be in a difficulty, short of cash.
Hard Row To Hoe – A metaphor derived from hoeing corn, meaning a difficult matter or job to accomplish.
Harum-Scarum – A negative term applied to flighty persons or persons always in a hurry.
Hash – To settle one’s business.
Have a Mind To – To have a notion, to be willing.
Hay Baler – A horse, also called hay burner.
Hay Seed – Deragatory term for a farmer, also called hay shaker.
Haze – To haze round, is to go rioting about.
Head-Cheese – The ears and feet of swine cut up fine, boiled, and pressed into the form of a cheese.
Heap – A lot, many, a great deal. “He went through a heap of trouble to get her that piano.” Also refers to a crowd, a throng, a rabble.
Hearn – Heard.
Hear Tell – To hear a report of, to hear of.
Hearty As A Buck – Very well, healthy, hearty. A hunter’s phrase.
Heave In Sight – To come in sight, to appear. A nautical phrase that originated with approaching vessels which appeared to raise or heave itself above the horizon.
Heeled – To be armed with a gun. “He wanted to fight me, but I told him I was not heeled.”
Heft – Weight, ponderousness.
Hellabaloo – Riotous noise, confusion.
Hell-fired – Very, great, immensely; used for emphasis. He is just too hell-fired lazy to get any work done around here. Also “all-fired” and “jo-fired.”
Hell Rousers – Spurs.
Helter-Skelter – In a hurry, without order, tumultuously.
Hemp – Cowboy talk for rope; in verb form to hang someone. Hemp fever was a morbidly jocular term for a hanging. Hemp party (also string party) meant the same. A hemp committee was a group of vigilantes or a lynch mob (depending on your point of view) and a hemp necktie was the rope they did the deed with. Coined because cowboys used ropes made of Manila hem.
Hen Skins – A cowboy’s bedroll
Here’s how! – A toast, such as Here’s to your health.
Hern – Hers.
Hide – To beat, spank. “When I was a boy, I got plenty of hidings.
Hifer – Loiter.
Higgle – To chaffer, bargain, haggle.
Higgledy-Piggledy – In confusion.
High Binder – A dangerous and vicious man or horse.
High-Falutin – Highbrow, fancy, self-important, pompous. The origin is the Dutch word verlooten, meaning stilted.
High-Grader – In the mining camps of the Old West, a high-grader was a man who stole any big nuggets which he saw in the sluice boxes.
High Tail – To leave or ride off quickly.
Hill of Beans – Slang for something of trifling value, as in “it ain’t worth a hill of beans.”
Hindsite First – Backwards.
Hisn – His or his own.
Hitch – A difficulty, an impediment.
To Hitch – To agree, to get along amicably.
Hitched – Got married.
Hitch in the Giddy-up – Not feeling well, as in: “I’ve had a hitch in my giddy-up the last couple days.”
Hither And Yon – Here and there.
Hit pay dirt – Mining term. To find something of value.
Hits the Flat – Go out on the prairie.
Hobble your lip – Shut up.
Hog at the Trough – Superior, outstanding, a leader
Hohokams – Means “vanished ones” in the Pima Indian language. The Hohokam Indians most likely became the Pima and Papago tribes.
Ho – A word used by teamsters to stop their teams.
Hobble – A scrape, a state of perplexity
Ho Down – A party or celebration
Hog-Killin Time – This a “what I mean” very good time!
Hog-Wallow – On some of the Western prairies, the ground has every appearance of having been rooted or torn up by hogs, when it is very rough, hence the name
Hog Ranch – A brothel and saloon that was often located near a military fort.
Hoity-Toity – An exclamation denoting surprise or disapprobation, with some degree of contempt.
Hold a Candle to – Measure up, compare to.
Hold Your Horses – Stay calm. “Hold your horses, we’re on our way.”
Hold Up – In referring to weather, it means to clear up, stop raining, etc.
Hollow – All hollow. Completely, wholly. “He beat him all hollow.
Holt – Hold. “Death has got holt of him.”
Honey-Fogle – To swindle, cheat, lay plans to deceive.
Hook – To steal.
By Hook Or By Crook – One way or other, by any expedient. “It can’t be done by hook or crook.”
Hooks – Spurs.
Hookshop – A brothel.
Honey-fuggled – To cheat, to pull the wool over one’s eyes.
Hoosegow – Jail, from the Spanish juzgado, meaning courthouse.
Hooter – A bit or a tiny amount.
Hop – A dance.
Hopped for Mama – A horse bucking.
Horn – A glass of liquor, ale or beer.
Hornswoggle – To cheat or trick, to pull the wool over one’s eyes.
Horse Thief Special – A raisn and boiled rice dish.
Horse Feathers – Ridiculous.
Horse Wrangler – Horse herder.
Hoss – A horse.
Hot as a Whorehouse on Nickel Night – Damned hot.
Hot Rock – Biscuit.
Hot Roll – Bedroll.
Huckleberry – As in “I’m your huckleberry” means “I’m just the man you’re looking for” or “I’m just the man for the job.”
Huckleberry Above a Persimmon – A cut above.
Hum – Home.
Humbug – A deception, hoax, imposter.
Hounds – Rowdies of the gold-rush days of San Francisco.
Hull – Saddle.
Hurricane Deck – The saddle of a bucking horse.
Husking Bee – A social event in which the community came together to husk corn and to drink. Also called a “husking frolic.”
I Dad! – An exclamation used in the Western States.
Illy – Ill, sick.
Indian Broke – A horse trained to be mounted from the right side. Cowboys mounted from the left side.
Indian Giver – When an Indian gives anything, he expects an equivalent in return, or that the same thing may be given back to him. This applies when someone who, after having given away a thing, wishes to have it back again.
Indian Side – The right side of a horse.
Indian Whiskey – Cheap, adulterated liquor. Also called Indian Liquor.
In For It – Engaged in a thing from which there is no retreating.
In Liquor – Intoxicated, drunk.
Iron – Short for branding iron or six-gun.
Iron Horse – A Railroad train.
Is that a bluff, or do you mean it for real play? – Are you serious?
Jackeroo – A cowboy, also called buckaroo.
Jack of Diamonds – Rye whiskey.
Jag – A small load.
Jasper – Slang of this word starting in 1896 meant a guy, or a rustic, simpleton, or naive hick (later changed to “bubba”).
To Jaw – To scold, to clamor, to abuse grossly.
Jawing – Talking. “We sat around the campfire just jawing.”
Jerked Meat – Beef and other kinds of fresh meat dried in the open air without salt.
Jig is Up – Scheme/game is over, exposed.
Jingled – Drunk
Jingler – A person who talks in rhyme or in a catchy repetitious manner, or someone who drinks alot.
Jiminy – By Jiminy! An exclamation.
Jimmying a bull – Shooting a law officer.
Jo-fired – Very, great, immensely; used for emphasis. He is just too jo-fired lazy to get any work done around here. Also “all-fired” and “hell-fired.”
John B. – A cowboy hat, after hat maker John B. Stetson.
John Barleycorn – Beer
Johnny – A Chinaman, also sometime just “John.”
Jollification – A scene of festivity or merriment. Used only in familiar language.
Jonathan – The American people. Also known as Brother Jonathan or Uncle Sam. Sometimes used to refer to a Yankee.
Joy Juice – Whiskey.
Judus Steer – Part of the cowboy’s job during the drive was to identify the Judas steer. Once at the end of the trail, the Judas could simply lead the other cattle to slaughter with no hassle. If a particularly good Judas was found, he was spared the meat hook and used again.
Jump the Broom – Get married.
Juniper – Derogatory term for an easterner or novice cowhand.
Justins – Cowboy boots.
Kansas Sheep Dip – Whiskey
Kedge – Brisk, in good health and spirits. “I am feeling pretty kedge today.”
Keep – Storage for food, subsistence, keeping. “The milk is in the keep.”
Keep Company – To court.
Keeping-Room – A common sitting-room or parlor.
Keep That Dry – Keep it secret.
Keep The Pot A Boiling – Keep it going.
Kettled – A horse bucking.
Kick – To protest or to object to something; to complain.
Kick Up a Row – Create a disturbance.
Kidney Pad – Eastern Saddle.
Kitchen Safe – Cupboard
Knee-high to a… – Humorous description of short stature or youth. “He ain’t knee-high to a lamb.”
Knob – Round hills or knolls.
Knobs – Spurs
Knock Galley West – Beat senseless.
Knocked Into A Cocked Hat – Knocked out of shape, spoiled, ruined, fouled up.
Knock Round – To go about.
Lacing – A beating. He took a lacing at the hands of the bully.
Ladies of the Line – Prostitutes.
Lag – Prisoner, convict.
Lagger – Sailor
To Lam – To beat soundly.
Lambasting – A beating, a thrashing.
Lammy – A blanket.
Landed – When a person has amassed a fortune large enough to keep him for the rest of his life.
Land-Loper or Land-Lubber – A vagrant, one who strolls about the country
Lands Sakes! – A more socially acceptable alternative for “Lord’s sake.”
Lapper – A hard drinker.
To Lass -Catch with a lasso, lariat or reata.
Lasso – A long rope or cord, with a noose, for the purpose of catching wild horses or buffaloes on the Western prairies.
Latchpan – Lower lip
To Lather – To beat.
Lathy – Thin, slender like a lath.
Latish – Rather late.
Latty or Letty – A bed.
Laudanum – Not exactly slang, but what is it? Often utilized by the “painted ladies” in the west, laudanum was opium mixed with liquor.
Lay – Price, terms, salary. “He bought a large herd of cattle at a good lay. Also used to describe a cowboy’s bed.
Lead Plumb – A bullet.
Lead Poisoning – Shot. “He died of lead poisoning.”
Lead Plumb – A bullet.
Lead Pusher – A gun.
Leafless Tree – Gallows.
Leap the Book – An illegal or false marriage.
Leather-necks – Soldiers
Leg Bail – To give leg bail, is to run away.
Left-handed Wife – Mistress.
Leggins – South Texas term for chaps.
Let Drive – To let fly, to let slip. To discharge, let loose a blow with the fist, a stone, a bullet from a gun, etc.
Let Her Rip – Let it go.
Let On – To mention, disclose, betray a knowledge.
Let Out – To begin a story or narrative.
Let Up – To let up is to release, a relief. “Thank Goodness, the rain finally let up.”
Lick – Molasses.
Lick – A blow.
Lick or Salt Lick – A place where wild animals lick for salt — usually a salt spring.
Lickety Split – Headlong, at full speed.
To Lick – To beat.
Lickfinger – To kiss ass. Also called “lick-spittle.”
Licking – A flogging, a beating.
Lickspittle – A mean parasite, one who will stoop to any dirty work
Lief or Lieve – Willingly, gladly.
Like Bricks – Quickly, with energy.
Life Preserver – A gun.
Light (or lighting) a shuck – To get the hell out of here in a hurry. “I’m lightin’ a shuck for California.”
|Light On – To fall on, to come to by chance, to happen to find.
Lights or Top Lights – Eyes.
Like a Thoroughbred – Like a gentleman.
Like lickin’ butter off a knife – Something that is easy; not hard.
Lincoln Skins – Greenbacks.
Line Camp – Crude shacks or camps on the outermost boundaries of a ranch.
Line Rider – Cowboys the guarded the ranch boundaries. Also called outriders.
Lining the Flue – Eating.
Lily Liver – Someone who is a coward.
Limsy – Weak, flexible.
Lincoln Skins – Greenbacks.
Linsey Woolsey – A corruption of linen and wool. Material made of linen and wool mixed, light or coarse stuff. “He gave them coats of linsey woolsey, which were good and warm for winter, and good and light for summer.
Little End of the Horn – To come away from a situation at a disadvantage. The same as “short end of the stick.
Lizzy – Saddle horn.
Llano Estacado – The dry, treeless plains of Texas and New Mexico, also called the “Staked Plains.”
Loaded for Bears – Lightly intoxicated.
Loaded to the Gunwhales – Full out drunk.
Loblolly – Mud hole.
Lock, Stock, And Barrel – The whole thing, the whole “kit and caboodle.”
Loco – Crazy.
Logy – Slow-moving, dull, awkward.
Loller – Live, sportive damsel.
Lone Star – An independent cowboy.
Long And Short – The end, the result, the upshot. “That’s the long and short of the subject.”
Longrider – An outlaw, someone who usually had to stay in the saddle for an extended period of time while on the run from a crime.
Loo’d, looed – Beaten or defeated.
Lookin’ at a Mule’s Tail – Plowing.
Lookin’ to Die – Seriously ill.
Look-See – To investigate. “I think I’ll go have a look-see across that hill.”
Looseness – Freedom. “He spoke with a perfect looseness.”
Lope – A leap, a long step.
Lotion – A drink.
Louse Cage – Bunkhouse.
Love Apples – Canned tomatoes.
Love Lick – Rough caress.
Lucky – Escape, run away. “We might have got into trouble if we hadn’t made our lucky.”
Lunger – Slang for someone with tuberculosis.
Lunkhead – A horse of inferior breed or appearance.
Lunk-headed – Idiotic, senseless.
Lynching Bee – A hanging
Lubber – A sturdy man, idle, fat, bulky fellow
Luddy Mussy! – Lord have mercy! An exclamation of surprise.
Lush-crib – A saloon or tavern.
Lushington – A drunk.
Lynching Bee – A hanging.
Mab – A harlot.
Mad as a March Hare – Very angry.
Mad as a Hornet – Very mad.
Madder than an Old Wet Hen – Very angry. “Mama woke up madder than an old wet hen.”
Made His Jack – Got what he aimed at.
Maggot – Derogatory term for sheep.
Mail-Order Cowboy – This was a derogatory term used to chide tenderfoot, urban “cowboys” who arrived from the East all decked out in fancy but hardly practical Western garb.
May Hay – To put in disorder, to make confusing.
Make Hay While the Sun Shines – To make the most of the day, or an opportunity.
Make a Mash – Make a hit, impress someone. (Usually a female.) “Buck’s tryin’ to make a mash on that new girl.”
Make A Raise – To raise, procure, obtain.
Making Meat – On the Western prairies, cutting into thin slices the boneless parts of the buffalo, or other meat, and drying them in the wind or sun. Meat thus prepared may be preserved for years without salt.
Make Tracks – To leave, to walk away. A figurative expression of Western origin.
Makins – Tobacco and papers used to roll cigarettes.
Man-a-hanging – A man having difficulties.
Man At The Pot – According to camp etiquette, when a cowboy gets up to refill his cup from the coffee pot hanging over the campfire, if someone shouts, “Man at the pot!” the man at the coffee pot is required to fill everyone’s cup.
Manner Born, To the – A natural. “He’s a horseman to the manner born.”
Man for Breakfast – A murdered body in the streets at dawn. Commonplace in the early days of Los Angeles and Denver. Also used to describe certain saloonswhen men were killed the night before. “Lambert’s only had two men for breakfast.”
Man-trap – Cow dung in the fields, or, a widow.
To Marble – To move off, be off, go, as, “If you do that again, you must marble.”
Marinos – Spurs.
Marm – A corruption of the word madam or ma’am.
Marooning – To go marooning. To have a party or picnic.
Mary – An effeminate homosexual.
Mashed – In love.
Mauks – Derogatory term for women of the lower class or prostitutes.
Mauled – Very drunk.
Maverick – An unbranded calf.
May Can – May be able to.
Marble Orchard – Graveyard
Mealer – A partial abstainer who drinks liquor only during meals.
Mean – Bad quality.
Mexican Strawberries – Dried beans.
Milestonemonger – Some who likes to roam, a tramp.
Milling – Fighting.
Millrace – A channeled stream of water that runs through a mill to push the mill wheel.
Mind, Have a – To have a notion, to be willing.
To Mind – To recollect, remember or to take care of..
Missionate – To act as a missionary.
Mitten – When a gentleman is jilted by a lady, or is discarded by one to whom he has been paying his addresses he is said to have got the mitten.
Miss one’s figure – to miss a change, to make a mistake.
Mitten, Get or Give – Turned down by a lady after proposing.
Miss Nancy – A name given to an effeminate man.
Mizzle – To run away, to abscond.
Mochilla – A rectangular leather saddlebag popularized by the Pony Express.
Mockered – Dirtied, defiled.
Molled – In the company of a woman.
Molly – An effeminate young man.
Molocher – A cheap hat.
Monkey Shines – Eccentricities, strange actions.
To Monkey – To play tricks, fool or tamper with, mischievious.
Monkey Ward Cowboy – A tenderfoot.
Monte – A gambling game played with dice or cards.
Moonshine – A trifle, nothing.
Moonshiny – Deceptive.
Mop – A habitual drunk.
Moppy – Drunk or tipsy.
Mormon Tea – Liquor.
Mosey – To saunter or shuffle along, to be off, to leave, to sneak away.
Moss-backs – Old fogies, men behind the times, slow to learn.
Moss Head – A very old steer.
Mought – For might.
Mouldy Grubs – Traveling showmen.
Mountain Oysters – Fried or roasted calves’ testicles. Also called Prairie Oysters.
To Mouse – To go mousing about is to go poking about into holes and corners.
Mouth-bet – A gambling man who only gives verbal promises to pay.
Mouthpiece – A lawyer.
Muck Forks – A low term for hands or fingers. “Keep your muck forks off me!”
Muck-out – To a gambler, to “clean-out” an opponent.
Mucks, Mux – To make a muddle or failure of anything. “He made a regular mux of the whole business.”
Muck-snipe – To gamblers, the one who has been “cleaned out.”
Mud Pipes – Any kind of boots or shoes, but mostly applied to riding-boots.
Muddy end of the Stick – Short end of the stick.
Mud Fence, Ugly as a – Used to describe someone who was very ugly.
Mudpipes – Boots or shoes.
Mudsill – Uneducated, working class. Low-life, thoroughly disreputable person.
Mugwump – An Indian word meaning captain, leader or notable person.
Mule-ears – Boots.
Mule’s Breakfast – A straw bed.
Muleskinner – A person who drives and usually rides in a wagon pulled by mules.
Muley – A one-horned or hornless cow.
Mumper – A begger.
Music Root – Sweet potato.
Mush-Head – A stupid, witness fellow.
Mustard – To unsettle or disturb cattle.
Mutton-Puncher – Derogatory name used by cowboys to describe a sheepherder.
Muzzle – Loiter.
Mysteries – Sausages, called that because many didn’t know what they were made of.
Nailed to the Counter – Proven a lie.
Nairn – None
Namby-pamby – Sickly, sentimental, saccharin.
Nancy or Nancy-boy – An effeminate man.
Nanny – A prostitute.
Nanny Shop – Brothel
Nary – None, not, zero
Nary-One – Neither.
Navy Model – Colt firearms.
Necessary – Outhouse, water closet; bathroom.
Neck Oil – Whiskey.
Necktie Social or Necktie Party – A hanging or lynching, most often referred to in vigilante hangings.
Nester – A squatter who settled on government land, usually to farm.
Nibbler – A petty thief.
Nibble – To take or steal.
Ni**er In a Woodpile – Disappearance, unsolved mystery.
Nigh Unto – Nearly, almost.
Night Hawk – While the rest of the cowboys slept under the stars on a cattle drive, one unlucky soul who drew the short straw, the “night hawk”, had to stay up all night standing guard.
Nippent – Impudent, impertinent.
Nipper – A baby or small child.
Nobby, Nobbish – Fine, stylish.
No Count or No Account – Of no account, worthless. “That no count boy does nothing but get into trouble.”
Nohow – Not at all, no way.
No Odds – No difference, no consequence, no matter.
Nose Paint – Whiskey.
Nosey Parker – Someone who is nosey.
Not By a Jugful – No consideration, on no account, not at all.
Notch – An opening or narrow passage through a mountain or hill.
Nothing To Nobody – Nobody’s business.
Notions – A wide range of miscellaneous articles for sale.
Nubbin – Saddle horn.
Nurly – A corrupt pronunciation of gnarly, i. e. gnarled.
Nymphs du Prairie – Prostitutes.
Oats – To feel one’s oats, is to feel one’s importance.
Odd Fish or Odd Stick – A person who is eccentric or odd in his manners. “Ol’ Farmer Jones sure is an odd stick.”
Off his nut, off his rocker, off his chump – Weak in the head, crazy, illogical; someone who behaves strangely.
Offish – Distant, reserved, aloof.
Off one’s feed – Unable to eat, having no appetite.
Of the First Water – First class. “He’s a gentleman of the first water.”
Oh-be-joyful – Liquor, beer, intoxicating spirits. “Give me another snort of that oh-be-joyful.”
Old – Crafty, cunning. If someone tries to take advantage of someone else, who is too cunning to be deceived, he might say “I’m a little too old for you.”
Old Betsy or Old Blue – A gun.
Old Country – A term applied to Great Britain, originally by natives from that country, who had immigrated to the United States.
Old Countryman – A native of England, Scotland, Ireland, or Wales. The term was never applied to persons from the Continent of Europe.
Old Dan – Often used to refer to a trustworthy mule.
Old Epharim – A term that mountain men called both male or female grizzly bears.
Old Man – The ridge found between two sleepers in a feather bed.
Old Orchard – Whiskey.
Old Pie – An expression of admiration or approval.
Old Pod – Old man.
Old Rackatee – A gun.
Old Rats – Equivalent to “one of the boys,” a hearty old fellow.
Old Scratch – The devil.
Old Stager – One well initiated in anything.
Old States – Back East.
Old Tom – Gin.
Old Towse – Whiskey
Oldermost – Oldest. “He’s the oldermost fellow at the reunion.”
On One’s Own Hook – On one’s own account, for himself. “He is doing business on his own hook.
Onplush – Nonplus.
Old Woman – The cowboy’s cook. Though the cook was often the most popular man on the cattle drive, cooking was still considered to be “women work.”
Oil – Nitroglycerine. Was often used to open bank vault. Also called “soup.”
One-horse – Small, limited, inferior. “Well, if that ain’t a one-horse town.”
On or In A Pinch – On an emergency.
On the Dead – Gratis, free.
On the Dodge – Hiding out somewhere; laying low for a while.
On the half-shell – Applied to anything prepared and ready for use.
On the Prod – Full of piss and vinegar, looking for trouble, spoiling for a fight. Said of both people and critters.
On the Shoot – Looking for trouble. “Looks like he’s on the shoot, tonight.”
On the Win – Winning or making money.
Oof – Money
Opine – To be of the opinion.
Ourn – Ours.
Outlaw – A horse that cannot be tamed to ride.
Over Head And Ears – Completely overwhelmed. “He was over head and ears in debt.”
Out And Out – Wholly, completely, without reservation.
Out-and-outer – First-class.
On The Fence – Neutral or undecided.
Out Of Fix or Out of Sorts – Disarranged, in a state of disorder.
Over-Careful – Very careful.
Overland Trout – Bacon.
Owdacious – Audacious.
Owl Hoot – An outlaw
Owl Hoot Trail – The outlaw way of life.
Oxbows – Large, old-time wooden stirrups. Also known as oxyokes.
Pack Iron – To carry a revolver or “shooting iron.”
Paddle – To go or run away.
Paint – A horse with irregular patches of white. Kin to Indian ponies, they were strong and tough but never grew very big. Also refers to drinking, alluding to the red nose caused by over-indulgence.
Painted Cat – Prostitute.
Painted Lady – A prostitute.
Painter – In the country a popular name for cougar or panther.
Paintin’ His Nose – Getting drunk.
Painting One’s Tonsils – Drinking alcohol, also referred to as ‘Painting one’s nose.”
Pair Of Stairs – A flight of stairs.
Painting the Town Red – Going out on the town for a fun, sometimes wild, time.
Pair of Overalls – Two drinks of whiskey.
Pal on – to associate.
Pancake – A derogatory term for a small English saddle.
Pan Out – To pay well, prove profitable.
Parade Chaps – A pair of chaps strictly for show. Might be worn for the grand entry parade at a rodeo.
Pass in one’s chips – To die.
Pay Dirt – When prospectors find valuable minerals they had hit “pay dirt.”
Peacemaker – A Colt revolver.
Peaked – Thin or sickly in appearance.
Pecker Pole – What a logger called a small tree or sapling.
Peck Of Trouble – Great trouble.
Pecker – Appetite.
Peckish – Hungry.
Peck – Eat voraciously
Pedlar’s Pony – A walking stick.
Pecos – To kill by drowning. (Literally, to throw into the Pecos River.)
Pecos Strawberries – Beans.
Pemican – Easily carried food substance on the frontier. Formed by pounding the choice parts of the meat very small, dried over a slow fire or in the frost, and put into bags made of the skin of the slain animal, into which a portion of melted fat is then poured.
Penny Dreadful – A slang term for cheap, lurid fictional magazines that incorporated the same kind of literature as the dime novels. Later generations would call them pulp fiction.
Pennyweighter – In the mining camps of the Old West, a pennyweighter was a person who stole very small quantities of gold from the mining operation for whom he worked.
Perk – Lively, brisk, holding up the head
Persnickity – Peculiar, picky.
Persuader – A gun.
Pertend Up – Better, more cheerful.
Peskily – Very, extremely, confoundedly. “I’m peskily sorry to hear of your loss.”
Petticoat Pensioner – A man who lives on a prostitute’s earnings. Also called Sunday-man.
Picayune – Used to signify something small or frivolous.
Pickaninny – A negro or mulatto infant. Used in the Southern States.
Pick-Back – On the back. Often used when carrying children on the back – piggyback.
Picture – One’s face or one’s person.
Piddle – Waste time.
Piebald – A Paint horse.
Piece of Calico – A girl or a woman.
Piece of Pudding – A piece of luck, a welcome change.
Piece of Thick – Pressed cake tobacco.
Pied – A paint horse.
Pie Eater – Country boy, a rustic.
Pig Sticker – Knife or bayonet.
Pig Trail – Small side road.
Pike – A name applied in California to migratory poor whites.
Pilgrim – Cowboy term for an easterner or novice cowhand.
Pill – A doctor.
Pilled – Black-balled.
Pimping – Little, petty.
Pimple – The cowboy’s name for the very small saddles used by Easterners.
Pine Top – Whiskey traded to the Indians in exchange for buffalo robes.
Pining Away For – Longing for.
Pink – Denotes the finest part, the essence. She is the pink of perfection.
Pinto – A paint horse.
Pirooting – Having sexual intercourse.
Pistareen – One-fifth of a dollar, a silver coin, formerly in the United States, of the value of twenty cents.
Pitch a Fit – To throw a temper tantrum, get upset.
Placer – Comes from the Spanish word for gravel beds. Prospectors would scoop some dirt and water into a pan, swish it to wash the gravel away, and look for good in the bottom.
Plain-headed – A term that expresses that a lady is not good looking.
Plaguily – Vexatiously, horribly. “I am puzzled most plaguily to get words to tell you what I think.”
Plank, Plank Down, Plank Up – To pay in cash.
Plaster – Flatter
Play a Lone Hand – To do something alone.
Play Second Fiddle – To “play second fiddle” is to take an inferior part in any project or undertaking.
Play to the Gallery – To show off. “That’s just how he is, always has to play to the gallery.”
Played out – Exhausted.
Plow Chaser – A derogatory term for farmer.
Plow Handle – A single action pistol was sometime referred to as a plow handle. These were also referred to as “thumbusters,” “cutters,” “smoke poles,” and “hawg legs.”
To Plum – To deceive.
Plumb, Plum – Entirely, completely. “He’s plumb crazy.”
Plummy – Satisfactory or profitable.
Plunder – Personal belongings or baggage. “Pack your plunder, Joe, we’re headin’ for San Francisco.”
Poke – A small sack, usually made of leather or rawhide. Also refers to a lazy person, a dawdler. “What a slow poke you are.”
Poke-Bonnet – A long, straight bonnet, much worn by Quakers and Methodists.
Poker – Any frightful object, especially in the dark.
Pokerish – Frightful, causing fear, especially to children.
Pokey – Jail
Pony Up – Pay over money. “Pony up that account.” Also, post the pony, i.e. lay down the money.
Poppet – Term of endearment. “Come along, poppet.”
Poppy-Cock – Bosh, nonsense, idle talk.
Pop Skull – Whiskey.
Pop Your Corn – Say what you have to say, speak out.
Porch Percher – A town loafer.
Portage – To carry boats or supplies overland between rivers or lakes.
Portmantle – A valise.
Post the Pony – Pay up.
Pot Rustler – Cook.
Pot Shot – An Easy shot.
Power – A large quantity, a great number.
Pow-Wow – Native American feasts, dances and public doings.
Prairie Coal – Cowchips.
Prairie Dew – Whiskey.
Prairie Oysters – Fried or roasted calves’ testicles. Also called Mountain Oysters.
Prairie Pancakes – Cowchips.
Prairie Tenor – Coyote.
Prairillon – A small prairie.
Prat – Buttock, behind.
Prayer Book – A packet of papers used to roll cigarettes. Also called a “dream book” or a “bible.”
Pray Tell – Tell me.
Predicate – A proposition or argument.
Prehaps – Perhaps.
Priminary – Predicament, difficulty.
Prod, On the – Spoiling for a fight, also referred to as “proddy.”
Prog – Food, provisions of any kind.
Pshal, P’shaw – An exclamation for nonsense.
Pucker – In a state of irritation or anger.
Puddin’ Foot – An awkward horse.
Pull in your Horns – Back off, quit looking for trouble.
Pull Foot – To leave in a hurry, walk fast, run.
Pull the Leg – To impose upon.
Pull the Long Bow – To tell falsehoods, lie.
Pullin my donkey’s tail – A much older way of saying “are you pullin my leg”
Pulling a Kite – Making a face.
Pulling in the Pieces – To make money.
Punching Dogies – Cowpunching, driving the cattle to market.
Pung – A rude sort of sleigh, or oblong box made of boards and placed on runners, used for drawing loads on snow by horses.
Purge – Beer.
Push Your Barrow – Go away.
Put a Spoke in the Wheel – To foul up or sabotage something.
Put on the Nose Bag – To eat.
Put the Licks In – Run very fast.
Queer Fish – An odd or eccentric person. Also called odd stick and odd fish.
Quincy – An indoor toilet.
Quirley – Roll-your-own cigarette.
Quirt – Whip
Quid – A corruption of cud, as, in vulgar language, a quid of tobacco.
Raft – A large quantity.
Rag Proper – Dress well.
Rail It – To travel by rail-road.
Railheads – Towns with facilities for loading cattle onto trains.
Railroad Bible – A deck of cards. This stemmed from the large number of card sharks working aboard the railroads.
Raise – To make a raise. Meaning to make a haul, to raise the wind.
Raise One’s Bristles – To excite one’s anger.
Raise Sand – Start trouble.
Raisin’ Cain – Loud, noisy boisterous.
Rake And Scrape – To collect.
Randy – Wanton or lecherous.
Ranny – A top cowhand, skilled cowboy.
Rantankerous – Contentious, a variation of cantankerous.
Rappee – An inferior quality of snuff.
Rattler – Freight train
Rattled – To become nervous, worried, uneasy.
Rattling – Jolly, excellent, smart
Rattle Your Hocks – Hurry up, get a move on.
Rat Trap – A woman’s bustle.
Raving Distracted – Stark mad.
Rebel Soldier – Rye whiskey.
Reckon – To guess or think. “I reckon that’ll do right fine.”
Reckoning up – Talking about something or someone in a slanderous manner. “I overheard them reckoning up the mayor.”
Red Eye – Whiskey, also called “red disturbance” and “red ink.”
Red Lane – A vulgar name for the throat, chiefly used by those drinking alcohol.
Reloading Outfit – Cowboy term for eating utensils, cups, and a plate.
Rench – A vulgar pronunciation of the word rinse.
Retch – Past tense of reach.
Retiracy – Sufficiency, competency.
Reverent – Strong, as, reverent whisky, not diluted.
Rib – Wife.
Rib Wrenches – Spurs.
Ride a Shank’s Mare – To walk or be set afoot.
Ride For the Brand – To be loyal to the ranch and rancher that pays a cowboy.
Ride Out on a Rail – To be forced to leave town.
Rig – Saddle.
Right as a Trivet – Right as rain, sound as a nut, stable.
Right as Rain – Fine. “After a good night’s rest, he’ll be right as rain.”
Right Smart – Many, much, good. “He got a right smart bit of work done.”
Ring – A group of businessmen or politicians form to advance their own interests, usually in such a way that places the public at risk. “The notorious Santa Fe Ring was an unscrupulous group of politicians in the 1800s.”
Ring in – To force or insinuate oneself into company where one is not wanted or does not belong.
Ringster – A member of ring, or group whose objective is to profit at the public’s expense.
Ringy – Ornery or angry man or animal.
Rip – Reprobate. “He’s a mean ol’ rip.”
Rip Out – Impatiently give vent to one’s feeling or opinions. “When he came upon the town bully, he ripped out what he thought of him.”
Rip-roaring, Rip-staver, Rip-snortin’ – An impressive person or thing.
Road Agent – A robber, bandit, desperado.
Road Ranch – A supply center or store, often located on the major trails headed westward, that supplied the wagon trains with provisions.
Rode Hard and Put Up Wet – Ugly, rough or hard looking. “She looks like she’s been rode hard and put up wet!”
Roastineer – Corn roasted over an open fire while still in the husks.
Rock – A piece of money.
Rocky Mountain Canary – A burro used by the miners in the Rocky Mountains.
Rod – A revolver.
Rode Fence – Patrolled the range checking see if any areas of fencing needed repairs.
Roily Or Rily – Turbid, excited to resentment, vexed.
Rook – To cheat, to dupe, such as a cardsharper or conman might do in a poker game.
Rookus Juice – Liquor.
Roostered – Drunk. “Looks like those cowboys are in there gettin’ all roostered up.”
Roost over one – To get the better of.
Roping In – Cheating.
Rot-gut – Bad liquor.
Rouncher, roncher – Used to describe something extreme, powerful, large, fine, remarkable.
Round Browns – Cow chips.
Round Up – A gathering of sheep, cattle or pigs.
Rousing – Very great, commonly applied to a fire.
Round-Rimmers – Hats with a round rim, hence, those who wear them.
Row – A fight
To Row Up – To punish with words, to rebuke.
Row Up Salt River – Used generally to signify political defeat.
Rowdy-dow – Low, vulgar.
Ruckus – Loud noise, voices, a racket. “What’s all the ruckus about?”
Ruinatious – Ruinous.
Rumbumptious, rumbustious – Haughty, pompous, boisterous, making a great fuss about.
Rum-hole, Rum-mill – A small drinking establishment, saloon.
Run – A small stream or rivulet.
To Run – To press with jokes, sarcasm, or ridicule. ‘To get the run upon one,’ is to make a butt of him.
Run against a pill – To be shot, to take a bullet.
To Run One’s Face – To make use of one’s credit.
Russer, Rusher – A dashing, sensation-causing man, a heavy player – often applied to politicians and clergymen.
Saddle Bum – A drifter.
Saddle Stiff – A cowboy, also referred to as “saddle warmer” and “saddle slicker.”
Saddle Tramp – A cowboy who spends most of his time in the chuck line.
Sadying – A simple and unaffected mode of dancing.
Sagamore – The title of a chief or ruler among some of the American tribes of Indians.
Sagebrush Men – Cowboy who worked in the arid portions of Montana, Colorado and Wyoming.
Sage Hen – A woman.
Sakes Alive – The equivalent of “Good heavens!”
Salt Horse – Corned beef.
Salting – Planting rich ore samples in an unprofitable mine to attract unwary buyers.
Salt-Lick – A saline spring, where animals resort for drink.
Salt-Water Vegetables – A term for oysters and clams.
Sam Hill – A euphemism for the devil. “What in the Sam Hill are you doing?”
Sand – Guts; courage; toughness. “You got sand, that’s fer shore.”
Santiago – Coronado’s favorite charge was “Santiago”, Spanish for St.James, Spain’s soldier saint.
Saphead – Blockhead, a stupid fellow.
Sappy – Young, not firm, weak.
Satinet – A twilled cloth made of cotton and wool.
Savage as a Meat Axe – Extremely savage.
Savagerous – Furious.
Savanna – An open plain, or meadow without wood.
Savey or Sabby – Corrupted from the Spanish saber, to know.To know, to comprehend.
To Saw – To hoax, to play a joke upon one.
Sawbones – Surgeon.
Sawdust – Counterfeit gold-dust or money.
Say -A speech, what one has to say.
Sawdusty – Cajoling, flattering.
Scab Herder – Derogatory term for sheep herder.
Scad – Large quantities, plenty, an abundance.
Scace – Scarce.
Scalawag or Scallywag – A mean, rotten or worthless person.
Scaly – Mean, stingy.
Scalawag – A mean, graceless fellow.
Scamp – A worthless fellow.
Scamper Juice – Whiskey.
Scape – Gallows – One who has escaped, though deserving of the gallows.
Scape-Grace – A term of reproach, a graceless fellow.
Scare Up – To obtain, get. “Can you scare up five dollars?”
Scoff away, scuff away – To blow away, drive away, impel.
School Ma’am or Marm – A school-mistress, teacher.
Sconce – The head, pate.
Scoop in – Trick, entice, inveigle. “He got scooped into a poker game and lost his shirt.”
Scoot – Move fast, run, get going.
Score Off – To get the best of one, especially in a verbal debate.
Scow – A large flat-bottomed boat, generally used as a ferry boat, or as a lighter for loading and unloading vessels when they cannot approach the wharf.
Scranch – To crunch, crack, or break any hard thing between the teeth.
Scrap – To fight or box.
Scrape – A shave.
Scraper – A razor.
Scraps – The dry, husky, and skinny residuum of melted fat.
Scratch – Not worth much. “No great scratch.”
Scratch – To come to the encounter, begin a fight, i.e. To come to the scratch. Also means to spur a horse.
Scratching Rake – A comb.
Screamer – An extraordinary person.
Screaming – First-rate, splendid.
Screw – One who squeezes all he can out of those with whom he has any dealings, an extortioner, miser. Also means salary, wages. Also means a jailer, turnkey, or prison warden.
Screw Loose – Something wrong. “He’s got a screw loose.”
Scrouge – To crowd, to squeeze.
Scrouger – A bouncing fellow or girl.
Scrub – A horse of little value.
Schruncher – One who eats greedily.
Scuds – Money.
Scuss – Scarce.
See About – To attend to, to consider.
See How The Cat Jumps – A metaphorical expression meaning, to discover the secrets or designs of others.
See the Elephant – Originally meant to see combat for the first time, later came to mean going to town, where all the action was or to go somewhere to experience a “worldly event.” Many times denotes disappointment of high-raised expectations.
Sell Out – Leave quick.
Serve Up – To expose to ridicule, to expose.
Set About – To chastise, beat, thrash. “When I got home he set about me with a strap.”
Set By or Set Much By – To regard, to esteem. “He behaved himself more wisely than all, so that his name was much set by.”
Set Her Cap For Him – To direct her attentions to him, to endeavor to win his affections.
Set Store By – To set value upon, to appreciate.
Settled – Sentenced to prison.
Set-To – Argument, debate, contest in words.
Setting-Pole – A pole pointed with iron, used for propelling vessels or boats up rivers.
Settle One’s Hash – To properly punish one.
Seven by Nine – Something or someone of inferior or common quality. Originated from common window panes of that size.
Sewn Up – Exhausted, finished, done. Also means intoxicated.
Shack – Bunkhouse.
Shack – A vagabond, a low fellow. “He’s a poor shack of a fellow.”
Shackly – Loose, rickety.
Shake – A prostitute.
Shakes – Not much, not so good. “His horse riding abilities are no great shakes.” Also means a moment, an instant. “Hold on, I’ll get to it a couple of shakes.” Also means a good opportunity, offer, bargain, or chance. “He gave me a good shake on that land.”
Shake A Stick At – When a man is puzzled to give one an idea of a very great number, he calls it ‘more than you can shake a stick at.’
Shake Down – A cowboy’s bedroll.
Shakester, Shickster – A female.
Shake Up – To obtain, get, procure. “Can you help me shake up a fiddle player for the barn dance?
Shank of the Evening – Latter part of the afternoon.
Shakes – The fever and ague.
Shakes – No great shakes. Of no great value, little worth.
Shaky – A term applied by lumbermen, dealers in timber, and carpenters, to boards which are inclined to split from defects in the log from which they have been sawed.
Shaney, Shanny – A fool.
Shank’s Mare, Shank’s Pony – On foot.
Shank – The balance, what remains. “Why don’t you come by and spend the shank of the evening with me?
Shanty – A hut, or mean dwelling.
Sharps – Any firearm manufactured Christian Sharps for his Sharps Rifle Company. This term also applied to professional gamblers who cheated at the Poker tables.
Sharp Set – Hungry.
Sharp Stick – ‘He’s after him with a sharp stick,’ i. e. he’s determined to have satisfaction, or revenge.
Shave – A narrow escape, a false alarm, a hoax.
Shaver – A child or young person of either sex; “What a cute little shaver.”
Shaver – One that is close in bargains, or a sharp dealer
Shave Tail – A green, inexperienced person.
Shebang – A shanty or small house of boards.
Shecoonery – A whimsical corruption of the word chicanery. “This town’s got a monstrous bad name for meanery and shecoonery of all sorts
Sheepherder’s Delight – Cheap whiskey.
Shet – Shut.
Shin – Borrow money.
Shindig – A dance, party, celebration.
Shindy – Uproar, confusion, a row, a spree.
Shine – To take the shine off, is to surpass in beauty or excellence. To take a shine to a person, is to take a fancy to him or her. To cut or make a shine, is to make a great display.
Shin Out – Run away.
Shirk – To procure by mean tricks, to steal.
Shivaree – A boisterous party for newlyweds.
Shoal – To lounge about lazily.
Shootin’ Iron – Six-gun or a rifle.
Shoot, Luke, or Give up the Gun – Do it or quit talking about it.
Shoot the Cat – Vomit.
Shoot the Crow – Obtain a drink in a saloon and leave without paying.
Shop-mades – Boots.
Shote – A young hog, a pig partially grown.
Shote – An idle, worthless man.
Shot in the Neck – Drunk.
Shot its Back – A horse bucking.
Shove the queer – To pass counterfeit money.
Shuck Off – Take clothes off.
Shucks – Worthless people or things.
Shunt – To move, turn aside.
Shut – Quit, rid. “I want to be shut of you!”
Shut Pan – Shut up, shut your mouth.
Shut yer cock holster – Shut yer mouth.
To Shy – To throw a light substance, as a flat stone, or a shell, with a careless jerk. Also means to turn aside, or start, as a horse, to sheer. And means, to hang about.
Sick As A Horse – ‘I’m as sick as a horse,’ exceedingly sick.
Sidle – Move unobtrusively or sideways; “The young man began to sidle near the pretty girl sitting on the log”
Signalize – To communicate information by means of signals or telegraph.
Silk – Barbed wire.
Simon Pure – The real thing, a genuine fact. “This is the Simon pure.”
Sin-Buster – A preacher.
Singin’ to ‘Em – Standing night guard.
Sinker – Biscuit.
Sipper – Gravy
Sittin’ Her – Courting a girl.
Sixes And Sevens – To be in a state of disorder and confusion.
Six-shooter Coffee – Strong coffee.
Six-shooter Horse – A fast horse.
Skedaddle – Scurry away or run like hell, get, leave, go. “I best skedaddle.”
Skeersome – Frightful.
Skeezick, skeesick – A mean contemptible fellow.
Sketchily – In a “sketchy” manner – lacking substance, superficial, incomplete.
Skid – A piece of light timber from ten to twenty feet in length, upon which heavier timber or other supplies are rolled or slid from place to place.
Skilly – Water-gruel in workhouses or prisons.
Skilts – Brown trowsers formerly worn in New England, that reach just below the knees.
Skin a Razor – To drive a hard bargain.
Skin-Flint – A tight or close-fisted person with their money.
Skin Game – A swindle.
Skinned – To keep an eye on, lookout.
Skink – To serve a drink.
Skip a Cog – To make a mistake or error.
Skittles! – Nonesense!
Skulduggery – Rascality, treachery.
Skull – The head man anywhere, such as a miner owner or the president.
Skungle – To disappear, make gone.
Skunk Cabbage – A strong-scented, repulsive plant.
Sky A Copper – Toss up a penny.
Skunk Eggs – Onions.
Slab-sided – Straight, stiff. Usually applied to people who were prim, formal, or stuffy.
Slangander – To slander, gossip, backbiting.
Slang-Whanger – A writer or noisy talker.
Slantindicular – Slanting, oblique.
Slap – Paint, rouge, cosmetics. Sometimes also used to indicate cheap wall paint.
Slap-bang – a Low eating house.
Slap-Jacks – Pancakes.
Slat – Throw down with violence. “That cowboy slatted his brains out then threw him in the horse tank.”
Slate – Abuse, quarrel.
Slathers – Abundance, no end of.
Slatted its Sails – A horse bucking.
Slazy – A corruption of the word sleazy.
Slew or Slue – In seaman’s language, to turn something around.
Slewed – Moderately drunk.
Slewer – A vulgar word for servant girl.
Slick or Slike – A pronunciation of sleek. “Her face was smooth and slike.”
Slick – To swallow.
Slick as a Whistle or Slick as Grease – To do something very smoothly.
Slicker – A group of vigilantes who operated in Missouri in the first half of the 19th Century. To “enforce” their “rules,” they were known to whip offenders with hickory switches, which was known in the Ozarks at the time, as “slicking.” Also refers to a cowboy coat.
Slicking – Whipping with hickory switches.
Slick Up – To dress up or make make fine.
Slimsey – Flimsey, frail.
Sling – A drink composed of equal parts of rum and sweetened water.
Slink – A sneaking fellow.
Slinky – Thin, lank.
Slipe – A distance. “I’ve got a long slipe to go.”
To Let Sliver – To let slip, let fly.
Sling Your Bunk – Go away.
Slog – A blow, a fight with the fists.
Slogging – A beating, a thrashing, a fight.
Slommack – Prostitute, floozie, slut, or dirty untidy woman..
Slope – To run away, decamp, slip away.
Slops – Large and loose trousers.
Slower than molasses in January – Really slow.
Slug – An ingot of gold or silver, a twenty-dollar piece.
Slumguzzling – Deceiving, humbugging.
Slummy – A servant girl.
Slump – To recite badly, fail, bungle, awkward.
Slumpy – Marshy; easily broken through..
Slush – Grease or fat from salt meat
Slue – Many, large number
Small Fry – Young children or persons of little importance.
Small Potatoes – Mean, contemptible, worthless. “He is small potatoes.”
Smart Sprinkle – A good deal; a good many. Used in the interior of the Western States.
Smock-face – A white face, a face without any hair.
Smoke Pole – Six-gun, also referred to as a “smoke wagon.”
Smooth – A meadow, or grass field.
Smoutch – To gouge, to take unfair advantage.
To Smutch – To blacken with smoke, soot, or coal. “I have smutched my fingers.”
Snake Out – Drag or haul out, as a snake from its hole.
Snake Pizen – Whiskey.
Snapped – Drunk.
Snatch – A hasty meal, a snack.
Snapper – An impudent tattler, impertinent talk, constant chatter.
Snapperhead – An impertinent fellow, one who snaps or answers to quickly or impudently.
Snippeny, snippy, sniptious, snippish – Vain, conceited.
Snipper-Snapper – An effeminate young man; a trifler.
Snipsnap – Tart dialogue, quick replies.
Snotted – Being reprimanded, hauled over the coals.
Snoozer – A thief who robs hotel guests.
Snorter – Impolite reference to a dashing or riotous fellow. A vulgar Western term.
Snuffy – A wild or spirited horse.
Soak – To bake thoroughly.
Soaked – Drunk.
Soap-Lock – A lock of hair made to lie smooth by soaping it.
Sockdologer – A powerful punch or blow.
Sodbuster – Farmer.
Soft down on – In love with.
Soft-horn – A Tenderfoot, someone new to the West.
Soft Horse – A horse with little stamina.
Soft Soap or Soft Sawder – Flattery; blarney.
Soft Tack – Bread.
Softy – Silly person, half-witted.
Sog – Dullness, lethargy.
Soiled Dove – Prostitute.
Sold His Saddle – Disgraced.
Sold Up – Poor or distressed.
Sole-slogger – A shoe-maker.
Someone to Ride the River With – A person to be counted on; reliable; got it where it counts.
Sonk, Sonkey – A stupid fellow.
Sonofabitch Stew – A cowboy concoction that contained cow heart, testicles, tongue, liver, and marrow gut. Probably first served on a trail drive using the ingredients at hand.
Sossle Or Sozzle – A lazy or sluttish woman.
Sound on the Goose – True, staunch, reliable.
Soup – Nitroglycerine. Was often used to open bank vault. Also called “oil.”
Sourdough – In cowboy lingo — a cook or a bachelor. In mining and Old West slang, a sourdough was an experienced prospector, or a veteran in his field..
Sour On – To get sick of someone or something, to give up something out of disgust.
Sowbelly – Bacon
Span – A span of horses consists of a pair that are very much alike and harnessed side by side.
Spark – A lover, a beau.
Sparking – Courting.
Spell – Time; for a while.
Spider – A cast iron frying-pan with three legs.
Spike Team – A wagon drawn by three horses, or by two oxen and a horse.
Spill – A strip of paper rolled up to light a lamp or or a cigar.
Splendiferous – Splendid, fine.
Spooney – A stupid or silly fellow, also a disgusting drunk.
Sportsman – A term often applied to a gambler.
Sposh – A mixture of mud and water.
Squally – A sailor’s word for windy, gusty.
Squatter – One who settles on land without legal title, a widespread practice in the West.
Squaw – An extremely derisive term for an Indian woman. Though this term was widely used in the Old West so much so that it became common language, it should not be perpetuated. as the term loosely translates to the “C” word that might be utilized today.
Squaw Wood – Cowchips.
Squeeze the Biscuit – Grabbing the saddle horn, not something a cowboy wants to get caught doing.
Squirtish – Dandified.
Sparkle Up – To hasten, be quick.
Sparrow Catching – Looking for a girl to go out with.
Speeler – A gambler.
Spindigo – Said of one who has come out badly, such as failing an examination or losing on the Stock Exchange.
Splashing – Talking without making sense or talking too much.
Split Fair – Tell the truth, divulge, inform.
Spoon – To court, make love, woo.
Spoons – Equivalent of money, means or fortune.
Spoops, Spoosy – A soft-brained fellow, or one whose manners are objectionable.
Spread oneself – To boast.
Spudgel – To move or run away quickly.
Squabash – To kill.
Squaddle – To depart rapidly, begone, cut and run, skedaddle.
Squibob – A term applied in contempt or indifference.
Squiffed, Squiffy – Slightly intoxicated.
Squinny – To cause a laugh, to laugh, wink, smile.
Staddle – A young tree; a tree left to grow when others are cut.
Stall Your Mug – Go away, make yourself scarce.
Stancheous – Strong; durable.
Stand In – To cost. “This horse stands me in two hundred dollars.”
Stand the gaff – Take punishment in good spirit. “He can really stand the gaff.”
Stars – A Southern pronunciation of the word stairs, like bar for bear.
To Stave – To break a hole in, to break, to burst, as, ‘to stave a cask.’ Also means to hurry or press forward.
Stave Off – To push away as with a staff, to delay, as, ‘to stave off the execution of the project
Steamer – Tobacco pipe.
Steel – Spurs.
Stemps – Legs.
Stem-winder – Applied to anything quite perfect, finished, with the latest improvements.
Stepping Ken – A dance house.
Stevedore – A man employed in loading and unloading vessels
Stew – To be in a stew, is to be in a heat, a confusion of mind.
Stew in one’s own juice – To suffer from one’s own action.
Stick – An inefficient person.
To Stick – To take in, to impose upon, to cheat in trade. “I’m stuck with a counterfeit note”
Sticker – A butcher or slaughterer.
Sticks – Furniture.
Stickling – Hesitating, delaying.
Stingo – Strong ale.
Stiver – To run, to move off.
Stob – Small stake.
Stogies – Cheap, secondhand boots.
Stomp – Dance.
Stove-pipe – A silk hat.
Strapper – A woman of a bulky form. A large, tall person.
Strapping – Huge, lusty, bouncing, as, ‘a strapping lass.
Streaked or Streaky – Frightened, annoyed, confused, alarmed.
Stretcher – A notorious lie.
Stretchin’ the Blanket – Telling a tall tale.
String – A line of horses.
String – A common name among teamsters for a whip.
String-Beans – French beans, so called from the string-like substance stripped from the side of the pod in preparing it for the table.
Stringing a Whizzer – Telling a tall tale.
Strong enough to float a colt – Very strong coffee.
Stoved up – Crippled, badly injured, or too old. Also, “stove in.”
Stuff – A weak, worthless person, one without energy.
Stuffy – Stout, mettlesome, resolute
Stumper – A puzzler.
Stump Orator – A man who preaches from the stump of a tree, or other elevation.
Stumpage – The sum paid to owners of land for the privilege of cutting the timber growing thereon.
Strumpet – A prostitute.
Suck Egg – A silly person.
Sucker – A hard drinker, a drunkard.
Sucking Hind Tit – Being last and getting the least.
Suitcase Rancher – An absentee rancher.
Sugar – Kiss or loving. “Honey, come over here and give your grandma some sugar.”
Sulky – A carriage for a single person, generally in the form of a chaise.
Sunday-face – The behind, buttocks.
Sure As A Gun – Absolutely certain.
Surface Coal – Cowchips.
Swack-up – A falsehood.
Swad – A crowd, numerous, a mass, bunch.
Swacking – Huge, robust.
Swad – A lump, mass, or hunch, also, a crowd.
Swag – A term used in speaking of booty lately obtained.
I Swamp It! – An interjection of the same meaning as I swan!
Swamp Seed – Rice.
Swan – So surprised, ready to faint or pass out. “Well, I swan.”
Swanga – A word used among some southern blacks in connection with buckra, as swanga buckra, meaning a dandy white man, or literally, a dandy devil.
Sweep – The pole or piece of timber moved on a fulcrum or post, used to lower and raise a bucket in a well for drawing water.
Sweet On – In love with.
To Swinge – To whip, to bastinade, to punish.
Swate – A violent slap or blow in the face with the open hand.
Switch In – To bring in quickly, to incite promptness. “Now’s your time, boys; switch in and let them have it.”
I Swow! – An exclamation.
Sycher – A contemptible person.
Table Muscle – A pot belly.
Taffy – Flattery.
Tail-Race – The water course leading from a mill after it has passed the water-wheel.
‘Taint – A corrupt abbreviation for it is not.
Take French Leave – To desert, sneak off without permission.
Take on – Grieve. “Don’t take on so.”
Take the Starch Out – Extinguish one’s conceit, widely applied to weakening, refuting or deterioration.
Take the Rag Off – Surpass, beat all. “Well, if that don’t take the rag off the bush.”
Talk a donkey’s hind leg off – To talk with no purpose.
Talking-Iron – A gun or rifle, called also a shooting-iron.
Tall Hog at the Trough – Superior, outstanding, exudes leadership.
Tallow – Fat, whether on humans or animals.
Tally – To live tally is to live as man and wife though not married.
Tan Your Hide – Spanking. “I started raisin’ Cain, an my mama said she was going to tan my hide!”
Tangle-footed, tangle- legged – Drunk from bad whiskey.
Taos Lightening – A name given to any potent liquor.
Taps – To be on one’s taps is to be on one’s feet, on the move, ready to move.
Taradiddles – Falsehoods, traveler’s yarns or tales.
Tare, Tear – A frolic, spree, riot, bender, rampage.
Tarantula Juice – Cheap whiskey.
Tarnal – Yankee swear word.
Tarnation – A mild oath or explanation.
Tatch, Thatch – Hat.
Teapot – A depot or railroad station.
Tearin’ up Jake – Making a lot of noise. “He must be tearin’ up Jake out there!”
Tear Squeezer – A sad story.
Techy or Techy as a Teased Snake – Grumpy, irritable.
Tee-Total – Entirely, total.
Tee-Totaller – A thorough temperance man, who avoids every kind of ardent spirits, wine, and beer.
Tejas – When the Spanish first arrived in America, the present state of Texas was called Tejas, a Spanish version of a Caddo Indian word meaning “allies.”
Ten-cent Man – A small, narrow-minded, trifling man.
Ten Commandments – Fingers or nails.
Tenderfoot – A person new to the job, or a young person.
Tenderloin – The red-light commercial district of a town, featuring brothels.
Tendsome – Requiring much attendance, as, ‘a tendsome child.’
Ter – To
Texas Butter – Gravy made with flour, hot water, and fried steak grease.
Texas Cakewalk – A hanging.
That Dog Won’t Hunt – That idea or argument isn’t going to work. Or, the person saying it doesn’t believe what you’re saying. After I broke curfew for the second time and blamed it on my car catching fire, my daddy said to me, “Traci, that dog won’t hunt.”
There You Ain’t – Expresses a failure. The opposite of “There you are.”
Three Ways from Sunday – Moving quickly; high-tailing it out of there.
Three-by-nine smile – A laug or smile to the full extent on the jaws.
Three-legged Mare – Gallows.
Throw Off on – Make fun of.
Throw up the sponge – Quit, give up, surrender.
Thundering – Very, exceedingly.
Thumb Buster – Single action six-gun that required cocking.
Thumper – A gross falsehood.
Thumping – Very large.
Tied Up – Given over, finished.
Tiger Town – Refers to an alley, street or district that had many gambling halls where Faro was played. Also referred to as “Tiger Alley.”
Tight – Drunk
Tightener – A hearty meal.
Tile Loose, Tile Off – Slightly deranged. Also “slate loose.”
Tilt On – to come across, meet.
Timbers – Legs. Also “stems” or “pegs.”
Tin – Money.
Tin-horn Lot – A term used to express contempt towards a small-minded or mean fellow.
Tinker’s News – News that has already been heard or told before.
Tippery – Payment
Tie To – Rely on. “He’s a man you can tie to.”
Tight Scrouging – Hard squeezing. Said of anything difficult to accomplish.
Tipple – Drink liquor.
Tin – A slang word for money. ‘Kelter,’ ‘dimes,’ ‘dough,’ rocks,’ and many other words are used in the same manner.
Tiswin – A kind of weak beer brewed from corn, popular among the Apache.
Titivate – To dress up.
Tit For Tat – I shall treat you as you treat me.
Titter – An eruption on the skin.
Toad Strangler – Heavy rain.
Toddle, Tortle, Turtle – To be off.
Toddy – A kind of punch made of rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg.
Toff – A dandy, a swell, one who dresses well. “Toffer” is the female version.
Toggery, Togs – Clothing.
To Rights – In the proper way.
Tote – A hard drinker.
To Toll – To entice, to lead on. Western.
Tombstones – Large teeth.
Tongs – A name for pantaloons and roundabouts formerly in use in New England.
Tongue Oil – Strong liquor.
Tonsil Paint – Liquor, also referred to as “tonsil varnish.”
Too Big For His Breeches – Said of a man who is above his business, arrogant, haughty.
Too Much Mustard – A braggart.
Topping – Elegant, swell, great.
Top-sawyer – Denoting excellence, superiority
Tornado Juice – Whiskey.
Tottie – A fast girl.
Tottle, Tottlish – To walk unsteadily.
Towelling – Thrashing, beating.
Trace – A trail or path.
Trailing – Moving cattle from one location to another.
Train Up – Hurry.
Trampous, Trampoose – To walk, to lounge or wander about, to tramp.
Tranklements, trollybobs, trollybags – Entrails, intestines.
Traps – Goods, household stuff, baggage.
Trat – A pretty girl.
To Tree – To take refuge in a tree, usually said of a wild animal. To tree oneself, is to conceal oneself behind a tree.
Trickly – Tricklish, practicing tricks.
Tricks – Ones personal belongings.
Trig A Wheel – To stop a wheel so as to prevent its going backwards or forwards
Trimmings – Bread and butter and other necessary eatables for the tea-table.
Trotter Boxes, Trotter Cases – Shoes or boots.
Trounce – To beat
Truckage – The charges for carrying on a truck, the cartage.
Truk, Trug – A prostitute of the lowest class. Usually dirty, slatternly.
Tub-thumping – Street preaching.
Tuckered Out – Tired out, fatigued.
‘Twa’n’t – It was not.
Twig – Observe, understand.
Twist – A good appetite. Also to outlaws, it means to hang.
Twistical – Tortuous, unfair, not quite moral.
Twisting the Tiger’s Tail – Playing Faro or poker. Also referred to as “bucking the tiger.”
Twofer – A loose woman.
Two Whoops and a Holler – Not far away.
Ugly as a Mud Fence – Used to describe someone who was very ugly.
Uncorkin’ a Bronc – Breaking a horse.
Unmentionables – Underwear.
Unsalted – Fresh, green, young, inexperienced.
Unshucked – Cowboy talk for naked. An unshucked gun is one that’s out of the holster.
Unwound – A horse bucking.
Up a Tree, Treed – In difficulty, cornered, unable to do anything.
Uppish – Proud, insolent.
Upper Story – The brain, the head. “He’s not right in his upper story.”
Up the Spout – Gone to waste or ruin.
Up Stakes – To depart in a hurry. Same as “cut stick.”
Up To The Hub – To the extreme point.
Up To Snuff – To be flash, to be shrewd.
Up the Spout – Imprisoned.
Up To Trap – Knowing, shrewd.
Valley Tan – A kind of liquor sold in Mormon Country.
Vamoose – To disappear or leave quickly.
Vaulting House – Brothel.
Velvet Couch – A cowboy’s bedroll.
Vamos – A Spanish word signifying let us go.
Varmint – A corrupt pronunciation of the word vermin.
Vission Quest – An attempt to achieve a vision of a future guardian spirit, traditionally undertaken at puberty by boys of the Plains Indian peoples, typically through fasting or self-torture.
Vum – A form of swearing. “I vum!” similary to “I vow!”
Wabble – Make free use of one’s tongue, to be a ready speaker.
Waddy – One of the words for cowboy, especially a cowboy who drifted from ranch to ranch and helped out in busy times.
Wag-tail – A prostitute.
Wait On – To court.
Wake Snakes – To raise a ruckus.
Wake up/Woke up the Wrong Passenger – To trouble or anger the wrong person.
Walk The Chalk – Walk straight.
Wall – Roll your eyes.
Wamble-Cropped – Sick at the stomach, and figuratively, wretched, humiliated.
Wampum – In the Massachusetts Indian language, this word means white, or the color of shells.
Wap – To throw quickly, to flap
War Bag – Cowboys traveled light, and stored their meager worldly possessions in his “war bag”. Inside was generally everything he owned, typically an extra set of clothes, extra ammunition, spare parts for equipment, playing cards, bill of sale for his horse, and maybe a harmonica or a few precious letters. Also called a “war sack” and a “yannigan bag.”
War Bonnet – Hat.
Washy – Weak, not firm or hardy.
Wasp Nest – Light bread.
Wattles – Ears.
Wax – In a rage.
Way-Bill – A list of the passengers in a stage-coach, railroad car, steamboat, or other public conveyance.
Wearing the Bustle Wrong – Referring to a pregnant woman.
Weather-Breeder – A cloudless sky, after a succession of rainy weather, denotes rain, and is said to be a weatherbreeder.
Weed – A common term for tobacco.
Well To Live – To be in easy circumstances, to live comfortably.
Whack – To share.
Whacker – Anything very large, same as a “whopper.”
Whale Away – To preach, talk or lecture continuously or vehemently.
Whang – Sinews of the buffalo or other animal, or small strips of thin deer-skin, used by the dwellers and hunters of the prairies for sewing.
Whaling – A lashing, a beating.
Whaler – A big, strapping fellow.
Whap – A quick and smart stroke.
Whapper or Whopper – Anything uncommonly large, as, ‘That’s a whopper,’ meaning a monstrous lie.
Whapping – Very large.
What in the Tarnation – A polite way of saying “What the hell?”
To Wheal – To swell.
Wheel-Horse – An intimate friend, one’s right hand man.
Whelk – An old name for a pustule, a pimple. The word is not much used in America.
Whelky – Protuberant, rounded.
Whim-Wham – A toy, a freak, a strange fancy.
Whip-belly – Bad beer.
Whistle Berries – Beans.
White Eye – Maize whiskey.
White-Eyed – Exhausted.
White Liner – An alcoholic.
White Tape, White Wine – Gin
Whitewash – To gloss over or hide one’s faults or shortcomings.
Whittled – Drunk
Who-Hit-John – Liquor, beer, intoxicating spirits. “He had a little too much who-hit-John.”
Whole Hog – All the way, all of it. “Go the whole hog!”
Whole Kit and Caboodle – The entire thing.
Whomper-jawed – Uneven.
Whoremonger – A man who frequents prostitutes.
Whuppin‘ – Spanking.
Wicket – A place of shelter, or camp made of the boughs of trees.
Widow – The gallows.
Widow Maker – A very bad or “outlaw” horse.
Wigging – A rebuke.
Wild Mare’s Milk – Whiskey.
Wild West Weekly – Pulp or “dime” novels.
Windies – Tall Tales.
Winsome – Lively, cheerful, gay.
Wipe Your Chin – Be quiet.
Wolfer – A man with a large appetite or a hard drinker.
Wolfish – Savage, savagely hungry.
Wood – Saddle.
Wooding-Place – A station on the banks of a river where the steamboats stop to take in supplies of wood.
Woolies – Sheep
Woolsey – A cheap hat, usually made of wool.
Worm-Fence – A rail fence laid up in a zig-zag manner.
Worse Than a Cat in a Roomful of Rockers – Someone who is really nervous.
Wrathy – Very angry.
Wrapper – A loose dress or gown.
Wrinkle – Whim, fancy, a cunning trick or artful dodge.
Wrinkled His Spine – A horse bucking.
Yack – A stupid person.
Yam – To eat.
Yammerin’ – Talking. “Drink yer coffee an’ quit yer yammerin’.”
Yannigan Bag – A bag in which the cowboy carried personal items, also known as a “war bag.”
Yarn – A story.
Yeath – For earth.
Yegg (or John Yegg) – Bandit chief
Yellow Belly – A coward.
Yellow Hammer – Gold coin.
Yellows – Often pronounced yallers. A disease of horses and cattle, which is indicated by a yellow appearance of the eyes, inside of the lips, etc.
Yer – You
Yere – Here
Yourn – A form of ‘yours’, as in “This un’s mine, that un’s yourn.”
Zitted – Zipped, flew. “The bullets zitted about in every direction.”
Zooning – Humming, buzzing, barking.
This information compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America