bibliography - The Slang Dictionary






Slang has a literary history, the same as authorized language. More than one hundred works have treated upon the subject in one form or other,—a few devoting but a chapter, whilst many have given up their entire pages to expounding its history and use. Old Harman, a worthy man, who interested himself in suppressing and exposing vagabondism in the days of good Queen Bess, was the first to write upon the subject. Decker followed fifty years afterwards, but helped himself, evidently, to his predecessor’s labours. Shakspeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson, and Brome, each employed beggars’ cant as part of the machinery of their plays. Then came Head (who wrote The English Rogue in 1680) with a Glossary of cant words “used by the Gipsies.” But it was only a reprint of what Decker had given sixty years before. About this time authorized dictionaries began to insert vulgar words, labelling them “cant.” The Jack Sheppards and Dick Turpins of the early and middle part of the last century made cant popular, and many small works were published upon the subject. But it was Grose, burly, facetious Grose, who, in the year 1785, collected the scattered Glossaries of cant and secret words, and formed one large work, adding to it all the vulgar words and[372] slang terms used in his own day. The indelicacy and extreme vulgarity of the work renders it unfit for ordinary use, still it must be admitted that it is by far the most important work which has ever appeared on street or popular language; indeed, from its pages every succeeding work has, up to the present time, drawn its contents. The great fault of Grose’s book consists in the author not contenting himself with slang and cant terms, but inserting every “smutty” and offensive word that could be discovered. However, Harman and Grose are, after all, the only authors who have as yet treated the subject in an original manner, or who have written on it from personal inquiry.

Ainsworth’s (William Harrison) Novels and Ballads. London, v. d.

Some of this author’s novels, such as Rookwood and Jack Sheppard, abound in Cant words, placed in the mouths of the highwaymen. The author’s ballads (especially “Nix my dolly, pals, fake away”) have long been popular favourites.

Amorous Gallants’ Tongue tipp’d with Golden Expressions; or the Art of Courtship refined, being the best and Newest Academy; containing Select Sentences, forms of Courtship; Choice Letters; Interpretation of Dreams: to which is added Bills, Bonds, Releases, Letters of Attorney, &c.; together with A Canting Academy, or the Pedlar’s French Dictionary, 13th edition. London, for C. Hitch and L. Hawes, n. d. [1740], 12mo.

A New Dictionary of the Jaunting Crew, 12mo. n. d.

Mentioned by John Bee in the Introduction to his Sportsman’s Slang Dictionary.

Andrews’ (George) Dictionary of the Slang and Cant Languages, Ancient and Modern, 12mo. London, 1809.

A sixpenny pamphlet, with a coloured frontispiece representing a beggar’s carnival.

Ash’s (John, LL.D.) New and Complete Dictionary of the English Language, 2 vols. 8vo. 1775.

Contains a great number of Cant words and phrases.

Bacchus and Venus; or, A Select Collection of near Two Hundred of the most Witty and Diverting Songs and Catches in Love and Gallantry, with Songs in the Canting Dialect, with a Dictionary explaining all Burlesque and Canting Terms, 12mo. 1738.

Prefixed is a curious woodcut frontispiece of a Boozing-Ken. This work is scarce, and much prized by collectors. The Canting Dictionary appeared before, about 1710, with the initials B. E. on the title. It also came out afterwards, in the year 1751, under the title of the Scoundrel’s Dictionary,—a mere reprint of the two former impressions.


Bailey’s (Nath.) Etymological English Dictionary, 2 vols. 8vo. 1737.

Contains a great many Cant and Vulgar Words;—indeed, Bailey does not appear to have been very particular what words he inserted, so long as they were actually in use. A Collection of Ancient and Modern Cant Words appears as an appendix to vol. ii. of this edition (third).

Bang-up Dictionary; or, the Lounger and Sportsman’s Vade-Mecum, containing a copious and correct Glossary of the Language of the Whips, illustrated by a great variety of original and curious Anecdotes, 8vo. 1812.

A vulgar performance, consisting of pilferings from Grose, and made up with meanings of a degraded character.

Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms; a Glossary of Words and Phrases colloquially used in the United States, 8vo. New York, 1859.

It is a curious fact connected with slang that a great number of vulgar words common in England are equally common in the United States; and when we remember that America began to be peopled two centuries ago, and that these colloquialisms must have crossed the sea with the first emigrants, we can form some idea of the antiquity of popular or street language. Many words, owing to the caprices of fashion or society, have wholly disappeared in the parent country, whilst in the colonies they are yet heard. The words “skink,” to serve drink in company, and the old term “miching” or “meeching,” skulking or playing truant, for instance, are still in use in the United States, although nearly obsolete here.

Beaumont and Fletcher’s Comedy of The Beggar’s Bush, 4to, 1661.

Contains numerous Cant words.

Bee’s (Jon.) Dictionary of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, the Pit, the Bon Ton, and the Varieties of Life, forming the completest and most authentic Lexicon Balatronicum hitherto offered to the notice of the Sporting World, by John Bee [i.e., John Badcock], Editor of the Fancy, Fancy Gazette, Living Picture of London, and the like of that, 12mo. 1823.

This author published books on Stable Economy under the name of Hinds. He was the sporting rival of Pierce Egan. Professor Wilson, in an amusing article in Blackwood’s Magazine, reviewed this work.

Bee’s (Jon.) Living Picture of London for 1828, and Stranger’s Guide through the Streets of the Metropolis; showing the Frauds, the Arts, Snares, and Wiles of all descriptions of Rogues that everywhere abound, 12mo. 1828.

Professes to be a guide to society, high and low, in London, and to give an insight into the language of the streets.

Bee’s (Jon.) Sportsman’s Slang; a New Dictionary of Terms used in the Affairs of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, and the Cockpit; with those of Bon Ton and the Varieties of Life, forming a Lexicon Balatronicum et Macaronicum, &c., 12mo, plate. For the Author, 1825.

The same as the preceding, only with an altered title. Both wretched performances, filled with miserable attempts at wit.

Blackguardiana; or, Dictionary of Rogues, Bawds, &c., 8vo, with portraits [by James Caulfield]. 1795.

This work, with a long and very vulgar title, is nothing but a reprint of Grose, with a few anecdotes of pirates, odd persons, &c., and some curious portraits inserted. It was concocted by Caulfield as a speculation, and published at[374] one guinea per copy; and, owing to the remarkable title, and the notification at the bottom that “only a few copies were printed,” soon became scarce. For philological purposes it is not worth so much as any edition of Grose.

Book of Vagabonds. See under Liber Vagatorum.

Boxiana; or, Sketches of Modern Pugilism, by Pierce Egan (an account of the prize-ring), 3 vols. 8vo. 1820.

Gives more particularly the Cant terms of pugilism, but contains numerous (what were then styled) “flash” words.

Brandon. Poverty, Mendicity, and Crime; or, The Facts, Examinations, &c., upon which the Report was founded, presented to the House of Lords by W. A. Miles, Esq., to which is added a Dictionary of the Flash or Cant Language, known to every Thief and Beggar, edited by H. Brandon, Esq., 8vo. 1839.

A very wretched performance.

Brome’s (Rich.) Joviall Crew; or, The Merry Beggars. Presented in a Comedie at the Cockpit, in Drury Lane, in the Year (4to) 1652.

Contains many Cant words similar to those given by Decker,—from whose works they were doubtless obtained.

Brown’s (Rev. Hugh Stowell) Lecture on Manliness, 12mo. 1857.

Contains a few modern Slang words.

Brydges’ (Sir Egerton) British Bibliographer, 4 vols. 8vo. 1810-14.

Vol. ii. p. 521, gives a list of Cant words.

Bulwer’s (Sir Edward Lytton) Paul Clifford. v. d.

Contains numerous Cant words.

Bulwer’s (Sir Edward Lytton) Pelham. v. d.

Contains a few Cant terms.

Butler’s Hudibras, with Dr. Grey’s Annotations, 3 vols. 8vo. 1819.

Abounding in colloquial terms and phrases.

Cambridge. Gradus ad Cantabrigiam; or, a Dictionary of Terms, Academical and Colloquial, or Cant, which are used at the University, with Illustrations, 12mo. Camb., 1803.

Canting: A Poem, interspersed with Tales and Additional Scraps, post 8vo. 1814.

A few street words may be gleaned from this rather dull poem.

Canting Academy: or, Villanies Discovered, wherein are shown the Mysterious and Villanous Practices of that Wicked Crew—Hectors, Trapanners, Gilts, &c., with several new Catches and Songs; also Compleat Canting Dictionary, 12mo, frontispiece. 1674.

Compiled by Richard Head.

Canting Dictionary; comprehending all the Terms, Antient and Modern, used in the several Tribes of Gypsies, Beggars, Shoplifters, Highwaymen, Foot-Pads, and all other Clans of Cheats and Villains, with Proverbs, Phrases, Figurative Speeches, &c., to which is added a complete Collection of Songs in the Canting Dialect, 12mo. 1725.

The title is by far the most interesting part of the work. A mere make-up of earlier attempts.


Carew. Life and Adventures of Bamfylde Moore Carew, the King of the Beggars, with Canting Dictionary, portrait, 8vo. 1791.

There are numerous editions of this singular biography. The Canting Dictionary is nothing more than a filch from earlier books.

Characterisms, or the Modern Age Displayed; being an Attempt to Expose the Pretended Virtues of Both Sexes, 12mo (part i., Ladies; part ii., Gentlemen), E. Owen. 1750.

An anonymous work, from which some curious matter may be obtained.

Conybeare’s (Dean) Essay on Church Parties, reprinted from the Edinburgh Review, No. CC., October, 1853, 12mo. 1858.

Several curious instances of religious or pulpit Slang are given in this exceedingly interesting little volume.

Corcoron (Peter.) The Fancy, a Poem, 12mo. 182-.

Abounding in Slang words and the terms of the prize-ring. Written in imitation of Moore’s Tom Crib’s Memorial, by one of the authors of The Rejected Addresses.

Cotton’s (Charles) Genuine Poetical Works, 12mo. 1771.

“Scarronides, or Virgil Travestie, being the first and fourth Books of Virgil’s Æneis, in English burlesque,” 8vo, 1672, and other works by this author, contain numerous vulgar words now known as Slang.

Decker’s (Thomas) The Bellman of London; bringing to light the most notorious villanies that are now practised in the Kingdom; 4to, black letter. London, 1608.

Watt says this is the first book which professes to give an account of the Canting language of thieves and vagabonds. But this is wrong, as will have been seen from the remarks on Harman, who collected the words of the vagabond crew half a century before.

Decker’s (Thomas) Lanthorne and Candle-light, or the Bellman’s Second Night’s Walke, in which he brings to light a brood of more strange villanies than ever were to this year discovered, 4to. London, 1608-9.

This is a continuation of the former work, and contains the Canter’s Dictionary, and has a frontispiece of the London Watchman with his staff broken.

Decker’s (Thomas) Gull’s Hornbook, 4to. 1609.

“This work affords a greater insight into the fashionable follies and vulgar habits of Queen Elizabeth’s day than perhaps any other extant.”

Decker’s (Thomas) O per se O, or a new Cryer of Lanthorne and Candle-light, an Addition of the Bellman’s Second Night’s Walke, 4to, black letter. 1612.

A lively description of London. Contains a Canter’s Dictionary, every word in which appears to have been taken from Harman without acknowledgment. This is the first work that gives the Canting song, a verse of which is inserted at page 14 of the Introduction. This Canting song has since been inserted in nearly all dictionaries of Cant.

Decker’s (Thomas) Villanies discovered by Lanthorne and Candle-light, and the Helpe of a new Cryer called O per se O, 4to. 1616.

“With canting songs never before printed.”

Decker’s (Thomas) English Villanies, eight several times prest to Death by the Printers, but still reviving again, are now the eighth time (as at the first) discovered by Lanthorne and Candle-light, &c., 4to. 1648.

The eighth edition of the Lanthorne and Candle-light.


Dictionary of all the Cant and Flash Languages, both Ancient and Modern, 18mo. Bailey, 1790.

Dictionary of all the Cant and Flash Languages, 12mo. London, 1797.

Dictionary of the Canting Crew (Ancient and Modern), of Gypsies, Beggars, Thieves, &c., 12mo. n. d. [1700.]

Dictionnaire des Halle, 12mo. Bruxelles, 1696.

This curious Slang dictionary sold in the Stanley sale for £4 16s.

Ducange Anglicus.—The Vulgar Tongue: comprising Two Glossaries of Slang, Cant, and Flash Words and Phrases used in London at the present day, 12mo. 1857.

A silly and childish performance, full of blunders and contradictions.

Duncombe’s Flash Dictionary of the Cant Words, Queer Sayings, and Crack Terms now in use in Flash Cribb Society, 32mo, coloured print. 1820.

Dunton’s Ladies’ Dictionary, 8vo. London, 1694.

Contains a few Cant and vulgar words.

Egan. Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, with the addition of numerous Slang Phrases, edited by Pierce Egan, 8vo. 1823.

The best edition of Grose, with many additions, including a life of this celebrated antiquary.

Egan’s (Pierce) Life in London, 2 vols. thick 8vo, with coloured plates by Geo. Cruikshank, representing high and low life. 18—.

Contains numerous Cant, Slang, sporting, and vulgar words, supposed by the author to form the basis of conversation in life, high and low, in London.

Elwyn’s (Alfred L.) Glossary of supposed Americanisms—Vulgar and Slang Words used in the United States, small 8vo. 1859.

Gentleman’s Magazine, 8vo. n. d.

“In a very early volume of this parent magazine were given a few pages, by way of sample, of a Slang vocabulary, then termed Cant. If, as we suspect, this part of the magazine fell to the share of Dr. Johnson, who was then its editor, we have to lament that he did not proceed with the design.”—John Bee, in the Introduction to his Slang Dictionary, 1825.

Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. xcii., p. 520.

Mention made of Slang.

Glossaries of County Dialects. v. d.

Many of these will repay examination, as they contain Cant and Slang words, wrongly inserted as provincial or old terms.

Golden Cabinet (The) of Secrets opened for Youth’s delightful Pastime, in 7 parts, the last being the “City and Country Jester;” with a Canting Dictionary, by Dr. Surman, 12mo. London, n. d. (1730.)

Contains some curious woodcuts.

Greene’s (Robert) Notable Discovery of Coosnage, now daily practised by sundry lewd persons called Conie-catchers and Crosse-biters. Plainly laying open those pernitious sleights that hath brought many ignorant men to confusion. Written for the general benefit of all Gentlemen, Citizens, Apprentices, Country Farmers, and Yeomen, that may hap to fall into the company of such coosening companions. [377]With a delightful discourse of the coosnage of Colliers, 4to, with woodcuts. Printed by John Wolfe, 1591.

The first edition. A copy of another edition, supposed to be unique, is dated 1592. It was sold at the Heber sale.

Greene’s (Robert) Groundworke of Conny-catching, the manner of their pedlers’ French, and the meanes to understand the same, with the cunning sleights of the Counterfeit Cranke. Done by a Justice of the Peace of great Authoritie, 4to, with woodcuts. 1592.

Usually enumerated among Greene’s works, but it is only a reprint, with variations, of Harman’s Caveat, and of which Rowland complains in his Martin Markall. The second and third parts of this curious work were published in the same year. Two other very rare volumes by Greene were published—The Defence of Cony-Catching, 4to, in 1592, and The Black Bookes Messenger, in 1595. They both treat on the same subjects.

Grose’s (Francis, generally styled Captain) Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 8vo. 178-.

The much-sought-after First Edition, but containing nothing, as far as I have examined, which is not to be found in the second and third editions. As respects indecency, I find all the editions equally disgraceful. The Museum copy of the first edition is, I suspect, Grose’s own copy, as it contains numerous manuscript additions which afterwards went to form the second edition. Excepting the obscenities, it is really an extraordinary book, and displays great industry, if we cannot speak much of its morality. It is the well from which all the other authors—Duncombe, Caulfield, Clarke, Egan, &c. &c.—drew their vulgar outpourings, without in the least purifying what they had stolen.

Haggart. Life of David Haggart, alias John Wilson, alias Barney M’Coul, written by himself while under sentence of death, curious frontispiece of the prisoner in irons, intermixed with all the Slang and Cant words of the day, to which is added a Glossary of the same, 12mo. 1821.

Hall’s (B.H.) Collection of College Words and Customs, 12mo. Cambridge (U.S.), 1856.

Very complete. The illustrative examples are excellent.

Halliwell’s Archaic Dictionary, 2 vols. 8vo. 1855.

An invaluable work, giving the Cant words used by Decker, Brome, and a few of those mentioned by Grose.

Harlequin Jack Shepherd, with a Night Scene in Grotesque Characters, 8vo. (About 1736.)

Contains Songs in the Canting dialect.

Harman’s (Thomas, Esq.) Caveat or Warening for Common Cursetors, vulgarly called vagabones, set forth for the utilitie and profit of his naturall countrey, augmented and inlarged by the first author thereof; whereunto is added the tale of the second taking of the counterfeit crank, with the true report of his behaviour and also his punishment for his so dissembling, most marvellous to the hearer or reader thereof, newly imprinted, 4to. Imprinted at London, by H. Middleton, 1573.

Contains the earliest Dictionary of the Cant language. Four editions were printed—

William Griffith, 1566

... 1567

... 1567

Henry Middleton, 1573

What Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was to the authors of the earlier part of the present century, Harman’s was to the Deckers, and Bromes, and Heads of the seventeenth.


Harrison’s (William) Description of the Island of Britain (prefixed to Holinshed’s Chronicle), 2 vols. folio. 1577.

Contains an account of English vagabonds.

Hazlitt’s (William) Table Talk, 12mo, (vol. ii. contains a chapter on Familiar Style, with a notice on Slang terms.)

Head’s (Richard) English Rogue, described in the Life of Meriton Latroon, a Witty Extravagant, 4 vols. 12mo. Frans. Kirkman, 1671-80.

Contains a list of Cant words, evidently copied from Decker.

Hell upon earth, or the most pleasant and delectable History of Whittington’s Colledge, otherwise vulgarly called Newgate, 12mo. 1703.

Henley’s (John, better known as Orator Henley) Various Sermons and Orations. 1719-53.

Contains numerous vulgarisms and Slang phrases.

[Hitching’s (Charles, formerly City Marshal, now a prisoner in Newgate)] Regulator; or, a Discovery of the Thieves, Thief-Takers, and Locks, alias Receivers of Stolen Goods in and about the City of London; also an account of all the flash words now in vogue amongst the Thieves, &c., 8vo, very rare, with a curious woodcut. 1718.

A violent attack upon Jonathan Wild.

Household Words, No. 183, September 24.

Gives an interesting article on Slang, with many examples.

Johnson’s (Dr. Samuel) Dictionary (the earlier editions). v. d.

Contains a great number of words italicized as Cant, low, or barbarous.

Jonson’s (Ben.) Bartholomew Fair, ii. 6.

Several Cant words are placed in the mouths of the characters.

Jonson’s (Ben.) Masque of the Gipsies Metamorphosed, 4to. 16—.

Contains numerous Cant words.

Kent’s (E.) Modern Flash Dictionary, containing all the Cant words, Slang Terms, and Flash Phrases now in Vogue, 18mo, coloured frontispiece. 1825.

L’Estrange’s (Sir Roger) Works (principally translations). v.d.

Abound in vulgar and Slang phrases.

Lexicon Balatronicum; a Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence, by a Member of the Whip Club, assisted by Hell-fire Dick, 8vo. 1811.

One of the many reprints of Grose’s second edition, put forth under a fresh, and what was then considered a more attractive title. It was given out in advertisements, &c., as a piece of puff, that it was edited by a Dr. H. Clarke, but contains scarcely a line more than Grose.

Liber Vagatorum: Der Betler Orden, 4to. Translated into English, with Notes, by John Camden Hotten, as The Book of Vagabonds and Beggars, with a vocabulary of their Language (Rotwelsche Sprach); edited, with preface, by Martin Luther, in the year 1528, 4to, with woodcuts. 1859.


The first edition of this book appears to have been printed at Augsburg, by Erhard Oglin, or Ocellus, about 1514,—a small quarto of twelve leaves. It was frequently reprinted at other places in Germany: and in 1528 there appeared an edition at Wirtemberg, with a preface by Martin Luther, who says that the “Rotwelsche Sprach,” the Cant language of the beggars, comes from the Jews, as it contains many Hebrew words, as any one who understands that language may perceive. This book is divided into three parts, or sections; the first gives a special account of the several orders of the “Fraternity of Vagabonds;” the second, sundry “notabilia” relating to the different classes of beggars previously described; and the third consists of a “Rotwelsche Vocabulary,” or “Canting Dictionary.” There is a long notice of the “Liber Vagatorum” in the “Weimarisches Jahrbuch,” 10ter Band, 1856. Mayhew, in his London Labour, states that many of our Cant words are derived from the Jew fences. It is singular that a similar statement should have been made by Martin Luther more than three centuries before.

Life in St. George’s Fields; or, The Rambles and Adventures of Disconsolate William, Esq., and his Surrey Friend, Flash Dick, with Songs and a flash dictionary, 8vo. 1821.

Maginn (Dr.) wrote Slang songs in Blackwood’s Magazine. 1827.

Mayhew’s (Henry) London Labour and the London Poor, 4 vols. 1851-61.

An invaluable work to the inquirer into popular or street language.

Mayhew’s (Henry) Great World of London, 8vo. 1857.

An unfinished work, but containing several examples of the use and application of Cant and Slang words.

Middleton (Thomas) and Decker’s (Thomas) Roaring Girl; or Moll Cut Purse, 4to. 1611.

The conversation in one scene is entirely in the so-called pedlar’s French. It is given in Dodsley’s Old Plays.

Modern Flash Dictionary, 48mo. 1825.

The smallest Slang dictionary ever printed; intended for the waistcoat-pockets of the “bloods” of the Prince Regent’s time.

Moncrieff’s Tom and Jerry, or Life in London, a Farce in Three Acts, 12mo. 1820.

An excellent exponent of the false and forced “high life” which was so popular during the minority of George IV. The farce had a run of a hundred nights, or more, and was a general favourite for years. It abounds in Cant, and the language of “gig,” as it was then often termed.

Mornings at Bow Street, by T. Wright, 12mo, with Illustrations by George Cruikshank. Tegg, 1838.

In this work a few etymologies of Slang words are attempted.

New Canting Dictionary, 12mo. n. d.

A copy of this work is described in Rodd’s Catalogue of Elegant Literature, 1845, part iv., No. 2128, with manuscript notes and additions in the autograph of Isaac Reed, price £1. 8s.

New Dictionary of the Terms, Ancient and Modern, of the Canting Crew in its several tribes of Gypsies, Beggars, Thieves, Cheats, &c., with an addition of some Proverbs, Phrases, Figurative Speeches, &c., by B. E., Gent., 12mo. n. d. [1710.]

Afterwards issued under the title of Bacchus and Venus, 1737, and in 1754 as the Scoundrel’s Dictionary.


New Dictionary of all the Cant and Flash Languages used by every class of offenders, from a Lully Prigger to a High Tober Gloak, small 8vo, pp. 62. 179-.

Mentioned by John Bee.

Notes and Queries. The invaluable Index to this most useful periodical may be consulted with advantage by the seeker after etymologies of Slang and Cant words.

Parker. High and Low Life, A View of Society in, being the Adventures in England, Ireland, &c., of Mr. G. Parker, A Stage Itinerant, 2 vols. in 1, thick 12mo. Printed for the Author, 1781.

A curious work, containing many Cant words, with 100 orders of rogues and swindlers.

Parker’s (Geo.) Life’s Painter of Variegated Characters, with a Dictionary of Cant Language and Flash Songs, to which is added a Dissertation on Freemasonry, portrait, 8vo. 1789.

Pegge’s (Samuel) Anecdotes of the English Language, chiefly regarding the Local Dialect of London and Environs, 8vo. 1803-41.

Perry’s (William) London Guide and Stranger’s Safeguard against Cheats, Swindlers, and Pickpockets, by a Gentleman who has made the Police of the Metropolis an object of inquiry twenty-two years (no wonder when the author was in prison a good portion of that time!) 1818.

Contains a dictionary of Slang and Cant words.

Phillip’s New World of Words, folio. 1696.

Pickering’s (F.) Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases which have been supposed to be peculiar to the United States of America, to which is prefixed an Essay on the present state of the English Language in the United States, 8vo. Boston, 1816.

The remark made upon Bartlett’s Americanisms applies equally to this work.

Picture of the Fancy, 12mo. 18—.

Contains numerous Slang terms.

Potter’s (H. T., of Clay, Worcestershire) New Dictionary of all the Cant and Flash Languages, both ancient and modern, 8vo, pp. 62. 1790.

Poulter. The Discoveries of John Poulter, alias Baxter, 8vo, 48 pages. (1770?)

At pages 42, 43, there is an explanation of the “Language of Thieves, commonly called Cant.”

Prison-breaker, The, or the Adventures of John Sheppard, a Farce, 8vo. London, 1725.

Contains a Canting song, &c.

Punch, or the London Charivari.

Often points out Slang, vulgar, or abused words. It also occasionally employs them in jokes or sketches of character.

Quarterly Review, vol. x. p. 528.

Gives a paper on Americanisms and Slang phrases.

Randall’s (Jack, the Pugilist, formerly of the “Hole in the Wall,” Chancery Lane) Diary of Proceedings at the House of Call for Genius,[381] edited by Mr. Breakwindow, to which are added several of Mr. B.’s minor pieces, 12mo. 1820.

Believed to have been written by Thomas Moore. The verses are mostly parodies of popular authors, and abound in the Slang of pugilism, and the phraseology of the fast life of the period.

Randall (Jack), a Few Selections from his Scrap-book; to which are added Poems on the late Fight for the Championship, 12mo. 1822.

Frequently quoted by Moore in Tom Crib’s Memorial.

Scoundrel’s Dictionary; or, an Explanation of the Cant Words used by Thieves, Housebreakers, Street-robbers, and Pickpockets about Town, with some curious Dissertations on the Art of Wheedling, &c., the whole printed from a copy taken on one of their gang, in the late scuffle between the watchman and a party of them on Clerkenwell Green, 8vo. 1754.

A reprint of Bacchus and Venus, 1737.

Sharp (Jeremy), The Life of an English Rogue, 12mo. 1740.

Includes a “Vocabulary of the Gypsies’ Cant.”

Sherwood’s Gazetteer of Georgia, U.S., 8vo.

Contains a glossary of words, Slang and vulgar, peculiar to the Southern States.

Smith (Capt. Alexander), The Thieves’ Grammar, 12mo, p. 28. 17—.

A copy of this work is in the collection formed by Prince Lucien Bonaparte.

Smith’s (Capt.) Compleat History of the Lives and Robberies of the most Notorious Highwaymen, Footpads, Shoplifters, and Cheats, of both Sexes, in and about London and Westminster, 12mo, vol. i. 1719.

This volume contains “The Thieves’ New Canting Dictionary of the Words, Proverbs, &c., used by Thieves.”

Smith’s (Capt.) Thieves’ Dictionary, 12mo. 1724.

Snowden’s Magistrate’s Assistant, and Constable’s Guide, thick small 8vo. 1852.

Gives a description of the various orders of cadgers, beggars, and swindlers, together with a Glossary of the Flash Language.

Sportsman’s Dictionary, 4to. 17—.

By an anonymous author. Contains some low sporting terms.

Stanley’s Remedy, or the Way how to Reform Wandring Beggars, Thieves, &c., wherein is shewed that Sodomes Sin of Idleness is the Poverty and the Misery of this Kingdome, 4to. 1646.

This work has an engraving on wood which is said to be the veritable original of Jim Crow.

Swift’s coarser pieces abound in vulgarities and Slang expressions.

The Triumph of Wit, or Ingenuity displayed in its Perfection, being the Newest and most Useful Academy, Songs, Art of Love, and the Mystery and Art of Canting, with Poems, Songs, &c., in the Canting Language, 16mo. J. Clarke, 1735.

What is generally termed a shilling Chap Book.

The Triumph of Wit, or the Canting Dictionary, being the Newest and most Useful Academy, containing the Mystery and art of Canting, with the original and present management thereof, and the ends to which it serves and is employed, illustrated with Poems, Songs, and[382] various Intrigues in the Canting Language, with the Explanations, &c., 12mo. Dublin, n. d.

A Chap Book of 32 pages, circa 1760.

The Whole Art Of Thieving and Defrauding Discovered: being a Caution to all Housekeepers, Shopkeepers, Salesmen, and others, to guard against Robbers of both Sexes, and the best Methods to prevent their Villanies; to which is added an Explanation of most of the Cant terms in the Thieving Language, 8vo, pp. 46. 1786.

Thomas (I.), My Thought Book, 8vo. 1825.

Contains a chapter on Slang.

Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress, with a Preface, Notes, and Appendix by one of the Fancy [Tom Moore, the Poet], 12mo. 1819.

A humorous poem, abounding in Slang and pugilistic term, with a burlesque essay on the classic origin of Slang.

Vacabondes, the Fraternatye of, as well as of ruflyng Vacabones, as of beggerly, of Women as of Men, of Gyrles as of Boyes, with their proper Names and Qualities, with a Description of the Crafty Company of Cousoners and Shifters, also the XXV. Orders of Knaves; otherwyse called a Quartern of Knaves, confirmed by Cocke Lorell, 8vo. Imprinted at London by John Awdeley, dwellyng in little Britayne strete, without Aldersgate. 1575.

It is stated in Ames’ Typog. Antiq., vol. ii. p. 885, that an edition bearing the date 1565 is in existence, and that the compiler was no other than old John Audley, the printer, himself. This conjecture, however, is very doubtful. As stated by Watt, it is more than probable that it was written by Harman, or was taken from his works, in MS. or print.

Vaux’s (Count de, a swindler and pickpocket) Life, written by himself, 2 vols., 12mo, to which is added a Canting Dictionary. 1819.

These Memoirs were suppressed on account of the scandalous passages contained in them.

Webster’s (Noah) Letter to the Hon. John Pickering, on the Subject of his Vocabulary, or Collection of Words and Phrases supposed to be peculiar to the United States, 8vo, pp. 69. Boston, 1817.

Wild (Jonathan), History of the Lives and Actions of Jonathan Wild, Thieftaker, Joseph Blake, alias Blueskin, Footpad, and John Sheppard, Housebreaker; together with a Canting Dictionary by Jonathan Wild, woodcuts, 12mo. 1750.

Wilson (Professor), contributed various Slang pieces to Blackwood’s Magazine; including a Review of Bee’s Dictionary.

Witherspoon’s (Dr., of America,) Essays on Americanisms, Perversions of Language in the United States, Cant phrases, &c., 8vo, in the 4th vol. of his works. Philadelphia, 1801.

The earliest work on American vulgarisms. Originally published as a series of Essays, entitled the Druid, which appeared in a periodical in 1761.


Tavistock Street Covent Garden