Dictionary of criminal slang


Dictionary of criminal slang


  • Intro

    The word 'cant' refers to the secret language spoken by professional thieves and beggars. The Canting Academy, or Devils Cabinet Opened, by Richard Head, was first published in 1673. It records the customs, phrases and songs of urban villains and scoundrels, including an early dictionary of criminal slang. The baffling language of the criminal underworld helped pickpockets and cutpurses to communicate with each other in secret. The Canting Academy followed a tradition of books designed to warn the innocent city dweller against rogues, vagabonds, and pickpockets.


    Here you see the title page, and a page defining a range of words, including Prig-napper (a horse thief), Peeper (a looking glass), or smudge ('one that lies underneath a Bed, to watch an opportunity to rob the house'). A number of the words are still familiar today, such as swag and shoplift.


    Shelfmark: 1551/63

  • Transcript

    Dictionary of criminal slang

    The Canting Academy - Prig-nappers

    Peak Any Lace

    Pike To Run

    As Pike on the been; Run for it as fast as you can.

    Peery Fearful

    Peeter A portmantle

    Pad The High-way

    Plant your Be careful what you say or speak.

    whids and stow them

    Prig-napper A Horse-stealer

    Peeper A Looking-glass

    As track the Dancers, and pikes with the Peeper:

    Go up the Stairs, and trip off with the Looking-glass.

    Peeping Drowsie, or sleepy.




    Quarron A Body

    Quacking-cheat A Duck

    Queer Base, or Roguish

    Queer-Ken A Prison

    Queer-Mort A pockie Baggage

    Queer-Cove A Rogue




    Rum-gutlers Canary Wine

    As Rum-hopper, tip us presently a Bounsing cheat of Rum gutlers; Drawer fill us presently a bottle of best Canary.

    Rum-dropper A Vintner

    Ratling-Cove A Coachman

    Rum-glimmar King of the Link-boys

    Rumboyle A Ward or Watch

    Rum Gallant

    Rum-vile London

    Ruffin The Devil

    As the Ruffin nap the Cuffin-quer, and let the Harmanbeck trine with his Kinchins about his Colquarron; That is, let the Devil take the Justice, and let the Constable hang with his Children about his neck.

    Rum boozing Welts A Bunch of Grapes

    Roger A Cloak-bag

    Ridgcully A Goldsmith

    Ruffler A notorious Rogue

    Ruff-peck Bacon

    Redshank A Mallard

    Rum-pad The Highway

    Rum-padders The better sort of Highway men.

    Rum-cully A rich Coxcomb

    Ratling mumpers Such who only beg at Coaches

    Romboyl’d Sought after with a Warrant

    Rum-hopper A Drawer




    Squeeker A Bor-boy

    Smacking-Cove A Coach-man

    Scout A Watch

    Swag A Shop

    Smudge One that lies underneath a Bed, to watch an opportunity to rob the house

    Shop-lift One that filcheth Commodities out of a Shop, under the pretence of cheapning or bying them of the Shop-keeper.

    Stampers Shoos

    Stamps Leggs

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