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Dictionary of Contemporary Slang

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L7 n, adj American

(a person who is) conformist, (a dull) reactionary. The term is a synonym for square and is based on the square made by the two symbols. It was adopted as the name of a rriot-grrrl band of the early 1990s.

labonza n American

a.the belly or paunch a punch in the labonza

b.the backside, buttocks

A word used particularly by pugilists, criminals and working-class speakers. It is mock-Italian or Spanish, probably based on la pancia or la panza, both related to the English ‘paunch’. The second sense referring to the posterior is rarer.

lace curtain n

a foreskin. A term from the homosexual lexicon, punning on a symbol of coy respectability which pre-dates gay emancipation.

laced adj

1. American intoxicated by drugs or drink. The term usually refers to a mild intoxication by, e.g., marihuana.

It’s OK to get laced at a party but not to get fried all on your own.

2. physically attractive. An item of youth slang heard in the USA and UK since around 2000.

laced up adj British

a.(of a person) fully occupied, obligated, embroiled

b.(of a thing) completed, accomplished, ‘in the bag’

Both senses are variant forms of standard metaphorical meanings of tied up.

c. repressed, inhibited. In this sense the phrase is influenced by strait-laced.

She’s a bit laced up isn’t she?

Compare laced

laddish adj British

boisterous, uncouth and macho. The word, which appeared in the late 1970s,

refers to the typical behaviour of adolescent males in groups. It is inspired by ‘male-bonding’ expressions such as ‘one of the lads’ and the Geordie battle cry ‘howay the lads!’, but is more often used disparagingly or dismissively by women or more mature males. The term took on greater significance when it was applied to a social tendency among young adult males in the second half of the 1990s which involved celebrating, rather than disguising hedonistic excess, love of sport/cars/hardware, socialising in male groups, etc. The new ‘laddishness’ was celebrated in publications such as Loaded magazine and TV comedies such as Men Behaving Badly.

ladette n British

a female who behaves laddishly. The term became popular at the end of the 1990s and was the title of a reality TV ‘makeover’ series, Ladette to Lady, in 2005, in which ladettes were taught to be ladylike.

ladies who lunch n pl

self-indulgent and/or pampered females. The expression originated in the late 1980s as a New York characterisation of wealthy, leisured wives of rich (working) husbands. Since 2000 it has been generalised to refer jocularly to any females thought to be indulging themselves.

Lady (Godiva) n British

a. a £5 note, a sum of £5. London rhyming slang for fiver. The phrase is still heard, although alternatives such as deep sea diver are now probably more popular.

Compare commodore

b. £5 million, in the slang of city traders since the 1990s. In this sense the word is usually shortened to Lady.

ladybumps n pl

female breasts. A jocular euphemism heard since 2000.



Lady Muck n British

a woman thought to be ‘putting on airs’ or behaving high-handedly. The female equivalent of Lord Muck.

Who does she think she is, carrying on like Lady Muck?

laff n

a source or occasion of amusement. A jocular, ironic or journalese form of ‘laugh’. When said by southern British speakers it is distinguished by a pronunciation rhyming with ‘chaff’.

lag1 n

a.a convict or former convict or recidivist. In non-criminal circles the word is usually heard only in the phrase old lag.

b.a term of imprisonment. At different times in different areas the term has denoted specific periods. Lagging is now the more usual form of the word.

lag2, lag up vb British

a.also lag up to send to prison

b.to arrest

Both words, which are now rare, date from the beginning of the 19th century, when lag meant specifically ‘to transport to a penal colony’. (An archaic meaning of the word was ‘to carry away’.)

lag3, lag on vb Australian

to inform (on someone), to tell tales. A prisoners’ and schoolchildren’s word, this was British slang of the 19th century with the meaning of ‘betray to the authorities’. It has survived in Australia but has not been heard in the UK since the turn of the 20th century. Its frequent use in Australian TV soap operas during the 1990s may result in the reintroduction of the term.

‘Don’t worry – ’e won’t go laggin’ on us.’ (Prisoner: Cell Block H, Australian TV series, 1985)

lagged, laggered adj British

drunk. The words may have originated as a deformation of ‘lager(ed)’ or may be an invention like the synonymous langered.

lagging1 n British

a period of imprisonment. The word has sometimes had the specific sense of a term of three years or more.

lagging2 adj British

very attractive, gorgeous. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

lah-di n British

a motor car. Rhyming slang from ‘la-di- dah’. An alternative cockney term to jamjar.

laid n See lay2

laid out adj American

a.drunk. Another synonym for inebriated. Although the original metaphor is of someone knocked unconscious (or placed in a mortuary), the use of the phrase does not necessarily indicate intoxication to the point of stupefaction.

b.under the influence of drugs. This sense of the term, deriving from the previous one, is most commonly used by teenagers.

lainie adj

an alternative form for laney

lair, lare n Australian

a layabout, flashy young tough. This modern usage postdates an earlier sense of the word denoting an over-dressed, showy or beautiful man. Since the 1940s the term has been identified specifically with delinquent or disreputable young males. It forms the basis of many combinations such as ‘come the lair’, ‘lair it up’ or ‘ten-cent lair’. Lair is based on a variant form of older British words such as leery, leary, etc.

lairy adj

a. flashy, showy, especially in an ostentatious, provocative or vulgar way. This term is especially popular in Australia but was also in use among British youth from the late 1980s.

‘Wow, Ches’s got a really lairy T-shirt.’

(Recorded, youth, Portobello Road, London, 1986)

b. vain, presumptuous or boastful. This sense of the term was in use among working-class speakers, particularly teddy boys, in Britain in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Both sub-senses of the word come from the earlier leary or leery.

la-la n American

a ladies toilet. The term is used by female college students.

la-la-land n

a state of drugged or drunken euphoria. An expression usually used disparagingly by abstainers.



‘Cameraman Gerry McGough, who snapped these shots, said “She was completely in la-la land”.’

(Caption to pictures of drunken celebrity, Daily Mirror, 9 February 1989)

lallies n pl British

legs. A word used in theatrical circles and by dancers, art students, etc. in the 1960s. Lallies was given exposure in the radio comedy shows Beyond our Ken and Round the Horne in the exchanges between Kenneth Horne and the camp characters Julian and Sandy, played by Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick. The word, of unknown origin, is still in limited use.

lam vb

1.to run away or escape from prison. The verb form is probably a back-formation from the phrase ‘on the lam’, although ‘lam’ originates in the verb ‘lambaste’, meaning to hit or beat.

2.Australian to have sex with. Like many of its synonyms (boff, biff, bonk, etc.), the term uses the notion of striking in evoking sex from the male perspective. Lam in its earlier colloquial sense derives from the Old Norse lemja, meaning to thrash.

lamb chop vb British

to inject a drug (e.g. heroin). The phrase is rhyming slang for pop.

lame adj

a.poor quality, disappointing, bad. The common colloquialism was adopted as an all-purpose teenage vogue word from the late 1980s.

b.unfortunate, unfair

Based either on the colloquial sense of lame meaning poor (as in ‘lame excuse’), or on the image of a lame person who is unable to keep pace, the term has been generalised and intensified in the fashionable speech of adolescents since the 1990s.

lame-arse n, adj British

(a person who is) unpleasant, unfair, obnoxious. A vogue term from the language of adolescents in the late 1990s, probably adopted from the following American usage.

lame-ass n, adj American

(a person who is) feeble, disappointing, unconvincing. An embellishment of the colloquial ‘lame’.

another lame-ass excuse

lamebrain n, adj

(a person who is) dim-witted. Lame has been used to mean feeble or weak in colloquial speech throughout the anglophone community. This compound form was coined in the 1960s in the USA, whence it spread in the 1970s.

‘“English people don’t expect high standards because they don’t know how to go out and eat in restaurants”, scolds Payton. “We’re also lamebrains when it comes to going to the cinema”.’

(Evening Standard magazine, May 1989)

lamer n

an inadequate person. An item of Internet slang, used for instance by hackers since the 1990s.

lamp vb

1.to look (at), to eye. The term, currently in vogue among fashionable adolescents in Britain, comes from a now archaic three-hundred-year-old use of lamp as a slang synonym for an eye.

2.British to hit, beat up or attack. A now dated usage perhaps combining elements of ‘lam’, in the sense of beat, and lump. The word was frequently used with this meaning in the 1950s.

3.Australian to have sex with. A synonym of lam, slam.

4.to relax. A contemporary synonym of chill.

lancing n British

having sex. A synonym is jousting. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

laney, lany, lani, lainie adj

inferior, worthless. These recent vogue terms are probably deformations of the obsolescent American slang ‘lane’, which signified unsophisticated, provincial or naïve, and which was said to derive from the notion of a rustic living on a country lane. Originating in American adolescent speech in the 1980s, these variants were adopted by young British speakers in the 1990s.

langered adj British

extremely drunk. A vogue term in the adolescent drinkers’ lexicon since the mid-1990s.

lani n South African

a white person. Recorded as an item of Sowetan slang in the Cape Sunday Times, 29 January 1995.



lard n American

a police officer or the police. The usage is derived from the earlier bacon and pig.

lard-ass, lard-bucket n American

a fat person. The American equivalents of the British ‘tub of lard’.

lard-head n

a stupid or slow-witted person. An expression used in Australia and the USA.

lardo n

a fat person. An innocuous variant of lard-ass.

‘Apart from being a congenital lardo, [Clive] James has a further hurdle before he can reasonably take part in the proceleb car chase: he can’t drive.’

(Independent, 23 December 1988)

lare n Australian

an alternative spelling of lair

large1 n British

one thousand, a grand. A shortening of ‘large one(s)’, used typically by criminals, market traders, gamblers, etc.

I give him five large and asked him to get hold of some gear for me.

large2 adj British

excellent, powerful, exciting. A vogue term of approbation among devotees of rave, techno and indie subcultures since the 1990s. This usage also occurs in North American adolescent speech.

large it vb British

to enjoy oneself, behave boisterously. Together with large and give it large, this was a vogue term among devotees of rave and indie culture in 1994, although it had been recorded in London usage in 1991 and may originally have been adopted from black American speech.

large portions n British

enjoyment. Recorded in the Midlands in 2005, usually in the phrase ‘get large portions’, this is an elaboration of the earlier slang sense of large.

larrikin n Australian

a ruffian, ne’er-do-well. The word has been in use in Australia since the mid19th century and may be a native coinage or an imported British dialect term based on ‘lark’. It is not usually strongly pejorative, having the sense of (fairly harmlessly) rowdy and cheeky.

larrup vb

to beat, spank, thrash. A word used by toughs in Australia but mainly by par-

ents to children in Britain, where it now sounds rather dated. The term may be a blend of ‘leather’ and ‘wallop’ or may be an attempt to imitate the sound of blows landing.

Larry the loner n British

an outcast, misfit, lonely person. In playground usage since 2000. The term is a less common synonym of Billy no-mates.

larupped adj British

drunk. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

lary adj

an alternative form of lairy or leery lash1 n Australian

1.a rampage, bout of wild behaviour to go on a lash/have a bit of a lash

2.an attempt, try. A variant of ‘bash’ as in ‘have a bash (at)’.

lash2 vb

to have sex. A term used by young street-gang members in London since around 2000.

lashed, lash adj British

drunk. The terms, recorded in South Wales in 2000, probably postdate the phrase on the lash.

lash it vb British

to keep quiet, restrain oneself. The expression, from provincial rather than London speech, often occurs as an imperative.

Just lash it, will you! later(s) exclamation

1.an all-purpose farewell. An abbreviation of the standard ‘see you/catch you later’, probably originating in US speech but heard among UK teenagers in the 1990s.

2.a threat to be carried out in future, as implied by statements such as ‘I’ll see you/deal with you/get you later’

These terms, from code employed among adolescent gang members, were adopted as fashionable expressions among adolescents in general from the mid-1990s.

lathered adj British

drunk. The word may suggest the image of beer froth or saliva on the face of the drinker or may, like many similar terms, be based on the notion of beating/punishment as conveyed by the colloquial sense of ‘lather’, meaning to thrash. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.



‘…topics that might appear unrelated to those not pleasantly lathered at this comfortably indecent hour.’

(Q magazine, March 1997)

lattie n British

a flat, home. This item of parlyaree originated as ‘lettie’ (from the Italian letto), denoting a bed. Most recently it has occurred in gay and theatrical speech.

laughing boy n British

a. a morose, grumbling, sullen or excessively serious-looking person. The phrase is used with heavy irony to deride or provoke someone thought to be unnecessarily grumpy, stern or self-pitying.

Why don’t you go and ask laughing boy over there.

b. someone who is smirking or offensively cheerful. A less common sub-sense of the term.

laughing gear n British

the mouth. A joky euphemism playing on the notion of body parts as equipment on the lines of wedding tackle. It probably dates from the 1970s.

‘Get your laughing gear around this!’

(Dialogue in TV advertisement for Heineken beer, 1988)

laughing soup/water/juice n

alcohol. These are middle-class witticisms applied particularly to champagne or gin. Laughing water also recalls the Indian princess in Longfellow’s long narrative poem Hiawatha. Similar terms still in use are giggle water, electric soup or lunatic soup.

launch lunch vb American to vomit

‘He looked like he was into it, but she looked like she was going to launch lunch over Mr Jurgen.’

(Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead, US film, 1996)

lavender adj

(of a male) homosexual, gay. A facetious term appropriated from the vocabulary of heterosexual mockers for use by the gay community itself; the colour and scent of lavender being thought of as quintessentially feminine and old-maidish respectively.

lay1 n

a.a person viewed or evaluated as a sexual partner

b.an act of sexual intercourse

These uses of the word spread to British English from the USA with the verb form during the 1950s and 1960s, becoming established by the early 1970s. In the first sense the word is nearly always used in combinations such as ‘a good lay’ or ‘an easy lay’.

lay2 vb

to have sex (with). The verb was absorbed into British English gradually during the 1950s and 1960s from the USA, where it had been current since the turn of the 20th century. The term implies sex from the male viewpoint but during the hippy era began to be used by women. The word is a development of the literal sense of to lay someone down and of the euphemistic ‘lie with’, meaning to copulate with, well known from its use in the King James translation of the Bible.

‘One time I thought she was trying to make me come lay her – flirting to herself at the sink – lay back on huge bed that filled most of the room, dress up round her hips.’

(Kaddish, poem by Allen Ginsberg, 1958)

lay an egg vb

1.American to fail, to be responsible for a dismal or disappointing performance. This expression comes from the Victorian British saying ‘lay a duck’s egg’, meaning to score zero (now extinct in British speech).

2.Australian to behave in an agitated, over-excited way. One of many farmyard metaphors in Australian use.

lay down vb See lie down

lay (someone) down vb American

to kill. A euphemism used among black street gangs in the late 1980s.

laylay adj Caribbean long

lay (something) on (someone) vb

to inflict or impose on. This is one of many expressions, originating in black speech, which were disseminated during the hippy era, often in the form e.g. ‘lay a (heavy) trip on’.

lay one on someone vb

to hit, punch someone. A euphemistic expression on the same lines as ‘stick one on’, put/hang one on someone.

He’s not interested in her, he’s just looking for a lay.

If that joker doesn’t stop mouthing off I’m going to be forced to lay one on him.



lay rubber vb American

to drive very fast, especially from a standing start, in a car or on a motorcycle. The phrase is inspired by the shedding of tyre rubber when spinning the wheels at speed, a technique used in drag racing to ensure good road adhesion at the beginning of a race.

lay some on vb British

to acquire illicit drugs. The term usually applies to scoring for personal use and was in currency among aficionados of dancefloor culture in the 1990s.

lay the smack-down (on someone) vb American

to defeat, beat. The term has been part of the lexicon of street gangs and rap aficionados since 2000.

Lazy Y n See lunching at the Lazy Y

leaf n

marihuana. A predictable nickname for herbal cannabis.

We blew some leaf and mellowed out.

leak n

an act of urination. Usually in the expressions ‘have a leak’ or ‘take a leak’. The origin of this predictable usage may be nautical.

lean adj British

under the influence of illicit drugs. The usage, which appeared in the late 1990s, is possibly related to the American laney.

‘Nowadays lean in youth parlance has less to do with slim and healthy than spaced and out. It is the consequence of indulging in untold quantities of unspecified substances.’

(Sunday Telegraph magazine, 15 December 1996)

See also blazed a; mash1 2b

leary adj

an alternative spelling of leery or lairy

least, the n, adj American

(something) very bad, disappointing, of the worst quality. This term, which is popular especially with teenagers, was probably coined in the 1970s as a humorous complement to the older hip expression the most (meaning superlative). ‘The very least’ is a stronger term.

Boy, that movie was the least.

leather n British

1. a middle-aged male jet-setter, an ageing sun-tanned playboy. This term was coined by the upper-class young and their imitators in the late 1970s to refer

disparagingly to the more prominent members of the international white trash frequenting ski resorts, yacht basins, etc. The word could occasionally be extended to apply to women too. Leather refers to the skin texture of the subgroup in question (perhaps compounded by their characteristic wearing of expensive leather clothes in the period in question).

2. a wallet or purse. A long established item from the underworld lexicon.

leatherboy n

a. a motorcycle enthusiast, rocker or biker. A word popular with parents and journalists in the early 1960s.

‘The mean and moody leatherboy on a thundering bike is the strongest image of pop culture.’

(Johnny Stuart, Rockers, 1987)

b. a young male homosexual, male prostitute or androgynous youth wearing leather

‘A faggy little leatherboy with a smaller piece of stick.’

(Lyrics to ‘Memo from Turner’, by Mick Jagger, 1969)

leathered adj British

drunk. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.

lech, letch n British

a. a carnal desire, brief sexual infatuation. This word, often used by women, was particularly popular in the 1960s and early 1970s in upperor middle-class speech. It was often (and sometimes is still) used in the form ‘letch, letch!’ as a jocular or coyly prurient exclamation (although this more probably refers to the verb form to lech after or lech for).

‘Leched over by managers, stitched up by agents, girls in the music biz have traditionally paid a high price for succumbing to the lure of lurex.’

(Ms London magazine, 4 September 1989)

b. a lecherous person, usually male. A word expressing attitudes ranging from light mockery to angry rejection.

He’s nothing but a boring old lech.

lech/letch after/for/over/on vb British to nurse or exhibit a carnal desire for, to behave lecherously towards (someone). A back-formation from the adjective ‘lecherous’.

He’s always letching after young girls.



ledge n British

a person of note and/or outstanding qualities. The abbreviation of ‘legend’ is used ironically and scathingly about a conceited person, usually male.

‘He thinks he’s a bit of a ledge.’

(Recorded, secondary school pupil, London, October 2004)

leech off (someone) vb

to behave as a parasite. An extension of the colloquial use of the noun form.

leery, leary adj

a.wary, suspicious, shy, cautious. This sense of the word is standard in all Eng- lish-speaking areas.

b.British alert, clever, cheeky. This sense of leery is related to lairy, meaning both flashy and conceited.

c.British bad-tempered, sour

d.British untrustworthy, devious, cunning

These nuances of meaning within the same term are difficult to disentangle, given that modern usage is probably derived from two originally separate words: the archaic leer, from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘face’ or ‘cheek’, and the obsolete dialect term lere, related to ‘learn’ and ‘lore’ and similar in meaning to ‘knowhow’.

left field n, adj

(something) unorthodox, bizarre, unexpected. An American usage which was picked up by British journalists, musicians, etc. in the mid-1970s. The term arises from an earlier colloquial expression ‘out of left field’, used to describe something startling or totally unexpected coming from an improbable source. The field in question is the baseball field and the left field, the area to the batter’s left and beyond third base, is an area of the park which sees little action and from which the ball rarely arrives. The same thing can be said of the right field, however, and the choice of left perhaps has something to do with the overtones of unorthodoxy and radicalism inherent in ‘left’ in its political context, or simply by analogy with left-handed.

left-footer n

1.a Catholic

2.a homosexual

Both uses of the term have been heard since the 1960s and are derived from the

notion of abnormality associated with lefthanded/footedness.

leg-biter n

a small child, a toddler or baby. A less common alternative to ankle-biter, heard since the 1980s.

legged over adj British

a phrase from the jargon of City of London financial traders which is a euphemism for shagged or fucked in the sense of having lost money (and perhaps been humiliated) in a failed transaction. It is based on the verb to get one’s leg over.

leg it vb British

to run away, escape or leave. A workingclass expression, formerly popular with police and criminals, which became fashionable in middle-class circles in the later 1980s in keeping with a tendency among yuppies, students and those in the media, among others, to affect cockney styles of speech.

‘His pals sprang him by blowing a hole in the wall. He then legged it to Amsterdam, where he changed his name.’

(Charles Catchpole, News of the World, 5 February 1989)

legless adj

drunk. The word originally denoted someone who was helplessly or fallingdown drunk; nowadays ‘getting legless’ can simply mean getting drunk. It has moved from being a raffish slang term to a common colloquialism over the last 25 years.

‘Same old story really: by 7pm she was wide-eyed and legless.’

(Recorded, Financial Secretary, London, May 2005)

legover n British

an act of sexual intercourse (usually from a male perspective). The term originates in the expression get one’s leg over, one of many 18thand 19th-century phrases in which leg is meant both literally and as a euphemism for the parts of the lower body (‘leg-business’ is one archaic example). From the 1980s the satirical magazine Private Eye has regularly referred to a ‘legover situation’, a supposed middleclass code for copulation.

lem, lemmo n

a variant form of lemon 2b

lemon n

1. something substandard, useless or worthless. The word is used, particularly in the USA, to apply particularly to cars



which are unsaleable. It may also denote any ‘dud’, from an unattractive woman to a badly-performing share in the stock exchange. This negative sense of the name of a fairly popular fruit derives from the unavoidably sour taste.

2a. a fool, embarrassed or discomfited person. To ‘feel a lemon’ is to be put in an uncomfortable or humiliating situation.

2b. also lem, lemmo an outcast, misfit, lonely person. In playground usage, from the earlier colloquial sense of an unfortunate person.

3. the penis. In black American slang the word has been used in this sense which, although no longer common, is immortalized in the lyrics of many blues songs.

Squeeze my lemon, baby / ’till the juice runs down my leg.

4.American a Quaalude tablet, ’lude (a hypnotic tranquillising drug, the equivalent of the British Mandrax or mandie)

5.a lesbian

6.See lemons

lemons n pl

female breasts. Another image of fruitfulness and rotundity on the lines of melons, cantaloupes, apples, etc. The term is probably most widespread in Australian speech.

lemon-squeezer n British

a man. This phrase, rhyming slang for geezer, occurs in anthologies of such expressions but is rarely actually heard in everyday speech. Ice cream is a synonym.

lend n Australian See have a lend (of someone)

length n British

1.a six-month prison sentence

2.the penis. The word is almost invariably used in the phrase slip someone a length.

lergi, lerghi British

an unspecified disease, a mysterious infection or illness. An invented word (the ‘g’ is hard) in imitation of exotic or tropical complaints, much used by schoolchildren in the 1950s and still heard today, often in the phrase ‘the dreaded lergi’.

‘Hilary was supposed to come but she’s gone down with the lergi.’

(Recorded, housewife, London suburbs, 1986)

les, lez, lezz, lezzie, lesbo n

a lesbian. Shortened forms of the word in use throughout the English-speaking community.

lesbian n British

a fruit-based alcoholic drink, such as a Bacardi Breezer or alcopop. The term has been in use since around 2000 among students and clubbers, presumably playing on the ideas of (alcoholic) strength and ideas and tastes associated with females.

Lester n American

a supposed molester of females. An expression used on campus in the USA since around 2000.

letch n, vb British

an alternative spelling of lech

let it all hang out vb, exclamation

to express oneself or otherwise behave without inhibitions, act without restraint. This euphemism became a catchphrase of the late 1960s counterculture, spreading with it from the USA to other English-speaking areas.

let off, let one off vb British

to fart. The first variant is a common schoolchildren’s term, the other forms tend to be used by adults. Blow off is one synonym among many.

let one go vb British

a.to fire a shot from a gun. An East End gangland euphemism from the 1960s quoted by Albert Donaghue, a former Kray brothers’ associate in an ITV interview, March 1994.

b.to fart

lettuce n

1.money. Another term like long green, cabbage, etc. that makes the connection between green banknotes and succulent vegetation. The word was probably first heard in raffish use in the USA, where banknotes of all denominations are, and were, predominantly green.

2.the female genitals, from the supposed resemblance

lez, lezz, lezzie, lezzo n

an alternative spelling of les


1. vb American to smoke crack by sucking the smoke from a burning pellet of the



drug through a glass pipe or tube. The term is from the users’ own jargon.

2.vb to beat up. Probably a back-forma- tion from the earlier colloquial noun form ‘(to give someone) a licking’.

3.n the lick a superlative person, thing or situation. This term, meaning ‘the (very) best’, probably originated in black American speech but by the mid-1990s was in use among adolescents in Britain, too. It may be related to lickin’ stick.

lick2 n American

an illicit drug, particularly cocaine

licker n British

a swot, sycophant. This abbreviated form of arse-licker is in use among schoolchildren together with its synonym, boff.

‘“Licker”, says Jonathon Angel, 13. “That’s what you get called if you have your hand up all the time; licker or swot”.’

(Independent, 17 October 1996)

lickin’ stick n American

a sweetheart, favourite friend. This item of black slang (the item referred to is a licorice-stick or popsicle) was used by the feminist writer Mtozke Shange.

lick it vb British

to steal. A term used by young streetgang members in London since around 2000.

licks n pl

plangent sequences of notes played on the electric guitar, short improvised musical solos. The term was adopted by rock guitarists from earlier jazz musicians who had adapted the colloquial ‘lick’, meaning both a stroke or hit and an attempt. The word is part of the terminology which includes chops and riff.

‘Jimi [Hendrix] has got some licks that none of us can match.’

(Eric Clapton, speaking in 1970) lid n

1.American a measure of marihuana (about one ounce), so called because it is approximately the amount which can be held on the lid of a beer can or tobacco tin

2.a military or motorcyclist’s helmet

liddy adj American

crazy, eccentric. A term deriving from the expression ‘to flip one’s lid’. Wiggy is a word of similar provenance.

lie, lye n British

marihuana. Lye is a strong alkaline liquid, but the association if any with this cannabis-smoker’s term is unclear.

lie down, lay down vb

to surrender, abase oneself. A fashionable euphemism in the late 1980s, particularly in the contexts of business and politics. It normally had the sense of giving up without a struggle in an adversarial situation. Sit down and bend over are used similarly.

I’m damned if I’m going to lie down for them.

Liffey water n Irish and British

Guinness. The Liffey is the river flowing through Dublin, where Guinness is brewed, and Liffey water is an archaic rhyming-term for porter, of which Guinness is an example.

lift vb

1.to arrest or capture, in police jargon and a sanitised euphemism of Vietnamera military parlance

2.to steal. Lift has been used euphemistically in this sense since the 16th century.

3.to drink (alcohol). A beer-drinkers’ euphemism inspired by the raising of glasses; hoist is an American synonym.

What say we go and lift a few?

lifted adj British

intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, high. A term used by young street-gang members in London since around 2000.

lift-off n American an erection

‘She doesn’t give you a boner? – because I definitely have lift-off.’

(Disclosure, US film, 1995)

lig1 vb British

to freeload, enjoy oneself at someone else’s expense. The word, coined in Britain in the early 1970s, refers to the activities of hangers-on, groupies, music journalists, etc., who attend receptions, parties, concerts, and other functions, usually financed by record companies. The origin of the word is obscure, it has been suggested that it is made up of the initials of ‘least important guest’ or is a blend of ‘linger’ and gig. Alternatively it may be an obscure vagrants’ term from a dialect survival of the Anglo-Saxon liegan, meaning ‘to lie’.

lig2 n British

an opportunity for freeloading, a party, reception or other occasion when it is possible to enjoy oneself at someone else’s expense. The word refers to the rock and pop-music world, and probably



postdates the verb form lig and the noun ligger.

ligger n British

a freeloader, hanger-on or gatecrasher at concerts, receptions, parties, etc., in the rock and pop-music milieus. The word is part of rock music’s jargon and was adopted enthusiastically by journalists in such publications as New Musical Express in the 1970s to describe those enjoying themselves at the expense of record companies.

‘Julia Riddiough, 27 “going on 180”, is a world-class ligger who could club for Britain.’

(Observer, Section 5 magazine, 7 May 1989)

liggeratti n British

a journalese blend of ligger and ‘glitteratti’

‘“The club animals” own Johnny Morris, Caris Davis, who wrote about clubland’s scenestealers, wimp-bods and ligeratti in his novel, “Stealth”.’

(Observer, Section 5 magazine, 7 May 1989)

Compare digerati

lighten up vb

to relax or take things less seriously, calm down and/or cheer up. This expression moved from US parlance into the rest of the English-speaking world in the early 1980s.

‘Lighten up will ya – do you have to take the fun out of everything?’

(Cheers, US TV comedy series, 1985) lightning n American

1.another name for the drug crack

2.See white lightning

lightweight adj British

insufficiently daring, outrageous, excessive. In the fashionable adolescent vocabulary of the late 1990s this was the opposite of hardcore.

like a big dog adj, adv American extremely, excessively. The phrase, heard on campus since the 1990s, is a euphemism for like a bitch.

‘He’s been prepping for these tests like a big dog.’

(Recorded, US student, London, April 2005)

like a bitch adj, adv

extremely, excessively. The term is in use in the USA and the UK.

Man, I was sweating like a bitch.

likely lad n British

an alert, smart and/or cheeky youth. A colloquial working-class phrase used particularly in the north of England to describe a young man who shows promise or self-confidence. The expression was adopted as the title of a popular Newcastle-based TV comedy series in the 1960s.

like the pies vb British

to be greedy and/or obese. A humorous euphemism favoured by students among others since 2000.

That Monica Lewinsky likes the pies these days, doesn’t she?

lilac adj

(of a male) homosexual or effeminate. A rarer synonym for lavender.

Lillian Gish n British

(a) fish. This old item of cockney slang, borrowing the name of the silent film star and used, e.g., by the Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs, in an interview, was still heard in the late 1990s.

lils n pl British

female breasts. A vulgar schoolchildren’s word of the 1950s and 1960s, which may be a shortening of an earlier term, ‘lily-whites’, or an invention, possibly influenced by ‘loll’ and ‘spill’. The term was still in use in 2004.

lime n

a casual gathering of friends and family. A Caribbean usage later adopted by black speakers in the USA. The term is probably a back-formation from the noun limer and verb lime.

This lime has no juice! [This gathering is dull.]

limer n Caribbean

a hanger-on. A back-formed verb, ‘to lime’, is also heard. Both are inspired by the adhesive qualities of birdlime or quicklime. The word was adopted by some white speakers in London from the later 1980s.

limey n, adj

(an) English (person). The word, used mostly in North America, is a shortening of ‘lime-juicer’, a usually pejorative term applied originally to British sailors who were issued with rations of lime juice as a protection against scurvy. The word limey is now rather dated; ‘Brit’ is increasingly taking its place.

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