Historical Slang We Love from the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’


All hail the silver fox of dictionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary turns 130 today. The first published installment of the definitive dictionary was printed back in 1884. The OED took more than 40 years to reach completion — all 400,000 plus words and phrases in 10 volumes. One thing that makes the OED special is its inclusion of historical (and modern) slang. Endangered, archaic words need love too, so we’ve picked a few of our favorites from the OED and its family of dictionaries. Feel free to share the old-timey words you can’t live without, below.

Primary editor of the ‘Oxford English Dictionary,’ James Murray


Noun 1. enough alcoholic drink to make one drunk: they’re tongue-tied until they’ve had a snootful

1.1 as much as one can take of something: he decided he’d had a snootful of playing the role


n. a clumsy or botched attempt at something, especially a shot in golf.

v. botch; bungle: (as adjective foozled) sliced approach shots and foozled putts

Origin mid 19th century: from German dialect fuseln ‘work badly’; compare with fusel oil.


Adjective 1. used as a term of approval: hotsy-totsy rhythms thrill the air

2. another term for hoity-toity.

Origin early 20th century: reduplication of hot, a fanciful formation by Billie de Beck (died 1942), US cartoonist.


Adjective 1. infatuated or obsessed: Gus is still hopelessly twitterpated by Lee smiling into each other’s eyes, a seemingly twitterpated couple glided past

1.1 in a state of nervous excitement: CBS execs are twitterpated over this new idea

Origin 1940s: from twitter + -pated ‘having a head or mind of a specified kind’ (from pate); popularized by the 1942 film Bambi.

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When the 12th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary added around 400 new entries, they had to shuffle some words along to the great dictionary in the sky. That meant one of our favorites was cut: growlery. The “place to growl in, private room, den” was used in Charles Dickens’ novel Bleak House: “This, you must know, is the Growlery. When I am out of humour, I come and growl here.”


n. nonsense.

Origin mid 19th century: diminutive of imitative piff-.


adj. extremely drunk: we got blotto

Origin early 20th century: from blot + -o.


adj. in good order; fine: everything is tickety-boo

Origin 1930s: perhaps from Hindi ṭhīk hai ‘all right’.


n. one who believes in the eternity of the soul. I am an eternitarian

blind tiger

n. an illegal bar.

Origin mid 19th century: probably so named because in order to evade prohibition laws, the bars were disguised as exhibition halls for natural curiosities.


v. (especially of something mechanical) shake and vibrate rapidly and with force: the steering wheel juddered in his hand

n. an instance of rapid and forceful shaking and vibration: the car gave a judder

Origin 1930s: imitative; compare with shudder.


n. a person’s buttocks.

Origin 1960s: popularized by the US television programme Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, where it was used as a nonsense word with an air of innuendo but intentionally vague meaning: of unknown origin.