Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms of the 1700 and 1800s – Letter G

The following are interesting slang, euphemisms, and terms for the letter G and are primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue published in 1811.

Letter G -

GAB or GOB was a bridle.

An exclamation of surprise said to be derived from the Italian word cazzo was GAD-SO or GADSO.

GAGGERS were people who told false tales about their supposed sufferings to scam or cheat people.

A hodgepodge of remnants and scraps from the larder (which was a pantry or cellar) and made into a ragout or stew, was known as GALIMAUFREY. 

GALLEY was a game played at sea to trick a fresh-water sailor or a landlubber. The game was played by pretending one sailor was a galley builder and another a merchant. The builder would build the keel by placing several men on their backs, head to toe. Then he would add ribs by having several men sit feet to feet, at right angles on either side of the keel. The person to be tricked was then brought forward and the builder would say the person was fierce-looking and fit to be the lion. Then as the lion, the person would be placed at the head and would lock arms with the people on either side of him. After several adjustments, the builder would deliver the galley to the merchant, but the merchant and others would object until one person would say of the lion, “he is not gilt.” At that point, someone would run to the lion, dip a mop into excrement, and thrust it in his face.

A pickpocket or someone who associated with pickpockets was known as a GALLOWS BIRD.

A skilled pickpocket. Public domain.

GAMBADOES replaced stirrups and were either a pair of large boots or gaiters made from stiff leather and fastened to a saddle to hold a rider’s legs and boots.

To humbug, lie, or deceive someone was also known as GAMON.

GANDER MONTH was a time after a woman gave birth where she could not have sex. However, it was also a period where her husband, known as a GANDER-MOONER, was given free license to fulfill his sexual needs by satisfying them elsewhere.

GAOL meant jail and the vehicle used to convey convicted prisoners to their execution was known as a GAOLER’S COACH.

Another name for a man’s penis was a GAYING INSTRUMENT.

GEWGAWS were decorative or ornate trinkets or baubles.

A highway robber was also known as a GENTLEMAN’S MASTER because it was said he could make a gentleman obey his commands.

GENTLEMAN OF THREE INS meant the person was in debt, in jail, and in danger, but the genteel Georgian expression, GENTLEMAN OF THREE OUTS meant the man was without money, without wit, and without manners. The GENTLEMAN OF THREE OUTS was also an expression of status because people who could not afford to build massive mansions built smaller houses with three outbuildings on them, thereby showing their lesser status and means.

GENTLEMAN’S COMPANION referred to a louse, an insect that affected Napoleon Bonaparte‘s troops and helped to decimate his army.

Letter G - Napoleon

The night bivouac of Napoleon’s army during retreat from Russia in 1812 by Vasily Vereshchagin. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A GIB CAT was an old, male cat that wanted to mate with a female cat but after much searching often returned scratched, hungry, and out of spirits.

A couple who cohabited or copulated were known to join in GIBLETS.

GILFLURT was term used to describe a vain, capricious woman.

In Scotland, the term GILLY GAUPUS or GILLYGAUPUS was used to describe a tall, stupid, and awkward fellow.

A skillful lock picker, who could pick any lock from a church to a trunk to a house, was said to be a GILT or RUM DUBBER.

If you squinted, you might be described as GIMBLET-EYED.

GINGAMBOBS referred to a man’s testicles.

GIRDS were quips, taunts, or biting reflections.

If you were secretly displeased it was said you were GIZZARD.

A nickname for someone wearing spectacles was GLASS EYES.

Someone who broke a window and then stole goods from the window was known as a GLAZIER.

GLIMFLASHY meant an angry or passionate person.

A GLIMMER was a fire and GLIMMERERS were charlatans who pretended to suffer losses from fires.

Anyone who joined a man and a woman in matrimony, such as a parson, was known as a GLUEPOT.

GOG AND MAGOG are two giants that guard and protect the city of London. The original GOG AND MAGOG were used in a procession on Lord Mayor’s Day in 1672 and made from wickerwork and pasteboard. After the procession they were placed at Guildhall on either side of the clock but soon deteriorated. In 1708, they were replaced by wood effigies carved by Captain Richard Saunders and remained there until they were destroyed during The Blitz.

Gog and Magog at Guildhall, Author's Collection

Gog and Magog at Guildhall. Author’s collection.

Someone who was GOING UPON THE DUB was picking locks and breaking into homes.

GOLD DROPPERS dropped a gold coin as a scam to acquire more money. When an unsuspecting person saw the GOLD DROPPER pick up the coin, the person was invited to go to a public house where the gold dropper and two or three of his accomplices waited. The accomplices would convince the person to participate in a rigged game and strip the person of valuables and money.

If your purse was always full of gold you were said to be a GOLDFINCH.

GOOSE PULLING or GOOSE RIDING was a blood sport practiced between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries in certain parts of Europe and North America. It involved greasing a live goose’s neck and suspending the goose between two posts or trees. Several men on horseback would then ride full speed towards the goose in an attempt to pull off its head.

A silly man or woman was a GOOSECAP.

If you were a gentleman or a well-dressed man you might be called a GORGER.

GOTCH-GUTTED is a word from the Regency Era that referred to something pot-bellied and could also be used to describe a person, a pitcher, or a round jug.

Whiskey in Ireland was referred to as GRAPPLE THE RAILS.

A GREATCOAT was a heavy woolen overcoat that provided protection and warmth and also had a cape over the shoulders that repelled water.

A man wearing a greatcoat in the center. Public domain.

A GREEN GOWN meant a girl’s gown was stained green from rolling in the grass and was an allusion to a virginal girl having sex.

A GREGORIAN TREE referred to the gallows.

When a woman governed her husband it was said she was the better horse or the GREY MARE.

To have carnal knowledge of a woman was TO GRIND but GRINDERS were teeth.

A GULL was a simple and credulous fellow, who could be easily cheated.

When you were starving or exceedingly hungry you were GUTFOUNDERED.

A GUT SCRAPER or TORMENTOR of CATGUT referred to a fiddler.

Someone who limped was nicknamed GYLES or GILES, which was based on the patron saint of cripples, Saint Giles.

Nowadays a GYP is a swindler or scoundrel but, it previously identified a college runner or errand-boy at Cambridge.


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