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

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

letter P

The Letter P. Author’s collection.

PAD BORROWERS was another name for a horse thief.

Bread was also called PANNAM.

Although a PANNIER was a basket carried by a beast of burden, PANNIERS referred to a woman’s undergarments worn in the 17th and 18th centuries to extend the width of skirts at the side while leaving the front band back relative flat, as shown in this portrait of Marie Antoinette wearing one.


Marie Antoinette in a court dress of 1779 worn over extremely wide panniers painted by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A PANTLER was a nickname for a butler.

To put a man’s nose into a PARENTHESIS meant to pull it.

A PARSON PALMER was a jocular name given to anyone who stopped the communicable glass from circulating by talking.

PARSONED referred to someone who was married in a chapel or a church, particularly by a parson.

PEAK was a term for any type of lace.

To ring a PEAL in a man’s ears meant to scold him.

A PEEPER was a spy glass, but PEEPERS referred to the eyes.

The penis of a man or a beast was known as a PEGO.

PENTHOUSE NAB was a broad-brimmed hat.

If someone was PEPPERED the person was infected with a venereal disease.

PERRIWINKLE was a nickname for a wig, PERSUADERS was another name for spurs, and PETER GUNNER was an appellation given to a poor shot.

PETTICOAT HOLD referred to the interest a husband had in his wife’s estate that was limited to his lifetime, but a PETTICOAT PENSIONER was a kept man.

A pirate or a sharper was sometimes called a PICAROON.

Pirates, Author's Collection

Pirates. Author’s collection.

PICKTHANK was a mischievous person who attempted to put another person under obligation.

A PIECE referred to a gun, a tattoo, a wench, and a man’s penis.

PIG RUNNING was a contest played at fairs. A large pig’s tail was cut short and soaped and greased. Then the pig was turned out in a pen to be caught and whoever successfully caught the pig and held it over his head, won the pig.

PIG TOGETHER referred to a couple lying together, as it was said that a couple’s proximity to one another was similar to the way pigs arranged themselves in a sty.

PIG’S WHISTLE was a very short time.

PILLALOO was an Irish cry howled at funerals.

A PIMP WHISKIN was a first-rate pimp or a mean-spirited and bigoted person.

To PINK someone meant to stab or wound the person with a small sword.

A house at Clapton, near Hackney, that was owned by a china merchant named Markham Eeles, had large ornamental urns at its entrance and supposedly that is what earned the house the nickname PISS POT HALL.

A physician who judged the diseases of his patients solely by inspecting their urine was known as a PISS PROPHET.

letter p

A piss prophet examining a urine in a flask. Oil painting after B. van den Bossche. Courtesy of Wellcome Images.

If you were PISS-PROUD you had a false erection.

If you flattered someone it might be said you were PISSING DOWN ANY ONE’S BACK.

PISSING PINS AND NEEDLES was another expression for gonorrhea.

A broad-faced person might be described as PLATTER-FACED.

PLUG TAIL was another term for a man’s penis.

PLUMPERS was a contrivance worn by people (usually older women) to fill out their hollowed cheeks.

If you were POISONED it meant you were pregnant.

POPE’S NOSE referred to a turkey’s rump.

PORRIDGE ISLAND was a paved alley or pathway, near the church of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, which was destroyed in 1829 when a rookery was demolished.

A parson who hurried over his service was known as a POSTILION OF THE GOSPEL.

A POSTURE-MAKER referred to a contortionist or an acrobat, such as the famous tightrope walker Charles Blondin or the human cannonball Zazel.

A POTATO TRAP referred to your mouth and somebody might tell you to “shut your POTATO TRAP and give your tongue a holiday.”

Scrawl or bad handwriting was said to be POTHOOKS AND HANGEKS.

A boy on a war ship that fetched powder was called a POWDER MONKEY.

Powder Monkey, Public Domain

Powder Monkey. Public domain.

PRATE ROAST was an appellation given to a talkative boy, but the pulpit was called a PRATTLING BOX.

If your ears were longer than your hair, it was said you were PRICK-EARED.

Thieves were also called PRIGGERS and PRIGGING was stealing.

Another term for a rival when it came to love was PRIGSTAR.

PRINCOD was a round plump person.

Priscian was a famous Latin grammarian and so devoted to his study that to speak false Latin in his company was extremely disagreeable to him. So, PRISCIAN means to write or speak false grammar.

If someone was PROUD it meant they wanted to engage in copulation.

PUBLIC LEDGER was another term for a prostitute, because according to Grose, “like that paper, she is open to all parties.”

A PUFF or PUFFER was hired by a seller to drive up the price of their items at an auction by offering false bids.

PUFF GUTS was a description for a fat man.

PULLY HAWLY was a sexual romp.

A person that was vain because of his riches was known as PURSE PROUD.


  • Grose, Francis, 1811 Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue
  • Grose, Francis, Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence, 1811
  • Victorian London – Districts – Streets – Porridge Island, on The Dictionary of Victorian London

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