Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms of the 1700 and 1800s-Letter S (Si-Sp)

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

1800s - letter S

Horses cannot vomit for several reasons. So, to be SICK AS A HORSE indicated the person was in extreme discomfort.

SIDLEDYWRY meant crooked.

A SIGN OF A HOUSE TO LET was said to be widow’s weeds.

SILK SNATCHERS were thieves who snatched hoods or bonnets off people’s heads on the streets.

SILVER LACED meant a person was covered in lice.

TO SING SMALL meant to modify a person’s speech from boastful to humble.

A person having one eye was known as a SINGLE PEEPER.

SIR REVERENCE or SIRREVERENCE was another name for human excrement.

SITTING BREECHES was a term used to describe someone who overstayed their welcome, which Grose described as, “[someone who has] his sitting breeches on, or that he will sit longer than a hen.”[1]

SIXES AND SEVENS was an idiom to describe disarray or confusion and likely originated from the dice game Hazard.

If a person was IN A BAD SKIN, the person was said to be thin-skinned, ill-humored, or “out of temper.”

A footman or a lackey might be called a SKIP KENNEL.

Footman, Public Domain

Footman. Public domain.

SKULKER was a soldier who feigned sickness to evade labor or his duties.

SKY BLUE was first used in 1728 to describe a color but was also another term for gin.

Cheats who pretended they were farmers ruined by a flood, hurricane, or other calamity were known as SKY FARMERS.

The upper story, garret, or attic was also known as a SKY PARLOUR.

A partner in a trade who lent his name and money and did not otherwise participate in a business but received a share of the profits, was known as a SLEEPING PARTNER rather than a silent partner.

A SLEEVELESS ERRAND was another way of referring to an impossibility or a fool’s errand.

SLIPGIBBET was another word for SCAPEGALLOWS, which meant to narrowly escape the gallows for a crime.

SLIPSLOPS was an unappetizing tea, beverage, or water-gruel taken for medicinal purposes.

A SLUBBER DE GULLION referred to a fiend, a sloven, or a dirty nasty fellow.

SLUSH was a reference to greasy dishwater or the skimming of a pot where fat meat had been boiled.

SLY BOOTS was a term applied to a person in the 1700s who was a cunning fellow but pretended to be a simpleton.

Someone killed in battle was said to have been SMABBLED or SNABBLED.

A SMACKING COVE was a reference to a coachman.

A woman’s undergarment was called a SMICKET.

As divorce was not an option in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, so instead an unhappy husband might sell his wife at auction. As strange as this sounds, auctions occurred at an area in London known as Smithfield Market and persisted until the early 1900s. A husband would parade his wife around with a halter, and auction her off to the highest bidder. Thus, the term SMITHFIELD BARGAIN essentially referred to a man selling his wife to the highest bidder or marrying someone for convenience without affection.

1800s - letter s

Smithfield Market showing the selling a wife in 1812. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

If you were SMOCK-FACED, it meant you were fair-faced.

A nickname for a blacksmith was SMUG.

SMUGGLING KEN or SNOOZING KEN were names for a brothel or bawdy house.

TO SMUSH meant to snatch or seize suddenly, and TO SNABBLE meant to plunder or kill.

A highwayman was also called a SNAFFLER.

SNAGGS was another name for false teeth.

SNAP DRAGON or SNAP-DRAGON was a popular parlor game played between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries during the winter, usually on Christmas Eve. It involved heating brandy in a shallow bowl, dimming the lights, and placing raisins in the hot brandy, which were then lit. The aim of the game was to remove the raisins and eat them without getting burnt. Although we might view the game as dangerous, people who played it found it daring and exhilarating.

A Family Playing Snapdragon in 1858 From Illustrated London News by Charles Keene, Author's Collection

A family playing Snapdragon in 1858 from Illustrated London News by Charles Keene. Author’s collection.

SNAPPERS was another word for pistols.

SNEAKING BUDGE referred to a person who sneaked into houses and stole cloaks, furs, and coats.

A mean-spirited fellow or a sneaking cur was also known as a SNEAKSBY.

SNICKER was a reference to a horse suffering from a contagious disease known as glanders, which was when a horse had a mucus discharge and swelling under the jaw.

TO SNOACH meant to snuffle or speak through the nose in a nasally manner.

SNOLLYGOSTER was a dishonest person who held an office.

SNOWBALL was a jeering appellation for a Black person.

A thief who hid under a bed in order to rob the house was known as a SNUDGE.

SOLDIER’S MAWND was someone who begged by pretending to be a soldier, sporting a fake wound, and claiming he was injured in some famous siege or battle.

A parish clerk might also be called a SOLFA.

SON OF PRATTLEMENT and SPLIT CAUSE were nicknames for lawyers.

Dutch women would place stoves under their petticoats to keep warm. This created a fable that they could give birth to a SOOTERKIN, a mouse-size creature that would grow and mature after birth. Certain physicians believed this to be possible, and one of these physicians was John Maubray. In addition, Maubray happened to be an advocate of maternal impression — a belief that conception and pregnancy could be influenced by a woman’s dreams. Maubray also published The Female Physician, a book that proposed birthing of SOOTERKINS to be possible. In addition, Maubray became involved in the Mary Toft story, as his claims that SOOTERKINS could be birthed by women supported the idea that Mary Toft could give birth to rabbits.

1800s - letter s

Johan Maubray’s Sooterkin. Public domain.

SOT WEED was another name for tobacco.

SOUNDERS was another name for a herd of swine.

The pox or syphilis was also called SPANISH GOUT.

SPANKS or SPANKERS referred to money, such as gold or silver coins.

SPATTERDASHES (later shortened to spats) were long gaiters that protected the legs from nature’s elements.


SPARROW-MOUTHED meant a person who could not widen their mouth without removing their ears.

SPATCH COCK was an abbreviation for a dispatched cock and referred to a bird freshly killed, skinned, split, and broiled.

SPECKED WHIPER was a nickname for a colored handkerchief.

If you were SPIDER-SHANKED it meant you were thin-legged, and if someone said you had SPINDLE SHANKS it meant your legs were slender.

TO SPIFLICATE meant to confound, silence, or dumbfound.

A SPIRITUAL FLESH BROKER or a SOUL DOCTOR was a parson, and a SPOIL PUDDING referred to a parson that preached long sermons as it was said his congregation was kept until their pudding was egregiously overdone.

If you were SPLICED, it meant you were married because it was an allusion to joining two rope ends by splicing.

Your SPOON HAND was your right hand, something pawned was said to have been SPOUTED, and a SPRING-ANKLE WAREHOUSE referred to Newgate Prison.


  • [1] Grose, Francis, 1811 Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811.

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