Slang, Euphemisms, and Terms for the 1700 and 1800s – Letters U and V

The following slang, euphemisms, and terms are for the letters U and V and primarily taken from Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

letters u and v

An UNDERSTRAPPER was an inferior.

UNDER DUBBER was another name for a jailer.

UNDERSHERIFF was the deputy appointed by the High Sheriff and the person who performed most of the legal functions for the High Sheriff.

Prostitutes were called UNFORTUNATE WOMEN.

A parson was also called an UNGRATEFUL MAN because at least once a week he abused his best benefactor, the devil.

A bribe was also a UNGUENTUM AUREUM.

If a coach was drawn by three horses, it was said to be a UNICORN.

A rude, uncouth youth was also known as an UNLICKED CUB.

UNPALLED meant a person’s companion who had either been hanged or transported to be hanged.

To be UNRIGGED was to be undressed.

UP IN THE STIRRUPS referred to a fortunate man or one with plenty of money.

If you were UP TO THEIR GOSSIP it meant you were a match for someone attempting to deceive or cheat you.

An UPPER BENJAMIN was also a nickname for a greatcoat.

1867 Greatcoat Shown on Center Man, Public Domain

1867 greatcoat shown on the man in the center. Public domain.

The UPPER STORY or GARRET were terms used to signify the head.

A block, platform, or steps for mounting a horse was called an UPPING BLOCK.

The UPRIGHT MAN was the boss in a group of beggars. Grose described him as “the vilest, stoutest rogue in the pack.”[1] Grose continued stating that he “is generally chosen to this post, and [he] has the sole right to the first night’s lodging with the dells, who afterwards are used in common among the whole fraternity. He carries a short truncheon in his hand, which he calls his filchman, and has a larger share than ordinary in whatsoever is gotten in the society. He often travels in company with thirty or forty males and females, abram [sic] men, and others, over whom he presides arbitrarily.”[2]

An URCHIN was a nickname for a child or a hedgehog.

Ireland was sometimes called the URINAL OF THE PLANETS because it rained so frequently there.

letters u and v

A person who boasted with reason was said to be VAIN-GLORIOUS or an OSTENTATIOUS MAN.

VALENTINE referred to the first woman seen by a man or the first man seen by a woman on St. Valentine’s day, because it was said that “every bird chuses [sic] his mate for the ensuing year.”[3]

VAMPER referred to stockings and VAMPY to the bottoms of the stockings that covered the foot.

If you gave a VARDY it was your opinion or verdict.

VARLETS were rogues and rascals, although formerly they were known as a yeoman’s servants.

If you were a VARMENT you were natty or dashing.

A VAULTING SCHOOL was just that, a place where you learned how to vault.

To TIP THE VELVET meant to “put one’s tongue into a woman’s mouth,”[4] or in other words kiss.

Venereal diseases were sometimes called VENUS’S CURSE and it affected all sorts of people including, Lord Campbell and his wife who became involved in a contentious divorce over it.

A drunken person was said to be VICE ADMIRAL OF THE NARROW SEAS. This could also apply to someone who was drunk enough that he or she vomited on another person, or, someone, who, according to Grose, “pisses under the table into his companions’ shoes.”[5]

The stomach was also called the VICTUALLING OFFICE.

The art of cheating at cards was also called VINCENT’S LAW.

TO VOWEL was in reference to someone who did not immediately pay his losses but rather used the vowels, I.O.U.


  • [1] Grose, F., Lexicon Balatronicum, 1811.
  • [2] Ibid.
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] Grose, F., Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1823. 
  • [5] Ibid.

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