50+ Victorian Slang Terms Worth Bringing Back

, Staff Writer
Updated May 13, 2021
victorian slang jammiest bits of jam gal sneakers
    victorian slang jammiest bits of jam gal sneakers
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Looking to spice up your writing in historical style? Check out more than 50 Victorian slang terms that just might be able to make a comeback. Why not resurrect a bit of Victorian English to give your work a lovely bit of flair?

Victorian Era Slang Words

For such a proper point in history, Victorian English included some quite shocking slang terminology. Would you have expected such cheeky terminology from Victorian ladies and gentlemen? Where were their good manners and etiquette?

  • blazes - Used as a Victorian swear word, this slang term could mean either "hell" or "the Devil."
  • bricky - This descriptive slang word indicates that someone has a brave nature. A bricky person isn't afraid of anything.
  • chuckaboo - This descriptive term is used to affectionately describe someone who is a good friend.
  • daddles - This slang refers to the most important tool of any writer's trade — their hands.
  • damfino - Why go to all the trouble of carefully enunciating "damn if I know." Instead, bring back this Victorian abbreviation, which means the exact same thing.
  • dratted - This mild Victorian swear word has the same meaning as damn in modern times. It was used as an expletive.
  • escop - The term escop was a Victorian cockney slang word for a police officer.
  • foozler - This term refers to someone who tends to mess things up, such as one who is clumsy in a way that causes items to get damaged.
  • dollymop - A woman who dabbled in prostitution during the Victorian era.
  • drumsticks - This word was used as a slang expression for a person's legs.
  • gigglemug - This term is used to describe someone who constantly has a smile on their face.
  • mafficking - When people took to the streets and exhibited rowdy behavior, this was referred to as mafficking.
  • meater - The descriptive term meater was the slang antonym for bricky. This slang would have been used to describe someone who has a cowardly nature.
  • mollisher - This is the female romantic companion of a villain, criminal or gangster.
  • rovolveress - This Victorian slang phrase was used to describe a woman who had superb shooting skills (with a gun).
  • strumpet - The word strumpet referred to a whore or prostitute.
  • suggestionize - This slang word means pretty much what it sounds like, as it would be used to indicate that someone is making a suggestion.
  • tarnation - This slang term evolved as a Victorian euphemism to say instead of using the curse word "damnation" as an exclamation.
  • whooperups - This term was used to describe people who would sing loudly even though they did not have good singing voices.

Victorian Slang Word Pairs

Some Victorian sentiments required stringing together two words to form a slang phrase. Some represent catty name-calling while others are even a bit salacious. None of the phrases listed below are commonly used during modern times, but wouldn't it be fun to bring back a few?

  • church bell - This term refers to a woman who talks so much she reminds you of the incessant clanging of church bells.
  • do tell - This Victorian exclamation means the same thing as the popular modern expression "you don't say." It's an urge to dish the latest scoop.
  • fly rink - During the Victorian period, a shiny bald head would have been unappealingly described as a fly rink.
  • gal sneaker - Have you ever met a man who tries to seduce every female who crosses his path? Then you've made the acquaintance of a gal-sneaker.
  • gas pipes - Some gal-sneakers like to outfit themselves with gas pipes, which are pants with a particularly snug fit.
  • half rats - You know that feeling of being just barely tipsy, but not really drunk? That's what it means to be half rats.
  • mouth pie - This term refers to negative nagging directed by a wife towards her husband.
  • mutton shunter - This phrase was slang for police officers during Victorian times. It was used then like "pig" is used today.
  • nanty narking - If you enjoy having a good time, then nanty narking is something you'd enjoy. This phrase refers to having fabulous fun.
  • orf chump - If you lost your appetite during the Victorian era, you'd use this slang phrase to indicate that you don't need any food because you have no appetite.
  • poked up - If you found yourself feeling embarrassed during Victorian times, you could use the phrase "poked up" to describe how you felt.
  • powdering hair - When Victorian gentlemen headed to the tavern to partake excessively of the drink, they'd say that they're powdering hair (instead of the more straightforward "getting drunk").
  • rain napper - If you'd gone out in the rain during the Victorian era, you'd have taken a rain napper with you. This phrase is slang for an umbrella.
  • sauce box - Much like "pie hole" came to refer to a person's mouth in later years, the phrase "sauce box" was used during Victorian times.
  • some pumpkins - The phrase "some pumpkins" was a slang term used to indicate that something is really terrific or impressive.
  • wooden spoon - A particularly dumb person would sometimes have been described as a wooden spoon during Victorian times.

Longer Victorian Slang Phrases

The Victorian English slang phrases below all have three or more words. The longer phrases from that era get, the more interesting they become. Folks from that era certainly knew how to get creative with their use of informal language!

  • bags o' mystery - This aptly descriptive phrase was used for sausage. Why not? After all, there's really no telling what all is inside the casing of a sausage.
  • barking at a knot - This odd-sounding phrase is used to indicate that a person is engaged in an activity that will never bring about the desired result, so it's a waste of time.
  • bow wow mutton - Sailors used this creative term to refer to really nasty tasting meat. The implication? It tastes so bad that it just might be dog meat.
  • butter upon bacon - This phrase sounds like it's about preparing food, but is not. Instead, it refers to an act of extreme extravagance.
  • cop a mouse - This phrase refers to the misfortune of receiving an injury that results in a black eye.
  • don't sell me a dog - This phrase has nothing to do with purchasing a pet. Instead, it is what you'd say to caution someone against lying to you.
  • eat vinegar with a fork - This phrase was used to describe a sharp-witted conversationalist or someone who was known to have a nasty way with words.
  • got the morbs - In a nod to the word morbid, this phrase refers to someone who is in a melancholy mood or temporary state of depression.
  • grinning at the daisy roots - This rather odd Victorian slang phrase for death was used to indicate that someone had died and been buried.
  • jammiest bits of jam - This phrase was used to describe the most perfectly beautiful young women.
  • keep that dry - If you shared some gossip during the Victorian era, you'd ask the person you told to "keep it dry." This is a request to keep information secret.
  • kill the canary - This phrase indicated that one was sloughing off from work, such as pretending to be sick in order to avoid going to one's job.
  • make a stuffed bird laugh - Have you pursued a path that's positively preposterous? Then your attempts could be described as an attempt to make a stuffed bird laugh.
  • mind the grease - You'd utter this phrase when politely requesting others to let you move past where they are walking or standing.
  • not up to dick - During Victorian times, if someone inquired after your well-being when you were not feeling well, you could respond by saying that you're "not up to dick."
  • take the egg - The slang phrase "take the egg" was used to refer to the act of winning something, whether it be a prize or an argument.
  • up the pole - This phrase is the Victorian equivalent of saying that a person is "falling down drunk." The person is so drunk that they have to hold on to a pole to stay upright.

From Victorian Usage to Modern-Day English

When you review these commonly used Victorian era sayings and expressions, it becomes easy to see how slang affects the English language. Now that you have been exposed to these informal phrases from centuries gone by, explore a few more examples of slang words from the past and today. This will provide unique insights regarding how language evolves over time, even the informal vernacular associated with a particular point in history.