Western Slang & Phrases -
D E F
Q R S
A "saddle stiff" driving the herd along the
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Saddle Bum - A drifter.
- A cowboy,
also referred to as "saddle warmer" and "saddle slicker."
Saddle Tramp - A
who spends most of his time in the chuck line.
Sadying - A simple and unaffected mode
Sagamore - The title of a chief or
ruler among some of the American tribes of Indians.
Sagebrush Men -
who worked in the arid portions of Montana, Colorado and Wyoming.
Sage Hen - A
Sakes Alive - The
equivalent of "Good heavens!”
Salt Horse - Corned beef.
Salting - Planting rich ore samples in
an unprofitable mine to attract unwary buyers.
Salt-Lick - A saline spring, where
animals resort for drink.
There are points on which
And I will state the facts,
I don't go round
My friends behind their
So much the better for you,
So much the better for you.
If you never act silly,
you'll keep off the skilly,
That's so much the better
Salt-Water Vegetables - A term for
oysters and clams.
euphemism for the devil. "What in the Sam Hill are you doing?"
- Guts; courage; toughness. "You got sand, that's fer shore."
Coronado's favorite charge was "Santiago", Spanish for St.James,
Spain's soldier saint.
Saphead - Blockhead, a stupid
Sappy - Young, not firm, weak.
Satinet - A twilled cloth made of
cotton and wool.
Savage as a Meat
Axe - Extremely savage.
Savagerous - Furious.
Savanna - An open plain, or meadow
Savey or Sabby - Corrupted from the
Spanish saber, to know.To know, to comprehend.
To Saw - To hoax, to play a joke
Sawbones - Surgeon.
Sawdust - Counterfeit gold-dust or
Say -A speech, what one has to say.
Sawdusty - Cajoling, flattering.
Scab Herder -
Derogatory term for sheep herder.
Scad - Large quantities, plenty, an
Scace - Scarce.
Scallywag - A mean, rotten or worthless person.
Scaly - Mean, stingy.
Scalawag - A mean, graceless
Scamp - A worthless fellow.
Scape - Gallows - One who has
escaped, though deserving of the gallows.
Scape-Grace - A term of reproach, a
Scare Up - To obtain, get. "Can you
scare up five dollars?"
Scoff away, scuff away - To blow
away, drive away, impel.
School Ma'am or Marm - A
Sconce - The head, pate.
- Trick, entice, inveigle. "He got scooped into a poker game and lost
Scoot - Move fast, run, get going.
Score Off - To get the best of one,
especially in a verbal debate.
Scow - A large flat-bottomed boat,
generally used as a ferry boat, or as a lighter for loading and
unloading vessels when they cannot approach the wharf.
Scranch - To crunch, crack, or break
any hard thing between the teeth.
Scrap - To fight or box.
Scrape - A shave.
Scraper - A razor.
Scraps - The dry, husky, and skinny
residuum of melted fat.
Scratch - Not worth much. "No great
Scratch - To come to the encounter,
begin a fight, i.e. To come to the scratch. Also means to spur a horse.
Scratching Rake - A comb.
Screamer - An extraordinary person.
Screaming - First-rate, splendid.
Screw - One who squeezes all he can out
of those with whom he has any dealings, an extortioner, miser. Also means
salary, wages. Also means a jailer, turnkey, or prison warden.
Screw Loose - Something wrong. "He's
got a screw loose."
Scrouge - To crowd, to squeeze.
Scrouger - A bouncing fellow or girl.
Scrub - A horse of little value.
Schruncher - One who eats greedily.
Scuds - Money.
Scuss - Scarce.
See About - To attend to, to consider.
See How The Cat Jumps - A metaphorical
expression meaning, to discover the secrets or designs of others.
See the Elephant
- Originally meant to see combat for the first time, later came to
mean going to town, where all the action was or to go somewhere to
experience a "worldly event." Many times denotes
disappointment of high-raised expectations.
Sell Out -
Serve Up - To expose to ridicule,
Set About - To chastise, beat,
thrash. "When I got home he set about me with a strap."
Set By or Set Much By - To regard,
to esteem. "He behaved himself more wisely than all, so that his name
was much set by.”
Set Her Cap For Him - To direct her
attentions to him, to endeavor to win his affections.
Set Store By - To set value upon, to
Settled - Sentenced to prison.
Set-To - Argument, debate, contest
Setting-Pole - A pole pointed with
iron, used for propelling vessels or boats up rivers.
Settle One's Hash - To properly punish
Seven by Nine
- Something or someone of inferior or common quality. Originated from
common window panes of that size.
Sewn Up - Exhausted, finished,
done. Also means intoxicated.
Shack - A vagabond, a low fellow.
"He's a poor shack of a fellow.”
Shackly - Loose, rickety.
Shake - A prostitute.
Shakes - Not much, not so good. "His
horse riding abilities are no great shakes." Also means a moment,
an instant. "Hold on, I'll get to it a couple of shakes." Also
means a good opportunity, offer, bargain, or chance. "He gave me a good
shake on that land."
Shake A Stick At - When a man is
puzzled to give one an idea of a very great number, he calls it 'more than
you can shake a stick at.'
Shake Down - A
Shakester, Shickster - A female.
Shake Up - To obtain, get, procure.
"Can you help me shake up a fiddle player for the barn dance?
Shank of the
Evening - Latter part of the afternoon.
Shakes - The fever and ague.
Shakes - No great shakes. Of no great
value, little worth.
Shaky - A term applied by lumbermen,
dealers in timber, and carpenters, to boards which are inclined to split
from defects in the log from which they have been sawed.
Shaney, Shanny - A fool.
Shank's Mare, Shank's Pony - On foot.
Shank - The balance, what remains. "Why
don't you come by and spend the shank of the evening with me?
Shanty - A hut, or mean dwelling.
Sharps - Any firearm manufactured
Christian Sharps for his Sharps Rifle Company. This term also
applied to professional gamblers who cheated at the
Sharp Set - Hungry.
Sharp Stick - 'He's after him with
a sharp stick,' i. e. he's determined to have satisfaction, or
Shave - A narrow escape, a false
alarm, a hoax.
A child or young person of either sex;
"What a cute little shaver."
Shaver - One that is close in
bargains, or a sharp dealer
- A green, inexperienced person.
Shebang - A shanty or small house
Shecoonery - A whimsical corruption
of the word chicanery. "This town's got a monstrous bad name for
meanery and shecoonery of all sorts
Sheepherder's Delight - Cheap
Shet - Shut.
Shin - Borrow money.
Shindig - A
dance, party, celebration.
Shindy - Uproar,
confusion, a row, a spree.
Shine - To take the shine off, is
to surpass in beauty or excellence. To take a shine to a person, is to
take a fancy to him or her. To cut or make a shine, is to make a great
Shin Out - Run away.
Shirk - To procure by mean tricks,
Shivaree - A
boisterous party for newlyweds.
Shoal - To lounge about lazily.
- Six-gun or a rifle.
Shoot, Luke, or Give up the Gun
- Do it or quit talking about it.
Shoot the Cat - Vomit.
Shoot the Crow - Obtain a drink in
a saloon and leave without paying.
Shote - A young hog, a pig partially
Shote - An idle, worthless man.
Shot in the Neck - Drunk.
Shot its Back - A
Shove the queer
- To pass counterfeit money.
Shuck Off - Take
Shucks - Worthless
people or things.
Shunt - To move, turn aside.
Shut - Quit, rid. "I want to be shut of
Shut Pan - Shut
up, shut your mouth.
Shut yer cock
holster - Shut yer mouth.
To Shy - To throw a light substance, as
a flat stone, or a shell, with a careless jerk. Also means to turn aside,
or start, as a horse, to sheer. And means, to hang about.
Sick As A Horse - 'I'm as sick as a
horse,' exceedingly sick.
Sidle - Move unobtrusively or sideways;
"The young man began to sidle near the
pretty girl sitting on the log"
Signalize - To communicate information
by means of signals or telegraph.
Simon Pure - The real
thing, a genuine fact. "This is the Simon pure."
Sin-Buster - A
Singin' to 'Em -
Standing night guard.
Sinker - Biscuit.
Sipper - Gravy
Sittin' Her -
Courting a girl.
This cute lil' shaver hangs a stocking for
Santa in 1901.
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A tumbleweed up against a "silk" fence in
Sixes And Sevens - To be in a state of
disorder and confusion.
- Strong coffee.
Six-shooter Horse - A fast horse.
- Scurry away or run like hell, get, leave, go. "I best skedaddle."
Skeersome - Frightful.
Skeezick, skeesick - A mean
Sketchily - In a "sketchy” manner -
lacking substance, superficial, incomplete.
Skid - A piece of light timber from ten
to twenty feet in length, upon which heavier timber or other supplies are
rolled or slid from place to place.
Skilly - Water-gruel in workhouses or
Skilts - Brown trowsers formerly
worn in New England, that reach just below the knees.
Skin a Razor - To drive a hard bargain.
Skin-Flint - A tight or close-fisted
person with their money.
Skin Game - A swindle.
Skinned - To keep an eye on, lookout.
Skink - To serve a drink.
Skip a Cog - To make a mistake or
Skittles! - Nonesense!
Skulduggery - Rascality, treachery.
Skull - The head man anywhere, such as
a miner owner or the president.
Skungle - To disappear, make gone.
Skunk Cabbage - A strong-scented,
Sky A Copper - Toss up a penny.
Skunk Eggs -
Slab-sided - Straight, stiff. Usually
applied to people who were prim, formal, or stuffy.
Slangander - To slander, gossip,
Slang-Whanger - A writer or noisy
Slantindicular - Slanting, oblique.
Slap - Paint, rouge, cosmetics.
Sometimes also used to indicate cheap wall paint.
Slap-bang - a Low eating house.
Slap-Jacks - Pancakes.
Slat - Throw down with violence. "That
slatted his brains out then threw him in the horse tank.”
Slate - Abuse, quarrel.
Slathers - Abundance, no end of.
Slatted its Sails - A horse bucking.
Slazy - A corruption of the word
Slew or Slue - In seaman's language, to
turn something around.
Slewed - Moderately drunk.
Slewer - A vulgar word for servant
Slick or Slike - A pronunciation of
sleek. "Her face was smooth and slike.”
Slick - To swallow.
Slick as a Whistle or Slick as Grease -
To do something very smoothly.
Slicker - A group of vigilantes who
operated in Missouri in the first half of the 19th Century. To "enforce"
their "rules," they were known to whip offenders with hickory switches,
which was known in the Ozarks at the time, as "slicking." Also
refers to a cowboy coat.
Whipping with hickory
Slick Up - To dress up or make make
Slimsey - Flimsey, frail.
Sling - A drink composed of equal parts
of rum and sweetened water.
Slink - A sneaking fellow.
Slinky - Thin, lank.
Slipe - A distance. "I’ve got a long
slipe to go.”
To Let Sliver - To let slip, let fly.
Sling Your Bunk - Go away.
Slog - A blow, a fight with the fists.
Slogging - A beating, a thrashing, a
Slommack - Prostitute, floozie, slut,
or dirty untidy woman..
Slope - To run away, decamp, slip away.
Slops - Large and loose trousers.
Slower than molasses in January
- Really slow.
Slug - An ingot of gold or silver, a
Slumguzzling - Deceiving, humbugging.
Slummy - A servant girl.
Slump - To recite badly, fail, bungle,
Slumpy - Marshy; easily broken
Slush - Grease or fat from salt meat
Slue - Many, large number
Small Fry - Young children or persons
of little importance.
Small Potatoes - Mean, contemptible,
worthless. "He is small potatoes.”
Smart Sprinkle - A good deal; a good
many. Used in the interior of the Western States.
Smock-face - A white face, a face
without any hair.
Smoke Pole - Six-gun, also referred to
as a "smoke wagon."
Smooth - A meadow, or grass field.
Smoutch - To gouge, to take unfair
To Smutch - To blacken with smoke,
soot, or coal. "I have smutched my fingers.”
Snake Out - Drag or haul out, as a
snake from its hole.
Snake Pizen - Whiskey.
Snapped - Drunk.
Snatch - A hasty meal, a snack.
Snapper - An impudent tattler,
impertinent talk, constant chatter.
Snapperhead - An impertinent fellow,
one who snaps or answers to quickly or impudently.
Snippeny, snippy, sniptious,
snippish - Vain, conceited.
These small fries are up to no good behind the
barn, photo by E.W. Kelley, 1906.
Snipper-Snapper - An effeminate young
man; a trifler.
Snipsnap - Tart dialogue, quick
Snotted - Being reprimanded, hauled
over the coals.
Snoozer - A thief who robs hotel
Snorter - Impolite reference to a
dashing or riotous fellow. A vulgar Western term.
Snuffy - A wild or spirited horse.
Soak - To bake thoroughly.
Soap-Lock - A lock of hair made to lie smooth by soaping it.
Sockdologer - A
powerful punch or blow.
Soft down on - In love with.
Soft-horn - A
Tenderfoot, someone new to the West.
Soft Horse - A horse with little
Soft Soap or Soft Sawder - Flattery;
Soft Tack - Bread.
Softy - Silly person, half-witted.
Sog - Dullness, lethargy.
Sold His Saddle - Disgraced.
Sold Up - Poor or distressed.
Sole-slogger - A shoe-maker.
Someone to Ride the River With
- A person to be counted on; reliable; got it where it counts.
Sonk, Sonkey - A stupid fellow.
Sonofabitch Stew - A
concoction that contained cow heart, testicles, tongue, liver, and marrow
gut. Probably first served on a trail drive using the ingredients at hand.
Sossle Or Sozzle - A lazy or sluttish woman.
Sound on the
Goose - True, staunch, reliable.
- Nitroglycerine. Was often used to open bank vault. Also called "oil."
Sourdough - In
lingo -- a cook or a bachelor. In mining and Old West slang, a sourdough was an
experienced prospector, or a veteran in his field..
Sour On - To get
sick of someone or something, to give up something out of disgust.
Sowbelly - Bacon
Span - A span of horses consists of a
pair that are very much alike and harnessed side by side.
This couple is sparking over the fence in
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When the dew is just a
And the stars begin their
And the day dies into darking,
That is just the time for
-- Broadside Ballad.
Spark - A lover, a beau.
Sparking - Courting.
- Time; for a while.
Spider - A cast iron frying-pan with
Spike Team - A wagon drawn by three
horses, or by two oxen and a horse.
Spill - A strip of paper rolled up to
light a lamp or or a cigar.
Splendiferous - Splendid, fine.
Spooney - A stupid or silly fellow,
also a disgusting drunk.
Sportsman - A term often applied to a
Sposh - A mixture of mud and water.
Squally - A sailor’s word for windy,
Squatter - One who
settles on land without legal title, a widespread practice in the West.
Squaw - An extremely derisive term for
an Indian woman. Though this term was widely used in the Old West so much
so that it became common language, it should not be perpetuated. as the
term loosely translates to the "C" word that might be utilized today.
Squaw Wood -
Squeeze the Biscuit
- Grabbing the saddle horn, not something a
wants to get caught doing.
Squirtish - Dandified.
Sparkle Up - To hasten, be quick.
Sparrow Catching - Looking for a girl
to go out with.
Speeler - A gambler.
Spindigo - Said of one who has come out
badly, such as failing an examination or losing on the Stock Exchange.
Splashing - Talking without making
sense or talking too much.
Split Fair - Tell the truth, divulge,
Spoon - To court, make love, woo.
Spoons - Equivalent of money, means or
Spoops, Spoosy - A soft-brained fellow,
or one whose manners are objectionable.
Spread oneself - To boast.
Spudgel - To move or run away quickly.
Squabash - To kill.
Squaddle - To depart rapidly, begone,
cut and run, skedaddle.
Squibob - A term applied in contempt or
Squiffed, Squiffy - Slightly
Squinny - To cause a laugh, to laugh,
Staddle - A young tree; a tree left to
grow when others are cut.
Stall Your Mug - Go away, make yourself
Stancheous - Strong; durable.
Stand In - To cost. "This horse stands
me in two hundred dollars.”
Stand the gaff
- Take punishment in good spirit. "He can really stand the gaff."
Stars - A Southern pronunciation of the
word stairs, like bar for bear.
To Stave - To break a hole in, to
break, to burst, as, 'to stave a cask.' Also means to hurry or press
Stave Off - To push away as with a
staff, to delay, as, 'to stave off the execution of the project
Steamer - Tobacco pipe.
Steel - Spurs.
Stemps - Legs.
Stem-winder - Applied to anything quite
perfect, finished, with the latest improvements.
Stepping Ken - A dance house.
Stevedore - A man employed in loading
and unloading vessels
Stew - To be in a stew, is to be in a
heat, a confusion of mind.
Stew in one's
own juice - To suffer from one's own action.
Stick - An inefficient person.
To Stick - To take in, to impose upon,
to cheat in trade. "I'm stuck with a counterfeit note"
Sticker - A butcher or slaughterer.
Sticks - Furniture.
Stickling - Hesitating, delaying.
Stingo - Strong ale.
Stiver - To run, to move off.
Stob - Small
Stogies - Cheap,
Stomp - Dance.
Stove-pipe - A silk hat.
Strapper - A woman of a bulky form. A
large, tall person.
Strapping - Huge, lusty, bouncing, as,
'a strapping lass.
or Streaky -
Frightened, annoyed, confused, alarmed.
Stretcher - A notorious lie.
Stretchin' the Blanket
- Telling a tall tale.
String - A line of horses.
String - A common name among teamsters
for a whip.
String-Beans - French beans, so called
from the string-like substance stripped from the side of the pod in
preparing it for the table.
Stringing a Whizzer - Telling a tall
Strong enough to
float a colt - Very strong coffee.
Stoved up -
Crippled, badly injured, or too old. Also, "stove in."
Stuff - A weak, worthless person, one
Stuffy - Stout, mettlesome, resolute
Stumper - A puzzler.
Stump Orator - A man who preaches from
the stump of a tree, or other elevation.
Stumpage - The sum paid to owners of
land for the privilege of cutting the timber growing thereon.
- A prostitute.
Suck Egg - A silly person.
Sucker - A hard drinker, a drunkard.
Sucking Hind Tit -
Being last and getting the least.
Suitcase Rancher -
An absentee rancher.
Sugar – Kiss or loving. "Honey, come
over here and give your grandma some sugar."
Sulky - A carriage for a single person,
generally in the form of a chaise.
Sunday-face - The behind, buttocks.
Sure As A Gun - Absolutely certain.
Surface Coal -
Swack-up - A falsehood.
Swad - A crowd, numerous, a mass,
Swacking - Huge, robust.
Swad - A lump, mass, or hunch, also, a
Swag - A term used in speaking of booty
I Swamp It! - An interjection of the
same meaning as I swan!
Swamp Seed - Rice.
Swan - So surprised, ready to faint or pass out. "Well, I swan."
Swanga - A word used among some
southern blacks in connection with buckra, as swanga buckra, meaning a
dandy white man, or literally, a dandy devil.
Sweep - The pole or piece of timber
moved on a fulcrum or post, used to lower and raise a bucket in a well for
Sweet On - In love with.
To Swinge - To whip, to bastinade, to
Swate - A violent slap or blow in the
face with the open hand.
Switch In - To bring in quickly, to
incite promptness. "Now's your time, boys; switch in and let them have
I Swow! - An exclamation.
Sycher - A contemptible person.
1897 photo of a man so "soaked" he could see
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D E F
Q R S
From Legends' General Store
Frontier Slang, Lingo & Phrases - By
Owner/Editor of Legends of America
Autographed From the wild
and woolly mining camps, to the rampages of the Civil War, to the many
cowboys riding on the range, those frontier folks often used terms and
phrases that are no longer used in everyday language today. Yet other
words and sayings were often specific to certain regions and never used
across the states. These terms, as in the past, are still sometimes heard
in specific areas, but are “foreign” to the rest of us.
From the pages of period newspapers, books, and century old dictionaries
comes the slang, lingo, and phrases of the American Frontier. Even if
you're not looking for a definition, you'll get a peek into the charm and
character of a historic era. In addition to the hundreds of words and
phrases, readers will also enjoy more than 150 vintage images.
Signed by the Author. 6x9", paperback -- 132 pages. Published by
Legends of America, 1st edition, October, 2015.
Made in the USA.