Western Slang, Lingo, and Phrases – A Writer’s Guide to the Old West

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Begins with “R”


Loading cattle in North Dakota, 1936, photo by Paul Carter.

Loading cattle in North Dakota, 1936, photo by Paul Carter.

Raft – A large quantity.

Rag Proper – Dress well.

Rail It – To travel by rail-road.

Railheads – Towns with facilities for loading cattle onto trains.

Railroad Bible – A deck of cards. This stemmed from the large number of card sharks working aboard the railroads.

Raise – To make a raise. Meaning to make a haul, to raise the wind.

Raise One’s Bristles – To excite one’s anger.

Raise Sand – Start trouble.

Raisin’ Cain – Loud, noisy boisterous.

Rake And Scrape – To collect.

Randy – Wanton or lecherous.

Ranny – A top cowhand, skilled cowboy.

Rantankerous – Contentious, a variation of cantankerous.

Rappee – An inferior quality of snuff.

Rattler – Freight train

Rattled – To become nervous, worried, uneasy.

Rattling – Jolly, excellent, smart

Rattle Your Hocks – Hurry up, get a move on.

Rat Trap – A woman’s bustle.

Raving Distracted – Stark mad.

Rebel Soldier – Rye whiskey.

Reckon – To guess or think. “I reckon that’ll do right fine.”

Reckoning up – Talking about something or someone in a slanderous manner. “I overheard them reckoning up the mayor.”

Red Eye – Whiskey, also called “red disturbance” and “red ink.”

Red Lane – A vulgar name for the throat, chiefly used by those drinking alcohol.

Reloading Outfit – Cowboy term for eating utensils, cups, and a plate.

Rench – A vulgar pronunciation of the word rinse.

Retch – Past tense of reach.

Retiracy – Sufficiency, competency.

Reverent – Strong, as, reverent whisky, not diluted.

Rib – Wife.

Rib Wrenches – Spurs.

Ride a Shank’s Mare – To walk or be set afoot.

Ride For the Brand – To be loyal to the ranch and rancher that pays a cowboy.

Ride Out on a Rail – To be forced to leave town.

Rig – Saddle.

Right as a Trivet – Right as rain, sound as a nut, stable.

Right as Rain – Fine. “After a good night’s rest, he’ll be right as rain.”

Right Smart – Many, much, good. “He got a right smart bit of work done.”

Ring – A group of businessmen or politicians form to advance their own interests, usually in such a way that places the public at risk. “The notorious Santa Fe Ring was an unscrupulous group of politicians in the 1800s.”

Ring in – To force or insinuate oneself into company where one is not wanted or does not belong.

Ringster – A member of ring, or group whose objective is to profit at the public’s expense.

Ringy – Ornery or angry man or animal.

Rip – Reprobate. “He’s a mean ol’ rip.”

Rip Out – Impatiently give vent to one’s feeling or opinions. “When he came upon the town bully, he ripped out what he thought of him.”

Rip-roaring, Rip-staver, Rip-snortin’ – An impressive person or thing.

Road Agent – A robber, bandit, desperado.

Road Ranch – A supply center or store, often located on the major trails headed westward, that supplied the wagon trains with provisions.

Rode Hard and Put Up Wet – Ugly, rough or hard looking. “She looks like she’s been rode hard and put up wet!”

Roastineer – Corn roasted over an open fire while still in the husks.

Rock – A piece of money.


Colorado burros were often called Rocky Mountain Canaries.

Rocky Mountain Canary – A burro used by the miners in the Rocky Mountains.

Rod – A revolver.

Rode Fence – Patrolled the range checking see if any areas of fencing needed repairs.

Roily Or Rily – Turbid, excited to resentment, vexed.

Rook – To cheat, to dupe, such as a cardsharper or conman might do in a poker game.

Rookus Juice – Liquor.

Roostered – Drunk. “Looks like those cowboys are in there gettin’ all roostered up.”

Roost over one – To get the better of.

Roping In – Cheating.

Rot-gut – Bad liquor.

Rouncher, roncher – Used to describe something extreme, powerful, large, fine, remarkable.

Round Browns – Cow chips.

Round Up – A gathering of sheep, cattle or pigs.

Rousing – Very great, commonly applied to a fire.

Round-Rimmers – Hats with a round rim, hence, those who wear them.

Row – A fight

To Row Up – To punish with words, to rebuke.

Row Up Salt River – Used generally to signify political defeat.

Rowdy-dow – Low, vulgar.

Ruckus – Loud noise, voices, a racket. “What’s all the ruckus about?”

Ruinatious – Ruinous.

Rumbumptious, rumbustious – Haughty, pompous, boisterous, making a great fuss about.

Rum-hole, Rum-mill – A small drinking establishment, saloon.

Run – A small stream or rivulet.

To Run – To press with jokes, sarcasm, or ridicule. ‘To get the run upon one,’ is to make a butt of him.

Run against a pill – To be shot, to take a bullet.

To Run One’s Face – To make use of one’s credit.

Russer, Rusher – A dashing, sensation-causing man, a heavy player – often applied to politicians and clergymen.


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