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

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Begins with “T”


Table Muscle – A pot belly.

Taffy – Flattery.

Tail-Race – The water course leading from a mill after it has passed the water-wheel.

‘Taint – A corrupt abbreviation for it is not.

Take French Leave – To desert, sneak off without permission.

Take on – Grieve. “Don’t take on so.”

Aztec Cowboys, 1877

The cowboys who worked for the Aztec Land & Cattle Company, known as the Hashknife Outfit, in Arizona  “took the rag off” many other “saddle stiffs.” Photo, 1897.

Take the Rag Off – Surpass, beat all. “Well, if that don’t take the rag off the bush.”

Take the Starch Out – Extinguish one’s conceit, widely applied to weakening, refuting or deterioration.

Talk a donkey’s hind leg off – To talk with no purpose.

Talking-Iron – A gun or rifle, called also a shooting-iron.

Tall Hog at the Trough – Superior, outstanding, exudes leadership.

Tallow – Fat, whether on humans or animals.

Tally – To live tally is to live as man and wife though not married.

Tan Your Hide – Spanking. “I started raisin’ Cain, an my mama said she was going to tan my hide!”

Tangle-footed, tangle- legged – Drunk from bad whiskey.

Taos Lightening – A name given to any potent liquor.

Taps – To be on one’s taps is to be on one’s feet, on the move, ready to move.

Taradiddles – Falsehoods, traveler’s yarns or tales.

Tare, Tear – A frolic, spree, riot, bender, rampage.

Tarantula Juice – Cheap whiskey.

Tarnal – Yankee swear word.

Tarnation – A mild oath or explanation.

Tatch, Thatch – Hat.

Teapot – A depot or railroad station.

Tearin’ up Jake – Making a lot of noise.  “He must be tearin’ up Jake out there!”

Tear Squeezer – A sad story.

Techy or  Techy as a Teased Snake – Grumpy, irritable.

Tee-Total – Entirely, total.

Tee-Totaller – A thorough temperance man, who avoids every kind of ardent spirits, wine, and beer.

Tejas – When the Spanish first arrived in America, the present state of Texas was called Tejas, a Spanish version of a Caddo Indian word meaning “allies.”

Ten-cent Man – A small, narrow-minded, trifling man.

Ten Commandments – Fingers or nails.

Tenderfoot – A person new to the job, or a young person.

Tenderloin – The red-light commercial district of a town, featuring brothels.

Tendsome – Requiring much attendance, as, ‘a tendsome child.’

Ter – To

Texas Butter – Gravy made with flour, hot water, and fried steak grease.

Texas Cakewalk – A hanging.

That Dog Won’t Hunt – That idea or argument isn’t going to work. Or, the person saying it doesn’t believe what you’re saying.  After I broke curfew for the second time and blamed it on my car catching fire, my daddy said to me, “Traci, that dog won’t hunt.”

There You Ain’t – Expresses a failure. The opposite of “There you are.”

Three Ways from Sunday – Moving quickly; high-tailing it out of there.

Three-by-nine smile – A laug or smile to the full extent on the jaws.

Three-legged Mare – Gallows.

Throw Off on – Make fun of.

Throw up the sponge – Quit, give up, surrender.

Thundering – Very, exceedingly.

Thumb Buster – Single action six-gun that required cocking.


Thumper – A gross falsehood.

Thumping – Very large.

Tied Up – Given over, finished.

Tiger Town – Refers to an alley, street or district that had many gambling halls where Faro was played. Also referred to as “Tiger Alley.”

Tight – Drunk

Tightener – A hearty meal.

Tile Loose, Tile Off – Slightly deranged. Also “slate loose.”

Tilt On – to come across, meet.

Old 76 Still, Strobridge and Co, 1850-1900

Old 76 Still, advertising focused on “tiplers,” Strobridge  & Co. between 1850 and 1900.

Timbers – Legs. Also “stems” or “pegs.”

Tin – Money.

Tin-horn Lot – A term used to express contempt towards a small-minded or mean fellow.

Tinker’s News – News that has already been heard or told before.

Tippery – Payment


Tie To – Rely on. “He’s a man you can tie to.”

Tight Scrouging – Hard squeezing. Said of anything difficult to accomplish.

Tipple – Drink liquor.

Tin – A slang word for money. ‘Kelter,’ ‘dimes,’ ‘dough,’ rocks,’ and many other words are used in the same manner.

We never put tin on a horse to win,
Lack of oof explains it partly,
But the horse that will be in the final three,
Is the one that races Smartley.
— Sporting Times.

Tiswin – A kind of weak beer brewed from corn, popular among the Apache.

Titivate – To dress up.

Tit For Tat – I shall treat you as you treat me.

Titter – An eruption on the skin.

Toad Strangler – Heavy rain.

Toddle, Tortle, Turtle – To be off.

Toddy – A kind of punch made of rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg.

Toff – A dandy, a swell, one who dresses well. “Toffer” is the female version.

Toggery, Togs – Clothing.

To Rights – In the proper way.

Tote – A hard drinker.

To Toll – To entice, to lead on. Western.

Tombstones – Large teeth.

Tongs – A name for pantaloons and roundabouts formerly in use in New England.

Tongue Oil – Strong liquor.

Tonsil Paint – Liquor, also referred to as “tonsil varnish.”

Too Big For His Breeches – Said of a man who is above his business, arrogant, haughty.

Too Much Mustard – A braggart.

Topping – Elegant, swell, great.

Frontier Slang, Lingo & Phrases Book by Kathy Alexander

More Terms, Expanded Definitions + Reverse Lookup + More Pictures

Top-sawyer – Denoting excellence, superiority

Tornado Juice – Whiskey.

Tottie – A fast girl.

Tottle, Tottlish – To walk unsteadily.

Towelling – Thrashing, beating.

Trace – A trail or path.

Trailing – Moving cattle from one location to another.

Train Up – Hurry.

Trampous, Trampoose – To walk, to lounge or wander about, to tramp.

Tranklements, trollybobs, trollybags – Entrails, intestines.

Traps – Goods, household stuff, baggage.

Trat – A pretty girl.

To Tree – To take refuge in a tree, usually said of a wild animal. To tree oneself, is to conceal oneself behind a tree.

Trickly – Tricklish, practicing tricks.

Tricks – Ones personal belongings.

Trig A Wheel – To stop a wheel so as to prevent its going backwards or forwards

Trimmings – Bread and butter and other necessary eatables for the tea-table.

Trotter Boxes, Trotter Cases – Shoes or boots.

Trounce – To beat

Truckage – The charges for carrying on a truck, the cartage.

Truk, Trug – A prostitute of the lowest class. Usually dirty, slatternly.

Tub-thumping – Street preaching.

Tuckered Out – Tired out, fatigued.

‘Twa’n’t – It was not.

Twig – Observe, understand.

Twist – A good appetite. Also to outlaws, it means to hang.

Twistical – Tortuous, unfair, not quite moral.

Twisting the Tiger’s Tail – Playing Faro or poker. Also referred to as “bucking the tiger.”

Twofer – A loose woman.

Two Whoops and a Holler – Not far away.


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