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 Weiser-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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59 thoughts on “Western Slang, Lingo, and Phrases – A Writer’s Guide to the Old West”

  1. In my past life as a Cowboy 6 shooter I met many bad-tempered, grumpy and combative old farts. It was just easy to call them “ornery” because that’s what we were. In every sense of the word “ORNERY” should be listed here in this awesome Western Slang and Lingo document.

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