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

Jump To:  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  

Begins with “D”


Dab Or Dabster – One who is expert in anything, a proficient.

Daisy – Good; excellent.

Dander – Passion, emotion, anger. “Her eyes blazed giving evidence to how he quickly he could get her dander up.”

Dang – Euphemism for damn.

Dangler – An express train.

Dash – Euphemism for damn.

Dead-Alive – Dull, inactive, moping.

Dead As A Door Nail – Utterly, completely dead.

Deadening – When new areas were settled in the west, “clearings” were made by cutting down the trees. Others were “girdled,” or when the majority of trees are deadened, the clearing was called a deadening.

James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Dead Man’s Hand – A poker hand consisting of a pair of aces and a pair of eights. Traditionally, Wild Bill Hickok was holding this hand when he was shot dead by Jack McCall. Some sources dispute the hand, saying that it really contained two jacks, not aces and two eights.

Dead Meat – A corpse.

Deadshot – Strong liquor.

Death On – Very fond of or very talented at. He made a “death on” speech at last night’s meeting.

Deef – Deaf.

Demijohn – A glass vessel or bottle, with a large body and small neck, protected and strengthened by a covering of wicker-work.

Desert Canary – A burro.

Deuce – A euphemism for devil.

Devil – An expletive, expressing wonder or vexation, sometimes used as a term for mischief.

Devilish – Atrocious, enormous, excessively, exceedingly

Devil’s Addition – Red Light District.

Deviltry – Mischief, devilry.

Dice House – Bunkhouse.

Dickens – Euphemism for devil, overmuch, a lot – a word most often used in explanations of confusion or pain; “the dickens you say,” or “it hurt like the dickens.”

Dicker – Barter, trade.

Didn’t Have a Tail Feather Left – Broke

Die-up – The deaths of several cattle from exposure, disease, starvation, or other widespread catastrophe.

Difficulted – Perplexed.

Diggers – Spurs.

Diggings – One’s home, lodgings, or community.  Also commonly referred to prospector’s mining claims.

Dilly-Dally – To delay.

Ding – Beat, bang, used tedious repetition, as, “Why do you keep dinging that in my ears?”

Ding or Dinged – Excessively, very. “It is so ding hot out here.”

Dipping – Chewing snuff.

Dip Snuff – A manner of using tobacco, generally by wetting a small stick and dipping it into snuff (tobacco) and placing in the mouth. Sometimes tied in a small bag to chew it.

Directly – Soon. “She’ll be down, directly.”

Dirk – A dagger, dirking would refer to stabbing with a dagger.

Dinero – From the Spanish, a word for money.

Dish – To ruin, to frustrate. “He dished us too.”

Disremember – Forget or choose to forget.

Ditched – Arrested.

Ditty – A which-i-ma-call-it.

Dive – Bunkhouse.

Docity – Quick comprehension, usually used in a negative way. “He has no docity.”

Doctor – The cook on board a ship, so-called by seamen.

Dog Cheap – Anything exceedingly cheap.

Doggery – A cheap saloon.

Dogie – An orphaned calf or small calf; by extension, any cattle.

Dog House – Bunkhouse.

Dogs – To go to the dogs. destruction, ruined, destroyed. “She has let that house go to the dogs.”

Cheyenne Dog Soldier

Cheyenne Dog Soldier

Dog Soldiers – Part of the warrior society of some plains Indian tribes.

Doings – Cooked food, also called fixins.

Done Brown – Thoroughly, effectually cheated or bamboozled.

Done Up – Ruined by gambling or extravagance

Don’t Care a Continental – Don’t give a damn.

Don’t Get Your Dander Up – Anxious; excited.

Dough Belly – The cook.

Doughgods – Biscuits.

Dough Boxer – The camp cook.

Dough Puncher – The camp cook.

Dough Wrangler – the Camp cook, also called “Dough Puncher.”

Douse-the-Lights –  Lights out. Time to hit the hay.

Dowd – A woman’s night-cap.

Down In The Mouth – Dispirited, dejected, disheartened

Down to the Blanket – Almost broke.

Doxology Works – A church.

Drabble – To make dirty by dragging in dirt and water, to wet and befoul, as, to drabble a gown or cloak.

Dragged Out – Fatigued, exhausted, worn out.

Dram Shop – A small drinking establishment, used in the early 19th century.

Drat or Dratted – A good-humored oath meaning very, exceedingly.

Draw – Drawing your gun “border style” consisted of pulling your pistol, worn backward in the holster, by putting your arm across the front of your body. This fancy stuff was popular down around the Mexican border.

Draw Cuts – A common way of deciding by lots, by drawing paper or straws.

Dreadful – Very, a lot, exceedingly.  “He’s just got a dreadful amount of money.”

Dreambook – A small packet of papers used to roll cigarettes. Also called a “prayer book” or a “bible.”

Driving the Nail –  A sport consisting of attempts to drive a nail into a post with rifle or pistol fire.

Droger – Lumber droger, cotton droger, etc. A vessel built solely for burden, for transporting cotton, lumber, and other heavy articles.

Drumming – Soliciting of customers in a retail establishment, such as “can I help you find something?”

Dry Gulch – To ambush someone, especially when the ambusher hides in a gully or gulch near a road and jumps the passersby.

Ducky –  Used in early century as term of endearment.

Dude – Commonly, the term applied to an Easterner, or anyone in up-scale town clothes, rather than plain range-riding or work clothes. However, the term began as an insult, as cowboys first used the word to mean a pimple or boil on someone’s backside, caused by riding in the saddle all day when one wasn’t used to it. Hence, the cowboys called those “wanna-be” wrangers “dudes.”

Dug-Out – A canoe or boat, hewn or dug out of a large log.

Dull Music – A term applied to anything tedious.

Dump – Jail or boarding house.

Dumpish – Sad, melancholy

Dun – To dun is to urge for payment, to demand a debt in a pressing manner

Dunderhead – Blockhead, dolt.

Dusted – Thrown from a horse.

Dynamite – Whiskey.

Dyed In The Wool – Ingrained, thorough.


Jump To:  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y