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

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Begins with “H”


Tom Mix and Cowboy Hat

Tom Mix, an old Hollywood film star poses with a gun in hand and is “hair case” on the floor.

Hack – A hackney coach.

Haint – Have not.

Hair Case – Hat.

Hair in the Butter – A delicate situation.

Hair Pants – Chaps made from a hair-covered hide.

Half Seas Over – A sailor’s expression for intoxicated, drunk.

Halloo or Hallow – Shout, hoot, to cry out loudly.

Hammer And Tongs – In a noisy, furious manner. “They went at it hammer and tongs.”

Hand And Glove – Intimate, familiar, closely united as a hand and its glove.

Hand Runnin’ – Consecutively.

Hanger-On – A dependant, one who eats and drinks without payment.

Hang Fire – Delay.

Hang Up One’s Fiddle – To give up. The opposite would be to “hang on to one’s fiddle.”

Hanker or Hankering – To have an incessant wish, strong desire, longing.

Happifying – Making happy.

Hard Case – Worthless, bad, unpleasant, – often referring to a person.

Hardfisted – Covetous, close-handed, miserly.

Hard Money – A common term for silver and gold, rather than paper money.

Hard Pushed or Hard Run – Hard pressed, to be in a difficulty, short of cash.

Hard Row To Hoe – A metaphor derived from hoeing corn, meaning a difficult matter or job to accomplish.

Harum-Scarum – A negative term applied to flighty persons or persons always in a hurry.

Hash – To settle one’s business.

Have a Mind To – To have a notion, to be willing.

Hay Baler – A horse, also called hay burner.

Hay Seed – Derogatory term for a farmer, also called hay shaker.

Haze – To haze round, is to go rioting about.

Head-Cheese – The ears and feet of swine cut up fine, boiled, and pressed into the form of a cheese.

Heap – A lot, many, a great deal. “He went through a heap of trouble to get her that piano.” Also refers to a crowd, a throng, a rabble.

Hearn – Heard.

Hear Tell – To hear a report of, to hear of.

Hearty As A Buck – Very well, healthy, hearty. A hunter’s phrase.

Heave In Sight – To come in sight, to appear. A nautical phrase that originated with approaching vessels that appeared to raise or heave itself above the horizon.

Heeled – To be armed with a gun. “He wanted to fight me, but I told him I was not heeled.”

Heft – Weight, ponderousness.

Hellabaloo – Riotous noise, confusion.

Hell-fired – Very, great, immensely; used for emphasis. He is just too hell-fired lazy to get any work done around here. Also “all-fired” and “jo-fired.”

cowboy boots and spursHell Rousers – Spurs.

Helter-Skelter – In a hurry, without order, tumultuously.

Hemp – Cowboy talk for rope; in verb form to hang someone. Hemp fever was a morbidly jocular term for a hanging. Hemp party (also string party) meant the same. A hemp committee was a group of vigilantes or a lynch mob (depending on your point of view) and a hemp necktie was the rope they did the deed with. Coined because cowboys used ropes made of Manila hem.

Hen Skins – A cowboy’s bedroll

Here’s how! – A toast, such as Here’s to your health.

Hern – Hers.

Hide – To beat, spank. “When I was a boy, I got plenty of hidings.

Hifer – Loiter.

Higgle – To chaffer, bargain, haggle.

Higgledy-Piggledy – In confusion.

High Binder – A dangerous and vicious man or horse.

High-Falutin – Highbrow, fancy, self-important, pompous. The origin is the Dutch word verlooten, meaning stilted.

High-Grader – In the mining camps of the Old West, a high-grader was a man who stole any big nuggets which he saw in the sluice boxes.

High Tail – To leave or ride off quickly.

Hill of Beans – Slang for something of trifling value, as in “it ain’t worth a hill of beans.”

Hindsite First – Backwards.

Hisn – His or his own.

Frontier Slang, Lingo & Phrases Book by Kathy Alexander

More Terms, Expanded Definitions + Reverse Lookup + More Pictures

Hitch – A difficulty, an impediment.

To Hitch – To agree, to get along amicably.

Hitched – Got married.

Hitch in the Giddy-up – Not feeling well, as in: “I’ve had a hitch in my giddy-up the last couple days.”

Hither And Yon – Here and there.

Hit pay dirt – Mining term. To find something of value.

Hits the Flat – Go out on the prairie.

Hobble your lip – Shut up.

Hog at the Trough – Superior, outstanding, a leader

Hohokams – Means “vanished ones” in the Pima Indian language. The Hohokam Indians most likely became the Pima and Papago tribes.

Ho – A word used by teamsters to stop their teams.

Hobble – A scrape, a state of perplexity

Ho Down – A party or celebration

Hog-Killin Time – This a “what I mean” very good time!

Hog-Wallow – On some of the Western prairies, the ground has every appearance of having been rooted or torn up by hogs, when it is very rough, hence the name

Hog Ranch – A brothel and saloon that was often located near a military fort.

Hoity-Toity – An exclamation denoting surprise or disapprobation, with some degree of contempt.

Hold a Candle to – Measure up, compare to.

Hold Your Horses – Stay calm. “Hold your horses, we’re on our way.”

Hold Up – In referring to weather, it means to clear up, stop raining, etc.

Hollow – All hollow. Completely, wholly. “He beat him all hollow.

Holt – Hold. “Death has got holt of him.”

Honey-Fogle – To swindle, cheat, lay plans to deceive.

Hook – To steal.

By Hook Or By Crook – One way or other, by any expedient. “It can’t be done by hook or crook.”

Hooks – Spurs.

Hookshop – A brothel.

Honey-fuggled – To cheat, to pull the wool over one’s eyes.

Hoosegow – Jail, from the Spanish juzgado, meaning courthouse.

Hooter – A bit or a tiny amount.

Hop – A dance.

Hopped for Mama – A horse bucking.

Horn – A glass of liquor, ale or beer.

Hornswoggle – To cheat or trick, to pull the wool over one’s eyes.

Horse Thief Special – A raisn and boiled rice dish.

Horse Feathers – Ridiculous.

Horse Wrangler – Horse herder.

Hoss – A horse.

Hot as a Whorehouse on Nickel Night – Damned hot.

Hot Rock – Biscuit.

Hot Roll – Bedroll.

Huckleberry – As in “I’m your huckleberry” means “I’m just the man you’re looking for” or “I’m just the man for the job.”

Huckleberry Above a Persimmon – A cut above.

Hum – Home.

Humbug – A deception, hoax, imposter.

Hounds – Rowdies of the gold-rush days of San Francisco.

Hull – Saddle.

Hurricane Deck – The saddle of a bucking horse.

Husking Bee – A social event in which the community came together to husk corn and to drink. Also called a “husking frolic.”

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