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

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Begins with “L”


Soiled Dove

One of the many “ladies of the line.”

Lacing – A beating. He took a lacing at the hands of the bully.

Ladies of the Line – Prostitutes.

Lag – Prisoner, convict.

Lagger – Sailor

To Lam – To beat soundly.

Lambasting – A beating, a thrashing.

Lammy – A blanket.

Landed – When a person has amassed a fortune large enough to keep him for the rest of his life.

Land-Loper or Land-Lubber – A vagrant, one who strolls about the country

Lands Sakes! –  A more socially acceptable alternative for “Lord’s sake.”

Lapper – A hard drinker.

To Lass -Catch with a lasso, lariat or reata.

Lasso – A long rope or cord, with a noose, for the purpose of catching wild horses or buffaloes on the Western prairies.

Latchpan – Lower lip

To Lather – To beat.

Lathy – Thin, slender like a lath.

Latish – Rather late.

Latty or Letty – A bed.

Laudanum – Not exactly slang, but what is it? Often utilized by the “painted ladies” in the west, laudanum was opium mixed with liquor.

Lay – Price, terms, salary. “He bought a large herd of cattle at a good lay. Also used to describe a cowboy’s bed.

Lead Plumb – A bullet.

Lead Poisoning – Shot. “He died of lead poisoning.”

Lead Plumb – A bullet.

Lead Pusher – A gun.

Leafless Tree – Gallows.

Leap the Book – An illegal or false marriage.

Leather-necks – Soldiers

Leg Bail – To give leg bail, is to run away.

Left-handed Wife – Mistress.

Leggins – South Texas term for chaps.

Let Drive – To let fly, to let slip. To discharge, let loose a blow with the fist, a stone, a bullet from a gun, etc.

Let Her Rip – Let it go.

Let On – To mention, disclose, betray a knowledge.

Let Out – To begin a story or narrative.

Let Up – To let up is to release, a relief. “Thank Goodness, the rain finally let up.”

Lick – Molasses.

Lick – A blow.

Lick or Salt Lick – A place where wild animals lick for salt — usually a salt spring.

Lickety Split – Headlong, at full speed.

To Lick – To beat.

Lickfinger – To kiss ass. Also called “lick-spittle.”

Licking – A flogging, a beating.

Lickspittle – A mean parasite, one who will stoop to any dirty work

Lief or Lieve – Willingly, gladly.

Like Bricks – Quickly, with energy.

Life Preserver – A gun.

Light (or lighting) a shuck – To get the hell out of here in a hurry. “I’m lightin’ a shuck for California.”

Light On – To fall on, to come to by chance, to happen to find.

Lights or Top Lights – Eyes.

Like a Thoroughbred – Like a gentleman.

Like lickin’ butter off a knife – Something that is easy; not hard.

Lincoln Skins – Greenbacks.

Line Camp – Crude shacks or camps on the outermost boundaries of a ranch.

Line Rider – Cowboys the guarded the ranch boundaries. Also called outriders.

Frontier Slang, Lingo & Phrases Book by Kathy Weiser-Alexander

More Terms, Expanded Definitions + Reverse Lookup + More Pictures

Lining the Flue – Eating.

Lily Liver –  Someone who is a coward.

Limsy – Weak, flexible.

Lincoln Skins – Greenbacks.

Linsey Woolsey – A corruption of linen and wool. Material made of linen and wool mixed, light or coarse stuff. “He gave them coats of linsey woolsey, which were good and warm for winter, and good and light for summer.

Little End of the Horn – To come away from a situation at a disadvantage. The same as “short end of the stick.

Lizzy – Saddle horn.

Llano Estacado – The dry, treeless plains of Texas and New Mexico, also called the “Staked Plains.”

Loaded for Bears – Lightly intoxicated.

Loaded to the Gunwhales – Full out drunk.

Loblolly – Mud hole.

Lock, Stock, And Barrel – The whole thing, the whole “kit and caboodle.”

Loco – Crazy.

Logy – Slow-moving, dull, awkward.

Loller – Live, sportive damsel.

Lone Star – An independent cowboy.

Long And Short – The end, the result, the upshot. “That’s the long and short of the subject.”

Longrider – An outlaw, someone who usually had to stay in the saddle for an extended period of time while on the run from a crime.

Loo’d, looed – Beaten or defeated.

Lookin’ at a Mule’s Tail – Plowing.

Lookin’ to Die – Seriously ill.

Look-See – To investigate. “I think I’ll go have a look-see across that hill.”

Looseness – Freedom. “He spoke with a perfect looseness.”

Lope – A leap, a long step.

Lotion – A drink.

Louse Cage – Bunkhouse.

Love Apples – Canned tomatoes.

Love Lick – Rough caress.

Lucky – Escape, run away. “We might have got into trouble if we hadn’t made our lucky.”

Doc Hollliday

Doc Holliday was a “lunger”

Lunger – Slang for someone with tuberculosis.

Lunkhead – A horse of inferior breed or appearance.

Lunk-headed – Idiotic, senseless.

Lynching Bee – A hanging

Lubber – A sturdy man, idle, fat, bulky fellow

Luddy Mussy! – Lord have mercy! An exclamation of surprise.

Lush-crib – A saloon or tavern.

Lushington – A drunk.

Lynching Bee – A hanging.


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

  1. In an episode of “the life and legend of Wyatt Earp, the phrase ” I’ve been wanting to tree Wichita” was used, and I have heard this phrase in some “Death Valley Days” episodes. The phrase to tree a town is not defined in this web site. Can you find out what it means?

    1. Well, I think I got somewhat of an answer but I was a real cowboy quite a few times in my life..always country though but first Hollywood misuses phrases that I heard a lot..especially growing up in the Texas panhandle in the middle of no where so our kind of talk is becoming a thing of the past…but we said tree something fairly regular, using for things like..we were out hunting pheasant and a bobcat would tree us…as in run us up a tree..even though most of them cats can climb trees…I assure you…even with a shotgun in your hand…any kind of mountain lion or wild cat will leave you in fear and will do stupid shit…but you can imagine how we would use the phrase in a lot of other instances like you were scared and backed up or some such like that…but I’m on here trying to find a good word for a song I’m trying to write about Billy the kid so…if anyone’s got a good thought for shooting a gun slinger in the old West… That might sound better than shoot…I realize someone claiming to be one of the last country folk around writing a country song…but I’ve found a lot of them are musicians…we kind of were out off necessity from there not being anything to do in the middle of no where other than play music with each other so…I really would welcome any input any one on here might have for the song as I’m not great at navigating the internet

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