Hepster' s Dictionary
B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
hummer (n.): exceptionally good. Ex., "Man,
that boy is hummer."
Ain't coming on that tab (v.): won't accept the proposition. Usually
abbr. to "I ain't coming."
Alligator (n.): jitterbug.
Apple (n.): the big town, the main stem, Harlem.
Armstrongs (n.): musical notes in the upper register, high trumpet
(n.): the girlfriend, a beauty.
Barrelhouse (adj.): free and easy.
Battle (n.): a very homely girl, a crone.
Beat (adj.): (1) tired, exhausted. Ex., "You look beat"
or "I feel beat." (2) lacking anything. Ex., "I am beat
for cash"; "I am beat to my socks" (lacking everything)
Beat it out (v.): play it hot, emphasize the rhythm.
Beat up (adj.): sad, uncomplimentary, tired.
Beat up the chops (or the gums) (v.): to talk, converse, be laquacious.
Beef (v.): to say, to state. Ex., "He beefed me that, etc..."
Bible (n.): the gospel truth. Ex., "It's the bible!"
Black (n.): night.
Black and tan (n.) dark and light colored folks. Not colored and
white folks as erroneously assumed.
Blew their wigs (adj.): excited with enthusiasm, gone crazy.
Blip (n.): something very good. Ex., "That's a blip";
"She's a blip."
Blow the top (v.): to be overcome with emotion (delight). Ex.,
"You'll blow your top when you hear this one."
Boogie-woogie (n.): harmony with accented bass.
Boot (v.): to give. Ex., "Boot me that glove."
Break it up (v.): to win applause, to stop the show.
Bree (n.): girl.
Bright (n.): day.
Brightin' (n.): daybreak.
Bring down: (1) (n.), something depressing. Ex., "That's a
bring down." (2) (v.) Ex., "That brings me down."
Buddy Ghee (n.): fellow.
Bust your conk (v.): apply yourself diligently, break your neck.
(n.): girl vocalist.
Capped (v.): outdone, surpassed.
Cat (n.) musician in swing band.
Chick (n.): girl
Chime (n.): hour. Ex., "I got in at six chimes."
Clambake (n.): ad lib session, every man for himself, a jam session
not in the groove.
Chirp (n.): female singer
Cogs (n.): sunglasses
Collar (v.): to get, to obtain, to comprehend. Ex., "I gotta
collar me some food."; "Do you collar this jive?"
Come again (v.): try it over, do better than you are doing, I don't
Comes on like gangbusters (or like test pilot) (v.): plays, sings,
or dances in a terrific manner, par excellence in any department. Sometimes
abbr. to "That singer really comes on!"
Cop (v.): to get, to obtain (see collar, knock).
Corny (adj.): old-fashioned, stale.
Creeps out like the shadow (v.): "comes on," but in smooth,
suave, sophisticated manner.
Crumb crushers (n.) teeth.
Cubby (n.) room, flat, home.
Cups (n.): sleep. Ex., "I gotta catch me some cups."
Cut out (v.): to leave, to depart. Ex., "It's time to cut
out"; "I cut out from the joint in the early bright."
Cut rate (n.): a low, cheap person. Ex., "Don't play me cut
(adj.): high class, nifty, smart.
Dig (v.) (1) meet. Ex., "I'll plant you know and dig you later."
(2) look, see. Ex., "Dig the chick on your left duke." (3) comprehend,
understand. Ex., "Do you dig this jive?"
Dim (n.): evening.
Dime note (n.): ten-dollar bill
Doghouse (n.): bass fiddle.
Domi (n.): ordinary place to live in. Ex., "I live in a righteous
Doss (n.): sleep. Ex., "I'm a little beat for my doss."
Down with it (adj.): through with it.
Drape (n.): suit of clothes, dress, costume.
Dreamers (n.): bed covers, blankets.
Dry-goods (n.): suit of clothes, dress, costume (see drape)
Duke (n.): hand, mitt.
Dutchess (n.): girl.
black (n.): evening.
Early bright (n.): morning.
Evil (adj.): in ill humor, in a nasty temper.
out (v.): to be overcome with emotion. Ex., "The cats fell out
when he took that solo."
Fews and two (n.): money or cash in small quantity.
Final (v.): to leave, to go home. Ex., "I finaled to my pad"
(went to bed); "We copped a final" (went home).
Fine dinner (n.): a good-looking girl.
Focus (v.): to look, to see.
Foxy (v.): shrewd.
Frame (n.): the body.
Fraughty issue (n.): a very sad message, a deplorable state of
Freeby (n.): no charge, gratis. Ex., "That meal was a freeby."
Frisking the whiskers (v.): what the cats do when they are warming
up for a swing session.
Frolic pad (n.): place of entertainment, theater, nightclub.
Frompy (adj.): a frompy queen is a battle or faust.
Front (n.): a suit of clothes.
Fruiting (v.): fickle, fooling around with no particular object.
Fry (v.): to go get hair straightened.
(n.): trumpet players.
Gammin' (adj.): showing off, flirtatious.
Gasser (n., adj.): sensational. Ex., "When it comes to dancing,
she's a gasser."
Gate (n.): a male person (a salutation), abbr. for "gate-mouth."
Get in there (an exclamation): go to work, get busy, make it hot,
give it all you've got.
Gimme some skin (v.): shake hands.
Glims (n.): the eyes.
Got your boots on: you know what it is all about, you are a hep
cat, you are wise.
Got your glasses on: you are ritzy or snooty, you fail to recognize
your friends, you are up-stage.
Gravy (n.): profits.
Grease (v.): to eat.
Groovy (adj.): fine. Ex., "I feel groovy."
Ground grippers (n.): new shoes.
Growl (n.): vibrant notes from a trumpet.
Gut-bucket (adj.): low-down music.
Guzzlin' foam (v.): drinking beer.
(adj.): fine, good. Ex., "That's a hard tie you're wearing."
Hard spiel (n.): interesting line of talk.
Have a ball (v.): to enjoy yourself, stage a celebration. Ex.,
"I had myself a ball last night."
Hep cat (n.): a guy who knows all the answers,
Hide-beater (n.): a drummer (see skin-beater)
Hincty (adj.): conceited, snooty.
Hip (adj.): wise, sophisticated, anyone with boots on. Ex., "She's
a hip chick."
Home-cooking (n.): something very nice (see fine dinner).
Hot (adj.): musically torrid; before swing, tunes were hot or bands
Hype (n., v.): build up for a loan, wooing a girl, persuasive talk.
(n.): one who is not hip, a stupid person, can't collar the jive.
Igg (v.): to ignore someone. Ex., "Don't igg me!"
In the groove (adj.): perfect, no deviation, down the alley.
(n.): name for all male friends (see gate; pops).
Jam: (1) (n.): improvised swing music. Ex., "That's a swell
jam." (2) (v.): to play such music. Ex., "That cat surely can
Jeff (n.): a pest, a bore, an icky.
Jelly (n.): anything free, on the house.
Jitterbug (n.): a swing fan.
Jive (n.): Harlemese speech.
Joint is jumping: the place is lively, the club is leaping with
Jumped in port (v.): arrived in town.
(n.): a pocket. Ex., "I've got five bucks in my kick."
Kill me (v.): show me a good time, send me.
Killer-diller (n.): a great thrill.
Knock (v.): give. Ex., "Knock me a kiss."
Kopasetic (adj.): absolutely okay, the tops.
(v.): to see, to look at.
Land O'Darkness (n.): Harlem
Lane (n.): a male, usually a nonprofessional.
Latch on (v.): grab, take hold, get wise to.
Lay some iron (v.): to tap dance. Ex., "Jack, you really laid
some iron the last show!"
Lead sheet (n.): a topcoat.
Left raise (n.): left side. Ex., "Dig the chick on your left
Licking the chops (v.) see frisking the whiskers.
Licks (n.): hot musical phrases.
Lily whites (n.): bed sheets.
Line (n.): cost, price, money. Ex., "What is the line on this
drape?" (how much does this suit cost?) "Have you got the line
in the mouse?" (do you have the cash in your pocket?) Also, in replying,
all figures are doubled. Ex., "This drape is line forty." (this
suit cost twenty dollars.)
Lock up: to aquire something exclusively. Ex., "He's got that
chick locked up." "I'm gonna lock up that deal."
kick (n.): the stage.
Main on the hitch (n.): husband.
Main queen (n.): favorite girlfriend, sweetheart.
Man in gray (n.): the postman.
Mash me a fin (command): give me $5.
Mellow (adj.): all right, fine. Ex., "That's
Melted out (adj.): broke.
Mess (n.): something good. Ex., "That last
drink was a mess."
Meter (n.): quarter, twenty-five cents.
Mezz (n.): anything supreme, genuine. Ex., "This
is really the mezz."
Mitt pounding (n.): applause.
Moo Juice (n.): milk
Mouse (n.): pocket. Ex., "I've got a meter in
Muggin' (v.): making 'em laugh, putting in the jive.
"Muggin' lightly," light staccato swing; "muggin'
heavy," heavy staccato swing.
Murder (n.): something excellent or terrific. Ex.,
"That's solid murder, gate!"
Pops: Nothing doing, pal.
Nicklette (n.): automatic phonograph, music box.
Nickel note (n.): five dollar bill.
Nix out (v.): to eliminate, get rid of. Ex., "I
nixed that chick out last week:; "I nixed my garments."
Nod (n.): sleep. Ex., "I think I'll cop a nod."
(n.): white person.
Off the cob (adj.): corny, out of date.
Off-time jive (n.): a sorry excuse, saying the wrong thing.
Orchestration (n.): an overcoat.
Out of the world (adj.): perfect rendition. Ex.,
"That sax chorus was out of the world."
Ow! an exclamation with varied meaning. When a beautiful
chick passes by, it's "Ow!"; and when someone pulls an awful
pu, it also is "Ow!"
Pecking (n.): a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1937.
Peola (n.): a light person, almost white.
Pidgeon (n.): a young girl.
Pops (n.): salutation for all males (see gate; Jack)
Pounders (n.): policemen
(n.): a beautiful girl.
(v.): to lower.
Ready (adj.): 100 percent in every way. Ex., "That
fried chicken was ready."
Ride (v.): to swing, to keep perfect tempo in playing or
Riff (n.): hot lick, musical phrase.
Righteous (adj.): splendid, okay. Ex., "That was
a righteous queen I dug you with last black."
Rock me (v.): send me, kill me, move me with rhythm.
Ruff (n.): quarter, twenty-five cents.
Rug cutter (n.): a very good dancer, an active jitterbug.
(adj.): very bad. Ex., "That was the saddest
meal I ever collared."
Sadder than a map (adj.): terrible. Ex., "That
man is sadder than a map."
Salty (adj.): angry, ill-tempered.
Sam got you: you've been drafted into the army.
Send (v.): to arouse emotions (joyful). Ex., "That
Set of seven brights (n.): one week.
Sharp (adj.): neat, smart, tricky. Ex., "That hat is
sharp as a tack."
Signify (v.): to declare yourself, to brag, to boast.
Skins (n.): drums.
Skinn-beater (n.): drummer (see hide-beater).
Sky piece (n.): hat
Slave (v.): to work, whether arduous labor or not.
Slide your jib (v.): to talk freely.
Snatcher (n.): detective.
So help me: it's the truth, that's a fact.
Solid (adj.): great, swell, okay.
Sounded off (v.): began a program or conversation.
Spoutin' (v.): talking too much.
Square (n.): an unhep person (see icky, Jeff.)
Stache (v.): to file, to hide away, to secrete.
Stand one up (v.): to play one cheap, to assume one is cut-rate.
To be stashed (v.): to stand or remain.
Susie-Q (n.): a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1936.
it slow (v.): be careful.
Take off (v.): play a solo.
The man (n.): the law.
Threads (n.): suit, dress or costume (see drape, dry-goods).
Tick (n.): minute, moment. Ex., "I'll dig you
in a few ticks." Also, ticks are doubled in accounting time,
just as money is doubled in giving "line." Ex., "I
finaled to the pad this early bright at tick twenty." (I got to bed
this morning at ten o'clock.).
Timber (n.): toothpick.
To dribble (v.): to stutter. Ex., "He talked in
Togged to the bricks: dressed to kill, from head to toe.
Too much (adj.): term of highest praise. Ex., "You
are too much!"
Trickeration (n.): struttin' your stuff, muggin' lightly
Trilly (v.): to leave, to depart. Ex., "Well,
I guess I'll trilly."
Truck (v.): to go somewhere. Ex., "I think I'll
truck on down to the ginmill (bar)."
Trucking (n.): a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1933.
Twister to the slammer (n.): the key to the door.
Two cents (n.): two dollars.
(adj.): not wise to the jive, said of an icky, a Jeff, a square.
(n.): a suit of clothes.
V-8 (n.): a chick who spurns company, is independent, is
your story? What do you want? What have you got to say for yourself?
How are tricks? What excuse can you offer? Ex., "I don't
know what his story is."
Whipped up (adj.): worn out, exhausted, beat for everything.
Wren (n.): a chich, a queen.
Wrong riff: the wrong thing said or done. Ex., "You're
coming up on the wrong riff."
(n.): uncouth, badly attired, unattractive male or female.
Yeah, man: an exclamation of assent.
(adj.): overexaggerated as applied to clothes.
Zoot suit (n.): overexaggerated clothes.
Cab Calloway, Bryant Rollins "Minnie the Moocher & Me",
New York, 1976
More Afro-American Slang