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Simple Thieves' Cant

Simple English-to-Cant   |   Simple Cant-to-English

English to Cant Dictionary

Below is a reference dictionary for the simple form of thieves' cant, from English-to-cant (English words are to the left, and their cant definitions are on the right). The simple form of thieves' cant uses slang and certain code words to hide its true meaning. The simple thieves' cant was used by many common lower class individuals (not just thieves), and was often known by law officials who had been in the field for some time.

Alternatively, there is an advanced form of the Thieves' Cant:
Advanced Thieves' Cant:   Introduction   |   Advanced English-to-Cant   |   Advanced Cant-to-English
Return to the Thieves' Cant Main Page

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AReturn to top

EnglishCant
Abandoned personBlasted fellow, brimstone, lurch
AccompliceHired Help
Arrestedboned, hooked, invited, nabbed, pulled, roasted, snapt, touched
AssassinHit Man

BReturn to top

EnglishCant
BackstabShoulder tap
BeerBowse
BeggarsAbram men, autem mort, dommerer, Mad Tom, rattling mumpers, rufflers, Tom of Bedlam
BeggingAngling for coppers, maunding
Big (size)Tall man
BoatArk
BodyQuarromes
Body thievesRessurection men
BootyQuota, swag, whack
BrandyBingo
BribeExpense money
BrothelAcademy, snoozing ken
Burglar, professionalRounder
BurglaryVisitin' the neighbors

CReturn to top

EnglishCant
Calf, stolenBlater
Call for PoliceCry beef
CartGaoler's coach
ClimbTaking a big step
CloakCalle
ClubJordain, oaken towel
Coach manRattling cove
Coin shavingsNig, parings
Coin, fakeButton, dump
Commiting crimesRooton'
ConAmuse, bilk, fob, fun, fuzz, hoodwink, sham
Con artist/swindlerPigeon Plucker
Con manAmuser, jack in a box, needle point, nip, sharper
Con/swindle victimPigeon
CopperRust
CounterfeitedConfect
CounterfeiterBene feaker, figure dancer, queer bit maker
CounterfeitingDrawing the King's picture, sweating
CourthouseNubbing ken
Criminals being transportedBarrow man, lag
Criminals in the stocksBabes in the wood, nappered, overseer
Criminals with hands burnedBadge, charactered
CrowbarBess, Betty, ginny, jemmy

DReturn to top

EnglishCant
DaggerPig poker
DangerLay
DayLightmans
Death sentenceCramp word
DiamondChunk o' Gin
DieGoin' Legit
DogFang, bufe
DoorLid
DrunkClear

EReturn to top

EnglishCant
EarringsLobe Latches
EmeraldGreen Beer
EscapeBing, burning ken, hike, rub

FReturn to top

EnglishCant
Feign illnessSham abram
FenceUncle
Flogging, whippingGetting Stripes
FollowDrag
FoolBen, cullability, gudgeon, gull, milch cow, pigeon, queer

GReturn to top

EnglishCant
GallowsChatts, deadly nevergreen, Gregorian Tree, morning drop, new drop, Newman's lift, nubbing cheat, sheriff's picture frame, three legged mare, three legged stool, topping cheat
GangBirds of a feather
GlovesFams
GoldYellow Tin
GoodBene, rum
GuardPig
Guard, Head of thePapa Porker
Guildsman, high-standingMade Guy
GypsiesCattle, moon men

HReturn to top

EnglishCant
HangedAcorn, artichoked, beilby's ball, cry cockles, cropped, dangled, frummagemmed, hearty choked, hempen fever, ironmongers shop, jammed, leaf, noozed, nubbing, ridin' the rope, scragged, stretched, swing, turned off
HangmanDerrick, Jack Ketch, Ketch, nubbing cove, sheriff's journeyman, topping cove
Healer, underworldTinker
Heavy (weight)Fat lady
HelloKnock-knock
HideShadow dance, Crawl in a hole
HideoutDive, fencing ken, flash ken, stalling ken, stop hole abbey, stuling ken
HighwayPad
Highway robberyRecruiting service
HighwaymanColt, gentleman's master, high pad, knight of the road, land pirate, rank rider
HitClick
Honest manCull
HouseCrib, ken, panny
HousebreakerCracksman, draw latch, Ken Miller, Ken Cracker, rushers

IReturn to top

EnglishCant
Illegal GoodsContraband
InformCackle, long tongued, nose, office, peach, rat, sing
InformantA hole in need of a plugging
InjuryScratch
Injury, seriousBroken finger
InnocentDodgies

JReturn to top

EnglishCant
JailGuesthouse
Jail breakGoin' home
JewelBooze
JewelryFancy Booze
JudgeBeak, fortune teller, grandpa, queer cuffin

KReturn to top

EnglishCant
KillCrash, have a chat with, use up
Knock unconciousTuck in bed

LReturn to top

EnglishCant
LanternDarkee, glim
LarcenyRacket
LawyerBlack box, cursitor, petty fogger, puzzle-case
LeadMoss
LicenseJukrum
LieAmuse, gamon, palaver
Light (weight)Thin woman
LockJoke
LockpickPunchline, charm, dub, kate, screw
LockpickerGilt
LockpickingBlack art, dub lay
LookoutPair of eyes
LootStuffing
Loot from a theftScore
Losing a hand (legal punishment)Dropping a glove

MReturn to top

EnglishCant
MagicFlash
Magic itemBagged flash
ManCove
Mistress of brothelNypper, reader merchants
MoneyBits

NReturn to top

EnglishCant
NecklaceNoose
Night watchmanMoon pigs

OReturn to top

EnglishCant
OpenTell a joke

PReturn to top

EnglishCant
PearlMilk
PickpocketPurse collector, Cannon
Plan (noun)Signals
PlanningFlag waving
PlatinumShiny Tin
PrisonerHizzoner's guest (his honor's guest)

QReturn to top

EnglishCant
QuietSmooth

RReturn to top

EnglishCant
Receiver of stolen goodsFamily man, fence
RichEquipt, oak
RingJem, onion, finger joint
RiotHubbub
RiskBoredom
RopeDanglestuff
RubyChunk o' Brandy

SReturn to top

EnglishCant
SapphireBerry Wine
SecureRug
SellSwitch
ShacklesDarbies, King's plate, ruffles, slang
Sheep stealingBleating rig
ShoplifterBob
SilverTin
Small (size)Short man
StaffJordain
StealBite, bite the blow, borrow, cloy, curbing law, heave, hoist, lift, nim, prad lay
StocksBilboes, parenthesis, penance board, wooden ruff
StolenArd, made
SwapBug, ring the changes

TReturn to top

EnglishCant
Tavern ownerBeggar Maker
The target of a confidence gameMark
TheftGame
Theft of brass weightsAvoir du pois lay
ThiefAdam Tiler, anabaptist, anglers, ark ruffians, autem divers, bawdy basket, blue pigeons, Bob, bubber, bufe napper, bung nipper, buzman, canters, canting crew, Captain Sharp, clank napper, cloyes, cracksman, draw latches, dromedary, fagger, fidlam ben, filcher, footpad, foyst, gallows bird, gentleman, gilt, glazier, hooker, kiddeys, little snakesman, lully priggers, made man, moon curser, napper of naps, natty lads, nypper, old hand, pad borrowers, poulterer, priggers, priggers of prancers, priggers of cacklers, queer cove, reader merchant, ressurection men, Robert's men, rovers, shoplifter, sneak, swaddler, tayle drawer, waterpad, whip jack
Thief specialized in cracking safesBox-man
Thief who replaces valuable goods with worthless onesPennyweighter
Thief, headArch Rogue, Dimber Damber, Prince Prig, Upright Man
Thief, independentLone Wolf
Thieves' cantFlash lingo, gibberish, patter flash, slang
Thieves, group ofMob
Tie upDress up
TortureHave tea with the pigs
Trader of knowledge on where stolen property can be soldPiece Man
TrapBite
TrialShow

VReturn to top

EnglishCant
VictimContent, provendor

WReturn to top

EnglishCant
WallTilted floor
WhippingAir and exercise, cly the jerk, flogging, hue, teize
Whipping PostJigger
WidowAce of spades, hempen widow (if husband was hanged)
Witness, fakeAffidavit man, knight of the post
WomanMort, mot
WoundBeef
WoundBeef

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TreasuresReturn to top

TreasureCant
BronzeBronze
CopperRust
DiamondChunk o' Gin
EarringsLobe Latches
EmeraldGreen Beer
GoldYellow Tin
JewelBooze
JewelryFancy Booze
LootStuffing
MoneyBits
NecklaceNoose
PearlMilk
PlatinumShiny Tin
RingFinger Joint, onion, jem
RubyChunk o' Brandy
SapphireBerry Wine
SilverTin

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TimeReturn to top

Time is measured in hours after sunset or sunrise. After sunset is "clean," after sunrise is "dirty." One hour is called a finger. "Fingers" can be divided into three 20 minute periods called "knuckles."

TimeCant
1:19 pm"Seventh dirty finger"
2:20 pm"First dirty knuckle on the eighth finger"
3:00 am"Nine clean fingers"
4:45 am"Second clean knuckle on the tenth finger"
Midnight"Thumbs"
Near Sunrise"Gettin' dirty"
Near Sunset"Almost clean"
Noon"Six dirty fingers"

If a thief suspects that he can be overheard, hand gestures may be used. In this case, the back of the hand is "dirty" and the palm is "clean." There are hundreds of variations in this scheme. Thieves planning a crime will agree beforehand on which to use.

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Size / WeightReturn to top

Size/WeightCant
BigTall man
HeavyFat lady
LightThin woman
SmallShort man

Specific lengths and weights are given in the normal measurements.

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Example ConversationReturn to top

Thief #1: "Knock-knock, Blackhand an I were flag wavin' bout visiting Papa Porker's crib at seven clean fingers. We're lookin' fer a third gentleman for a pair o' eyes. Interested?"
Thief #2: "What style of stuffing ya wanna to borrow ? Who's your uncle?"
Thief #1: "Uncle's out of town. We're gonna pick bits.
Thief #2: "That's fat lady work. Sounds too boring. I'm not interested."

ENGLISH TRANSLATION
Thief #1: "Hello, Blackhand and I were planing on burglarizing the Captain of the Guard's house tonight at 1:00 am. We need a third theif to act as lookout. Are you intrested?"
Thief #2: "What kind of loot are you going to steal? Who's your fence?
Thief #1: "We won't need a fence. We are going for money only."
Thief #2: "That's going to be heavy work. Sounds too risky. I'm not interested."

 

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