AboutABOUT ContactCONTACT
ShareShare
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share via Email
Menu Button

Simple Thieves' Cant

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

Cant to English Dictionary

Below is a reference dictionary for the simple form of thieves' cant, from cant-to-English (cant words are to the left, and the 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

ADVERTISING - PLEASE SUPPORT THIS SITE

AReturn to top

CantEnglish
AbbessThe mistress of a brothel
AbramNaked
Abram coveA word used among thieves which signifies a naked or poor man. It can also mean a lusty strong rogue
Abram menA beggar who pretends to be mad
AcademyBrothel
Ace of SpadesA widow
Acorn"To ride a horse foaled by an acorn" is to be hanged on the gallows
Adam TilerA pickpockets associate, who receives the stolen goods, and runs off with them
Affidavit menA witness for hire Someone who will swear to anything in court if paid to do so
Air and exercise"He has had air and exercise" (ie he has been whipped at the carts tail)
AmbidexterA lawyer who garners fees from both plaintiff and defender
Amuse (to amuse)To fling dust into the eyes of the person intended to be robbed; also to invent some plausible tale to delude a shopkeeper in order to put them off their guard
AmuserA rogue who uses the above tactic
AnabaptistA pickpocket caught in the act, and punished by being thrown into a pond
AnglersPilferers or petty thieves who with a stick having a hook at the end, steal goods out of shop windows, grates etc. Also someone who 'draws in' victims in order to rob them
Angling for coppersBegging out of a prison window with a cap or box let down on the end of a long string
Arch RogueThe chief of a gang of thieves or gipsies
ArdHot, stolen
ArkA boat
Ark ruffiansRogues who in conjunction with watermen, robbed and sometimes murdered on the water by picking a quarrel with passengers in a boat, boarding it, plundering, stripping, and throwing them overboard
ArtichokeHang (see hearty choke)
AuntA prostitute or someone who procures prostitutes
Autem BawlerA priest
Autem DiversPickpockets who operate in churches and temples
Autem MortA female beggar who hires children in order to inspire charity
Avoir Du Pois LayStealing brass weights off the counters of shops

BReturn to top

CantEnglish
Babes in the woodCriminals in the stocks or pillory
BadgeA term for one who has had his hand burned as punishment for theft
Bagged FlashMagic Item
BandogA bailiff or sheriff
Barrow manA man under sentence of transport
BatA very common prostitute
BawdA justice of the peace or magistrate
Bawdy basketA Criminal who sells items from door to door, but makes most of their living by stealing
BeefTo "cry beef" is to give an alarm. To "be in a mans beef" is to wound him with a sword
Beggar makerA man who owns a tavern
Beilby's BallTo "dance with Beilby's ball" is to be hung
BenA fool
BeneGood
Bene bowseGood beer
Bene coveGood fellow
Bene darkmansGood night
Bene feakerCounterfeiter
Bene feaker of gybesCounterfeiter of false passes
Berry WineSapphire
Bess or BettyA crow bar
BilboesThe stocks or prison
BilkTo cheat or con
BingTo go or escape
BingoBrandy or other spirit
Bingo boyA drinker of brandy
Bingo mortA female drinker of brandy
Birds of a featherRogues of the same gang
BiteTo steal
BitsMoney
Black artThe art of picking a lock
Black boxA lawyer
Blasted fellowAn abandoned rogue or prostitute
BlaterA stolen calf
BleatersThose cheated by a Jack in the Box (See Jack in the box)
Bleating rigSheep stealing
BlowTo "bite the blow" is to steal the goods
Blue pigeonsThieves who steal lead off houses and other buildings
BlufferAn inn keeper
BluntMoney
Boarding schoolPrison
BobShoplifter's assistant, One who receives stolen goods
BonedSeized, arrested
BoozeJewel
BoredomRisk
BorrowTo steal
BoungA purse
Boung nipperA cut purse
Box-manThief specialized in cracking safes
BrimstoneAn abandoned woman or thief
Broken fingerA serious injury
BubberA thief who steals less value
Bung nipperA pickpocket
Burning the kenTo flee a tavern without paying your bill
Bus napperA constable
Bus napper kenchinA watchman
Buttocks and fileA prostitute who steals from their clients
ButtonA fake coin
BuzmanA pickpocket

CReturn to top

CantEnglish
CackleTo inform on a thief
CalleA cloak or gown worn as a disguise
CannonPickpocket
CantersThieves or beggers
Canting CrewThieves or beggers
CapTake an oath
Captain SharpA person in a fixed game of chance whose job is to bully those who refuse to pay their debts
CaravanA large sum of money, or one who is cheated of a large sum of money
CattleProstitutes or gypsies
CharacteredTo have your hand burnt as a punishment for theft
CharmA lockpick
ChattsThe gallows
Chunk o' BrandyRuby
Chunk o' GinDiamond
ClankA silver tankard
Clank napperA silver tankard stealer
ClearVery drunk
ClickTo hit
ClickerThe person who divides the booty between a group of thieves
Climb up a ladder to bedTo be hanged
CloySteal
CloyesThieves
ClyA pickpocket
Cly the jerkTo be whipped
Cockles, to cryTo be hanged
ColtOne who lends a horse to a highway man, or an apprentice thief
ConfectCounterfeited
ContentA person murdered for resisting a robbery
ContrabandIllegal goods
CoveA man
CracksmanA house breaker
Cramp wordThe sentence of death
CrashKill
Crawl in a holeHide
CribHouse
CropHang
CullAn honest man
CullabilityEasily cheated
Curbing lawThe act off hooking items out of a window (see angling)
CursitorA bad lawyer

DReturn to top

CantEnglish
DangleTo hang
DanglestuffRope
DarbiesChains (handcuffs)
DarbyEasy money
DarkeeA dark or hooded lantern
DarkmansNight time
DawbBribe
Deadly nevergreenThe gallows
DerrickA hangman
Die HardShow no fear or remorse at the gallows
Dimber DamberA chief thief
Ding boyA mugger
DiveTo pick a pocket, a thieves' hideout
DodgiesInnocent
DommererA beggar who pretends to be mute
DragTo follow a cart or wagon in order to rob it
Draw-latchesRobbers of houses
Drawing the King's pictureCounterfeiting coins
Dress upTie up
DromedaryA bungling thief
Dropping a gloveLosing a hand (legal punishment)
DubA lockpick
Dub LayTo rob a house by picking its lock
DummeeA pocket book or purse
DumpsCoins made of lead

EReturn to top

CantEnglish
EarnestA promise to pay
EquiptWell dressed, rich
Expense MoneyBribe

FReturn to top

CantEnglish
FaggerA small boy who passed through a window in order to unlock the door to the house
Fam layPalming an item in order to steal it
Family manA receiver of stolen goods
FamsGloves
Fancy BoozeJewelry
FangDog
Fat ladyHeavy (weight)
FenA prostitute
FenceTo sell stolen goods, One who buys stolen goods
Fencing kenA place where stolen goods are hidden
Fidlam benThieves
Figging lawThe art of picking pockets
Figure dancerOne who alters the numbers on notes of credit, or other paper money
Filchersee Angler
Finger JointRing
Flag wavingPlanning
FlashMagic
Flash kenA thieves' hideout
Flash lingoThieves' cant
Floating hellA prison ship
FlogTo whip
FobCheat
FootpadA common thief
ForkTo pick a pocket
Fortune tellerA judge
FoystA pickpocket
FrummagemmedStrangled or hanged
FunA cheat or trick
FuzzTo pretend to shuffle a deck of cards

GReturn to top

CantEnglish
Gallows birdA thief or pickpocket or someone that associates with them
GameAny mode of robbery
GamonTo deceive
Gaoler's coachA cart used to take felons to execution
GentlemanThief
Gentleman's masterA highwayman
Getting stripesTo be flogged
GibberishThieves' cant
GiltA thief who picks locks
GinnyA crowbar
GlazierA thief who breaks windows in order to steal
GlimA lantern used in housebreaking
Goin' homeJail break
Goin' legitTo die
GrandpaJudge
GreaseBribe
Green BeerEmerald
Gregorian treeThe gallows
GudgeonA gullible person
GuesthouseJail
GullA gullible person, to cheat someone

HReturn to top

CantEnglish
HamletA senior constable
Hang gallows lookA villainous appearance
Hang in chainsA vile, desperate person
HarmansThe stocks
Have a chat withKill
Hearty chokeTo be hanged
HeaveTo rob
Hempen feverA person who has been hanged is said to have died of "hempen fever"
Hempen widowOne whose husband was hanged
High padA highwayman
HikeTo run away
Hired helpAccomplice
HitmanAssassin
Hizzooner's guestPrisoner
HoistTo rob by entering through a window that had been left opened.
Hole in need of pluggingInformant
HoodwinkBlindfold or fool someone
HookedCaptured
HookersSee angler
HubbubA riot
HueTo whip
HushMurder
Hush moneyA bribe

IReturn to top

CantEnglish
InvitedArrested
IronMoney
Ironmongers shopTo "keep an ironmongers shop" is to be hung in chains

JReturn to top

CantEnglish
Jack KetchHangman
Jack in a boxA card sharper
Jail birdPrisoner
JammedHanged
JemA gold ring
JemmyA crowbar
JiggersWhipping post
JordainA stick or staff used by muggers
Juggler's boxThe device used to burn the hands of criminals
JukrumThe permission of the head of a thieves guild to operate within his territory

KReturn to top

CantEnglish
KateA lockpick
KenA house
Ken Miller or Ken CrackerHousebreaker
KetchHangman
KiddeysYoung thieves
King's picturesMoney
King's plateChain's, shackles
Knight of the bladeA bully
Knight of the postA man willing to give fake evidence for money
Knight of the roadA highwayman
Knock-knockHello

LReturn to top

CantEnglish
Laced muttonA prostitute
LagA man transported for a crime
Land pirateA highwayman
LayDanger
LeafTo "go with the fall of the leaf" is to be hanged
LidDoor
LiftSteal
LightmansDaytime
Little snakesmanA small boy passed through a window in order to open a door
Lobe LatchesEarrings
Lone WolfThief, independent
Long tonguedUnable to keep a secret
LowreMoney
Lully priggersThieves who steal wet clothes off clothes lines
LurchTo be "left in the lurch" is to be betrayed by ones companions

MReturn to top

CantEnglish
Mad TomA begger who feigns madness
MadeStolen
Made manA member of the thieves guild, high-standing
MarkThe target of a confidence game
MaundingBegging
Milch cowOne who is easily tricked out of his money
MilkPearl
MoabitesBailiffs
MobGroup of thieves
MobilityThe commoners, intended as a pun on 'nobility'
Moon curserA thief who uses the darkness as cover for his crime
Moon menGypsies
Moon pigsNight watchmen
Morning dropThe gallows
MortA woman
MossLead stolen off the top of buildings
MotA woman
MyrmidonsConstables

NReturn to top

CantEnglish
NabTo seize
Nab the stoopTo be put in the stocks
NapperA cheat or thief
Napper of napsA sheep stealer
Natty ladsYoung thieves or pickpockets
Neck weedHemp to be made into rope
Needle pointA card sharper
New dropThe gallows
Newman's liftThe gallows
NigThe metal clipped off a coin by a criminal
Night magistrateA constable
NimTo steal or pilfer
NipA cheat
Noisy dog racketThe crime of stealing brass door knockers from doors
NooseNecklace
NoozedHanged (or married)
NoseA criminal who gives evidence against his colleagues in order to gain a lighter sentence
NubbingHanging
Nubbing cheatThe gallows
Nubbing coveThe hangman
Nubbing kenThe courthouse
NypperA cutpurse

OReturn to top

CantEnglish
OakA rich man
Oaken towelA cudgel
OfficeTo "give office" is to tell constables of a thieves activities
Old handAn experienced thief
OnionA seal or signet ring
OverseerA man in the pillory or stocks

PReturn to top

CantEnglish
PadThe highway
Pad borrowershorse thieves
Pair of eyesA lookout
PalaverA tale told in order to avoid blame for a crime
PannyHouse
Papa PorkerGuard, head of the
ParenthesisThe stocks
ParingsThe metal clipped off a coin by a criminal
Patter flashTo use thieves' cant
PaumConceal in the hand
PeachTurn informer
PeeperA spying glass (telescope?)
Penance boardPillory
PennyweighterThief who replaces valuable goods with worthless ones
Petty foggerA lawyer willing to undertake any cause
Piece manTrader of knowledge on where stolen property can be sold
PigAn officer of the law
Pig pokerDagger
PigeonA person easy to cheat
Pigeon pluckerCon-artist/swindler
PlateMoney, silver, gold etc...
PoneyMoney
PopPawn
Pop shopPawnbroker
PorridgePrison
Posse mobilitatisA mob chasing a criminal
PoultererA man who opens mail and steals the money enclosed within
PoundPrison
PradHorse
Prad layThe act of cutting the saddlebags of horses in order to steal their contents
PrigA thief
Prig napperOne who catches a thief, A bounty hunter
PriggersThieves
Priggers of cacklersRobbers of henhouses
Priggers of prancersHorse thieves
Prince PrigHead of a group of thieves or gypsies
ProvendorThe victim of a thief
Public LedgerA prostitute
PullArrest
Purse collectorPickpocket
Puzzle-causeA lawyer who does not understand the case

QReturn to top

CantEnglish
QuarromesA body
Queer"To queer" means to confuse someone
Queer bailSomeone who pretends to have money in order to act as surety for an arrested person. When the person is released they disappear
Queer birdsA person who when released from prison returns to a life of crime
Queer bit makersCounterfeiters of coins
Queer bungAn empty purse
Queer coveA thief
Queer cuffinA justice of the peace
Queer kenA prison
Queer mortA diseased prostitute
QuodPrison
QuotaA thieves share of the booty

RReturn to top

CantEnglish
RacketLarceny
RagPaper money
Rank riderA highwayman
RapTaking a false oath
RascalRogue or villain
RatAn informer, To turn informer
Rattling coveA coachman
Rattling mumpersBeggers who beg from coaches
ReaderA pocket book or purse
Reader merchantsPickpockets
ReadyMoney
Recruiting serviceHighway robbery
RepositoryA goal
Resurrection menThose employed by scientists to steal bodies from churchyards
RhinoMoney
RibbinMoney
Ridding the ropeTo hang
Ringing the chargesExchanging silver coins for those made of less valuable metal
RoastArrest
Robert's menSuccessful thieves
RootonCommitting crimes
Rot gutCheap spiritous liquor
RounderBurglar, professional
RoversPirates, wandering thieves
RubRun away
RufflersBeggers who pretend to be wounded soldiers or sailors
RufflesChains or shackles
RugSafe and secure
RumFine, good, valuable
Rum beckA justice of the peace
Rum biteA clever trick
Rum bobA skilled apprentice thief
Rum bungA false purse
Rum codA purse filled with gold
Rum diverA skilled pickpocket
Rum dubberA skilled lock picker
Rum fileA skilled pickpocket
Rum funA clever trick
Rum padThe highway
Rum paddersSkilled and successful highwaymen
Rum prancerA good horse
RushersHome invaders
RustCopper

SReturn to top

CantEnglish
SalmonAn oath taken by a beggar
ScapegallowsOne who deserves and has escaped the gallows
ScoreLoot from a theft
Scragg'em fairA public execution
ScraggedHanged
ScratchInjury
ScrewA lock pick or skeleton key
Shadow danceHide
ShamA trick
Sham Abram (to sham abram)To pretend to be sick
SharperA con man
Sheriff's ballAn execution
Sheriff's hotelPrison
Sheriff's journeymanHangman
Sheriff's picture frameGallows
Shiny TinPlatinum
ShopPrison
ShoplifterOne who steals from a shop
Short manSmall (size)
Shoulder tapBackstab
ShowTrial
SignalsPlan (noun)
SingCall out, inform
SlangChains or shackles, Thieves' cant
SlipgibbetOne who deserves and has escaped the gallows (also Scapegollows)
SmoothQuiet
Snap the glazeBreak a window
SnaptCaptured
SneakA pilferer
Snoozing kenBrothel
SopA bribe
Spring-ankle warehousePrison
SqueakEscape, "To squeak" means to confess
SqueakersOrgan pipes
Stalling kenPlace where stolen goods can be sold
Star the glazeBreak a jewellers window
StoopThe pillory
Stop hole abbeyThe central hideout or guild hall for a thieves guild
StretchingHanging
StuffingLoot
Stuling kenPlace where stolen goods can be sold
SwaddlerA thief who beats and murders his victims
SwagBooty, treasure
SweatingRemoving metal from a coin, by using chemicals
SwingHang
SwitchSell

TReturn to top

CantEnglish
TailA prostitute
Tall manBig (size)
Tayle drawersA thief who steals swords from a mans belt
Tea with the pigsTo have "tea with the pigs" means to be tortured
TeizeA flogging
Thatch-gallowsA man of poor character
Thief takersSomeone who associates with thieves in order to arrest them and obtain rewards
Thin womanLight
Three-legged mareThe gallows
Three-legged stoolThe gallows
Tilted FloorWall
TinSilver
TinkerHealer, underworld
Tom of BedlamA begger who feigns madness (also Mad Tom)
Topping cheatThe gallows
Topping coveHangman
TouchArrest
TrouncePunish
Tuck in bedKnock unconscious
Tucked upHanged
Turn offHang
TurncoatOne who has betrayed his friends
TwigRealize that something is up
Two to one shopPawnbrokers

UReturn to top

CantEnglish
UncleFence
UnderdubberA prison guard
Upright ManChief thief of a guild
Used upKilled

VReturn to top

CantEnglish
VampPawn
VarletsCriminals
Vincent's lawThe art of cheating at cards
Visiting the neighborsBurglary
VowelTo write an IOU

WReturn to top

CantEnglish
WaterpadRiver pirate
WedgeSilver plate
WhackA share of booty obtained by fraud
Whip jacksThieves who pretend to be sailors in order to gain free passage on boats and ships
WiperHandkerchief
Wiper drawerA pickpocket who steals handkerchiefs
Wooden ruffPillory
Wry neck dayDay of execution

YReturn to top

CantEnglish
Yellow TinGold
YelpCry out for the police

ZReturn to top

CantEnglish
ZadA very crooked person

ADVERTISING - PLEASE SUPPORT THIS SITE

TreasureReturn to top

CantTreasure
Berry WineSapphire
BitsMoney
BoozeJewel
BronzeBronze
Chunk o' BrandyRuby
Chunk o' GinDiamond
Fancy BoozeJewelry
Finger JointRing
Green BeerEmerald
Lobe LatchesEarrings
MilkPearl
NooseNecklace
RustCopper
Shiny TinPlatinum
StuffingLoot
TinSilver
Yellow TinGold

ADVERTISING - PLEASE SUPPORT THIS SITE

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."

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

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.

ADVERTISING - PLEASE SUPPORT THIS SITE

Size / WeightReturn to top

CantSize/Weight
Fat ladyHeavy
Short manSmall
Tall manBig
Thin womanLight

Specific lengths and weights are given in the normal measurements.

ADVERTISING - PLEASE SUPPORT THIS SITE

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."

 

ADVERTISING - PLEASE SUPPORT THIS SITE
ADVERTISING - PLEASE SUPPORT THIS SITE