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English Slang Terms and Phrases of the 1920s

Let’s turn back in time and slip into the Jazz Age of the 1920s, relive the era by getting zozzled on some jag juice – it will be the bee’s knees! Don’t have a clue about what we’re saying? This Penlighten article is a comprehensive compilation of the most popular 1920s’ slang.


alcoholic liquor unlawfully made, sold, or transported, without registration or payment of taxes.
American English slang, from the trick of concealing something (originally a flask of liquor) down the leg of a high boot.

Not for nothing were they called the Roaring Twenties, as is evident from the cool slang the people used back then. We’ve listed some of the very best twenties slang in this Penlighten article―it’s a little amusing to read, but it can get offensive in no time. But then, such was the Jazz Era, and the societal norms bore heavily into the mannerisms and vernacular of the time. So, just sit back and enjoy.

List of American Slang Words and Phrases

A – D

Ankle To walk
Apple sauce Flattery/nonsense
Ameche A phone
Air Tight Desirable/attractive
Baby A person (endearment)
Beef Problem/Complaint
Bee’s Knees Extraordinary thing/person
Big Cheese Someone important/the boss
Bug-eyed Betty An unattractive woman
Cat’s Meow The best/finest
Chicago lightning Gunfire
Chicago overcoat Coffin
Clubhouse Police station
Copper Policeman
Daisy Effeminate
Dish Pretty woman
Dope fiend Drug addict
Dope peddler Drug dealer
Dough Money
Drill Shoot
Droppers Hired killers
Dump Roadhouse/club

Drugstore Cowboy A guy that hangs around on a street corner trying to pick up girls

E – H

Egg Man living a wealthy lifestyle
Edge A buzz/high
Fall Guy Victim of a frame-up
Flat Tire A disappointing date
A Ford model T
Fry To be electrocuted
Gams A woman’s legs
Glad rags Fancy clothes
Heebie-Jeebies The jitters
Hard-boiled A tough person
Handcuff Engagement ring

Flapper A stylish, brash young woman with short skirts and shorter hair

Related Post

I – L

Indian hop Marijuana
Iron Motorbike
Jack Money
Joe Coffee
Joint A club
Jalopy Old car
Kisser Mouth
Kitten Woman
Knock off Kill
Knee-Duster A skirt
Lead Bullets
Limey British soldier
Looker Pretty woman
Large A thousand dollars

M – Q

Map Face
Marbles Pearls
Moll A gangster’s girl
Mob Gang
Neck Kissing with passion
Nailed Caught by the police
Nevada gas Cyanide
Newshawk Reporter
Op Detective
Orchid Something pricey
Palooka Stupid man
Pinch To arrest
Petting Party Make-out party
Piker Cheapskate/coward
Pooped Killed

R – T

Ritzy Elegant
Rap Criminal charge
Reefers Marijuana cigarettes
Real McCoy A genuine item
Speakeasy An illicit bar
Sheba/Sheik Girlfriend/Boyfriend
Skirt An attractive girl
Sap A fool/idiot
Shylock Loan shark
Spiffy Elegant
Tea Marijuana
Torpedo Hitman
Tight Attractive
Trouble boys Gangsters

U – Z

Upchuck To vomit
Upstage Snobbish
Whoopee To have a good time
Wet blanket A boring person
Ya follow? You understand?
Zozzled drunk

Prohibition’s Contribution to 1920s’ Slang

As the most coveted and covertly traded item of the twenties, alcohol had quite a few names. Some of these are straightforward, while others are downright funny. Take a look:

  • Corn (Bourbon/Corn liquor)
  • Hooch
  • Giggle juice
  • Tiger milk
  • Belt
  • Busthead (Homemade liquor)
  • Coffin varnish (Bootleg liquor, often poisonous)
  • Rotgut
  • Strike-me-dead
  • White lightning
  • Giggle Water
  • Panther piss/sweat

So this was just a peek into the lingo of the smooth talkers of the twenties. Mind you, most of these words can even make their way into our vocabulary, and still not sound dated. Way to go, Roaring Twenties!

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