Colorful Cowboy Slang from the Old Days


Keep company (phrase):

to court

Keep it dry (phrase):

to keep a secret

Kick up a row (phrase):

to create a disturbance

Kitchen safe (noun):

the cupboard

Knee-high to a grasshopper (noun):

not very tall


Leaky mouth (noun):

– someone who can’t keep a secret

Lead poisoning (phrase):

to have been shot

Left-handed wife (noun):

a man’s mistress

Lickety split (noun):

at full speed

Lincoln skins (noun):

greenbacks which were issued during Lincoln’s presidency


Mad as a March hare (phrase):

very angry or worked up

Mail-order cowboys (phrase):

derogatory term for Easterners who had all the gear but none of the know how to be cowboys

Make hay while the sun shines (phrase):

don’t miss your opportunity

Make tracks (phrase):

to walk or run away

Mizzle (verb):

to hurry away or depart suddenly


Necessary (noun):

the outhouse

Nester (noun):

someone who was squatting on government land

Nibbler (noun):

a petty thief

Nighthawk (noun):

the unlucky cowboy who had to stay awake all night t keep watch on the herd and the cowboys themselves

Nurly (adjective):



Odd fish (noun):

an unusual or eccentric person

Old dan (noun):

a trustworthy old mule

Old woman (noun):

a nickname for the camp cook who, despite being a man, was still doing women’s work

Outlaw (noun):

a horse that cannot be tamed

On the fence (phrase):



Paddle (verb):

to run away

Pan out (phrase):

to have ended well

Peacemaker (noun):

a Colt revolver

Pennyweighter (noun):

someone who worked for a mining operation and stole tiny amounts of gold over a long period of time

Pilgrim (noun):

a novice cowboy or an Easterner


Quincy (noun):

an indoor toilet

Quid (noun):

a mouthful of tobacco


Rag proper (noun):

to dress nicely

Rattle your hocks (phrase):

to get a move on

to slanderize someone

Rip roaring (adjective):

an impressive affair or thing

Road hard and put up wet (noun):

something that’s been well used to the point of ugliness


Saddle bum (noun):

a drifter

Salting (verb):

planting ore in a barren mine to attract prospectors

Saw bones (noun):

a surgeon

Scare up (verb):

to obtain something

Shank’s pony or shank’s mare (noun):

to walk on foot


Table musle (noun):

a potbelly

Tarnation (noun):

an exclamation used as a polite euphemism for “damnation”

Tenderfoot (noun):

a novice or newbie

There you ain’t (noun):

an expression of failure

Thumper (noun):

a big lie

Tie one on (phrase):

to get drunk, as in: your horse will be tied up outside the saloon until you’re done drinking


Unsalted (adjective):

fresh, young, inexperienced

Up the spout (noun):

gone to waste


Vamoose (verb):

to leave quickly (from the Spanish word vámonos– to move on)


Velvet couch (noun):

a cowboy’s bedroll


Wake snakes (phrase):

to cause a ruckus

War bag (noun):

the bag that contained a cowboys only worldly possessions as they had to be mobile at all times

Whistle berries (noun):


Whopper (noun):

something very large

Woolies (noun):



Yarn (noun):

a story

Yellow belly (phrase):


Yourn (noun):



Zoon (verb):

making noise

The World War II slang coined by the Greatest Generation: Click “Next Page” below!

Whizzco for LPE