Is This the Original Urban Dictionary?

Not this actual book. This is a stock photo.
Photo by George Sharvashidze on

This week on my hunt for old-timey slang I came across The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Francis Grose.

Published in 1785, the book was essentially the Urban Dictionary of its day and documents the slang and colloquialisms of London’s “lowest rungs of society”. Rather than being confined to those rungs, however, the book was adopted by London’s “young men of fashion” and in 1811, a group of those young men (credited as the Esquires of Cambridge) altered, enlarged and reprinted the book with the subtitle: “A dictionary of buckish slang, university wit and pickpocket eloquence”.

While there is much that is vulgar in there, there’s some pretty entertaining G-rated lingo in it too, such as:

If you’re interested in reading The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, You can access it for free on Project Gutenberg:


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