Slang dictionary  

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A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

A slang dictionary is a reference book containing an alphabetical list of slang, vernacular vocabulary not generally acceptable in formal usage, usually including information given for each word, usually including meaning, pronunciation, and etymology. It can provide definitions on a range of slang from more mundane terms (like "rain check" or "bob and weave") to obscure sexual practices. Such works also can include words and phrases arising from different dialects and argots, which may or may not have passed into more common usage. They can also track the changing meaning of the terms over time and space, as they migrate and mutate. This makes them of interest to a variety of people, from oral historians, to etymologists, to the casual browser.

Famous slang dictionaries

Slang dictionaries have been around hundreds of years. The Canting Academy, or Devil's Cabinet Opened was a 17th-century slang dictionary, written in 1673 by Richard Head, that looked to define Thieves' cant. Another early slang dictionary was Francis Grose's A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, first published in 1785.

In recent years, dictionaries with a more academic focus have tried to bring together etymological studies in an attempt to provide definitive guides to slang while avoiding problems arising from folk etymology and false etymology. The study of slang is now taken seriously by academics, especially lexicographers like the late Eric Partridge, devoting their energies to the field and publishing on it, including producing slang dictionaries.

Examples include:

There have also been more tongue-in-cheek efforts which tend to focus on the more vulgar slang terms:

The Urban Dictionary occupies a similar end of the spectrum. While offering definitions for actual terms, it relies on user contributions which can introduce both humour and inaccuracies. It has also recently been published in book form:

  • The Shesaurus: Hip Hop Women's Dictionary (by Keshia Kola, Penmar Press Publishing, 2005, ISBN 0615221588)

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Slang dictionary" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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