Cover image for The Cassell dictionary of slang
The Cassell dictionary of slang
Green, Jonathon.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Cassell, 1998.
Physical Description:
x, 1316 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PE3721 .G74 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This guide contains over 60,000 entries covering slang from the 16th century to the 1990s, and includes the latest slang terms and expressions. Slang is covered from all parts of the English-speaking world, including Britain, North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, from Elizabethan times to the present. Ranging from the jargon used by criminals in Victorian London to the drugs culture of the modern world, via swear words, rhyming slang and the often colourful language of sex, this dictionary gives definitions for thousands of slang words and expressions.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

These two new dictionaries take different approaches to the topic of slang. Eric Partridge's A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (Routledge, 1984) has been a reference classic from the first edition in 1937 to the eighth edition published in 1984, five years after his death. Jonathon Green is a contemporary British lexicographer who fills the bill (slang for to satisfy) with a new, comprehensive 65,000-term dictionary from Cassell that may replace Partridge's work as a current classic. In the introduction Green defines slang as the "language of the rebel, outlaw, despised, marginal and young" that is usually an insult or obscenity. The creation of slang is a continuous and current process. (Perhaps it is not surprising that slang dictionaries are often missing from the shelves of high-school and college libraries!) The author believes it is his task "to display language, not moralize on it." Therefore, he spells out anything and everything. Racial slurs usually include the phrase "a derogatory term for . . ." Green notes that if all slang that is offensive to someone was noted as such, then the phrase "not derogatory" should be used instead. Green includes words from the seventeenth century to the present with slang from all English-speaking areas: U.S., U.K., Canada, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Australia, and India. Each entry includes the part of speech, date of use, and definition. In a volume of this size it would be impossible to cite each source, so instead, Green includes a bibliography of more than 200 books and numerous newspapers, comics, films, television scripts, and even Internet sites. What education and entertainment one receives in perusing this slang dictionary! Included are current terms (awesome, hacker, veg); historical terms (cabbage-head, gin-trap); geographic terms (Treasure State [Montana], Mob Town [Baltimore]); phrases (open a can of worms, to; send mail by Netscape, to); Australian terms (emu-bobber); British terms (Covent Garden nunnery, Cadberry alley); and, of course, all the popular expletives, and more words pertaining to sex or bodily functions than anyone would think possible. Green does not slight American slang, but for a scholarly and comprehensive U.S. slang resource, the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang (1994^-97) will be the definitive work when completed (the third and last volume has not yet been published). The Cassell Dictionary of Slang is highly recommended as an affordable, one-volume work for high-school, public, and academic libraries. It is the cat's meow! The Oxford Dictionary of Slang is also written by a British author, John Ayto. It is based on The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang [RBB Ap 15 93] but is arranged by topic, beginning with "The Body and Its Functions." Each topic is then subdivided. "Behaviour, Attitudes and Emotions" has forty-nine subdivisions: "Surprise," "Anger," "Violence," "Honesty," etc. Fortunately, there is an index if a user doesn't care to browse through the horse-racing slang, for example, to find the definition of a no-hoper. This thesaurus has more entries than The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang but far fewer (10,000 words) than the Cassell dictionary. Each entry includes the date of what Ayto believes is the earliest appearance of the word. The origin and an illustration of the use of the word is usually taken from the Oxford English Dictionary or its files. Although there are numerous names for particular body parts, it is good to know that there are also more than 75 slang words for excellent, listed chronologically from tip-top in 1755 to crucial in 1987. This thesaurus might be incorrectly compared to The Thesaurus of Slang (rev. ed., Facts On File, 1997), which is not topically arranged and does not include date of origin or illustration of use. Though The Oxford Dictionary of Slang appears more British than the Cassell dictionary, it should still be useful for most libraries and provide entertainment for anyone over ten! If a library can only afford one, The Cassell Dictionary of Slang is worth much more than its reasonable price of $37.50.

Library Journal Review

Green (Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers and the Dictionaries They Made, LJ 9/1/96) is a leading British lexicographer whose previous reference works on slang, neologisms, and jargon have been favorably reviewed. His huge new slang dictionary, containing over 70,000 words and phrases from around the English-speaking world, is the first completely new volume to treat the slang vocabulary from the 16th century to the present since Eric Partridge's classic Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English first appeared in 1937. Aside from its comprehensive scope, this is a thoughtful and thorough work of reference, supplying for each word or phrase any variant spellings or alternative forms, the part of speech, a first date of use, a geographic or social/cultural usage label, a complete definition, and an etymology. Green also provides us with an interesting introduction and well-designed directions for use as well as a long, unannotated bibliography that includes a list of slang web sites. A great new reference tool; recommended for most large reference collections.√ĄPaul A. D'Alessandro, Portland P.L., ME (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.