Guardians of the Past
The Guide to Thieves Cant for AD&D
By Shaun Hately
This dictionary is listed in Cant to English and English to Cant format, each format is listed in alphabetical order.
Notes from the Author:
This dictionary is based on the “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence.” printed for C. Chappel of Pall-Mall, London in 1811, and based on the ictionary compiled by Captain Grose in 1785. Despite its date of publication, it can be used in AD&D campaigns by those who desire a detailed use of thieves cant. A reproduction of this dictionary was published in 1981 by Papermac, a division of MacMillan Publishers Limited, London and Basingstoke and is © 1971 Digest Books Inc. Illinois. “The Guide to Thieves Cant for AD&D (1st Edition): Compiled by
Shaun Hately.” is © 1996 Shaun Hately, except where copyright is owned by other people. No challenge is made by Shaun Hately to any copyright status held by other people. Permission to copy and distribute this dictionary in unedited form including this section is granted by Shaun Hately, provided no profit is made.
This guide is not recommended for use by children in their games as some of the material is of an adult nature.
I apologise for the possibility that some of the material in this dictionary may be construed as racist, sexist or homophobic. This material is included for the sake of completeness. I do not subscribe to prejudice in any way shape or form. I would also like to say that the use of the term ‘gipsy’ does not refer to groups of people who wander from place to place, but only to those people who engage in criminal activity while maintaining such a lifestyle.
I would like to thank all of those who have participated in my campaigns over the years. I would like to thank the denizens of the ADND-L list and REALMS e-mailing lists for the discussions that inspired this guide and for their kind comments and criticisms of my first guide (“The Guide to Herbs for AD&D”) which have encouraged me to go further. I would also like to thank all those people who have compiled NetBooks and unofficial guides for all aspects of RPGs. I use a lot of them in my games and hope that my guides will be similarily useful to other people.
Cant to English
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Abbess: the mistress of a brothel.
Abram cove: a word used among thieves which signifies a naked or
poor man. It can also mean a lusty strong rogue.
Abram men: a beggar who pretends to be mad.
To sham abram: to pretend to be sick.
Ace of spades: a widow.
Acorn: to ride a horse foaled by an acorn, is to be hanged
on the gallows.
Adam Tiler: a pickpockets associate, who receives the stolen
goods, and runs off with them.
Affidavit Men: a witness for hire. Someone who will swear to
anything in court if paid to do so.
Air and exercise: He has had air and exercise, ie he has been whipped
at the carts tail.
Ambidexter: a lawyer who garners fees from both plaintiff and
To amuse: to fling dust into the eyes of the person intended to
be robbed; also to invent some plausible tale to
delude a shopkeeper in order to put them off their
Amusers: a rogue who uses the above tactic.
Anabaptist: a pickpocket caught in the act, and punished by
being thrown into a pond.
Anglers: pilferers or petty thieves who with a stick having
a hook at the end, steal goods out of shop windows,
grates etc. Also someone who ‘draws in’ victims in
order to rob them.
coppers: begging out of a prison window with a cap or box let
down on the end of a long string.
Arch Rogue: The chief of a gang of thieves or gipsies.
Ard: hot, stolen.
Ark: a boat.
Ark ruffians: rogues who in conjunction with watermen, robbed and
sometimes murdered on the water by picking a quarrel
with passengers in a boat, boarding it, plundering,
stripping, and throwing them overboard.
Artichoke: hang (see hearty choke).
Aunt: a prostitute or someone who procures prostitutes.
Avoir Du Pois Lay: stealing brass weights off the counters of shops.
Autem Bawler: a priest.
Autem Divers: pickpockets who operate in churches and temples.
Autem Mort: a female beggar who hires children in order to
Babes in the wood: criminals in the stocks or pillory.
Badge: a term for one who has had his hand burned as
punishment for theft.
Bandog: a bailiff or sheriff.
Barrow man: a man under sentence of transport.
Bat: a very common prostitute.
Bawd: a prostitute.
Bawdy basket: criminal who sells items from door to door, but makes
most of their living by stealing.
Beak: a justice of the peace or magistrate.
Beef: to “cry beef” is to give an alarm. To “be in a mans
beef” is to wound him with a sword.
Beggar maker: a man who owns a tavern.
Beilby’s Ball: to “dance with Beilby’s ball” is to be hung.
Bene Bowse: good beer.
Bene Cove: good fellow.
Bene Darkmans: good night.
Bene feaker: counterfeiter.
Bene feakers of
gybes: counterfeiter of false passes.
Ben: a fool.
Bess or Betty: a crow bar.
Bilboes: the stocks or prison.
Bilk: to cheat or con.
Bing: to go or escape.
Bingo: brandy or other spirit.
Bingo boy: a drinker of brandy.
Bingo mort: a female drinker of brandy.
Birds of a
feather: rogues of the same gang.
Bite: to steal.
Black art: the art of picking a lot.
Black box: a lawyer.
Blasted fellow: an abandoned rogue or prostitute.
Blater: a stolen calf.
Bleaters: those cheated by a Jack in the Box (See Jack in the
Bleating rig: sheep stealing.
Blow: to “bite the blow” is to steal the goods.
Blue pigeons: thieves who steal lead off houses and other
Bluffer: an inn keeper.
Boarding school: a prison.
Bob: shoplifter’s assistant. One who receives stolen
Boned: seized, arrested.
Boung: a purse.
Boung nipper: a cut purse.
Brimstone: an abandoned woman or thief.
Bubber: a thief who steals from taverns.
Bufe: a dog.
Bufe nabber: a dog thief.
Bug: to exchange a material for one of less value.
Bung nipper: a pickpocket.
Burning the ken: to flee a tavern without paying your bill.
Bus napper: a constable.
kenchin: a watchman.
Buttock and file: a prostitute who steals from their clients.
Button: a fake coin.
Buzman: a pickpocket.
Cackle: to inform on a thief.
Calle: a cloak or gown worn as a disguise.
Canters: thieves or beggars.
Canting Crew: thieves or beggars.
Cap: take an oath.
Captain Sharp: a person in a fixed game of chance whose job is to
bully those who refuse to pay their debts.
Caravan: a large sum of money, or one who is cheated of a
large sum of money.
Cattle: prostitutes or gipsies.
Charactered: to have your hand burnt as a punishment for theft.
Charm: a lockpick.
Chatts: the gallows.
Clank: a silver tankard.
Clank napper: a silver tankard stealer.
Clear: very drunk.
Click: to hit.
Clicker: the person who divides the booty between a group of
Climb up a ladder
to bed: be hanged.
Cly: a pocket.
Cly the jerk: to be whipped.
Cockles, to cry: to be hanged.
Colt: one who lends a horse to a highway man, or an
Content: a person murdered for resisting a robbery.
Cove: a man.
Cracksman: a house breaker.
Cramp word: the sentence of death.
Cull: an honest man.
Cullability: easily cheated.
Curbing law: the act off hooking items out of a window (see
Cursitor: a bad lawyer
Darbies: chains (handcuffs).
Darby: easy money.
Darkee: a dark or hooded lantern.
Darkmans: night time.
Deadly nevergreen: gallows.
Derrick: a hangman.
Dimber Damber: a chief thief.
Ding Boy: a mugger.
Dive: to pick a pocket.
Dive: a thieves hideout.
Dommerer: a beggar who pretends to be mute.
Drag: to follow a cart or wagon in order to rob it.
Draw-latches: robbers of houses.
Drawing the King’s
picture: counterfeiting coins.
Dromedary: a bungling thief.
Dub: a lockpick.
Dub Lay: to rob a house by picking its lock.
Dummee: a pocket book or purse.
Dumps: coins made of lead.
Die hard: show no fear or remorse at the gallows.
Earnest: a promise to pay.
Equipt: well dressed, rich.
Fagger: a small boy passed through a window in order to open
the door to a house.
Family man: a receiver of stolen goods.
Fam lay: palming an item in order to steal it.
Fen: a prostitute.
Fence: to sell stolen goods. One who buys stolen goods.
Fencing ken: a place where stolen goods are hidden.
Fidlam ben: thieves.
Figging law: the art of picking pockets.
Figure dancer: one who alters the numbers on notes of credit or
other paper money.
Filcher: see angler.
Flash ken: a thieves hideout.
Flash lingo: thieves cant.
Floating hell: a prison ship.
Flog: to whip.
Footpad: a common thief.
Fork: to pick a pocket.
Fortune teller: a judge.
Foyst: a pickpocket.
Frummagemmed: strangled or hanged.
Fun: a cheat or a trick.
Fuzz: to pretend to shuffle a deck of cards.
Gallows bird: a thief or pickpocket or someone that associates with
Game: any mode of robbery.
Gamon: to deceive.
Gaoler’s coach: a cart used to take felons to execution.
master: a highwayman.
Gibberish: thieves cant.
Gilt: a thief who picks locks.
Ginny: a crowbar.
Glazier: a thief who breaks windows in order to steal.
Glim: a lantern used in housebreaking.
Gregorian tree: gallows.
Gudgeon: a gullible person.
Gull: a gullible person, to cheat someone.
Hamlet: a senior constable.
Hang gallows look: a villainous appearance.
Hang in chains: a vile, desperate person.
Harman: a constable.
Harmans: the stocks.
Hearty choke: to be hanged.
Heave: to rob.
Hempen fever: a person who has been hanged is said to have died of
Hempen widow: one whose husband was hanged.
High pad: a highwayman.
Hike: to run away.
Hoist: to rob by entering though windows that have been left
Hoodwink: blindfold or fool someone.
Hookers: see angler.
Hubbub: a riot.
Hue: to whip.
Hush money: a bribe.
Ironmongers shop: to “keep an ironmongers shop” is to be hung in
Jack in a box: a card sharper.
Jack Ketch: hangman.
Jail bird: prisoner.
Jem: a gold ring.
Jemmy: a crow bar.
Jigger: whipping post.
Jordain: a stick or staff used by muggers.
Juggler’s box: the device used to burn the hands of criminals.
Jukrum: the permission of the head of a thieves guild to
operate within his territory.
Kate: a lockpick.
Ken: a house.
Ken Miller or Ken
Kiddeys: young thieves.
King’s plate: chains, shackles.
King’s pictures: money.
Knight of the
blade: a bully.
Knight of the
post: a man willing to give fake evidence for money.
Knight of the
road: a highwayman.
Laced mutton: a prostitute.
Lag: a man transported for a crime.
Land pirate: a highwayman.
Leaf: to “go with the fall of the leaf” is to be hanged.
Little snakesman: a small boy passed through a window in order to open
Long tongued: unable to keep a secret.
Lully priggers: thieves who steal wet clothes off clothes lines.
Lurch: to be “left in the lurch” is to be betrayed by ones
Mad Tom: a beggar who feigns madness.
Made man: a member of the thieves guild.
Milch cow: one who is easily tricked out of his money.
Mobility: the commoners. Intended as a pun on ‘nobility.’
Moon curser: a thief who uses the darkness as cover for his crime.
Moon men: gipsies.
Morning drop: the gallows.
Mort: a woman.
Moss: lead stolen off the top of buildings.
Mot: see Mort.
Nab: to seize.
Nab the stoop: to be put in the stocks.
Napper: a cheat or thief.
Napper of naps: a sheep stealer.
Natty lads: young thieves or pickpockets.
Neck weed: hemp to be made into rope.
Needle point: a card sharper.
New drop: the gallows.
Newman’s lift: the gallows.
Nig: the metal clipped off a coin by a criminal.
Night magistrate: a constable.
Nim: to steal or pilfer.
Nip: a cheat.
Noisy dog racket: the crime of stealing brass door knockers from doors.
Noozed: hanged (or married).
Nose: a criminal who gives evidence against his colleagues
in order to gain a lighter sentence.
Nubbing cheat: the gallows.
Nubbing cove: the hangman.
Nubbing ken: the courthouse.
Nypper: a cutpurse.
Oak: a rich man.
Oaken towel: a cudgel.
Office: to “give office” is to tell constables of a thieves
Old hand: an experienced thief.
Onion: a seal or signet ring.
Overseer: a man in the pillory or stocks.
Pad: the highway.
Pad borrowers: horse thieves.
Palaver: a tale told in order avoid blame for a crime.
Parenthesis: the stocks.
Parings: the metal clipped off a coin by a criminal.
Patter flash: to use thieves cant.
Paum: conceal in the hand.
Peach: turn informer.
Peeper: a spying glass. (Telescope?)
Penance board: the pillory.
Petty fogger: a lawyer willing to undertake any case.
Pig: an officer of the law.
Pigeon: a person easy to cheat.
Plate: money, silver, gold etc.
Pop shop: pawnbrokers.
Posse mobilitatis: a mob chasing a criminal.
Poulterer: a man who opens mail and steals the money enclosed
Prad lay: the act of cutting the saddlebags of horses in order
to steal their contents.
Prad: a horse.
Prig: a thief.
Prig napper: one who catches thieves. A bounty hunter.
prancers: horse thieves.
cacklers: robbers of henhouses.
Prince Prig: head of a group of thieves or gipsies.
Provendor: the victim of a thief.
Public ledger: a prostitute.
Puzzle-cause: a lawyer who does not understand the case.
Quarromes: a body.
Queer: “To queer” means to confuse someone.
Queer bail: someone who pretends to have money in order to act as
surety for an arrested person. When the person is
released they disappear.
Queer birds: a person who when released from prison returns to a
life of crime.
Queer bit makers: counterfeiters of coins.
Queer bung: an empty purse.
Queer cove: a thief.
Queer cuffin: a justice of the peace.
Queer ken: a prison.
Queer mort: a diseased prostitute.
Quota: a thieves share of the booty.
Rag: paper money.
Rank rider: a highwayman.
Rap: taking a false oath.
Rascal: rogue or villain.
Rat: an informer. To turn informer.
Rattling cove: a coachman.
Rattling mumpers: beggars who beg from coaches.
Reader: a pocket book or purse.
Reader merchants: pickpockets.
service: highway robbery.
Repository: a gaol.
Resurrection men: those employed by scientists to steal bodies from
changes: exchanging silver coins for those made of less
Robert’s men: successful thieves.
Rot gut: cheap spiritous liquor.
Rovers: pirates, wandering thieves.
Rub: run away.
Ruffles: chains or shackles.
Rufflers: beggars who pretend to be wounded soldiers or
Rug: safe and secure.
Rum: fine, good, valuable.
Rum beck: a justice of the peace.
Rum bite: a clever trick.
Rum bob: a skilled apprentice thief.
Rum bung: a full purse.
Rum cod: a purse filled with gold.
Rum diver: a skilled pickpocket.
Rum dubber: a skilled lock picker.
Rum file: a skilled pickpocket.
Rum fun: a clever trick.
Rum pad: the highway.
Rum padders: skilled and successful highwaymen.
Rum prancer: a good horse.
Rushers: home invaders.
Salmon: an oath taken by a beggar.
Scapegallows: one who deserves and has escaped the gallows.
Scragg’em fair: a public execution.
Screw: a lock pick or skeleton key.
Sham: a trick.
Sharper: a con man.
Sheriff’s ball: an execution.
Sheriff’s hotel: prison.
Shoplifter: one who steals from a shop.
Sing: call out, inform.
Slang: chains or shackles.
Slang: thieves cant.
Slipgibbet: see Scapegallows.
Snap the glaze: break a window.
Sneak: a pilferer.
Snoozing ken: brothel.
Sop: a bribe.
Squeak: escape. “To squeak” means to confess.
Squeakers: organ pipes.
Stalling ken: place where stolen goods can be sold.
Star the glaze: break a jewellers window.
Stoop: the pillory.
Stop hole abbey: the central hideout or guild hall for a thieves
Stuling ken: see Stalling ken.
Swaddler: a thief who beats and murders his victims.
Sweating: removing metal from a coin, by using chemicals.
Tail: a prostitute.
Tayle drawers: a thief who steals swords from a mans belt.
Teize: a flogging.
Thatch-gallows: a man of poor character.
Thief takers: someone who associates with thieves in order to
arrest them and obtain rewards.
Three-legged mare: the gallows.
stool: the gallows.
Tom of Bedlam: see Mad Tom.
Topping cheat: the gallows.
Topping cove: hangman.
Tucked up: hanged.
Turncoat: one who has betrayed his friends.
Turn off: hang.
Twig: realise that something is up.
Two to one shop: pawnbrokers.
Underdubber: a prison guard.
Upright Man: chief thief of a guild.
Used up: killed.
Vincent’s law: the art of cheating at cards.
Vowel: to write an I.O.U.
Waterpad: river pirate.
Wedge: silver plate.
Whack: a share of booty obtained by fraud.
Whip jacks: thieves who pretend to be sailors in order to gain
free passage on boats and ships.
Wiper drawer: a pickpocket who steals handkerchiefs.
Wooden ruff: pillory.
Wry neck day: day of execution.
Yelp: cry out for the police.
Zad: a very crooked person.
English to Cant
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Abandoned person: blasted fellow, brimstone, lurch
Arrested: boned, hooked, nabbed, pulled, roasted, snapt,
Beggars: abram men, autem mort, dommerer, Mad Tom, rattling
mumpers, rufflers, Tom of Bedlam
Begging: angling for coppers, maunding
Body thieves: ressurection men
Booty: quota, swag, whack
Bribe: dawb, grease, hush money, sop
Brothel: academy, snoozing ken
Calf, stolen: blater
Call for police: cry beef
Cart: gaoler’s coach
Club: jordain, oaken towel
Coach man: rattling cove
Coin, fake: button, dump
Coin shavings: nig, parings
Con: amuse, bilk, fob, fun, fuzz, hoodwink, sham
Con man: amuser, jack in a box, needle point, nip, sharper
Counterfeiter: bene feaker, figure dancer, queer bit maker
Counterfeiting: drawing the King’s picture, sweating
Courthouse: nubbing ken
transported: barrow man, lag
Criminals in the
stocks: babes in the wood, nappered, overseer
hands burned: badge, charactered
Crow bar: Bess, Betty, ginny, jemmy
Death sentence: cramp word
Escape: bing, burning the ken, hike, rub
Feign illness: sham abram
Fool: Ben, cullability, gudgeon, gull, milch cow, pigeon,
Gallows: chatts, deadly nevergreen, Gregorian Tree, morning
drop, new drop, Newman’s lift, nubbing cheat,
sheriff’s picture frame, three legged mare, three
legged stool, topping cheat
Gang: birds of a feather
Gipsies: cattle, moon men
Good: bene, rum
Hanged: acorn, artichoked, beilby’s ball, cry cockles,
cropped, dangled, frummagemmed, hearty choked, hempen
fever, ironmongers shop, jammed, leaf, noozed,
nubbing, scragged, stretched, swing, turned off
Hangman: Derrick, Jack Ketch, Ketch, nubbing cove, sheriff’s
journeyman, topping cove
Hideout: dive, fencing ken, flash ken, stalling ken, stop hole
abbey, stuling ken
Highwayman: colt, gentleman’s master, high pad, knight of the
road, land pirate, rank rider
Highway robberry: recruiting service
Honest man: cull
House: ken, panny
Housebreaker: cracksman, draw latch, Ken Miller, Ken Cracker, rushers
Inform: cackle, long tongued, nose, office, peach, rat, sing
Judge etc: beak, fortune teller, queer cuffin
Kill: crash, use up
Lantern: darkee, glim
Lawyer: black box, cursitor, petty fogger, puzzle-case
Lie: amuse, gamon, palaver
Lock pick: charm, dub, kate, screw
Lock picker: gilt
Lock picking: black art, dub lay
brothel: abbess, aunt
Money: caravan, iron, King’s pictures, lowre, plate, poney,
rag, ready, rhino, ribbin, wedge
Mugger: ding boy
Oath: cap, earnest, rap (false), salmon
Palming: fam lay, pauming
Pawn: pop, vamp
Pawnbrokers: pop shop, two to one shop
Pickpocket: Adam Tiler, anabaptist, autem divers, bung nipper,
buzman, foyst, natty lad, nypper, reader merchants
Picking pockets: dive, figging law, forking
Police officer: bandog, bus napper, bus napper kenchin, hamlet,
harman, moabites, myrmidons, night magistrate, pig
Priest: autem bawler
Prison: Bilboes, boarding school, porridge, pound, queer ken,
quod, repository, sheriff’s hotel, shop, spring-ankle
Prison ship: floating hell
Prisoner: jail bird, queer birds
Prostitute: aunt, bat, bawd, buttock and file, cattle, fen, laced
mutton, public ledger, queer mort, tail
Purse: boung, dummee, reader
Purse, cut: boung nipper
stolen goods: family man, fence
Rich: equipt, oak
Ring: jem, onion
Shackles: darbies, King’s plate, ruffles, slang
Sheep stealing: bleating rig
Steal: bite, bite the blow, cloy, curbing law, heave, hoist,
lift, nim, prad lay
Stocks: Bilboes, parenthesis, penance board, wooden ruff
Stolen: ard, made
Swap: bug, ring the changes
Tavern owner: beggar maker
Theft of brass
weights: avoir du pois lay
Thief: Adam Tiler, anabaptist, anglers, ark ruffians, autem
divers, bawdy basket, blue pigeons, Bob, bubber,
bufe napper, bung nipper, buzman, canters, canting
crew, Captain Sharp, clank napper, cloyes, cracksman,
draw latches, dromedary, fagger, fidlam ben, filcher,
footpad, foyst, gallows bird, gilt, glazier, hooker,
kiddeys, little snakesman, lully priggers, made man,
moon curser, napper of naps, natty lads, nypper, old
hand, pad borrowers, poulterer, priggers, priggers of
prancers, priggers of cacklers, queer cove, reader
merchant, ressurection men, Robert’s men, rovers,
shoplifter, sneak, swaddler, tayle drawer, waterpad,
Thief, head: Arch Rogue, Dimber Damber, Prince Prig, Upright Man
Thieves cant: flash lingo, gibberish, patter flash, slang
Victim: content, provendor
Whipping: air and exercise, cly the jerk, flogging, hue, teize
Whipping post: jigger
Widow: ace of spades, hempen widow (if husband was hanged)
Witness, fake: affidavit man, knight of the post
Woman: mort, mot