40s Slang Words and Phrases (130+ Examples – Complete List)

Written by Gabriel Cruz - Foodie, Animal Lover, Slang & Language Enthusiast

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If you’re a history buff, the 1940’s are a time that you probably know a lot about. This era was immensely impactful on world history with the birth and resolution of the second world war.

Being such a tumultuous time meant that the vernacular of the day was extremely interesting. Whether you’re just into history or you love learning new words, we’ve created this list of 1940’s slang words and phrases for people like you.

Let’s show you what we’ve found…


Table of Contents

1940’s Slang Words and Phrases (in Alphabetical Order)

A

Above My Pay Grade

Meaning:

  • (Expression): This is an expression that you might occasionally hear today. If something is above your pay grade, it’s above your head or not a topic you’re strong in.
  • Example: “He asked me about astrophysics, but that’s above my pay grade.”
Above My Pay Grade

Ace

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A person with a large amount of expertise in a given topic.
  • Example: “She’s the astrophysics ace, so I’d ask her any questions you have about outer space.”
Ace

Ace is still used frequently today in New York, albeit with a different meaning. Check out our post on ace in New York slang to learn more.

Active Duty

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Keep in mind that the 40’s were quite a bit more socially conservative than we are today. It shouldn’t be surprising that they had words like active duty to describe sexually promiscuous men.
  • Example: “Watch yourself around Clifton because he’s an active duty gentleman.”
Active Duty

Ameche

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A slang word for telephone.
  • Example: “I think I hear the Ameche ringing in the other room.”
Ameche

Amscray

Meaning:

  • (Verb): Pig Latin for “scram.” This means to leave a location quickly.
  • Example: “Why don’t you amscray so I can focus on my work?”
Amscray

Anchor Clanker

Meaning:

  • (Noun): It’s not shocking that there was a lot of military-related slang in the 40’s like this one. An anchor clanker is another word for a sailor.
  • Example: “Ernest is an anchor clanker serving in the military right now.”
Amscray

Armored Heifer

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Despite the way it sounds, armored heifer is not a name for something in the military. It just means canned milk.
  • Example: “I’ve added some armored heifer to our grocery list.”
Armored Heifer

Army Strawberries

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Fun military slang for prunes.
  • Example: “I got some army strawberries in my rations again.”
Army Strawberries

B

Baby Doll

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Affectionate term for an attractive woman.
  • Example: “Say, baby doll, what are you up to tonight?”
Baby Doll

Bad Business

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A bad situation or trouble of some kind.
  • Example: “Leonard got himself into some bad business.”
Bad Business

Bathtub

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Contrary to what it sounds like, this isn’t something you bathe in. It’s the sidecar on a motorcycle. It was commonly said more often in 1940’s-era military slang.
  • Example: “Hop in the bathtub, and let’s get moving.”
Bathtub

Beef

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A grudge or disagreement with someone else.
  • Example: “Luther had beef with Jesse after he caught Jesse with his girl.”
Beef

Behavior Report

Meaning:

  • (Noun): WW2-era military slang that refers to a letter you’re writing to your girlfriend back home.
  • Example: “I need some time to send a behavior report back to my baby doll.”
Behavior Report

Belly Up

Meaning:

  • (Verb): When something fails. Usually used in reference to a business going bankrupt.
  • Example: “Benjamin’s new landscaping business went belly up after the first year.”
Belly Up

Bellyache

Meaning:

  • (Verb): More military slang. This one means to complain incessantly about something.
  • Example: “Quit your bellyaching!”
Bellyache

Bender

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A drinking spree. This term is still in use in some places today.
  • Example: “Joseph went on a bender this weekend and forgot where he was.”
Bender

Big House

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Federal prison.
  • Example: “Douglas is getting sent to the Big House.”
Big House

Biz

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Shortened slang word for “business.”
  • Example: “That’s why they call it show biz, baby doll.”
Biz

Black and White

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A 1940’s slang term for a police car.
  • Example: “Watch out for the black and whites along the road.”
Black and White

Blow

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To neglect to show up to a court appearance, forfeiting a bail bond.
  • Example: “I don’t want to go to court, so I’m gonna blow instead.”
Blow

Blow a Fuse

Meaning:

  • (Expression): To become uncontrollably angry, usually verbally.
  • Example: “She blew a fuse when her boyfriend accidentally tore a hole in her new dress.”
Blow a Fuse

Blow Your Top

Meaning:

  • (Expression): See Blow a Fuse.

Bog-Pocket

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Someone who’s incredibly stingy or miserly.
  • Example: “I don’t understand why Lloyd is such a bog-pocket when he has so much moolah.”
Bog-Pocket

Booger

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A bratty or troublesome child.
  • Example: “Look here, you little booger, you’d better listen to me!”
Booger

Boondocks

Meaning:

  • (Noun): This one has the same meaning that it has today. It refers to an isolated locale, usually out in the country.
  • Example: “Bernice lives way out in the boondocks, so she doesn’t know much about the city.”
Boondocks

Bop

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To dance with energy and enthusiasm.
  • Example: “We went bopping last night.”
Bop

Broad

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Common 40’s slang for a woman. Be careful with this one, as it has negative connotations today.
Broad

Bum Rap

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A lie that incriminates someone. An untrue allegation.
  • Example: “Earl got sent to the Big House because of a bum rap.”
Bum Rap

Bupkis

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Absolutely nothing. Nada. Zero.
  • Example: “I put in long hours and got bupkis for it.”
Bupkis

Buy the Farm

Meaning:

  • (Expression): A euphemism for dying.
  • Example: “When I buy the farm, I plan on leaving behind enough moolah for my kids and grandkids.”
Buy the Far

Buzz

Meaning:

  • (Noun): The state of being slightly drunk or tipsy.
  • Example: “After a couple beers, I had a nice buzz going.”
Buzz

C

Call Girl

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A prostitute that you could order over the phone. The term is still around today, albeit uncommonly.
  • Example: “I heard a rumor that Betty works as a call girl.”
Call Girl

Cheaters

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A word that could be applied to glasses in general but was often used for sunglasses.
  • Example: “Has anyone seen my cheaters lying around? I can’t find them.”
Cheaters

Cheesy

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): Anything that has a flimsy construction. Cheap products.
  • Example: “What a cheesy watch. Where did you buy that piece of junk?”
Cheesy

Chew Out

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To yell at someone.
  • Example: “I chewed her out after she showed up late to class.”
Chew Out

Chicken

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Anyone who has a cowardly demeanor. It still has the same meaning today.
  • Example: “Stop being a chicken and just jump already!”
Chicken

Chopper

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A tooth.
  • Example: “She’s got a nice set of choppers, doesn’t she?”
Chopper

Chrome Dome

Meaning:

  • (Noun): 1940’s slang for a bald person. This phrase also saw use into the 1950’s.
  • Example: “Mr. Bird is a chrome dome. I practically need to wear my cheaters when I look at him.”
Chrome Dome

Clams

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Another word for money.
  • Example: “You better’d have a lot of clams if you plan on taking me on a date. I’m not cheap.”
Clams

Cock-Eyed

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): Anything that’s unbelievable or crazy.
  • Example: “I’ve never heard of such cock-eyed crap in my life.”
Cock-Eyed

Cold Fish

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Anyone who’s extremely distant and aloof.
  • Example: “Cora’s such a cold fish that she scares all the men away.”
Cold Fish

Cook with Gas

Meaning:

  • (Expression): Doing something correctly.
  • Example: “Once she figured out how to use her new washing machine, she was really cooking with gas.”
Cook with Gas

Cookie

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A somewhat endearing way to refer to anyone, whether they’re a man or woman.
  • Example: “My ma is one tough cookie.”
Cookie

Cool Down

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To return to a neutral emotional state after being upset or angry.
  • Example: “I need a few minutes to cool down.”
Cool Down

Crack Open

Meaning:

  • (Verb): Opening a bottle. Usually used in reference to alcohol. This one saw a resurgence in use in recent years with the meme, “cracking open a cold one with the boys.”
  • Example: “How about you sit down with me and crack open a beer?”
Crack

Crack Up

Meaning:

  • (Verb): Giving into a fit of giggles. Losing control of yourself and laughing.
  • Example: “Sherry cracked up when she saw the cheesy outfit her date was wearing.”
Crack Up

Creep

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A cruel individual.
  • Example: “I’ve heard that that creep is involved with the mafia.”
Creep

Croak

Meaning:

  • (Verb): Another 40’s slang term for dying. See Buy the Farm.
Croak

Crummy

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): Something that’s low in quality. See Cheesy.
Crummy

Cut a Rug

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To dance.
  • Example: “Dang, she really knows how to cut a rug, doesn’t she?”
Cut a Rug

D

Dame

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Another term for woman. Fortunately, dame has less negative connotation than broad does!
  • Example: “What a beautiful bunch of dames!”
Dame

Dang Nabbit

Meaning:

  • (Interjection): An angry exclamation that’s like shouting out a curse word.
  • Example: “Dang nabbit, I tore a hole in my trousers!”
Dang Nabbit

Dead Hoofer

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Insulting term for someone who can’t dance very well.
  • Example: “It’s a good thing that Claire is such a good-looking dame, because she’s a dead hoofer.”
Dead Hoofer

Devil’s Piano

Meaning:

  • (Noun): 40’s military slang for a machine gun.
  • Example: “The devil’s piano was a deadly weapon on the battlefield.”
Devil’s Piano

Dish

Meaning:

  • (Noun): An attractive woman.
  • Example: “I don’t care if Claire can’t dance. She’s a real dish.”
Dish

Doll Dizzy

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): Someone who’s absolutely crazy for girls.
  • Example: “Our son just turned thirteen, and suddenly he’s doll dizzy.”
Doll Dizzy

Done For

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): To be finished or in big trouble.
  • Example: “I shouldn’t have messed with Brian…I’m done for.”
Done For

Dope

Meaning:

  • (Noun): The scoop or info. Typically, you would say this in relation to gossip.
  • Example: “Give me the dope on Claire. Is she rationed?”
Dope

Dreamboat

Meaning:

  • (Noun): The male equivalent of dish. A handsome man.
  • Example: “Gene is such a dreamboat!”
Dope

Drip

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Someone who’s completely uninteresting. Anyone who’s a bore to be around.
  • Example: “Mr. Strong is a drip, but the class tolerates him because he also happens to be a dreamboat.”
Drip

Ducky Shincracker

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Amusing nickname for anyone who’s a good dancer.
  • Example: “Ducky Shincracker over there can cut a rug like nobody’s business.”
Ducky Shincracker

Dud

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A non-functional piece of junk. Product that doesn’t work the way it should.
  • Example: “Uh, I think this car’s a dud, unfortunately.”
Dud

E

Eager Beaver

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Someone who’s excited to be helping you.
  • Example: “Well, aren’t you just an eager beaver! Yes, you can help me bake these brownies.”
Eager Beaver

F

Fix

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A craving for something. Generally, this was used in reference to drugs, and is still often used that way today.
  • Example: “Jessie gets his fix from a dealer on the streets.”
Fix

Flip Your Wig

Meaning:

  • (Verb): See Blow a Fuse.

Fuddy-Duddy

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Someone who’s out of touch with modern trends.
  • Example: “My parents are fuddy-duddies who never understand me.”
Fuddy-Duddy

G

Geezer

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Derogatory term for a senior citizen. Quite a bit different in tone from the current British slang version of geezer.
  • Example: “That geezer needs to start walking faster, or I’ll push him out of the way.”
Geezer

Get Under Your Skin

Meaning:

  • (Verb): When something annoys or unnerves you.
  • Example: “It really gets under my skin when I hear people chewing with their mouths open.”
Get Under Your Skin

Glitterati

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A slang term for celebrities. We say this one should be brought back!
  • Example: “The glitterati just love plastering their faces all over social media.”
Glitterati

Gobbledygook

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Gibberish, something that doesn’t make any sense.
  • Example: “I can’t understand any of the gobbledygook in the manual.”
Gobbledygook

Gone with the Wind

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To take someone’s money and run with it.
  • Example: “She’s gone with the wind ever since her late husband left everything to her in the will.”
Gone with the Wind

Grandstand

Meaning:

  • (Verb): Showing off.
  • Example: “The boys love grandstanding for the girls on the dancefloor.”
Grandstand

Greenbacks

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Another 40’s slang word for cash.
  • Example: “Did you bring some greenbacks with you?”
Greenbacks

Gumshoe

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A private eye or investigator.
  • Example: “I hired a gumshoe to see if my wife is having an affair.”
Gumshoe

H

Hairy

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): Anything that’s out of style or obsolete.
  • Example: “Horse-drawn carriages are hairy. Everyone’s getting cars these days.”
Hairy

Hen Fruit

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A cutesy 40’s term for eggs. Try adding this one to your grocery list next time you go grocery shopping!
  • Example: “Did you remember to pick up some hen fruit?”
Hen Fruit

Hi Sugar, Are You Rationed?

Meaning:

  • (Expression): A cute 40’s pickup phrase that was a way of asking you if you were taken.
Hi Sugar, Are You Rationed

Hi-De-Ho

Meaning:

  • (Exclamation): Another way of saying hello.
  • Example: “Well, hi-de-ho, traveler!”
Hi Sugar, Are You Rationed

Hipster

Meaning:

  • (Noun): In some ways, this one is similar to how we use it today. In the 40’s, a hipster was someone who was really into the music scene.
  • Example: “I always ask Don for music recommendations because he’s a hipster.”
Hipster

Holy Mackerel

Meaning:

  • (Exclamation): A surprised exclamation that could be equated to the 40’s version of “oh, my god.”
  • Example: “Holy mackerel, this cake is delicious!”
Holy Mackerel

Hot to Trot

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): Someone who’s sexy.
  • Example: “Loretta looked hot to trot on the dancefloor last night.”
Hot to Trot

Humdinger

Meaning:

  • (Noun): You might think this is an insult, but it’s actually the opposite! Humdinger can be used to describe anything that’s amazing.
  • Example: “That recipe is a real humdinger! Mind sharing it with me?”
Humdinger

I

In Cahoots With

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): The state of plotting with someone. To be in a shared conspiracy with other people.
  • Example: “I think he’s in cahoots with the mafia, so I’d avoid him if I were you.”
In Cahoots With

J

Jitterbug

Meaning:

  • (Noun): An extremely rapid dance that was often done to jazz.
  • Example: “She’s the only person I know who can jitterbug well.”
Jitterbug

Jive

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To make sense or fit in with other information.
  • Example: “What you’re telling me doesn’t jive with what my sister told me earlier.”
Jive

Jive Bomber

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Another term to describe someone who’s good at dancing.
Jive Bomber

K

Khaki Wacky

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): Female equivalent of doll dizzy. Someone who’s khaki wacky is crazy about boys.
  • Example: “I wish my daughter weren’t so khaki wacky. She needs to focus on her schooling.”
Khaki Wacky

Killer Diller

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): The 40’s equivalent of awesome. If something is killer diller, it’s amazingly good.
  • Example: “I bought a killer diller dress the other day at the store.”
Killer Diller

Kilroy Was Here

Meaning:

  • (Expression): Some say this is one of the earliest examples of memes as we know them today. Kilroy was here was a common graffiti phrase that was painted on walls everywhere.
Kilroy Was Here

Kisser

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Your mouth.
  • Example: “I punched Henry right in the kisser.”
Kisser

Knocked Out

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): To be put into a state of unconsciousness, often forcibly.
  • Example: “He got knocked out by a boxer in the ring.”
Knocked Out

Knucklehead

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A silly person.
  • Example: “My cousin is a knucklehead who tried to lie his way into the military.”
Knucklehead

L

Landing Gear

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Fun 40’s slang for legs.
  • Example: “Look at the landing gear on that dame!”
Landing Gear

Read Also: Slang Words for Legs

Lettuce

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Cash. See Greenbacks.
Lettuce

M

Moolah

Meaning:

  • (Noun): See Greenbacks.

Mug

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A word used to describe your face.
  • Example: “He’s got a real mean-looking mug, doesn’t he?”
Mug

O

Old Lady

Meaning:

  • (Noun): In later years, this term would come to be used more often to refer to your girlfriend, but in the 40’s, it was common to apply it to your own mother.
  • Example: “My old lady wants me home before sunset.”
Old Lady

P

Pain in the Neck/Ass

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Anything that’s a hassle to deal with. You can say neck or ass depending on how vulgar you want to be.
  • Example: “I have to be honest, my son is a pain in the neck.”
Pain in the Neck_Ass

Pass the Buck

Meaning:

  • (Verb): Passing the responsibility onto someone else. Leaving an issue for someone else to deal with.
  • Example: “You are not going to pass the buck to me. That’s not my problem.”
Pass the Buck

Patsy

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Your fall guy. Someone who takes the blame for something you did.
  • Example: “Roger uses his brother, Kevin, as his patsy.”
Patsy

Pennies from Heaven

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Money that’s very easily and effortlessly earned.
  • Example: “I always take my old cans down to the recycling plant to turn in as scrap for cash. It’s like getting pennies from heaven.”
Pennies from Heaven

R

Rag

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To make fun of or tease someone else.
  • Example: “Will you please stop ragging on me?”
Rag

Rhubarb

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A loud argument or shouting match.
  • Example: “He got into a rhubarb with his wife when he didn’t get home until two in the morning last night.”
Rhubarb

Roughhouse

Meaning:

  • (Verb): Playing roughly with someone.
  • Example: “Stop roughhousing with your brother and help me make dinner!”
Roughhouse

Rub Out

Meaning:

  • (Verb): Euphemism for killing someone.
  • Example: “We’re going to have to rub him out if he doesn’t keep quiet.”
Rub Out

Rug

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Slang term for a wig.
  • Example: “Our teacher wears a rug to hide his chrome dome.”
Rug

Run Out of Gas

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To gradually become less and less interested or energetic.
  • Example: “She ran out of gas after doing the jitterbug for half an hour.”
Run Out of Gas

Rusty Dusty

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Slang term for your backside.
Rusty Dusty

S

Sauced

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): To be deeply intoxicated.
  • Example: “Whew, you can smell the alcohol on his breath. He’s sauced, all right.”
Sauced

Schnook

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A person who’s very gullible.
  • Example: “I’m looking for a schnook to buy my junk at the right price.”
Schnook

Share Crop

Meaning:

  • (Noun): The female version of “active duty.” A woman who sleeps around.
Share Crop

Smooch

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To kiss someone. This one is still around today!
  • Example: “Come here and give me a big smooch!”
Smooch

Snap Your Cap

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To get angry. See Blow a Fuse.
Snap Your Cap

Souse

Meaning:

  • (Noun): An individual who drinks too much.
  • Example: “There’s a souse lying in the gutter outside. Should we call someone?”
Souse

Specs

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A pair of prescription glasses.
  • Example: “I feel so ugly in my new specs!”
Specs

Spew

Meaning:

  • (Verb): The act of vomiting.
  • Example: “If Theodore doesn’t stop drinking soon, he’s going to spew.”
Spew

Spiffy

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): Good-looking, attractive.
  • Example: “He looks spiffy in his new suit.”
Spiffy

Stompers

Meaning:

  • (Noun): 1940’s slang word for shoes.
  • Example: “I’ll need to buy a new pair of stompers soon. Mine are falling apart.”
Stompers

Read Next: Slang Words for Shoes

Sugar Daddy

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A wealthy older man who monetarily supports a younger woman.
  • Example: “Mr. Underwood, my sugar daddy, bought me my new dress.”
Sugar Daddy

Sugar Report

Meaning:

  • (Noun): More military slang. This term refers to a letter you received from your girlfriend or wife back home.
  • Example: “I just got my sugar report and need some time to look over it.”
Sugar Report

Swigger

Meaning:

  • (Noun): See Souse.

T

T.S.

Meaning:

  • (Expression): Military acronym that can mean either “tough situation” or “tough s***.”
T.S

Take a Gander

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To take a look at or examine something.
  • Example: “Come take a look at this counterfeit money a customer just gave me.”
Take a Gander

Take a Powder

Meaning:

  • (Verb): To leave.
  • Example: “Now that the party’s over, I’m going to take a powder if you don’t mind.”
Take a Powder

The Sticks

Meaning:

  • (Noun): See Boondocks.

Through the Wringer

Meaning:

  • (Adjective): When someone has been harshly interrogated.
  • Example: “The cops really put Bob through the wringer when he was wrongfully suspected of his neighbor’s murder.”
Through the Wringer

Two Cents’ Worth

Meaning:

  • (Noun): Your opinion.
  • Example: “Well, if you want my two cents’ worth…I think she’s having an affair.”
Two Cents’ Worth

U

Unmentionables

Meaning:

  • (Noun): A woman’s undergarments.
  • Example: “Whenever Lois bends over, you can see her unmentionables. Should we tell her?”
Unmentionables

W

Whistle Dixie

Meaning:

  • (Verb): When you’re wrong about something.
  • Example: “If you keep hiring gumshoes to tail your wife, you’re whistling dixie.”
Whistle Dixie

Y

Yuck

Meaning:

  • (Noun): An idiot. See Knucklehead.
Yuck

Wrap Up

If you didn’t think history was interesting, hopefully this list of 40’s slang taught you otherwise. It’s intriguing to see how people from previous generations spoke. If you have grandparents or relatives who were alive during the 40’s, try using some of these terms and see if they remember using them!

The 40’s weren’t the only years with their own unique language. Take a gander at our list of 80’s slang words and phrases to learn what people were saying in this technicolor decade.

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