Theatre Slang and Terminology

27 terms


A fool.
a benefit.—Theatrical.
v. to beVariants: been, bien, bienn, buen, beo, bi, bue, by, beonne, bienne, ger. beoþ, pr. s. beþ, buð, byð, bið, beis, bes, beoþ, pl. bieþ, buð, beth, ben, bes, bi, pr. s. subj. bie ; beo, pl. beth, imp. pl., byeþ, ben, pp been, bue, be, y-be, iben, ibeon, +ibeo+, S +ibe+, S +ibi+Etymology: Anglo-Saxon béon


to get the i.e., to be hissed, as actors occasionally are by the “gods.” Big-bird  is simply a metaphor for goose.—Theat. Slang.


business (of which it is a contraction) or action on the stage, so written, but pronounced biz.—Theatrical. See biz.

or buss , an abbreviation of “omnibus,” a public carriage. Also, a kiss, abbreviation of Fr. baiser. A Mr. Shillibeer started the first bus  in London. A shillibeer is now a hearse and mourning coach all in one, used by the very poorest mourners and shabbiest undertakers.

Why is Temple Bar like a lady's veil? Because it wants to be removed to make way for the busses.


the action which accompanies dialogue. “His business  was good.” Generally applied to byplay.—Theatrical.


an actor. Also called a mummery-cove.—Theatrical.


to stick fast in the dialogue; to confuse, or put out the actors by making a mistake.—Theatrical.

Mr. Lewis, of the General Board of Health, from his examination of the contents of nearly 100 coffins in the vaults and catacombs of London churches, concludes that the complete decomposition of a corpse, and its resolution into its ultimate elements, takes place in a leaden coffin with extreme slowness. In a wooden coffin the remains, with the exception of the bones, vanish in from two to five years. This period depends upon the quality of the wood, and the free access of air to the coffins. But in leaden coffins, 50, 60, 80, and even 100 years are required to accomplish this. “I have opened,” says Mr. Lewis, “a coffin in which the corpse had been placed for nearly a century; and the ammoniacal gas formed dense white fumes when brought in contact with hydrochloric-acid gas, and was so powerful that the head could not remain in it for more than a few seconds at a time.” To render the human body perfectly inert after death, it should be placed in a light wooden coffin, in a pervious soil, from five to eight feet deep.

Cully gorger

a companion, a brother actor.—Theatrical. See gorger.


a stage manager.—Theatrical. Also the person who gives away the bride at a wedding.
Father. Old daddy; a familiar address to an old man. To beat daddy mammy; the first rudiments of drum beating, being the elements of the roll.
the old man in charge—generally an aged pauper—at casual wards. Most people will remember “kind old daddy.”


money.—Theatrical Slang.


when one actor criticises another's performance.—Theatrical. Also in street slang foxing  means watching slyly.