World War 2 American Slang: A Collection

World War II created a brotherhood, and a language all its own. Men from a wide variety of backgrounds were thrown together in close-knit, often boring, frequently dangerous situations, and slang that came from those experiences tied them together and cemented their brotherhood.

WW2 slang helped create an “us” vs. “them” mentality, where them is not only the enemy, but the “Brass” and folks back home who can’t fully understand the world of the fighting man.


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There are currently 295 names in this directory
Anti-aircraft fire.
Admiral of the Swiss Navy
A self-important person.
With full vigor; determination; or enthusiasm.
Armed to the Teeth
Well equipped with firearms; alert; fully prepared; awake to danger.
Armored Cow
Canned milk
Armored Cow
Canned milk. Variations: Armored Heifer; Canned Cow.
Army Banjo
Army Chicken
Franks and beans.
Army Strawberries
Ash can
Depth charge.
Asparagus Stick
A submarine's periscope.
The company wit; so-called because he's full of wheezes (jokes).
Awkward Squad.
Men who require extra instruction at drill.
Absence without official leave.
Axle Grease
To complain.
Mustard; from its resemblance to that which comes out of the hind end of an infant.
Bags of Mystery.
Bail Out.
Parachute jump from plane; by extension; to get out of a situation like a date.
A broad-assed Marine (i.e.; a female Marine).
Enemy aircraft
Baptized by Fire.
To have been under enemy fire for the first time; to have received one's first wounds.
Bath Tub.
Motorcycle sidecar.
Battery Acid.
Artificial lemonade powder included in K-rations -considered undrinkable and regularly discarded or used as cleaning solution.
Battle Breakfast.
A Navy term referring to the heavy breakfast of steak and eggs commonly given to sailors and Marines on the morning of a combat operation.
Battle Watch.
To do one's best under difficult circumstances.
Bayonet Course.
Hospital treatment for venereal diseases. Bayonet refers to the male member.
A beach where invading forces land
Beat Your Gums.
To talk a lot about something. Variations: Gumming; Jawing; Chin Music.
Become a Gold Star in Mom's Window.
A gentle way of saying killed in action.
Bedpan commando
Medical corpsman.
Behavior Report.
Letter to a girl back home.
Belly Cousin.
A man who has slept with a woman you slept with.
Big Time Operator
Big wheel
Anyone with a little authority.
A term sometimes applied by the Port Moresby natives to the B-24s when they first made their appearance in that area.
Bite the Dust.
Killed or wounded.
Blanket Drill.
A nap.
Blind Flying.
A date with a girl you have never seen.
Blister Foot.
Blister Mechanic.
Hospital corpsman.
Blow It Out Your Barracks Bag!
Shut up! or Go to Hell!
Body Snatcher.
Stretcher bearer.
see 'bandit'
To study.
Borrowed Brass.
False courage inspired by drugs or drink. Variations: Bought Guts; Drugstore Nerve.
Bottled Sunshine.
Boudoir commando
Home-front hero.
Broad With a Heat Wave.
Passionate woman; women with a venereal disease.
Broad With a Load of Lettuce.
A woman of wealth.
Broad With Canned Goods.
A virgin.
Ass-kisser. To curry favor; or boot-lick. Variation: Brownie.
Browned off
Annoyed or fed up.
Brush-Off Club.
Men in the armed forces who have been dumped by their girlfriends. Variation: The Ex-Darling Club.
Big Time Operator: someone who thinks he's important.
Bubble dancing
Buck Private.
The lowest rank in the Army.
Bug Juice.
Insect repellent.
Bunk Lizard.
A lazy solider with a sloth-like attraction to his bed. Variation: Sack Rat.
Burn and Turn.
Game of blackjack.
Cab happy
’Nuts’ about driving.
Canned Morale.
A movie.
Carrier pigeon
Serviceman acting as officer’s messenger.
Cast the Last Anchor.
To die.
Cast-Iron Bathtub.
Catalina Flying Boat
Cat's Beer.
Chair-Borne Infantry.
Desk workers.
Machine gun.
Check Out.
To be killed; to die.
Chicken Berry.
An egg.
Chicken Shit.
The G.I.'s name for service regulations and the seemingly endless make-work chores. Sometimes abbreviated as C.S.
Chow Hound.
Men who always wind up at the head of the mess line.
A civilian
Civilian clothing.
Coffee Cooler.
One who seeks easy jobs; a loafer.
Collision Mats.
Pancakes or waffles.
Completely Cheesed.
Bored to an extreme.
Cooking With Gas.
Having become wise to something.
Cool as a Cucumber.
Alert and aware; self-possessed; calm.
Cool Hand.
One who is cool as a cucumber.
Corner Turner.
A deserter.
Cornplaster commando
Cracked Egg.
A silly or stupid person.
Crumb Up.
To get a haircut; shoeshine; freshly pressed shirt; etc.; in preparation for an inspection.
Cupid's Itch.
Any venereal disease.
The oldest member of a group.
Dead Battery.
An irritable or gloomy person; a pessimist.
Dead Nuts On.
Fond of in love with.
Dear John.
A letter from one's wife or sweetheart informing one that the relationship is over.
Devil Beater.
Devil Dogs of the Sea.
The Marines.
Devil's Piano.
A machine gun.
Devil's Voice.
A bugle call.
Dirty Gertie of Bizerte.
A promiscuous woman.
Dit happy
’Batty’ because of copying too much radio code.
Do a Hitch.
To serve an enlistment.
Do One's Bit.
To serve in the military in time of war; to engage in war work.
A[n Air Force] cadet before he starts flying.
Dog Food.
Corned beef hash.
Dog Show.
Foot inspection.
Dog Tags.
Two metal identification tags worn around the neck; one to be collected and one to be left with the body after death.
Doug’s Dug Out
An uncomplimentary term for the residences of General Douglass McArthur and his family. First in Australia, then later at a well-appointed plantation owner’s house in Port Moresby
The second half of an army enlistment.
Duck Soup.
An easy task.
Dude Up.
To dress in one's best uniform.
Dug-Out Doug
The uncomplimentary term for General Douglass McArthur
Eager Beaver.
A soldier is so anxious to impress his superiors that he volunteers for every job that's offered; or otherwise displays unusual diligence.
Eagle Day.
Payday; also known as the day the eagle shits. A reference to the American eagle that appears on some coins.
Ear Beater.
A person who doesn't let you get a word in edgewise.
Egg in Your Beer.
Too much of a good thing.
Eight Ball.
A solider who gets into trouble so much that he's a liability to his unit; from the old notion that it is bad luck to be behind the eight ball in pocket billiards.
Eisenhower Jacket.
A short; fitted; belted jacket of the type made popular by General Dwight D. Eisenhower during the war.
Emily Posters.
Naval cadets; so-called because they were given a condensed edition of an etiquette book by Emily Post.
Fair Dinkum
An Aussie term meaning (generally) a fair deal
Fat Cat
1) A person in, or associated with the military living in safe and sometimes luxurious conditions. (A term often applied to personnel assigned to posts in Australia, including Red Cross personnel.) 2) An aircraft assigned to fly to and from fat cat areas.
Feather, to
To place a propeller in an edge-on position to the direction of flight to cut down on the wind resistance (with engine stopped.)
File 13.
Abbreviated form of German word Fliegerabwehrkanone; or pilot warding-off cannon (anti-aircraft fire).
A glamorous pilot (usually used ironically).
Flying Prostitute
Term applied to the twin-engine Martin B-26. This aircraft had a small wing area, and was said to have “No Visible Means Of Support.” A high performance aircraft for its day, and requiring great skill to fly.
French leave
Fruit salad
A number of campaign ribbons worn on the chest.
Fouled (or fucked) up beyond all recognition.
G.I. Government Issue.
An enlisted soldier. Being G.I. means doing only what is authorized and not wishing to take any risks.
G.I. Jane.
A member of the Womens Army Corps. Variations: G.I. Jill and G.I Josephine.
G.I. Jesus.
G.I. Joe.
A soldier.
Garbage Catcher.
A metal mess tray with eight depressions in which food is served.
Gasoline Cowboy.
Member of the armored division (usually a tank driver).
A term sometimes used by green pilots for the Automatic Pilot. ( “Let George Do it”).
An office clerk.
Get Cracking.
To get started; to get into the air. Borrowed from the British RAF.
Gibson Girl.
A hand-cranked radio transmitter included in aircraft life rafts; so-called because of its wasp-waisted shape; reminiscent of the beautiful; idealized women drawn by Charles D. Gibson.
A stupid person.
Give It the Deep Six.
Forget it; keep it a secret. From older naval slang for burial at sea; which was known as the deep six; probably from the custom of burying people six feet underground.
Gone West
A term first use in WW1 aviation circles meaning a person had died.
Good-Time Charley.
A person given to carousing; a generous person.
Grandma Gear.
Low gear.
Gravel Agitator.
Mythical creatures who are supposed to cause trouble such as engine failure in aeroplanes, a curious piece of whimsy-whamsy in an activity so severely practical as flying. Now the gremlin seems to be extending its sphere of operations, so that the term can be applied to almost anything that inexplicably goes wrong in human affairs.
Guardhouse/Barracks Lawyer.
A person who knows little but talks much about regulations; military law; and soldier's rights.
Used to describe almost any part of the equipment of a plane, with about the same meaning as gadget.
Had It
That is, "I’ve had it", "he's had it", and so on. In some cases it inferred a disastrous ending
Ham That Didn't Pass Its Physical.
Spam; the ubiquitous canned meat which was served to soldiers up to 2-3 times per day.
Hangar Queen
An aircraft with an unenviably bad maintenance record. An aircraft spending a great deal of time being repaired or maintained.
Hangar Warrior.
An airplane mechanic who boasts about what he would do if he were a pilot.
Used to describe a piece of equipment that was not behaving itself; or an event that took a bad turn. Derived from the use of haywire (baling wire) to make farm repairs.
Head Up and Locked
A term applied to a person reacting stupidly to an emergency. (“He had his head locked up his a--”)
Head Up his a--
same as above
Hot Pilot
Self explanatory
An exclamation of approbation; thrill; or enthusiasm by a man for a woman.
Over fond of women.
A Woman.
Joint Army-Navy foul-up.
Japanese person; anything Japanese.
Army biscuits.
A small; low; khaki-colored car in general use in the Army.
Impassable except by a jeep (said of a rough road).
A German; anything German.
Joe Blow Biography.
A short biographical article featuring a fighting man; written for publication in a hometown newspaper.
Juice Jerker.
Jungle Juice
Alcoholic liquor made with what ever is handy around camp. Some good, some not so good. Fresh or dehydrated potatoes, raisins, dried or fresh fruit, or most anything when mixed with sugar and allowed to ferment would become and alcoholic drink of questionable quality, but alcoholic, nonetheless. Those persons with material to make stills could turn this into a very strong hard liquor.
Just Sweating Member.
Pending or prospective member of the Brush-Off Club; he doesn't know where the hell he stands but the mail doesn't bring in Sugar Reports any longer.
A woman overly fond of men in uniform.
Airplane. (Also cab.)
Knocked Up
Tired or exhausted in Australia; pregnant in the U.S
Crescent wrench.
A German; from sauerkraut.
Landing gear
Latrine Rumors.
Unfounded reports.
Lay an Egg.
Drop a bomb.
Low on Amps and Voltage.
Lacking ambition and ideas.
Mae West.
An inflatable life jacket that fit around the neck and down the chest; and bulged the chest when inflated. Named for the singer/comedienne who was known for her small waist and large bust.
Maggies Drawers.
Red flag used on the rifle range to indicate a miss; as in; He fired a full clip but all he got was Maggies drawers.
Mickey Mouse Movies.
Instructional films on personal hygiene.
Mickey Mouse Rules.
Petty rules; regulations; and red tape.
Million Dollar Wound.
A wound that took a soldier out of combat; and even perhaps back to the US for treatment; but did not permanently cripple or maim him.
Misery Pipe.
Mitt flopper
A soldier who does favors for his superiors, or salutes unnecessarily; a ‘yes man.
Monkey Clothes.
Full dress uniform.
Moo Juice.
Mud Eater.
Ninety-day wonder
An officer who holds a commission by virtue of having attended a three-months course direct from civilian life
A Japanese person. Short for Nippon -a reading of the Japanese word for Japan.
Nut Buster
One-and-only (as in one-and-only-girl).
On The Step
An in-flight condition for a B-24 where the aircraft is accelerated to slightly above its normal cruising speed, then trimmed so that it is flying in a slightly nose-down condition, When the aircraft center of gravity (CG) was properly adjusted fore and aft, and aerodynamically trimmed, the ship would generally maintain a slightly higher cruising speed until disturbed. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: In writing this description of “on the step” the author realizes it will open up a Pandora’s Box of rebuttals. Some pilots say this is just B.S. Others will swear that you could get a ship up on the step. So have fun with this one.)(WEBMASTER'S NOTE: yeah, take it to the message board!)
P.S. Man
One with previous military experience; one with a previous term of enlistment.
The chaplain.
Paragraph Trooper
A member of the Chair-Borne Infantry.
Pecker Checker
A medical person who checks for evidence of venereal disease.
Peep (Son of a Jeep)
Bantam car; used in organizations in which jeep is applied to larger vehicles.
Air Force service member who doesn't fly.
Pep Tire
A doughnut.Pig Snout. A gas mask.
A hand grenade.
A picture of a woman for a soldier to pin up on the wall of his quarters.
Pocket lettuce
Paper money.
A soldier's hometown.
Prang (verb)
To smash or bomb a target.
An "inefficient airman."
Pucker Factor
A term applied to describe the tenseness or danger level of a situation. A high pucker factor could make your old rear end cut donuts out of your seat pack parachute
Put That in Your Mess Kit!
Think it over.
The single-cylinder auxiliary pour plant that provided emergency or additional electrical power
A German; a blend of "rat" and "Nazi."
Regular; first-rate; excellent; a regular soldier.
A veteran of World War I fighting in World War II.
Ribbon Happy
Dazzled by one's own decorations.
Bored;especially on the rocky islands and atolls of the Pacific.
Expression used instead of okay or right.
Roll up your flaps
Stop talking.
A recruit.
Rootin';Tootin' Son of a Gun
An energetic person.
Royal Order of Whale Bangers
An "exclusive" club open only to airmen who have mistakenly dropped depth charges on whales;supposing them to be enemy submarines.
Run-Away Prop
A propeller out of control and stuck in the high speed setting. A truly dangerous condition any time, but especially so on take off
Shit out of luck; often sanitized as "sure out of luck" or "soldier out of luck."
Saltwater Cowboy
Sandpaper the Anchor
To do unnecessary work.
Sea Dust
See the Chaplain
Stop grousing; resign yourself to an unpleasant situation. In other words;I don't care about your problem. Go tell someone who's paid to care.
Intoxicating beverages.
Shack Man
Married man.
Term applied to a pilot or other crew member who has quick and accurate responses to all requirements for his position
She’ll Be Right in a Fortnight or 18 Days
A delightful Aussie saying which meant, not to worry, things will be better in about a couple of weeks or so
'Girlfriend' or 'girl'
Shit for the birds
Nonsense, drivel, irrelevant matter. (A variant,‘That’s for the birds.’ It’s meaningless.)
Shit on a Shingle
Chipped or creamed beef on toast. Abbreviated as S.O.S.
Short Arm
Short Circuit Between the Ear Phones
Mental lapse.
Short Snorter
One or more bills of currency (usually starting with an American dollar bill) signed by two or more persons and dated. The Short Snorter usually inferred that the owner had crossed the Equator, but not necessarily so. It was loosely understood that if an air crew member offered to exchange signatures, and the other could not produce a Short Snorter, then he had to buy the drinks at the nearest bar. Short Snorters were a great way to get acquainted. As different kinds of currency were acquired in one's travels, it was not unusual for two members of the great flying fraternity to swap examples, whereupon the new bills would be glued to the end of an ever-growing Short Snorter
Sleeping pills.
Side Arms
Cream and sugar for coffee.
Sin Buster
Six-and-Twenty Tootsie
A girl who makes a flying cadet so heedless of time that he returns late from weekend leave;thereby incurring six demerits and twenty punishment tours.
A reprimand, oral or written, for a flagrant violation of Army rules. Presumably from ‘skin ‘im alive.’
Sky Scout
Situation normal;all fouled (or fucked) up.
Snap your cap
Become excited, flustered.
Snore Sack
Sleeping Bag.
Son of Mars
A soldier.
Soul Aviator
Clouds;rain;and most of all;fog.
Spud Duty
Kitchen police (K.P.) assignment (i.e: peeling potatoes).
Spuds with the Bark On
Unpeeled potatoes.
Stand down, to
To not fly a particular day, mission, etc...
Poor in quality; low grade.
A soldier too eager for promotion.
Sugar Report
A letter from a girl.
Suicide Squad
Those who operate a machine gun under fire.
Superman Drawers
Woolen underwear.
Superman Suit
Long;one-piece government-issue underwear.
Used in combination with other words, such as: “No Sweat!”, or “Lot’sa Sweat!” This was a very descriptive term meaning exactly what it said. It originated in 1939 or the early 1940’s in the many flight training school s that grew up at that time. The flight training was notoriously tough, and the students were worked by their training instructors almost to the breaking point. In West Texas, California, and other places where the flight training schools were clustered, the airplane cockpit, coupled with the hard-driving instructor, kept the student in a real state of sweat. The students flight clothes, socks and shoes, together with his seat pack parachute could very well become soaking wet with sweat at the end of a brisk period of instruction. When the student would finally get to the showers in the barracks, and a buddy would ask how it went, the student would just as likely say, “S---, that was a no-sweat flight!” Then, his buddy would look at the dried-up salt residue on this guy’s flight suit, and he would know he was hearing that it had really been a tough day, but his friend believed he had survived to fly another day!
Sweat Something Out
Wait a long time for something.
Today;not tomorrow.
Tough situation! Tough shit!
T.S. Slip
When a soldier's complaints become unbearable;his listeners frequently tell him to fill out a "T.S. Slip" and send it to the chaplain.
Table Muscle
Tail-End Charlie
The last airplane in a bombing formation
Taxi up
Come here.
That's All She Wrote
That's all; a customary cry of the company mail clerk at the end of the mail call.
That's for the Birds
Nonsense;drivel;irrelevant matter.
Name given to the look of a man with a combat-harrowed psyche.
Tiger Meat
Tin Pickle
A torpedo or submarine.
Torpedo Figure
A woman with a good figure.
Tough Row of Buttons to Shine
Hard job.
U.S.O. Commando
Hometown hero.
Uncle Sam's Party
Valley Forge
Temporary tent city in cold weather.
Portable radio receiving and sending apparatus. Variations: Handie-Talkie;and Spam Can Radio;after its similarity to a can of Spam.
One who cannot swim.
Wash Out
To be eliminated from flight training.
Washed Out
Failure to make the grade in a flying school
Washing Machine
The mysterious and fearsome flying school administration as it descended on a hapless student to inform him he was being dropped from flight training
Washing Machine Charlie
A term applied, along with copious cuss words to a lone Japanese aircraft buzzing endlessly back and forth across an area, while only occasionally dropping a small bomb, The purpose being to keep the camp awake and in a nervous state. One Japanese airplane this author remembers sounded just like an old Maytag washing machine powered by a small gasoline engine- thus, the name
White Knuckle
A white-knuckle flight was a tense, attention –absorbing flight. It could result from flying in rough weather on instruments, or on a bombing run
A soldier falling in the lowest category in the Army classification test.

WW2 Slang Sources:

“Glossary of Army Slang,” American Speech, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Oct., 1941).
“G.I. Lingo,” American Speech, Vol. 20. No. 2 (Apr. 1945)
War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War By Paul Dickson
FUBAR: Soldier Slang of WWII By Gordon L. Rottman

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