Origin of Dead Rabbits?

Grant Barrett gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG
Fri Jan 3 20:03:09 UTC 2003

This article by Dan Cassidy purports to have determined the origin of
the gang name "Dead Rabbits."


In Matsell’s dictionary, the word rabbit is "a rowdy," and a dead
rabbit is "a very athletic, rowdy fellow." Rabbit suckers are defined
as "young spendthrifts." A slew of other slang terms in Matsell’s
dictionary jump out at you from the soundtrack of Mr. Scorsese’s film:
ballum rancum for a wild party, crusher for a cop, mort for a woman and
lay for one’s criminal leaning or occupation. [...]

In an Irish-English dictionary published in Dublin in 1992, the Irish
word ráibéad is defined as a "big, hulking person." It is that word,
ráibéad—along with the slang intensifier dead, meaning "very"—that
provides the simple solution to the 150-year-old mystery of the moniker
"Dead Rabbit."

Grant Barrett
gbarrett at worldnewyork.org
gbarrett at americandialect.org
American Dialect Society webmaster

More information about the Ads-l mailing list