Dictionary of
Carny, Circus, Sideshow & Vaudeville Lingo

This list is just a small part of my e-book "On The Midway," guaranteed to give you many hours of delight, available for a very reasonable price HERE 

This list is copyright © 2008 Wayne N. Keyser,
and may not be used in whole or part without permission.
People use it anyway, it's all over the web - when you see it, think of me.

Carnival Slang & Sideshow Slang:  A-C  D-I  J-P  Q-Z

American Circus Slang    British/Euro Circus Slang    Vaudeville Slang

Ciazarn & The Carny Code    Gypsies    Website Home Page

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"What are those guys saying?"

 Every trade has a history, a culture and secrets, all most vividly expressed in the special terms used by its workers. The "lingo" of any industry serves many purposes: it's a shorthand for the complex tasks unique to the business, it defines who 'belongs' and who doesn't, and it keeps the secrets of the business hidden 'backstage' away from the public. 

Here are the unique words used on the carnival lot, a language that defines a world of wonders. You can dip into this glossary to seek individual terms, but you can also read it as a whole, using it as a detailed guide to the carnival/sideshow/circus/vaudeville worlds (distilled to eliminate the average book's cute anecdotes and to concentrate the essence). I hope it avoids being, in Studs Terkel's words, "like a National Geographic documentary on the Zulu people, all detail and no insight." Some contributors have supplied (but I have chosen not to include) slang terms widely used outside the field. Terms in active use vary significantly between various areas of the U.S.


American Circus Slang    British/Euro Circus Slang    Vaudeville Slang

Carnival Slang & Sideshow Slang:  A-C  D-I  J-P  Q-Z

Ciazarn & The Carny Code    Gypsies    Website Home Page

Privacy Policy    About Us, Contact Us


 "Carny Lingo" glossaries appear all over the Web, mostly from the same source,
and the work should be credited to its originators (as follows).

Many were researched by James Taylor, publisher of Shocked and Amazed, His language is used here with his kind permission.
Taylor's material appears, usually without credit, in many other spots on the Web. Additional contributions from Tom McClellan and from Diana Philips, a third-generation circus performer. Extra special thanks to the real thing:
the invaluable help from the late Slim Price and his (now defunct) Freakshow Discussion Group,
and the current "with it" experts at the Sideshow World Discussion Group and at the Sideshow World website .

Many terms overlap the circus and carnival, but are given only once.

Find an error? Please report it to me. Here's an EMAIL LINK


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