Origin of the term "grave-digger"

Posted by Masakim on July 02, 2003

In Reply to: Origin of the term "grave-digger" posted by ESC on July 02, 2003

: : Does anyone know the origin of the term "grave-digger"?

: : thanks, andy.

: I couldn't find anything in my references. Of course, the obvious meaning is a person who digs graves. I am guessing the slang term "grave-digger" might have the same meaning as "widow-maker," a horse or something else that kills.

grave-digger. As _the grave-digger_, strong liquor: Anglo-Indian: late C.19-earlier 20. Ware [[_Passing English of the Victorian Era_, 1909]].
--2. Pl., the last two batsmen (in the batting order): Cricketers' joc. coll.: 1887 (Lewis [[_The Language of Cricket_, 1934]]); ob.
--3. In _like a grave-digger_, 'Up to the arse in business, and don't know which way to turn' (Grose Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue).
--4. The Spade symbol in Crown and Anchor (see Appendix): mostly Services': since later C.19.
From A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by E. Partridge & P. Beale
Jonathon Greene, in Cassell's Dictionary of Slang , adds:
grave digger n.3 [20C] a Black person. [rhy. sl. _grave digger_ = [word removed in order to comply with Google's Publisher Policy] + ref. to SPADE]