The world of thieving is full of secret words, known only to criminals and cutthroats. Below is a partial list of thieving terms found in Peter Nimble.


Backstabber’s Blight

An ancient curse reserved for thieves who double-cross other thieves. Rumor has it that those marked with “The Blight” are doomed to die like miserable worms.

Bigelow Brank

A famously difficult lock. Touching the mechanism instantly releases spikes from the surrounding wall, murdering the would-be thief. For this reason, the Bigelow Brank has been nicknamed the “you go first.”

Cat Burgler

A thief who enters a building by climbing into an upper story. Compare with “Worm Burglar” and “Smiling Burglar.”


Kidnapping, usually by stuffing a victim in some kind of sack.


The art of climbing completely slick vertical surfaces.


A noisy distraction designed to draw attention away from the crime scene.


A bolt that only moves by a key or knob, instead of spring action.


A gathering of thieves, very dangerous. A famous thieving proverb states that “There ain’t no refuge in a den of thieves.”

Devil’s Dram

A tea made from an obscure root that leaves drinkers weak-minded and sleepy.

Drowsy Dodger

A thieving trick in which the criminal is able to wriggle free of ropes and fetters in his sleep. Rumored impossible.


A metal plate with a slot in it, used to slide over a padlock to secure doors.


Any kind of oil or grease used to lubricate one’s lock picking tools.

Maiden’s Key

A hairpin, perfect for picking locks.

McNeery Twist

A lock-picking maneuver that requires three pins — one in each hand, and a third in the mouth.

Mutt’s Noggin

A tavern, classroom, or similar plain-sight hiding place for criminals. The term originated with the thieving proverb: “Sometimes the safest flea is on the Mutt’s Noggin.”


Thieves slang for “stealing.”


A disguise. The best “patches” go beyond mere costuming and can change their voices and carriage to blend into any situation.

Rascal’s Questions

A list of questions meant to guide a thief who finds himself trapped or in danger: 1) Where am I? 2) Are there friends nearby? 3) Are there weapons nearby?


A decoy, meant to allow a thief to steal something without its loss being noticed. For example, a thief might replace a wallet with a piece of similarly-sized toast.


Rumor, hearsay.

Second-Story Man

Another word for cat burglar.

Smiling Burglar

A thief who enters buildings through the front door. Compare with “Cat Burglar” and “Worm Burglar.”


A pick-pocket’s fingers.

Worm Burglar

A thief who enters buildings by burrowing through the ground below. Compare with “Cat Burglar” and “Smiling Burglar.”