Dick

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Dick can be one of several words. There is a proper noun; and OED lists six common nouns and a verb. Only one noun - and the verb, which is related to it - are likely to be of interest to readers of AWE. They should all be avoided in academic writing.

  • The proper noun is an abbreviation: Dick is a short form of the forename Richard. There are two main types of such shortenings: they are convenient for writing, e.g. in lists; or they are essentially spoken pet-names, and thus informal. (See Conventional abbreviations for forenames.)
Short form Long form Informal or written Other short forms Remarks
Dick Richard informal Dickon; Rich; Rick;
Richd (written)

There is a list of similar names at Conventional abbreviations for forenames, as well as the category:short names

Note that any informal form may be spelled in different ways. Notably, any spelling listed that ends in '-ie' may be written with the ending '-y', and vice versa.
    • The phrase "[every] Tom Dick and Harry" means 'ordinary people', a hypothetical random sample; or a dismissive term for 'the ordinary people [not like us]'.
    • The name Dick appears to give rise to joking and vulgar uses as a common noun:
      • a clever dick is a 'know-it-all', someone who is too clever for the taste of the speaker (sf. smart-alec;
      • a dick is a penis, characterized in Collins COBUILD as INFORMAL, ! VERY RUDE), and a dick-head is used figuratively to mean 'a stupid person'
  • In North America, in the twentieth century, dick became the usual slang term for a police detective, presumably as a mangled abbreviation. This led to:
      • a private dick, a private investigator;
      • a house dick, one of the security staff in an hotel - particularly in fiction by such crime novelists of the 1930s as Raymond Chandler.
  • The verb 'to dick [around or about with]] is derived, by a common English association of terms for sexual matters with vulgar disapproval, from dick, the name for a penis. It means 'to waste time', 'to irritate' or 'annoy'; 'to cheat', sometimes by not doing one's duty at the expense of another.