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London Taxi Drivers Glossary and Slang: Part 3 – General Glossary (Taxis and Taxi Ranks)

London hackney carriage drivers in the 1600s became London cab drivers in the 1800s and they in turn became London taxi drivers in the 1900s.

In fact all three names are still in everyday use, absorbed within the taxi trade lexicon as the trade evolved. As the taxi trade in London developed, over the past 400 years, there has always been slang used amongst the drivers. It could more accurately be described as a sub-slang, a jargon that uses both general London slang and a more specific slang that developed and is used only by London cabbies.

This London ‘dictionary’ lists three things: taxi drivers slang, slang used by taxi drivers and London taxi trade specific lexicon or jargon. Some words are historical and not used anymore. Many words and phrases are still in everyday use amongst London cabbies.

Part 3 focusses on: General Glossary (Taxis and Taxi Ranks) and Alternative ‘borrowed’ Taxi Phrases.


All Nations Green Hut, Kensington Road, SW7 A Green Hut is a green hut which serves refreshments for taxi drivers only. There are 13 left. The All Nations gets its name from the Hall of Nations of the 1851 Great Exhibition which stood nearby. Also see Green Hut.
Bell and Horns Green Hut, Thurloe Place, SW7 A Green Hut is a green hut which serves refreshments for taxi drivers only. There are 13 left. The Bell and Horns gets its name from a coaching inn which once stood nearby. Also see Green Hut.
Buzz Box A noisy taxi A lot less common now with clean diesel or electric taxis.
Cab Taxi Origin: French, from cabriolet which was a two-wheeled horse drawn carriage with a hood. First seen in London circa 1823. Also see Hackney Carriage.
Cabbie Taxi driver Usage: mid 1800’s – present; taxi driver, cab driver, cabby.
Cage (the) The passenger area The passenger area in a London taxi is separated from the driver by a partition.
Chapel (the) Green Hut, Wellington Place, NW8 A Green Hut is a green hut which serves refreshments for taxi drivers only. There are 13 left. The Chapel is close to Lords Cricket Ground. Also see Green Hut.
Clock Taximeter A nickname. Also see Taximeter, Zeiger.
Conditions of Fitness Regulations for Hackney Carriages in London, 1679 – present The Conditions of Fitness are the (evolving) legal requirements that make a taxi a taxi: taximeter, partition, turning circle, wheelchair ramp, front and rear facing seats, luggage area, roof height of a gentleman wearing a top hat etc. Also see Taxi and Private Hire Licensing.
Confessionals (the) Rear-facing tip up seats in the passenger area The three seats against the partition.
Cricket seats Rear-facing tip up seats in the passenger area The three seats against the partition.
Divide (the) The partition The partition separates the driver from the passenger area.
Droshky Taxi Origin: Russian, an open carriage. Slang for taxi with Jewish taxi drivers conversant with Yiddish. Many London cabbies were/are Jewish (and whose families emigrated from the Russian Empire).
Feeder Feeder taxi rank Some taxi ranks are long and can be split into a feeder and the main rank.
Flag Indication of availability, before taxi hire lights Before hire lights there used to be a metal flag on the nearside door, positioned up for hire or down if hired. In 1958/9 the electric hire light was introduced on the FX4.
Flag fall The start or minimum fare on the meter at the beginning of a journey Starting fare as the flag fell or hire light goes off and the taximeter is engaged
Freight Luggage Usually stored in the luggage area up-front next to the driver.
Fouling a rank Ranking up incorrectly Joining a rank at an incorrect point; pushing in or joining an overflowing rank.
FX4 (and Fairway) London taxi model, manufactured 1958 – 1997 The iconic mid-late 20th century London taxi. Updated to the Fairway. Also see TX1.

London Taxi - FX4 (London Transport Museum)

London Taxi – FX4 (London Transport Museum)

Garage Garage that repairs, maintains and services taxis Taxi garages almost always only service and maintain taxis.
George (the) Taxi rank near The George pub, Haverstock Hill, NW3 Not a Green Hut but a cafe used by cabbies on the nearby taxi rank.
Green Hut A place of refreshment for taxi drivers Green Huts (cabmen’s shelters) were created between 1875 – 1914 to provide sheltered, non-alcoholic refreshment and food for cabbies. The 13 that survive (of 61) are legally protected structures with Grade II listing:

Chelsea Embankment, SW3. Embankment Place, WC2. Grosvenor Gardens, SW1. Hanover Square, W1. Kensington Park Road, W11. Kensington Road, W8. Pont Street, SW1. Russell Square, WC1. St George’s Square, SW1. Temple Place, WC2. Thurloe Place, SW7. Warwick Avenue, W9. Wellington Place, NW8.

Taxi Green Hut

Taxi Green Hut

Hackney Carriage A licensed London taxi Origin: Disputed, but usually understood to be from old French for an ambling horse (haquenée). Cabbies or taxi drivers were originally called hackney carriage drivers. The original carriages were bigger and heavier than the later more nimble cabs. Also see Cab, Hansom Cab, Taxi.
Hansom Cab Two wheeled horse-drawn Hackney Carriage Designed by Joseph Hansom 1836 and John Chapman 1843.
Kremlin (the) Green Hut, Chelsea Embankment, SW3 A Green Hut is a green hut which serves refreshments for taxi drivers only. There are 13 left. Apparently cabbies with far left political views met here. Closed at time of writing. Also see Green Hut.
Light Taxi hire light On for hire, off when taxi occupied or not for hire. Also see Flag.
Livery Taxi adverts Full livery is when a taxi is wrapped by one advert.
Loaded rank Full taxi rank …when lying foul can occur.
Lying foul Joining a full taxi rank Technically illegal.
Meter Taximeter Abbreviation of taximeter.
Metrocab London taxi model, manufactured 1987 – 2000 Alternative taxi model that passed the Conditions of Fitness.
Penguin Island Taxi rank in the middle of the road at the top of Camden High Street The intersection is called Britannia Junction; not a lot of people know that. Taxi drivers do.
Pit (the) Old taxi rank at Euston Station It was underground. Rank now relocated above ground.
Plate Externally placed taxi license Visible on the rear of every taxi.
Raft (the) Taxi rank at the Gatwick Express, Victoria Station, SW1 Possibly called the raft as it ‘floats’ higher than street level.
Ramp (the) Old taxi rank at St Pancras Station, NW1 Very dingy and ‘victorian’. Following refurbishment of the building the swanky hotel reception and atrium is now, literally, on the old rank.
Rathole Taxi rank at Waterloo Station It’s not that bad.
Rest rank Non-working taxi rank A place for a rest, parking free. There are approximately 35 (2024). There should be more.
Sherbet Taxi Origin: cockney rhyming slang from sherbet dab (a popular old time sweet) for cab.
Smash and Grab Taxi Origin: cockney rhyming slang for cab.
Stop note A cease-and-desist driving order Once issued by Public Carriage Officers, now issued by TPH Officers, if the taxi has a fault or contravention during an on-the-spot roadside inspection. Also see Public Carriage Office and TPH.
Taxi A taxi Common name for a hackney carriage: a vehicle that meets the Conditions of Fitness and is fitted with a taximeter. The driver must be a licensed London cabbie – one who can legally ply for hire. Also see Conditions of Fitness, Taximeter.

London Taxi - Austin Low Loader 1936 (London Transport Museum)

London Taxi – Austin Low Loader 1936 (London Transport Museum)

Taxi rank A legal taxi line Taxi ranks are outside big stations, museums, art galleries, hotels, theatres, big stores, shopping streets, nightclubs and restaurants etc.

Origin: Rank – late 1500s, meaning soldiers in a line abreast. The first hackney carriage rank was in 1634 by the maypole in the Strand (near the church of St Mary le Strand). There are now over 700 in Greater London (2024).

Taximeter Taximeter The mechanical, now digital, device which calibrates fares based on time and distance. It is a legal requirement for licenced London taxis. It’s what makes a cab a taxi and part of the Conditions of Fitness. Also see Clock, Meter, Zeiger.
TX1 (and TX2, TX4) London taxi model, manufactured 1997 – 2017 The iconic late 20th – early 21st century London taxi. Also see FX4.

London Taxi - TX4

London Taxi – TX4

TXE London taxi model, manufactured 2018 – present The TXE is the hybrid electric/petrol taxi, now dominating the London taxi fleet. Also see Fleet.
Temple (the) Green Hut, Temple Place, WC2 A Green Hut is a green hut which serves refreshments for taxi drivers only. There are 13 left. Also see Green Hut.

Taxi Green Hut - Temple Place

Taxi Green Hut – Temple Place

Turn on a sixpence Turning circle of a London taxi A London taxi must be able to perform a full turn of 25ft (7.6m) diameter to meet the Conditions of Fitness. That cabs could ‘turn on a sixpence’ became a saying about the tightness of the taxi turn. An old sixpence is the size of a five pence piece or a dime. Also see Conditions of Fitness, Turning circle.
Turning circle Turning circle of a London taxi A London taxi must be able to perform a full turn of 25ft (7.6m) diameter to meet the Conditions of Fitness. Also see Conditions of Fitness, Turn on a sixpence.
Vito (Mercedes) London taxi model, manufactured 2008 – 2017 Alternative taxi model that passed the Conditions of Fitness.

London Taxi - Mercedes Vito

London Taxi – Mercedes Vito

Wangle (a) An old taxi Often used for learning or rented out to a butter boy/girl (to make mistakes on).
Zeiger Taxi meter Origin: Yiddish, clock. Slang for taximeter. Many London cabbies were/are Jewish.
Alternative use of ‘cab’ and ‘taxi’ slang
Cab Brothel Usage: late 1800’s; derived from cabin.
Cab it To travel by cab Usage: early 1800s – present.
Cab it To pilfer Usage: up to late 1800’s; presumably to transport goods out of a shop via one’s pockets. Could also be short for cabbage, which also means to steal (originally cloth from tailors).
Cab-moll Prostitute Usage: late 1800’s; a prostitute who preferred doing business in a cab or train. Also related to a brothel (cabin).
Cab-rank rule Barristers rule: first come first served Origin: 17th century, rule that barristers must take instructions from the next client who requires the services of a barrister, without discrimination. There are a few exemptions, but like a cabbie on a taxi rank they must accept jobs in order of appearance. Also see Rank up.
Hack Journalist or writer Origin: early 1700s, ‘a mere scribbler’, working job to job, much like a hackney carriage driver.
Hack Prostitute, harlot Origin: early 1700s, working job to job (or punter to punter – see below), much like a hackney carriage driver. A derivation from the mid-1800s was the garrison-hack – her punters being soldiers.
Punter (a) Conman’s victim Origin: late 1800’s, a ‘mark’, the victim of a small-time swindler or grifter.
Punter (a) Gambler Origin: late 1800s, a small-time gambler on the horses or the stock market.
Punter (a) Prostitute’s client Probably linked to the gambling definition, but who, in this scenario, is taking a punt (or bet) on who?
Taxi To cruise along a runway Airplanes do it before take-off and on landing.
Taxi dance/taxi dancer Dancing event where dancers are for hire Origin: USA, at a dance where dancers could be hired as a dance partner.



Taxi Newspaper, 23rd August 2006.

London Taxi Driver Slang, Graham Yates, 2011.

A Dictionary of Historical Slang, Eric Partridge, 1972.

The London Taxi, Nick Georgano and Bill Munro, 2008.

The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten.

Oxford Shorter Dictionary.

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