verbchiefly North American Back to top
mid 16th century (in the general sense 'fellow'): nickname for the given name Richard. sense 1 of the noun dates from the late 18th century.
nouninformal , dated , chiefly North American
- Our city's private dicks are mostly double-dipping police pensioners.
- Williams agrees and Kelso becomes a private dick, trying to work out the details of the murder and to free Williams, for whom he has developed a good bit of respect and admiration.
- The image of a private dick gazing out his office window, a Lucky in one and a stiff drink in the other, is nearly a cliche.
early 20th century: perhaps an arbitrary shortening of detective, or from obsolete slang dick 'look', from Romany.