In London, there is a pretty famous bar called "Dirty Dick".

I imagined how I would translate it to my language, giggled, and started looking a resonable meaning of "Dirty Dick".

Here is what I have found:

  1. An excerpt from Wikipedia about the first owner:

Nathaniel Bentley, commonly known as Dirty Dick, was an 18th-century merchant who owned a hardware shop and warehouse in London. [...]

Dirty Dick's pub in Bishopsgate has existed for over 200 years. He was a previous owner of a pub on Bishopsgate, in the City of London, which is named after him.

  1. All the definitions of 'dick' suggested by Oxford Dictionary:

    • a man's penis; (my initial thought, but that's rude to be used in public)
    • a stupid or contemptible man (the story doesn't reveal the detail);
    • a detective (originally, he was a merchant).

What do you think?

Any help would be appreciated.

  • 5
    english.stackexchange.com/a/344867 says dick wasn't really common with the first meaning you list before at least 1850, and Wikipedia says the guy you're talking about lived to about 1809. Further, dirtydicks.co.uk/history says "The original Dirty Dick, whose actual name was Richard Bentley, or some say Nathanial Bentley, was a prosperous city merchant living in the middle of the 18th century." Dick is and was a common nickname for Richard, Rick.
    – user3395
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 10:26
  • 4
    That said, I think this isn't a question for ELL – not because you're asking about something that's potentially vulgar, but because you're asking about some random etymology. While this might be interesting, it invites opinions and conjectures, really, and I don't really see how it might be of help to any English language learner. Perhaps folks over on EL&U might find it interesting.
    – user3395
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 10:43

2 Answers 2


dirty often means "having no scruples" as in You dirty thief! or You dirty liar!

Synonyms in the same register would be crooked, shady, slippery, shifty, and low-down.

  • 3
    web.archive.org/web/20091227110958/http://… says "Dirty Dick's in Bishopsgate also has a tale to tell. For here once lived Nathaniel Bentley, the patron of what was then the Old Port Wine Shop. When Bentley's wife died on their wedding day, he refused to wash and allowed the shop to become suffused with grime and cobwebs."
    – user3395
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 10:28
  • 1
    Whether true or apochryphal, those cobwebs aren't really germane to this site, which is about the language. Surely OP already knows the literal meaning of dirty. I simply wrote "often means", so my answer is factual and informative in relation to a question about "meaning". It might deserve a comment about the history, indicating that it might not be relevant, but if it's going to be downvoted,the reason for the downvote should be stated so that learners will understand it was being judged not in terms of the language but in terms of the history of that publican.
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 10:38
  • 2
    They're asking about the meaning of dirty employed there, though. So, if the source above checks out (and isn't just selling some random story about Charles Dickens), it disproves your guess. There's no need for you to defend yourself at all; I understand what you're saying – but it's the question that's bad, i.e. not really belonging to ELL.
    – user3395
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 10:41
  • 2
    I agree that the question, if it's asking for historical information, doesn't belong here, and that's why I decided to answer it in terms of what such an appellation could mean. To people who don't know the history of the pub, that's what such a name might mean. Nixon was well-scrubbed. :-)
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 10:53
  • you with userr2684291's comment answered me question. Thank you Commented Jun 29, 2018 at 11:37

I think calling Nathaniel Bentley "Dirty Dick" is a play on him being the opposite of the famous person from the same period of time in London society Richard "Beau" Nash.

Beau Nash was the style icon of London at the time wore the best clothes, perfume and makeup, everything Nathaniel was not. People may have started to mock Nathaniel by comparing him in to Beau. ( It's British humour a short man may be nicknamed Lofty, a fat man Tiny). Dick is the shortened form of Richard in Britain. So Bentley became known as "Dirty Dick" if my theory is correct.

I don't think that any of the definitions given in the dictionary can convey that idea in your language.

  • 1
    I'm confused by your answer. If it's a common British humor to nickname people as their opposites, then wouldn't have Bentley also been nicknamed some variation on "clean"? Like "Shiny Dick" or "Spotless Dick"?
    – Andrew
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 15:50
  • 1
    @Andrew in this case the opposite of Nathaniel Bentley is Beau Bromel implied by using Dick in the name Dirty Dick rather than Dirty Nat for Nathaniel.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 19:22
  • Beau Brummell was not the same person as Beau Nash! Commented Mar 11, 2021 at 14:56

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