[ bil-ee ]
/ ˈbɪl i /
Save This Word!

a male given name, form of William.
a female given name.
Do you know the difference between everyday US and UK terminology? Test yourself with this quiz on words that differ across the Atlantic.
Question 1 of 7
In the UK, COTTON CANDY is more commonly known as…
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does billie mean?

There are any number of famous Billies out there—Billie Jean King, Billie Holiday, and Billie Eilish, to name a few.

But when it isn’t a name, billie can variously refer to a good friend, a policeman’s nightstick, money, or a pipe or bong for smoking marijuana.

Where does billie come from?

The name Billie is a feminine form of Billy, a nickname of William (from Germanic roots literally meaning “will helmet”). As a given name for women, it peaked in popularity in the 1930s.

There are quite a few famous Billies: Billie Jean King, legendary tennis player; Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer of the punk band Green Day; and Billie Eilish, an American indie singer-songwriter. That’s not to mention possibly the most famous Billie of them all, though her birth name was actually Elenora Fagan—jazz singer Billie Holiday, who chose her stage name from an actress she loved, Billie Dove.

The term billy (also spelled billie) to refer to a policeman’s nightstick dates to 1842. While it was coined in America, billies (or billy clubs), spread to the U.K. In the late 1960s and 1970s, billy was used as shorthand for a cop in the U.S.—because they were known for carrying them. Why billy? It’s probably based on the name Billy, as very common given names can lend themselves to various doodads (cf. Jack).

In 19th century Scottish English, a billie referred to a good friend or companion. Originally, the term referred to “a brother in blood or craft,” as the Dictionary of the Scots Language defines it. It’s likely based on Billie as a common nickname for William, itself a common name. While the first uses of billie were between men, it can be used in the U.K. today to refer to a really good friend, particularly a female. This change is probably accounted for by the fact that Billie is a female given name.

In American slang, billies, a riff on (dollar) bills has been used as slang for “cash” since the 1980s.

Billies is also associated with drug use. By 1959, Billie Hoke was used as rhyming slang for cocaine, though this slang has dropped out. In mid-2000s Australian slang, billie referred to a marijuana pipe, perhaps based on the Australian surf company Billabong or billy, a term for a kettle Down Under.

How is billie used in real life?

Billie can either be a given name or a nickname for William. Calling a cop a billy is rare today, though they still carry billy clubs.

Using billie to refer to a “mate” or “lad” may be found occasionally still in Scotland and elsewhere in the U.K., but it isn’t widespread.

Using billies to refer to “cash” is still somewhat in use in the U.S., particularly in hip-hop, like the appropriately named 2001 track “Got Dough” by Five Deez, where he raps about “big billies.”

The term Billie Hoke, in reference to cocaine, has largely been dropped in modern usage while the Australian billy for “bong” is still getting high, shall we say.

Finally, you’ll also commonly see billies in reference to billy goats (male goats) and in the term hillbillies (disparaging term for a backwoods person) and silly-billies (clownish person).



More examples of billie:

“Billie Eilish’s latest single, “When The Party’s Over,” was written by her brother Finneas O’Connell.”
—Ashley King, Digital Music News, November 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

How to use Billie in a sentence