Green's Dictionary of Slang provides two definitions of dolo. It writes "etymology unknown" under the headword.

1. (US black) on one’s own, solo.

This first definition is attested from 1991 to 2011, though its use is known to extend to current day.

2. (US campus) secret.

This second definition seems related at first glance, but the attestation from Campus Slang by Connie Eble suggests that it formed as an abbreviation for "down low."

do lo – secret. From down low.

It is here that I am uncertain. My assumption has always been that dolo was rhyming slang for solo, but the final attestation provided under the first definition above, from 2011, is phrased in a way that parallels the expression "on the down low".

Solo, creepin on the dolo, tippin like a low-low.

  • 2011 - Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa ‘World Class’ [lyrics]

That GDoS marks the etymology as unknown without any speculation along the lines of 'possibly rhyming slang for solo' or 'possibly an abbreviation of "down low"' surprises me. They both seem like logical explanations.

The rest of my question is essentially whether either of these explanations can be backed up by evidence, or if there are other possibilities.

  • Are these two senses outlined by GDoS related or formed separately?
  • Is there any evidence that "dolo" started as either rhyming slang or abbreviation, or separately as both?
  • For instance, can early uses be traced to an idiomatic structure that fits with "down low" the same way the 2011 citation does?
  • Is there any other possible explanation?

I had a very hard time coming up with a title to this question. If anyone has suggestions for improvement I'm open to it.

  • Just for clarity, which meaning and usage of “dolo” are you interested in? onlineslangdictionary.com/meaning-definition-of/dolo – user121863 Dec 14 '17 at 20:35
  • @user159691 the meanings I'm interested in particularly are the two for which I included the definitions in the question. Thanks for the research. As always, I encourage you to collect your research into an answer. – RaceYouAnytime Dec 14 '17 at 21:02
  • Just a note, not an answer, possibly a warning: the heavily predominant contemporary use of "on the down low" at present is as described at the Wikipedia entry for "Down-low", that is, it "refers to a subculture of black men who usually identify as heterosexual, but who have sex with men; some avoid sharing this information even if they have female sexual partner(s) married or single." – JEL Dec 14 '17 at 22:14
  • Probably the confusion comes from the use of Dolo as an abbreviation for down low, but it is also used by prominent Queens artists as part of the “Dunn language.” – Andres Mejia Jun 25 '18 at 16:50

Not sure this helps, anyway I’ll post what I’ve been able to find.

As for the “downlow” origin of the second meaning you are referring to, The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English appears to confirm your finding:

Do lo :

adv. secret. An abbreviation of downlow (USA 1999.)

The term appears to be very productive especially in the hip hop scene, and its formation appears to have come through in different ways; acronym, initial letters, assonance etc.


1.Alone. Solo, for self. Going dolo.

3.Doing Shit On your own. not rolling deep. Solo. "usually I'm dolo, but i got a crazy team" - Gangstarr "right Where U stand"

4.D.one O.n L.onely by O.neself. Meaning doing something on your own without the help or advice of others. Informal; originated in the New York area and commonly used by hip hop artists from that particular region.

  • "dolo of delf for self, see there's no one else" - Q-Tip ("Award Tour" by A Tribe Called Quest)

5.Performing an action by yourself. I went to the club by my dolo. I went to the mall by my dolo to cop me some sneaks.

7.Used in many different ways, an additional meaning is of one with little or no money. A slang conglomeration of, "dough," and, "low," it's a quick-reference term when one has little cash available at the current juncture in time.

  • "Hey, yo. You wanna hit up liquor store and drink some tonight?" "I can't, man, I'm dolo right now. Maybe tomorrow."

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