Green’s Dictionary of Slang

angler n.

[fishing imagery]

1. (UK Und., also anglero) a thief who uses a pole, the angling stick, with a hook at one end to ‘fish’ items from open windows, unguarded market stalls, passing carts etc.

[UK]Harman Caveat for Common Cursetours in Viles & Furnivall (1907) 35: These hokers, or Angglers, be peryllous and most wicked knaues, and be deryued or procede forth, from the vpright men; they commenly go in frese ierkynes and gaily slopes, poynted benethe the kne; these when they practise there pylfringe, it is all by night.
[UK]Greene Blacke Bookes Messenger 29: Neuer was gentle Angler so drest, for his face, his head, and his necke, were all besmeared with the soft sirreuerence, so as hee stunke worse than a Iakes farmer.
[UK]Dekker Belman of London C1: Then haue we Anglers, but they seldome catch fish, till they go vp west-ward for Flounders. [Ibid.] C4: An Angler is a lymb of an Vprightman, as beeing deriued from him: their apparell in which they walke is commonly frieze Jerkins and gaily Slops. [...] The Rod they angle with is a staffe of fiue or six foote [...] and with the same doe they angle at windowes about midnight; the draught they pluck up being apparell, sheetes, couerlets, or whatsoever their yron hookes can lay hold of.
[UK]Middleton & Dekker Roaring Girle V i: Tearcat what are you? a wild rogue, an angler, or a ruffler?
[Ire]Head Eng. Rogue I 38: Hookers, (alias) Anglero.
[Ire]Head Canting Academy (2nd edn) 44: Anglers are so called, because they have a Rod or Stick within an Iron hook at the end of it with which they Angle in at Windows [...] where all is Fish to them.
[UK]R. Holme Academy of Armory Ch. iii item 68b: Give me leave to give you the names (as in their Canting Language they call themselves) of all (or most of such) as follow the Vagabond Trade, according to their Regiments or Divisions, as [...] Anglers, such as draw Cloaths out of Houses with hook staffs.
[UK]‘Black Procession’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 38: The ninth is an angler, to lift up a grate / If he sees but the lurry his hooks he will bait.
[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: Anglers, alias hookers; the Third Order of Villains: Petty Thieves, who have a Stick with a Hook at the End, wherewith they pluck Things out of Windows, Grates, & […] Make ready your Angling-stick; a Word of Command used by these petty Villains to get ready the Stick with which they perform their Pranks, and as a Signal of a Prey in Sight.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict. n.p.: [as cit. 1725].
[UK]B.M. Carew ‘The Oath of the Canting Crew’ in Farmer Musa Pedestris (1896) 51: No dimber damber, angler, dancer, / Prig of cackler, prig of prancer.
[UK]Scoundrel’s Dict. 29: The Angler is one that takes a Quarry of Glass out of a Casement, and so opening it, with a long Pole and Hook at the End on’t, pulls to him what he can conveniently reach.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 4: Thieves who with a hook at the end of a mopstick drag to them the ends of cloth which may lie exposed, and so pull out entire pieces.
[UK]G. Kent Modern Flash Dict.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[US]Matsell Vocabulum 8: Anglers, small thieves who place a hook on the end of a stick, and therewith steal from store-windows, doors, etc. It also applies to fencemen; putters up, etc.
[UK] ‘The Thief-Catcher’s Prophecy’ in W.H. Logan A Pedlar’s Pack of Ballads 143: The ninth is an Angler, to lift up a grate.
[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict 4: Anglers, persons stealing from houses by means of rods or sticks.
Riverine herald (Echuca, Vic.) 8 Jan. 2/5: A new type of burglar known to police as ‘the angler’ has appeared in Melbourne [...] He operates only from outside bedroom windows when everybody is asleep. He uses a long stick with wire at the end. With this he ‘fishes’ his victims’ clothes.
[UK]R. Fabian Anatomy of Crime 193: Angler: Thief who steals from open windows, etc., with a hooked stick.
[UK]Observer Crime 27 Apr. 28: Angler. A thief who uses a rod or pole to steal from ground-floor windows. It has evolved to car-key theft from hall tables through the letterbox.

2. (UK Und.) a pickpocket; thus angle, to pick a pocket.

[UK]Proc. Old Bailey 7 July n.p.: [Her] watcht him, and saw him dive in one mans pocket without any booty, then he came to this woman, and angled out her Handkerchief.
[UK]N. Ward A Frolic to Horn-Fair 16: He that brings Money to this Fair, must look after his Pockets, for the Waterlane Anglers are here as busie as Milk-Maids on a May-Day.

3. (Und.) a petty thief, working in the street and always on the lookout for opportunities to commit small larcenies.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[US]Breckenridge News (Cloveport, KY) 23 Aug. 3/3: My earliest years were spent among ackneffs [sic] and when I could hardly more than walk I was an ‘angler’.
[US]S. Clapin New Dict. Americanisms 19: Angler, in thieves’ slang, a street prowler, generally belonging to a gang of petty thieves, and who is always on the lookout for opportunities to commit small larcenies.

4. (UK/US Und.) a confidence trickster.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: anglers [...] those who draw in or entice unwary persons to prick at the belt, or such like devices.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 30 Sept. 3/1: [headline] Oscar Wilde Flirts With an Actress and is Hooked. / The Sunflower ‘Sucker’ Landed and Utilized by the Angler as a Three-sheet Poster.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

5. (UK Und., also starrer) a smash-and-grab thief; also ext. as anglers in troubled water.

[UK]H.T. Potter New Dict. Cant (1795) n.p.: Anglers, otherwise starrers an order of thieves who make it a pactice [sic] to go about for the purpose of breaking shew glasses in jeweller’s windows, and stealing goods.
[UK]G. Andrewes Dict. Sl. and Cant [as cit. a.1790].
[UK][T. Wontner] Old Bailey Experience 373: Starrers [...] With a pointed and well-tempered knife, one of the picks a hole by scraping out the putty [and] stars the glass, dividing it in two, by causing it to crack from top to bottom.
[Ire]Sthn Reporter (Cork) 8 Mar. 4/2: Starrers. This is a crime which comes under the head of housebreaking, as, in law, an entry has been made through the broken glass.
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open [as cit. a.1790].
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict. n.p.: Anglers in troubled water a class of thieves whose practice is in breaking show-glasses in jeweller’s windows, and stealing seals, rings and other articles of value.