Green’s Dictionary of Slang

fleabag n.

[c.1910 there was an actual Fleabag in New York City, a cheap saloon at 241 Bowery; note WWI Aus. milit. fleabag, an officer’s valise]

1. (orig. milit., also flea-park) a sleeping bag or bed; a bedroll, a mattress.

[Ire] ‘De May-Bush’ in Walsh Ireland Ninety Years Ago (1885) 91: Bill Durham [...] Was now in his flea-park, taking a snore Fearing every moment the arrival of the real Simon Pure should cover me with shame and disgrace.
[Ire]C.J. Lever Harry Lorrequer 266: ‘I think the gentleman would be better if he went off to his flea-bag himself.’ In my then mystified intellect this west country synonym for a bed a little puzzled me.
[Ire]‘The May Bush’ in A. Carpenter Verse in Eng. in 18C Ireland (1998) 342: Den out of his Flea-bag he straight flew.
[UK]Blackburn Standard 15 July 4/2: Poor Charley would have three or four bottles [...] before he could lift his head off the flea-bag.
[Scot]Glasgow Herald 15 Apr. 2/4: For this sum I had my meals and a ‘flea-bag’ to sleep upon.
[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 7 Dec. 3/2: A slashing pair of knickerbockers and a three bushel ‘fleabag’, his property, were missing.
[Scot]Berwicks. News 5 July 7/3: ‘What! [...] a hundred and ten francs for two days in this hole? — francs a night for that miserable flea-bag!’ [...] flea-bag is a fancy locution of the day for bed.
[UK]Sheffield Dly Teleg. 8 Oct. 13/5: This is my bed. ‘Ere, landlord, ’ere’s a bloke got into my flea-bag.
[US]T. Hampson diary 29 Oct. 🌐 Made a flea bag by sewing two blankets together.
[Scot]‘Ian Hay’ Carrying On 184: As he rolled into his ‘flea-bag’ that night.
L.N. Smith Lingo of No Man’s Land 35: FLEA-BAG Officer’s sleeping bag or bed-roll.
[UK]N&Q 12 Ser. IX 499: Flea-Bag [...] is surely the Army sleeping-bag.
[UK]‘Ford Madox Ford’ Man Could Stand Up 96: He sat up in his flea-bag, dripping with icy sweat.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 75: Fleabag.–A bed roll or sleeping bag. Originally used by tramps and migratory workers, the term was extended to designate an officer’s sleeping bag or bedding during the World War.
[US]P. Kendall Dict. Service Sl. n.p.: flea bag . . . your mattress.
[NZ]B. Stronach Musterer on Molesworth 32: I sat smoking before turning in to my ‘flea bag’.

2. a cheap hotel or lodging house.

[UK]Sporting Times 3 Mar. 2/5: I drove back to seek repose in the before-mentioned flea-bag.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Broadway Financier’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 204: I will be living at home with her instead of in a flea bag in Forty-seventh Street.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 177: We all laid around that fleabag-with-room-service for a couple of gripy weeks.
[US]A. King Mine Enemy Grows Older (1959) 25: One flea bag in the West Forties, the Hotel Minnetonka, left a particularly lurid shadow in my memory.
[US]H.S. Thompson letter 9 Sept. in Proud Highway (1997) 397: You don’t want him to know you’re staying in some fleabag.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 64: Awright, awright, there’s two more [hotels] [...] but they’re complete flea bags.
[US]N. Green Angel of Montague Street (2004) 3: There was still a lot of old fleabags like the Hotel Montague.
[Aus]D. Whish-Wilson Old Scores [ebook] Even double-storey fleabags like the Raceway, made of salmon-brick and orange terracotta, usually had a couple of self-catering rooms.

3. (US, also flea-bed) an ageing, ill dog.

[UK]Kipling ‘Steam Tactics’ in Traffics and Discoveries 188: I’ll protect your flanks in case this sniffin’ flea-bag is tempted beyond ’is strength.
[US]O. Strange Law O’ The Lariat 207: Followed the dawg, yu chump [...] Started for town to see yu, an’ that four-legged flea-bag sneaked after.
[US](con. 1930s–50s) D. Wells Night People 117: Flea-bed. A dog.
[US]S. Stallone Paradise Alley (1978) 28: ‘There ain’t no reason to call Bella a fleabag.’ ‘Hey Vic, that mutt’s got no class.’.

4. (US) an old, worn-out prostitute who is forced to seek equally run-down clients, often on Skid Row, in cheap hotels etc.

[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks 40/2: Flea bag, a girl who solicits (promotes) sailors on the water front.
[US]A. Kapelner Lonely Boy Blues (1965) 93: The man said: No flea bag’s calling me a filthy foreigner!
[US]Murtagh & Harris Cast the First Stone 11: Prostitutes, from the very young beauties to the shabbiest old fleabags, say that [etc.].
[US] in S. Harris Hellhole 169: Prostitutes called ‘fleabags’ because they are inclined to be syphilitic.

5. a general pej.

[UK]R. Llewellyn None But the Lonely Heart 117: You wait, you old fleabag, you.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 71/2: Fleabag. [...] 2. A petty informer; an unprincipled weakling.
[UK]P. Barnes Ruling Class I vii: Yes, he’s a nut-case all right, but then so are most of these titled flea-bags.
[UK]B. Robinson Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman 151: Rumbold and his pal known as ‘Flea-Bag’ turned up.

6. (US black) a troublesome, difficult person who tends, like fleas, to follow around and irritate the individual who has been made subject to their woes.

[US]Hughes & Bontemps Book of Negro Folklore 365: Monkey hollered, Ow! / I didn’t mean it, Mister Lion! / Lion said, You little flea-bag you!
[US]R. Klein Jailhouse Jargon and Street Sl. [unpub. ms.].

7. a smelly person, usu. a tramp, a vagrant.

OnLine Dict. of Playground Sl. 🌐 fleabag n. derog. smelly person dressed in Oxfam style dress, possibly wearing Tesco trainers, possibly having fleas too.

8. (N.Z. prison) a member of the Mongrel Mob biker/prison gang [dogs have fleas].

[NZ]D. Looser Boobslang [U. Canterbury D.Phil. thesis] 70/2: fleabag n. a derogatory term for a member of the Mongrel Mob.