Green’s Dictionary of Slang

scrubber n.

[SE scrub, heavily wooded country, whether growing small or large bushes and trees; note scrubber, one who lives in the woods or wooded countryside is SAusE]

1. (Aus./N.Z.) a rough, unkempt person; by ext. an outsider.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Sydney 2 Oct. 1/3: ‘Not so fast,’ said Forky [...] ‘this Jacob was invented for gentlemen like me, not for scrubbers like you’.
[UK]H. Kingsley Hillyars and Burtons (1870) 329: The auctioneer began: ‘Silence, gentlemen, pray silence.’ ‘Silence yourself, you old scrubber,’ was the polite rejoinder.
[UK]E.E. Morris Austral Eng. 408/2: Scrubber (3) The word is sometimes applied to mankind in the slang sense of an ‘outsider.’.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 14 Aug. 4/8: The Groper-born Weld Clubbers / Will mingle with the scrubbers / The hoi polloi and pubbers.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 July 13/2: Once saw some ‘scrubbers’ – newchums of the runaway sailor class, imitate the practised bushman.

2. (also scrubbie) a cow or horse that has run wild in the scrub and has deteriorated in condition.

[Aus]Bell’s Life in Victoria (Melbourne) 4 Apr. 4/1: ‘But the cattle, by jingo [...] were the wildest brutes the eyes of man ever looked upon [...] the d—d’st scrubbers that over rushed a fence’.
[UK]H. Kingsley Recollections of G. Hamlyn (1891) 212: ‘Scrubbers, eh?’ said the Major; ‘well, we must take what we can catch.’.
[Aus]Sydney Morn. Herald 26 Oct. 2/2/5: [T]he prisoner [...] said he and Jim ran it [i.e. a horse] in off the sand hills, and she was got bv a scrubber.
W.H.L. Ranken Dominion of Aus. 110: There are few field-sports anywhere equal to ‘hunting scrubbers.’.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Robbery Under Arms (1922) 71: Don’t be tearing away through thick timber like a mallee scrubber that’s got into the open and sees the devil behind him.
[Aus]‘Tom Bluegum’ Backblocks’ Parson 71: Scrubbers were stray lots of cattle which, having forsaken the open pasture-lands, found a habitat in the [...] scrubs.
[Aus] ‘Mustering Song’ in ‘Banjo’ Paterson Old Bush Songs 113: We’ve got ’em now—the cows and calves [...] Strangers, workers, and milkers, too, / Of scrubbers also not a few.
[Aus]‘William Hatfield’ Sheepmates 245: They’ll [...] get a gutful o’ gallopin’ an’ start booin’ around lookin’ for the fool scrubber that started ’em orf to give him a well-earned poke in the bingie.
[Aus]A. Marshall ‘Grey Kangaroo’ in Tell Us About the Turkey, Jo 17: They were almost black—‘scrubbers,’ the old man called them.
[Aus](con. 1936–46) K.S. Prichard Winged Seeds (1984) 168: Not a move out of those blasted scrubbers.
[Aus] ‘Whisper All Aussie Dict.’ in Kings Cross Whisper (Sydney) xxxix 4/4: scrubber: Wild untamed cattle.
[Aus]R. Macklin Queenslander 110: An old scrubber bull reared to his feet.
[Aus]R. Beckett Dinkum Aussie Dict. 45: Scrubber: A cow or steer that has gone wild in the scrub.
[Aus]J. Byrell Lairs, Urgers & Coat-Tuggers 257: ‘They’re gonna give this promising three-year-old from up Newcastle way a bit of a workout against the scrubbies’.

3. an unpleasant weakling.

[Aus]C. Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 71: Scrubber, a worthless man.
[Aus]Stephens & O’Brien Materials for a Dict. of Aus. Sl. [unpub. ms.] 134: SCRUBBER: slang a cad, a nobody, a person of mean, dispicable [sic] or ill-favoured parts.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 10 July 1/2: The Foreign Jew and / Dirty Scrubbers. Forgers, Thieves, / Coolie half-breeds— Damned Peruvians.
[Aus]Baker Popular Dict. Aus. Sl. 64: Scrubbers, [...] (2) Any weedy or unpleasant person.
[UK]A. Baron Lowlife (2001) 174: Some scrubber, some no-good dog that doesn’t stand a chance, some cripple, takes a fancy to nose him.
[NZ]G. Slatter Pagan Game (1969) 163: Hungry-gutted bastards — What a bunch of scrubbers.

4. in derog. terms for a woman [? SE scrubber, a charwoman, one who scrubs; sexual aspects suggest poss. link to Aus. term, defined as ‘a mare that runs wild in the scrub country, copulating indiscriminately with stray stallions’ (OED)].

(a) a promiscuous woman, usu. young [orig. in jazz community, where it described ‘a girl who slept with a jazzman but for her own satisfaction as much as his’ (George Melly, Owning Up, 1965).].

[UK]Encounter May 30 n.p.: ‘The scrubbers’: very young girls who follow jazz bands round the country.
[UK]L. Dunne Goodbye to the Hill (1966) 120: Some of them scrubbers that know more than they should about men look for it when you get up off the seat.
[UK]S. Berkoff East in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 58: What an old scrubber-slag-head.
[UK]S. Berkoff West in Decadence and Other Plays (1985) 92: A face like that won’t launch a thousand ships or pull the scrubbers to their beds in Edmonton.
[Aus]S. Geason Shaved Fish 151: She’s a right bitch. [...] Just a little scrubber.
[Aus]R.G. Barrett White Shoes 198: You scrawny, rickshaw-driving scrubber.
[US]T. Udo Vatican Bloodbath 73: Hassan, enjoying the ministrations of Madame Wormwood, scrubber to the stars.
[Scot]T. Black Artefacts of the Dead [ebook] Who were they? Old scrubbers and junkies.
[Scot]I. Welsh Decent Ride 179: [of a man] That wee Jinty wis a bit ay a scrubber aye, but wi aw are given the chance.
[UK]R. Milward Man-Eating Typewriter 238: The scrubbers of Cable Strasse and Bayswater are eager, but rarely possess The Look.

(b) a common working-class woman, with no sexual implications.

[UK]N. Cohn Awopbop. (1970) 190: Pop was the most fun thing, and not only scrubbers from Wigan played the game.
[UK]F. Taylor Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 299: Those exotic Friday nights down the club with all the other scrubbers.