Green’s Dictionary of Slang

beggar n.

also beggarbo

1. a man, a person, used both negatively, e.g. a nasty-looking beggar, and positively or affectionately, e.g. you’re a funny beggar.

2. a thing, an object, a creature.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

beggars (n.) [they are inferior to the ‘court’ cards]

[19C–1900s] in card-playing, the lower cards, marked two–ten.

In compounds

beggar for (n.) (also beggar to) [they lit. beg for the subject]

[mid-19C+] an enthusiast, one who is keen on, e.g. a beggar for work, a beggar to argue.

beggar-maker (n.) [their depriving people of money]

[late 18C–early 19C] a publican.

beggar’s benison (n.) [SE benison, blessing]

[late 18C–early 19C] a popular toast, i.e. ‘may your prick and purse never fail you’ (Grose, 1785).

beggar’s bolts (n.) [SE bolt, an arrow; thus a projectile]

[late 16C] stones.

beggar’s bullets (n.) [poverty deprives the beggar of an actual weapon]

[mid-late 18C] stones.

beggar’s bush (n.) (also beggar’s barn) [to be reduced, like a beggar, to sleeping under a bush]

[late 16C–18C] used in phrs. such as go home by beggar’s bush to imply that one is ruined.

beggar’s lagging (n.) [lagging n. (2)]

[1940s–50s] (UK prison) a sentence of 90 days’ imprisonment, commonly that meted out for vagrancy.

beggar’s plush (n.) [SE plush, a kind of cloth having a nap longer and softer than that of velvet; used for rich garments, e.g. footmen’s liveries]

[late 17C] corduroy, cotton velvet.

beggar’s schmaltz (n.)

[1940s] (US) chicken fat.

beggar’s velvet (n.) [SE beggar’s velvet, ? cotton plush or ? corduroy]

[mid-19C] particles of lint and similar household dirt that gather behind or beneath sofas, tables or beds (often following the shaking of an eiderdown).

In phrases

beggar boy’s (ass) (n.) [note this is the UK SE ass, donkey, not ass n. (2) or arse n. (1)]

1. [late 19C+] money.

2. [1930s+] Bass ale.

biscuit beggar (n.) [? their poverty]

[1960s] (US) a Native American.

eat like a beggar man and wag one’s under jaw

[late 18C–early 19C] ‘a jocular reproach to a proud man’ (Grose, 1785).

put the beggar on the gentleman (v.)

[mid–late 19C] to drink beer after spirits.

scratch a beggar’s arse (v.) [arse n. (1); plus pvb ‘you’ll scratch a beggar before you die’, you will die in poverty ]

[1940s] to be impoverished.