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.

[UK]Marryat Peter Simple (1911) 365: Well, I’m d---d glad we’ve got hold of the beggar at last.
[UK]Punch 24 July I 15: Kick that beggar out!
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) I 81: Why the beggar’s asleep already!
Golden Age (Queenbeyan, NSW) 7 Aug. 3/3: ‘[T]hem Parliament chaps [...] I’d give the beggars a whip and set them bullock driving, and see how high they’d hold their heads then’.
[UK]Wild Boys of London I 261/1: A pretty silly beggarbo you are [...] Why yer sneaking Pug of a Waddling beggarbo, I’ll make yer look nine ways to Sunday.
[UK]Broad Arrow Jack 4: You are the most confoundly cowardly beggar that ever lived.
[US]W.H. Thomes Slaver’s Adventures 348: We is free American citizens, and ain’t used to being run over by every beggar that floats on the sea.
[Ind]‘Aliph Cheem’ Lays of Ind (1905) 50: [We’ll keep him there fast / As long as the beggar will stay.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 199: Greedy beggar, I shall look sharp after him next time.
[Scot]Dundee Courier (Scot.) 14 July 7/3: He’s a nasty beggar.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 31 Jan. 7/3: His love for experimenting, however, was too strong to allow him to confine his abilities to writing up Police Court pars. And slangwhanging the ‘beggar opposite’.
[SA]B. Mitford Fire Trumpet I 163: Lucky that greedy beggar Jack didn’t know I had any more provender.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 17 June 1/4: Though ‘owning’ several pubs in town, / I never lambed a beggar down.
[UK]R. Whiteing No. 5 John Street 181: He is always like that. Rum beggar!
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 2 Mar. 2/3: He’s a droll beggar and makes you laugh.
[UK]K. Grahame Wind in the Willows (1995) 28: Otter hauled himself out [...] ‘Greedy beggars!’ he observed, making for the provender. ‘Why didn’t you invite me, Ratty?’.
[Aus]‘G.B. Lancaster’ Jim of the Ranges 5: He’s an easy-going beggar, but he has [...] a great derry on skyte.
[UK]Gem 28 Oct. 20: He was a queer beggar.
[Scot]‘Ian Hay’ First Hundred Thousand (1918) 66: The beggar in the boat gets it where all mocking foes should get it — in the neck!
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 360: There he goes. Funny little beggar.
[UK]‘George Orwell’ Down and Out in Complete Works I (1986) 164: The trouble is, the beggars scatter as soon as you turn round with the hat.
[Aus]K. Tennant Battlers 215: Oh look! the baby! Jeeze, he’s a fat little beggar!
[US]J. Thompson Alcoholics (1993) 14: The beggar managed to stay stiff enough as it was.
[UK]P. Barnes Ruling Class I xvi: We’ll call the little beggar Bussay d’Ambois.
[UK]C. Dexter Service of all the Dead (1980) 240: There was Philip, a clever little beggar, with all the natural gifts any boy could ask for.
[UK]J. Cameron Vinnie Got Blown Away 166: Get the little beggars treated eh?
[UK]Indep. Rev. 27 Mar. 3: Put the little beggars in, let them out one by one, and pow!
[UK]H. Mantel Beyond Black 174: You daft old beggar.

2. a thing, an object, a creature.

[UK]Marryat Peter Simple (1911) 10: You must larn to chaw baccy, drink grog, and call the cat a beggar.
[UK]Coventry Herald 11 Oct. 2/3: Them there long beggars stand for pots [...] and these here short uns is for pints.
[US]C.A. Bristed Upper Ten Thousand 31: G’lang, you beggar!
[UK]T. Buckley Sydenham Greenfinch 5: [of a stone iguanadon at the Crystal Palace] The beggar is fitted up with seats inside, like an omnibus.
[UK]F. Smedley Harry Coverdale’s Courtship 39: Have you seen the rabbit warren [...] there are such a lot of the beggars jumping about!
[UK]H. Smart Post to Finish II 187: [of a racehorse] ‘Riddleton ought to take the Leger again this year.’ ‘All depends upon whether that beggar thinks so.’.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘The Drover’s Wife’ in Roderick (1972) 47: [of a snake] Stand back! I’ll have the beggar.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 15 Oct. 37: Hit the beggar hard right in the middle of the eye. A crocodile is very tender about the eye.
[US]T.J. Hains Mr Trunnell Mate of the Ship ‘Pirate’ Ch. i: Well, you infernal beggar, do you mean to say that you’ve passed yourself off as a seaman?
[UK]T. Burke Nights in Town 223: I can feel the little beggars dropping on my helmet.
[NZ]‘Anzac’ On the Anzac Trail 22: [T]he beggars kept dropping on us below. We didn’t like it; there are nicer things than fishing for lively cockroaches inside your shirt.
[US]F. Packard Adventures of Jimmie Dale (1918) I viii: [of a safe] Type K-four-two-eight-Colby [...] A nasty little beggar—and it’s eleven o’clock now!
[US]O. Strange Sudden Takes the Trail 208: Hell! [...] The beggars must be damn’ near all teeth.
A. Groom I saw Strange Land 142: Don’t you camella be cranky beggar.

SE in slang uses

In derivatives

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

in card-playing, the lower cards, marked two–ten.

[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 66/2: C.19–20 ob.

In compounds

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

an enthusiast, one who is keen on, e.g. a beggar for work, a beggar to argue.

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor II 178/2: Father vos allus a rum ’un; – sich a beggar for lush.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 5 July 18/3: There was once the son of a Gunn, / A beggar to slog and to run; / He hit ’em so fast / That our boys looked aghast / A groaned ‘He has collared the bun.’.
[UK]Sporting Times 10 Feb. 1/3: ‘How much are the grapes?’ ‘Half-a-guinea a pound, sir,’ answered the maiden. ‘Ah, I’m a beggar for fruit. How much are the peaches?’ ‘A guinea a-piece, sir.’ ‘Ah, I’m a beggar for fruit. Have you got any carrots?’.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 13 Feb. 1/3: Like the sailor’s cockatoo, they must be ‘beggars to think’.
[Aus]G. Seagram Bushman All 164: He’s a beggar to graft, an’ strong as a horse.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 22 Dec. 13/2: Anyhow, he never smiled again – and he had been a beggar to smile.
[Aus]Sport (Adelaide) 31 Jan. 9/3: They Say [...] That Teresa C. you are a beggar for the boys.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper XL 5 281: Jack’s a beggar for grub.
beggar’s benison (n.) [SE benison, blessing]

a popular toast, i.e. ‘may your prick and purse never fail you’ (Grose, 1785).

W. Dunkin Parson’s Revels (2010) 112: Long may the Parson shake his Leg, / Nor want good-Living, nor the Beg- / -gar’s Benison.
[UK]Smollett Humphrey Clinker (1925) II 65: Mr. Fraser proposed the following toasts, which I don’t attempt to explain: – ‘The best in Christendom’ [...] ‘The beggar’s benison’.
[UK]O. Reynard Badge of Folly n.p.: Then he deserves the Bastille [...] and is notm worthy of the beggar’s benison.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: The beggar’s benison: May your ***** and purse never fail you.
[UK]‘Bumper Allnight. Esquire’ Honest Fellow 218: Sentiments [...] The beggar’s benison — [A thatched cabin, clean straw, and a sound wench; or, That P— and C— may never fail you].
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 9: Benison — is derived from the French Benir, to bless, bennissez — bless him (or her), and came over with the first Norman. ‘The Beggar’s Benison’ is a jocose toast or sentiment:— ‘May our p—s or purses never fail us.’ ‘The Devil’s Benison,’ is shocking to relate: ’tis damnatory.
beggar’s bolts (n.) [SE bolt, an arrow; thus a projectile]


[UK]T. Hudson Judith in Sylvester Du Bartas (1608) 698: A pack of country clowns that them to battail bownes With beggers bolts and levers [OED].
beggar’s bullets (n.) [poverty deprives the beggar of an actual weapon]


[Scot]Caledonian Mercury 13 Mar. 3/1: A numerous Mob of Females, armed with Clubs and Bdeggar-bullets [...] attaked the Revenue-men.
[UK]Derby Mercury 8 June 1/3: Large Stones and smaller Pebbles were flung up [and] the House was thus battered with Beggars Bullets.
Hiberian Jrnl 3 Jan. 1/4: But sahould we chance to meet / A tough or stubborn Foe, / Where Crutches can’t assail, / We’ll Beggar’s Bullets throw.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[Ire]Dublin Eve. Post 7 June 3/3: His Grace and suite were assaulted with a shower of beggars bullets.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 8: Beggars’ bullets — stones, thrown by a mob, who then get fired upon, as a matter of course.
[UK]E. de la Bédollière Londres et les Anglais 313/1: beggard’s [sic] bullets, [...] pierres.
beggar’s bush (n.) (also beggar’s barn) [to be reduced, like a beggar, to sleeping under a bush, but note Fuller (1662)]

used in phrs. such as go home by beggar’s bush to imply that one is ruined.

W. Bullein Dialogue 78: In the ende thei go home [...] by weepyng cross, by beggers barne, and by knaues acre.
[UK]Greene Quip for an Upstart Courtier B: They themselves walking home by Beggar’s Bush for a penance.
[UK]H. Porter Two Angry Women of Abington G4: They haue daunst a galliard at Beggars bush for it.
[UK]Fuller Worthies (1840) II 398: ‘This is the way to Beggar’s-bush.’ It is spoken of such who use dissolute and improvident courses, which tend to poverty; Beggar’s-bush being a tree notoriously known, on the left hand of London road from Huntingdon to Caxton.
[UK]Saunders’s News-Letter 26 Dec. 1/4: The Coronation of King Clause (the King of the Beggars) at Beggar’s Bush.
[UK]Grose Provincial Gloss. (1811) [as cit. 1662].
beggar’s lagging (n.) [lagging n. (2)]

(UK prison) a sentence of 90 days’ imprisonment, commonly that meted out for vagrancy.

[UK]P. Tempest Lag’s Lex. 15: beggar’s lagging A three months’ sentence of imprisonment.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
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]

corduroy, cotton velvet.

[UK]London Gazette 2370 4: A person [...] in a dark grey Cloth Coat [...] Breeches of beggar’s plush [F&H].
beggar’s schmaltz (n.)

(US) chicken fat.

[US]S.J. Perelman letter 26 Apr. in Crowther Don’t Tread on Me (1987) 29: 32 m. chicken fat (also called ‘beggar’s schmaltz’).
beggar’s velvet (n.) [SE beggar’s velvet, ? cotton plush or ? corduroy]

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

[UK]Halliwell Dict. Archaic and Provincial Words I 159/1: beggars-velvet. The light particles of down shaken from a feather-bed, and left by a sluttish housemaid to collect under it.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.

In phrases

put the beggar on the gentleman (v.)

to drink beer after spirits.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 66/2: mid-19C–20.
scratch a beggar’s arse (v.) [arse n. (1); plus pvb ‘you’ll scratch a beggar before you die’, you will die in poverty ]

to be impoverished.

C.B. Driscoll Kansas Irish 263: He was staggering down toward the haystacks, shouting back an occasional defiance, and a threat to go back to Ireland and scratch a beggar’s arse in peace.