Green’s Dictionary of Slang

bum n.3

[abbr. bummer n.3 (1); most senses development of sense 1]

1. [mid-19C+] (US) a tramp, a vagrant.

2. [20C+] (US) a term of abuse for anyone unpleasant.

3. [20C+] (boxing) a poor, incompetent fighter; similarly used of a racehorse.

4. [1900s] (US Und.) a travelling thief.

5. [1910s] (US) a worldly, promiscuous man.

6. [1910s–20s] an incompetent sportsman (other than a boxer).

7. [1920s–50s] something worthless or unsatisfactory.

8. [1920s+] a general term of address, as often affectionate as hostile.

9. [early 19C; 1920s+] (US) a promiscuous woman; a prostitute [pun on sense 1, i.e. tramp and tramp n. (2)].

10. [1920s+] (US) a fan or obsessive; usu. of a specified sport, e.g. scuba bum, surf bum.

11. [1930s] (US Und.) an experienced criminal.

12. [1940s+] a semi-professional athlete who makes a living training others rather than entering high-grade competitions, e.g. tennis bum, ski bum, surf bum.

13. [1960s] a thug, a member of a criminal gang.

14. [1970s+] an incompetent.

In compounds

bum-bitch (n.) [bitch n.1 ]

[1990s+] (US black) a derog. term for a young street girl.

bum-boozer (n.) (also bumbooser) [boozer n. (1); note use of term to describe a specialized extra-large marble used for shooting]

[late 19C–1920s] a drunkard.

bum factory (n.) (US)

1. [late 19C-1910s] a saloon or liquor store, the image is of the creation of vagrant alcoholics .

2. [late 19C-1930s] a cheap hostel.

3. (1920s-30s) a mission.

bum gang (n.)

[1920s] (US prison) the prisoners who perform the most unpleasant tasks.

bum’s rush (n.)

see separate entry.

bum van (n.)

[1980s+] (Aus. prison) the van that transports prisoners to prison.

In phrases

on a/the bum (US)

1. [mid-19C+] travelling as a tramp or beggar, scrounging, cadging.

2. [late 19C] looting.

3. [20C+] penniless.

make a bum of (v.)

1. [20C+] to make someone look a fool.

2. [1920s] to make a mess of, to do badly.

put the bum on (v.)

1. [1920s+] (US) to beg from someone.

2. [1970s] to interfere, to harass.