Types of vagabonds, 1566

The following is a list of the "23 Types of Vagabonds" as identified in a 1566 book by Thomas Harman called "A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors, vulgarly called vagabonds." These "types" were the chapter titles and a decade later compiled into a list in William Harrison's book "Description of Elizabethan England, 1577" I'm not sure why "male beggar children" are categorized as "Of Womenkind" unless it's being suggested that they should be under the care of their mothers. From Lists Of Note:

1. Rufflers (thieving beggars, apprentice uprightment)
2. Uprightmen (leaders of robber bands)
3. Hookers or anglers (thieves who steal through windows with hooks)
4. Rogues (rank-and-file vagabonds)
5. Wild rogues (those born of rogues)
6. Priggers of prancers (horse thieves)
7. Palliards (male and female beggars, traveling in pairs)
8. Fraters (sham proctors, pretending to beg for hospitals, etc.)
9. Abrams (feined lunatics)
10. Fresh-water mariners or whipjacks (beggars pretending shipwreck)
11. Dummerers (sham deaf-mutes)
12. Drunken tinkers (thieves using the trade as a cover)
13. Swadders or peddlers (thieves pretending to be peddlers)
14. Jarkmen (forgers of licenses) or patricoes (hedge priests)

Of Womenkind:

1. Demanders for glimmer or fire (female beggars pretending loss of fire)
2. Bawdy baskets (female peddlers)
3. Morts (prostitutes and thieves)
4. Autem morts (married harlots)
5. Walking morts (unmarried harlots)
6. Doxies (prostitutes who begin with upright men)
7. Dells (young girls, incipient doxies)
8. Kinchin morts (female beggar children)
9. Kinchin does (male beggar children)

"The 23 Types of Vagabond" (Thanks, Randall de Rijk!)


  1. It’s interesting to see how some of these slang words evolved into similar ones over the centuries – Grose’s “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” http://boingboing.net/2012/02/21/dirty-words-of-1811.html has “Abram Man” (if I remember correctly) with basically the same definition of “Abrams”.  “Morts” remained much the same, though I do not recall “Walking Morts”.

  2. As I read these, all I could think of was Terry Pratchett. Surely all these trades exist in Ankh Morpork. At the very least, there must be a guild of priggers and prancers. Surely?

  3. Oddly enough, this also reads like a list of suggested names for that punk band you’ve been thinking of starting.

  4. I’m sure an example of each of these chaps lives within walking distance of my house!
    Good job I’m a follygoggin!

  5. I think “male beggar children” is under “of womenkind” because historically women and children have been conflated categories? 

  6. And now I understand why “That’s abram!” means “That’s crazy!” in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the Long Sun. Also much more of Raymond Chandler.

    1. God, the Book of the Long Sun is such a fascinating book!  There was a hundred things I didn’t like about it, but something about the vividness of the world it creates, and the complexity of the whole thing has stayed with ever since I read it.  Wish I had the time to read through the whole of the Solar Cycle again.

      1. Gene Wolfe is hard to read.   To reach that same vividness in something more contemporary yet Elizabethan, read Patricia Cornwall’s Jack the Ripper solution.  Her fiction sucks rancid donkey balls, but in Case Closed or whatever it is called, she actually puts you with Saucy Jack and it is vivid.  If nothing else.  Five star abram. And always pass the port to the left.

    1.  Watching Starksy and Hutch at 7 years old, I thought that hookers were those who hooked people on drugs.  So there’s another category for ya.

  7. I have lost my fire, good sir.  Wouldst thou helpest me?

    That’s a no brainer. I have but to reveal my bic.

    As a student of the Art Institute of Seattle in 1987, forging Metro passes ’twas but of a moment and quite easily accomplished.  The free ride zone downtown made this useless, but if you wanted to visit your brother in Everett, it saved you 65 cents both ways.

    1. American Civil War?
      I’ve heard that they were originally called “Hooker’s Reserves” because of the large number of them who followed General Joe Hooker’s army.

      A “hooker” is also a type of Irish fishing boat- the “Galway Hooker”…

  8. What does it say about the crime rate that they had so many finely crafted words for different kinds of thieves and prostitutes?

    I can’t remember where I read it, but, if you visit a place where the preachers constantly abjure against beastiality, that’s not a nation of animal rights activists.

  9. Could the reason the “male beggar children” are listed under “Of Womenkind” because the reader is being warned about children who are being used as beggars by unscrupulous women?  A gentleman who wouldn’t give to a harlot or slattern might be swayed by a poor urchin boy begging because his mother is too poor to support her children.

Comments are closed.