One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A basket from which alms are distributed, or (occasionally) in which to receive alms.
2Figurative. Especially in "to live on the alms-basket" (and variants): to depend on what may be freely taken from what others have provided, or from what is publicly available; (also literally) to live on public charity.
Mid 16th century. From alms + basket.
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