Definition of beggar in English:



  • 1A person, typically a homeless one, who lives by asking for money or food.

    • ‘The streets were crowded with poor dirty beggars.’
    • ‘You might call him a beggar, or a homeless man, or whatever.’
    • ‘I can't spare anything for little beggar children like you.’
    • ‘‘One of your beggars asked me for money for a cup of coffee,’ he said.’
    • ‘The way of it was, I was sent out with a broom to chase away the gypsy beggars at the door looking for food or money, and he happened to step in the way.’
    • ‘We have to discourage begging and simultaneously find beggars another way of earning a living.’
    • ‘It would give beggars a chance to have a decent living.’
    • ‘She was no more than a poor beggar, young, sick and starving.’
    • ‘Rather than return to jail after a weekend outside, Markov became a homeless man, cultivating the look of a madman in order to get more money as a beggar.’
    • ‘For those homeless and beggars in the streets, life was even more miserable.’
    • ‘If I give money to a beggar it is because I want to do something nice for him.’
    • ‘I live in London, where daily we come across beggars and homeless people.’
    • ‘So he never responds when a blind or crippled beggar or a mother cradling her baby holds out a hand for money.’
    • ‘He vaguely remembered his mother telling him those same words many years ago when he was giving spare lunch money to a beggar.’
    • ‘On the way to his house Yuki was flagged down by many beggars and poor crippled souls.’
    • ‘They are so stressed they have become like homeless beggars.’
    • ‘Perhaps, the rich people should learn from the poor beggars who always rummage through the garbage for their daily survival.’
    • ‘I do voluntary work, am a Christian, invariably give money to beggars and try to spread a little happiness as I go by.’
    • ‘How many times have you been asked in the street for some money from a seemingly homeless person or a beggar?’
    • ‘One young beggar, surnamed Liu, begins his work before dawn and can earn more than 200 yuan a day.’
    tramp, beggarman, beggarwoman, vagrant, vagabond, down-and-out, homeless person, derelict, mendicant
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  • 2informal [with adjective] A person of a specified type, often one to be envied or pitied.

    ‘poor little beggars’
    • ‘He was a cute little beggar, looked like you as well.’
    • ‘The poor beggar's badly burned body was supposed to be in the coffin awaiting collection.’
    • ‘There were many a poor beggar who saw the show and realized they could become something if they tried!’
    • ‘Among those who will not be weeping into their hankies over his ‘resignation’ are the poor beggars in York he put out of work.’
    • ‘Indeed, the poor beggars attending the meeting in April would have witnessed Lee's wholehearted endorsement of his chief executive's vision.’
    • ‘The cool million generally goes to some lucky beggar down south.’
    • ‘Let the poor beggars have a childhood and allow reception-class teachers to down their clipboards and go back to teaching them.’
    • ‘Plus listen to my show this week to see how you can get in for free on my guestlist, you lucky beggars!’
    • ‘After all, the poor beggars can't nip outside for a quick drag, can they?’
    • ‘Woe to the poor beggar upon whom he sees, or thinks he sees, spots or blemishes.’
    • ‘Unfortunately it was just another Sunday evening rush trip to keep my hand in, as I couldn't be with those lucky beggars spending the weekend down in Wales.’
    • ‘If it was any other country, you might even feel sorry for the poor beggars.’
    fellow, thing, individual, soul, character, creature, wretch
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  • Reduce (someone) to poverty.

    ‘by being soft to the unfortunate, we beggared ourselves’
    • ‘But I think he would have beggared himself to buy it.’
    • ‘But now after a succession of bad fruit years, it is no wonder the farmers complain of being beggared by malt and hops!’
    • ‘That would stop the competition gaining market share by beggaring your own people.’
    • ‘It is stupid - they should simply write cheques to exporters rather than beggaring everybody.’
    • ‘The latest crisis, in 2001, which beggared nearly half the population, is not the first time that a period of relative prosperity and rapid economic growth was followed by an economic and political disaster.’
    • ‘Or would he choose to beggar the kingdom, leaving it weak and defenceless against his forces, just for the entertainment?’
    • ‘Economically, they will learn of the toll that nuclear weapons can take on economic growth and development even if they do not beggar us completely.’
    • ‘You cannot ‘care for Africa’ and at the same time stand four-square behind multinationals who beggar us.’
    • ‘And while he was beggaring and ruining his country, they were in command of the Arab oil market… of which they're not going to be.’
    • ‘Moreover, it would not only beggar our neighbours but eventually Australia as well, by preventing Australian businesses from competing effectively in global markets.’
    • ‘The nobility, though exempt from taxation, faced problems of its own: many families had been beggared by the wars, and peace left their sons without employment.’
    • ‘It is totally inconsistent to now argue that we must defend the system that has beggared cattle and sheep farmers.’
    • ‘They concluded that creating a conventional military force as large as the USSR's risked beggaring the U.S. economy.’
    • ‘I realise now that my parents beggared themselves to provide the life they did for us.’
    • ‘Not too much to beggar the family, but not too little as to be meaningless.’
    • ‘Now if it could be shown that beggaring rich people inevitably enriches poor people there might be something to say for a crusade against inequality.’
    • ‘They demands that families beggar themselves to send their children to university.’
    • ‘You may be condemning your children to a school career of misery if you have beggared yourself to send them to school with children whose treats and trips are costly.’
    • ‘Apart from beggaring the public purse, it simply beggars belief.’
    • ‘Those of the left claimed that naive women were seduced into becoming avaricious consumers, beggaring their families.’
    impoverish, make poor, reduce to poverty, reduce to penury, reduce to destitution, bankrupt, make bankrupt, make destitute, ruin, wipe out, break, cripple
    bring someone to their knees
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  • beggar belief (or description)

    • Be too extraordinary to be believed or described.

      • ‘He was asked about the lack of coverage of the protest and his reply simply beggars belief;’
      • ‘Why it simply beggars belief that such a thing could happen!’
      • ‘The moan that the new town council members were not formally invited is not really worthy of any comment save to say it beggars all belief.’
      • ‘The scale of the whole thing just beggars belief.’
      • ‘To suggest that it could have happened as a belated reaction to a pre-election budget, no matter how lavish, simply beggars belief.’
      • ‘It beggars belief that anyone could do such a thing, let alone to a defensive pensioner going about her weekly business completely innocently.’
      • ‘It beggars belief that a group of local councillors can really believe there is any merit in this option.’
      • ‘‘Cave-in’ doesn't even begin to describe mismanagement so far off the scale as to beggar belief.’
      • ‘But it beggars belief that so many have been built and bought and no-one making decisions has even thought about how it is affecting ordinary people.’
      • ‘‘It beggars belief that we even got the insurance sorted so that we could do it,’ says Vegas.’
      • ‘The stupidity of people sometimes beggars belief.’
      • ‘Trying to imagine how these structures were built beggars belief.’
      • ‘The behaviour of some of the late night revellers almost beggars belief.’
      • ‘It beggars belief that the system allows funding bids to be assessed in this way.’
      • ‘This film is so cheap, ridiculous and inept, it beggars description.’
      • ‘Although the inadequate measures to deal with the problem beggar belief, what is even more incredible is the mentality of a farmer or a householder who will dispose of their rubbish by dumping it into the nearest river.’
      • ‘The elephants, had, of course, knocked these down in their passage, so going downhill was one long slide and going up beggars description.’
      • ‘Which beggars the question - how did you find this place?’
      • ‘India is so large, so ancient, so complex that it beggars description.’
      • ‘The lack of a cohesive strategy beggars belief.’
      inexpressible, undefinable, beyond description, beyond words, beggaring description, nameless, incommunicable, ineffable, unutterable, unspeakable
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  • beggars can't be choosers

    • proverb People with no other options must be content with what is offered.

      • ‘Sadly not a two-seater but beggars can't be choosers.’
      • ‘It was worth a lot more but beggars can't be choosers.’
      • ‘I've had more glowing reviews, but beggars can't be choosers.’
      • ‘But my funds are getting down to the wire and so beggars can't be choosers…’
      • ‘This is going to be a little messier than I like, but beggars can't be choosers.’
  • set a beggar on horseback and he'll ride to the devil

    • proverb Someone unaccustomed to power or luxury will abuse or be corrupted by it.

      • ‘Or, as he says:— "When by the advice of that eminent physician, Dr. Lettsom, I purchased a horse, and saved my life by the exercise it afforded me, the old adage, 'Set a beggar on horseback and he'll ride to the devil,' was deemed fully verified."’


Middle English: from beg + -ar.