Definition of hobo in US English:



North American
  • 1A homeless person; a tramp or vagrant.

    • ‘C'mon, he's a movie star, not some random hobo on the street!’
    • ‘In the hard times of the 1930s, unemployed men and transient hobos often took temporary refuge on the island, erecting small shantytowns of tents.’
    • ‘Cohen includes a category of songs about hoboes, tramps, vagabonds, etc. who populated the boxcars and rail-yards in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.’
    • ‘I have a feeling I looked like a homeless hobo that sleeps under anything she can find.’
    • ‘A few hobos and bag ladies wearing multiple layers of dirty, mismatched clothing leaned against the wall adjacent to the bench.’
    • ‘I turned to see an unshaven, uncleaned, homeless hobo.’
    • ‘Lauren laughed, ‘He was probably some hobo on the streets before.’’
    • ‘Nonetheless, hobos, like tramps, acquired a reputation for their carefree way of life, their predilection for booze, and a canon of whimsical folk songs and stories.’
    • ‘So he dressed down, stopped shaving and tried to pass himself off as just another anonymous hobo.’
    • ‘Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Eleanor cared for a succession of hoboes, vagabonds, and bums who called at the back door of the large house the family owned on Hamond Street in Chicago.’
    • ‘When we talked to that deranged hobo in the park who looked kind of like Dr. Phil, you said you'd do anything to save our friendship.’
    • ‘Migration was not limited to the poor, of course, although existing studies of tramps and hoboes present intriguing questions.’
    • ‘He knew it was probably just some hobo, but it was still unnerving.’
    • ‘During my Mother's growing up days an old hobo lived in a dugout in the vicinity of her little town.’
    • ‘Instead the poor guys ‘looked like hoboes and lived like pigs.’’
    tramp, drifter, down-and-out, derelict, beggar, itinerant, wanderer, nomad, wayfarer, traveller, gypsy, rover, vagabond, transient, migrant, homeless person, beachcomber, person of no fixed abode, person of no fixed address, knight of the road, bird of passage, rolling stone
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    1. 1.1US A migrant worker.
      • ‘Mostly young, single, and male, these hobos by necessity and choice hopped the rails in search of seasonal jobs and relief, using their wits, each other, and their labor as their primary means of survival.’
      • ‘Nobody had ever accused this hobo of being lazy.’
      • ‘Anyway, yeah, being a straight-up rail-riding hobo is really interesting, but not for me.’


Late 19th century: of unknown origin.