Definition of scalawag in US English:


(also scallywag)


  • 1A person who behaves badly but in an amusingly mischievous rather than harmful way; a rascal.

    • ‘There was a friendly copper on every beat who knew the young scallywags and gave them a clip round the ear, and sent them on their way, if he caught the stealing the Squire's apples.’
    • ‘And the owner of the property was no doubt a scallywag, trying to defraud the lessee of his money, and threatening to ‘throw [his] things on the street’.’
    • ‘The scallywags and street urchins of 1920s Kingston had come up with a new way of extracting a few pennies from unsuspecting members of the public.’
    • ‘Deliver us a white knight, a true and brave soul who can rid us of scoundrels, scalawags and in-it-for-themselves special interests.’
    • ‘The problem with the young scallywags of today is that they don't have any respect for their elders and betters.’
    • ‘And I still will do this, because scallywags and tellers of tall tales though some of 'em may be, them's my buddies.’
    • ‘I shall not need a horror mask when I open the door to the young scallawags who come trick or treating on Hallowe'en.’
    • ‘Despite the unfamiliarity to the town, Virginia already began to understand that Port Royal was a developed trading town rather than a metropolis such as London, prone to scallywags and dirt, but also housing the finest of Englanders.’
    • ‘The legal beagle started his day in court at 10.30 am and by 12.50 pm had despatched three scallywags to the cells.’
    • ‘Both events have been held here for the last 12 years and, of course there are occasional minor incidents, but to say we attract scallywags who do this kind of thing is quite wrong.’
    • ‘She said: ‘He always wanted what he called his scallywags around him, and he had them at the end.’’
    • ‘One of the essential skills is identifying the difference between a potential threat, and a hapless scallywag.’
    • ‘They go on to become anti-social scallywags who spend their evenings harassing local shopkeepers, kicking in bus stops and mugging other kids.’
    • ‘Haven't the old and the middle classes always felt terrorised by gangs of young, uncouth scoundrels and scallywags loitering in the shadows of our cities?’
    • ‘I also know that if any of these so-called scallywags of the public eye were to sit down and have a one to one conversation with me - they wouldn't last a minute.’
    • ‘Any scallywag could have lifted my letters out hoping to find something of value.’
    • ‘And what of this UN gang where cs so desperately wants us to appear hip and cool - what are those scallywags up to?’
    • ‘To hardened scallywags in uniform, Lacson vows, in rather dramatic language: ‘We shall scorch the earth beneath you.’’
    • ‘Parts of Soho have a slightly seedy reputation, but we decided that being shown around responsibly by two adults would effectively remove the possibility of the two scallywags getting into mischief.’
    • ‘Take off your masks, all you scallywags, and release the politics.’
    rascal, monkey, devil, imp, rogue, wretch, mischief-maker, troublemaker, prankster
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    1. 1.1US A white Southerner who collaborated with northern Republicans during Reconstruction, often for personal profit. The term was used derisively by white Southern Democrats who opposed Reconstruction legislation.
      • ‘Most southwestern scalawags were Douglas Democrats in 1860, while most Upper South and southeastern scalawags were Whigs who supported the Constitutional Union candidacy of John Bell.’
      • ‘Bust times inevitably recall repressed myths of gallant cavalry laid low by Northern treachery and an economy ravaged by carpetbaggers and scalawags.’


Mid 19th century: of unknown origin.