Definition of vagrant in US English:



  • 1A person without a settled home or regular work who wanders from place to place and lives by begging.

    • ‘The number of vagrants also seems to be increasing.’
    • ‘The despair and hopelessness of these unfortunate individuals whom we term vagrants are always in full view, right before our eyes, a constant reminder that our values are not what they should be.’
    • ‘There is growing concern among community leaders that drunks and vagrants are causing problems in public places, and volunteers are now carrying out sweeps of the shopping area to weed out troublemakers.’
    • ‘Council chiefs in Doncaster are planning to ‘design out crime’ by sealing off alleyways between houses which have become a haven for criminals, vandals and vagrants.’
    • ‘There is no doubt that Port-of-Spain could do with cleaning up; but dealing with the perennial, thorny issue of vagrants is a far larger matter than merely one aspect of beautifying the capital.’
    • ‘The civic space in the middle of the complex, which is utilised mainly by vagrants and is largely untouched by the current redevelopment proposal, would be both ideal and ample for such purpose.’
    • ‘When Atlas Bakery permanently turned off the ovens and left the building it became, over the past five years, a favourite spot for vagrants, pigeons and party organisers.’
    • ‘When Stern bought his first camera in 1948, he wandered around the Bowery in Chinatown, photographing vagrants.’
    • ‘Mr O'Donoghue insisted that just a handful of vagrants were causing trouble for people and that he was not insisting that all were creating a menace in the boom city.’
    • ‘Under the plans, instead of money being given to vagrants, well-meaning shoppers can put it in yellow collection boxes dotted around the major stores in Swindon.’
    • ‘Mayors have no moral grounds to complain about good Samaritans who feed vagrants when all else that's available to the homeless are sterile, unattractive environments.’
    • ‘Residents said since the murder was discovered, police paramilitaries had been conducting an aggressive campaign to check identities in a search for vagrants, who are the prime suspects.’
    • ‘We did hear reports it had been occupied by vagrants, but no definite report of anyone being inside.’
    • ‘Identifying a clear-cut programme, the National Women's Action Committee announced a campaign to rid the streets of vagrants.’
    • ‘I wandered down dirty streets, past vacant looking vagrants, and across a railway line. All was dark and dusty.’
    • ‘These once-a-year events, where the city's vagrants would move from the warm soup factories in the north to their usual habitat of the Strongbow breweries in the city's south, were the scourge of the middle classes.’
    • ‘The advocates' favorite justification for keeping vagrants on the street in plain view was that the shelters were ‘dangerous.’’
    • ‘In addition to existing handouts, vagrants can choose from a list of new options of receiving free dental care, employment assistance, and substance abuse counseling.’
    • ‘The brilliant camera work sympathetically follows him from street corners where he shares a dazed smoke with a couple of wrinkled vagrants to a silent pond where his exhausted mind conjures up startling hallucinations.’
    • ‘In addition to a person to lock the gates, a night watchman has been employed to keep the vagrants from climbing over the fence at night and sleeping on the stalls where food is sold during the day.’
    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. 1.1archaic A wanderer.
      • ‘Of the Mayflower colonists at Plymouth there were only 35 members of an identifiable Puritan congregation, with 67 other migrants ranging from entrepreneurs to vagrants.’
      • ‘Though he be a vagrant and wanderer, he knows that which must be done to heal this place.’
      • ‘It's one of those movies that celebrates vagrants at the expense of people who are settled down in life, but then expects us to be happy when the main vagrants in the story all decide to settle down at the end.’
    2. 1.2Ornithology A bird that has strayed or been blown from its usual range or migratory route.
      Also called accidental
      • ‘The nesting population in North America may not be self-sustaining, and is supplemented by an influx of European vagrants.’
      • ‘Although most of the birds sighted are to be expected in an ordinary spring, each year there is sure to be at least one outstanding vagrant.’
      • ‘Yellow-billed Cuckoos are officially considered extirpated in Washington, and the occasional sightings are vagrants.’
      • ‘Snowy Plovers are rare vagrants to eastern Washington in April and May.’
      • ‘This bird may have been a visitor from Victoria, or a vagrant from the population in eastern Asia.’


  • 1attributive Characteristic relating to or living the life of a vagrant.

    ‘vagrant beggars’
    • ‘The child vagrant population is growing and is a virtual time bomb waiting to explode.’
    • ‘I am now no better than your pregnant vagrant friend in the eyes of the government, and I expect I will be treated with exactly the same lack of sympathy.’
    • ‘In Elizabethan England the poor laws were enacted to control vagrant men who were seen as subversive.’
    • ‘It houses, clothes, and feeds orphans, abandoned children, and vagrant children from dysfunctional families, ranging from 5-17 years of age.’
    • ‘I asked him what he, as a sharp lad, thought was the cause of so many boys becoming vagrant pickpockets?’
    • ‘A recent law that bars police from rousting homeless people from the city has expanded the vagrant population in a city unused to street people.’
    • ‘She has a group of friends, all vagrant children eking out a living doing odd jobs, from boot polishing to selling flowers to rag-picking.’
    • ‘Nineteenth-century legislation very often targeted the social control of abandoned or orphaned children, since unruly vagrant youths were seen as potentially dangerous to society.’
    • ‘John Pounds’ work with vagrant children led to the Ragged School movement and began the concept of a universal education for all.’
    • ‘We know you ran away with those vagrant teenagers.’
    • ‘The 1856 County and Borough Act was motivated partly by dread of vagrant criminality associated with the end of the Crimean War and the prospect of a footloose army of unemployed returning soldiers.’
    • ‘Each sibling feels the need to break away - Emma to follow her new dream of being an archaeologist, Blue to track down his elusive and by now vagrant father, whom he finds squatting in an abandoned warehouse.’
    • ‘Would the advocates back off if police brought vagrant lawbreakers to shelters instead of arresting them?’
    • ‘The civic authorities plead helplessness in feeding the vagrant population and point out that a proposal to rehabilitate them in the suburbs is hanging fire.’
    • ‘Police say he got the boys from the South Pattaya pier area where there are a lot of vagrant children.’
    • ‘Along with San Francisco paying their vagrants and Chicago now planning on building homes along with paying them, the vagrant lifestyle is becoming more and more attractive.’
    • ‘There was a vagrant family living there and when I asked them what this place was, they said it was a Jewish school for children.’
    homeless, drifting, transient, roving, roaming, floating, unsettled, footloose, itinerant, wandering, nomadic, travelling, ambulatory, mobile, on the move, journeying, rambling, touring, vagabond, migrant, migrating, migratory, rootless
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    1. 1.1 Moving from place to place; wandering.
      ‘vagrant whales’
      • ‘We hear of these wild, vagrant saints, rather along the lines of John the Baptist.’
      • ‘I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.’
      • ‘But in Folkestone, the sun glinted off the sea and vagrant scavenging gulls wheeled around.’
      • ‘Even the Hudson seems crystalline, vagrant chunks of ice drifting spectrally out to sea.’
      • ‘I have to find my vagrant husband for the next dance, and I expect to see you two out there, too.’
      homeless, drifting, transient, roving, roaming, floating, unsettled, footloose, itinerant, wandering, nomadic, travelling, ambulatory, mobile, on the move, journeying, rambling, touring, vagabond, migrant, migrating, migratory, rootless
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2literary Moving or occurring unpredictably; inconstant.
      ‘the vagrant heart of my mother’
      • ‘One vagrant breath of wind can ruin an entire weekend.’
      • ‘A vagrant breath of hot air fluttered the ends of his black silk tie.’
      • ‘Instead, it reaches the reader ‘through a vagrant sympathy and a kind of immediate contact’.’
      • ‘The moon glows like a phosphrous on the vagrant waters.’
      • ‘A son's love is a vagrant thing and may be given and refused without reason.’


Late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French vagarant ‘wandering about’, from the verb vagrer.