from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. An adult who recruits children to train them as criminals.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. One who trains young thieves.
Sorry, no etymologies found.
Fagin's character was based on the criminal Ikey Solomon; there was a recognized specialty in the 19th-century London underworld called a "kidsman" - an adult who recruited children and trained them as pickpockets, exchanging food and shelter for the stolen goods the children brought "home."
But when it became apparent there was a public appetite for a whole book about Oliver, Dickens had to decide the fate of some of his characters - including Nancy, the young prostitute who was part of the gang led by Fagin, the notorious 'kidsman' who gave children food and shelter in return for the goods they stole.
Charles Dickens 'Fagin is a "kidsman", an adult who recruits children and trains them as pickpockets and thieves, exchanging food and shelter for goods the children steal.