Definitions

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A poor migratory farm worker in Ireland, often viewed as a rascal or mischievous and cunning person.
  • n. A good-for-nothing person, often used so-named during a good humored ridicule.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A scamp; an Irish term for a good-for-nothing fellow; -- often used in good-humored contempt or ridicule.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A mean fellow; a rascal: a term of contempt, or of contemptuous pity, for a man or boy.

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

A late 18th century term, From Irish spailpín.

Examples

Comments

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  • (noun) - (1) A wanderer. A term of contempt for a man; also used without contempt; from spailp'n, a worthless fellow, a migratory labourer.

    --Michael Traynor's English Dialect of Donegal, 1953

    (2) Spal, in Irish, is a scythe, and peen a penny - that is, a mower for a penny a day.

    --Arthur Young's Tour in Ireland, 1780

    January 16, 2018

  • Really Irish, but used for itinerant Irish workers who came to Scotland looking for work.

    March 15, 2009