from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun One who wanders from place to place without a permanent home or a means of livelihood.
  • noun Archaic A wanderer; a rover.
  • noun One who lives on the streets or constitutes a public nuisance.
  • noun An animal occurring beyond its normal range; an accidental.
  • adjective Wandering from place to place and lacking any means of support.
  • adjective Living on the streets or constituting a public nuisance.
  • adjective Inconstant or capricious; wayward.
  • adjective Moving in a random fashion; having no fixed direction or pattern.
  • adjective Being beyond its normal range; accidental. Used of animals.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Wandering from place to place; roving, with uncertain direction or destination; moving or going hither and thither; having no certain course.
  • Uncertain; erratic.
  • Of or pertaining to one who wanders; unsettled; vagabond.
  • In medicine, wandering: as, vagrant cells (wandering white corpuscles of the blood).
  • noun A wanderer; a rover; a rambler.
  • noun An idle stroller; a vagabond; a loafer; a tramp: now the ordinary meaning.
  • noun In law the word vagrant has a much more extended meaning than that assigned to it in ordinary language, and in its application the notion of wandering is almost lost, the object of the statutes being to subject to police control various ill-defined classes of persons whose habits of life are inconsistent with the good order of society. In the English statutes vagrants are divided into three grades: idle and disorderly persons, or such as, while able to maintain themselves and families, neglect to do so, unlicensed peddlers or chapmen, beggars, common prostitutes, etc.; rogues and vagabonds, notoriously idle and disorderly persons, fortune-tellers and other like impostors, public gamblers and sharpers, persons having no visible means of living and unable to give a good account of themselves, etc.; incorrigible rogues—that is, such as have been repeatedly convicted as rogues and vagabonds, jail-breakers, and persons escaping from legal durance, etc. In the United States the statutes are diverse, but in their general features include to a greater or less extent beggars, drunken parents who refuse or fail to support their children, paupers when dissolute and sick. prostitutes, public masqueraders, tramps, truants, etc.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun One who strolls from place to place; one who has no settled habitation; an idle wanderer; a sturdy beggar; an incorrigible rogue; a vagabond.
  • adjective Moving without certain direction; wandering; erratic; unsettled.
  • adjective Wandering from place to place without any settled habitation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A person without a home or job.
  • noun A wanderer.
  • noun ornithology A bird found outside its species’ usual range.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective continually changing especially as from one abode or occupation to another
  • noun a wanderer who has no established residence or visible means of support


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English vagraunt, probably alteration of Old French wacrant, present participle of wacrer, to wander, of Germanic origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English vagraunt ("wandering about"), from Anglo-Norman wakerant, wacrant, walcrant ("vagrant"), Old French wacrant, waucrant ("wandering about"), present participle of wacrer, waucrer, walcrer ("to wander, wander about as a vagabond"), from Frankish *walkrōn (“to wander about”), frequentative form of *walkōn (“to walk, wander, trample, stomp, full”), from Proto-Germanic *walkōnan, *walkanan (“to twist, turn, roll about, full”), from Proto-Indo-European *walg-, *walk- (“to twist, turn, move”). Cognate with Old High German walchan, walkan ("to move up and down, press together, full, walk, wander"), Middle Dutch walken ("to knead, full"), Old English wealcan ("to roll"), Old English ġewealcan ("to go, walk about"), Old Norse valka ("to wander"), Latin valgus ("bandy-legged, bow-legged"). More at walk.


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  • The effect was to strengthen the prejudice which held that playgoing was immoral in itself, and that an actor deserved to be treated as a 'vagrant' -- the class to which he legally belonged.

    English Literature and Society in the Eighteenth Century Leslie Stephen 1868

  • Some of these lichens are not attached to any substrate and are known as vagrant lichens or Wanderflechten.

    Namib desert 2008

  • She refused to call a vagrant or a street person anything other than god's people.

    CNN Transcript Nov 16, 2008 2008

  • What we are hearing about the home, Nancy, is that it was known as a vagrant home.

    CNN Transcript Dec 9, 2005 2005

  • This thriftless slave of passion, this child-man, this much condemned clog to the progress of Southern civilization is called the vagrant Negro.

    Twentieth Century Negro Literature Or, A Cyclopedia of Thought on the Vital Topics Relating to the American Negro Daniel Wallace [Editor] Culp

  • This bold suggestion was greeted with general approval save by the squire, who protested that a man could not be called a vagrant who had paid seventy dollars in cash for his clearing and was never known to beg or steal.

    David Malcolm Nelson Lloyd 1903

  • It has to be remembered that the vagrant is a dangerous person in more ways that one.

    Crime and Its Causes William Douglas Morrison 1898

  • It seems to you that you could never endure a total failure, and you hardly see how you could bear, with any sort of equanimity, even the vacant gaze or restless movement that would bespeak a vagrant interest.

    The Story Hour Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin 1889

  • 'Every man that has ever undertaken to instruct others can tell what slow advances he has been able to make, and how much patience it requires to recall vagrant inattention, to stimulate sluggish indifference, and to rectify absurd misapprehension.'

    Life Of Johnson Boswell, James, 1740-1795 1887

  • Was friendly fate flying danger signals by arranging and accentuating this vivid contrast, in order to recall his vagrant wits, to cement his wavering allegiance?

    At the Mercy of Tiberius 1872


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  • Vagrant, a portmanteau of vagabond and migrant.

    May 15, 2021

  • the actual etymology of vagrant is above—it comes from an Old French word wacrer, to wander, of Germanic and ultimately Indo-European origin.

    May 15, 2021