from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The common brown or Norway rat, Mus decumanus, when living in or about a wharf, considered with reference to its being in many places an imported animal, first naturalized in wharves after leaving the ship which brings it, or to the special size, ferocity, or other distinctive character it acquires under the favorable conditions of environment afforded by wharves, shipping, and storehouses.
  • n. Hence A fellow who loafs about or haunts wharves, making a living as best he can, without regular or ostensible occupation.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • They sent Helen to college, but they could afford only one semester, and soon she was back in Los Angeles, taking a “business course” (the typical typing and shorthand classes girls of her station were sent to) and then working “like a wharf-rat” at secretarial jobs, supporting everyone.

    Sex and the Married Man

  • Besides, there were her sister, and Mrs. Hadley, and the young oyster pirate, and the whiskered wharf-rat, all with glasses in their hands.

    Chapter 7

  • Tess; a Mrs. Hadley, who chaperoned them; "Whisky" Bob, a youthful oyster pirate of sixteen; and "Spider" Healey, a black-whiskered wharf-rat of twenty.

    Chapter 7

  • So I turn my mind instead to those picaresque ships — like the fragile hand-carved wooden trinkets sold now by the wharf-rat boys by the bay — riding the North Atlantic swells and accepting the crash and crush of cruel or indifferent waves, and I think, too, of the yearning, the impulse to explore, the drunken, dream-soaked journey undertaken with arms outstretched and hopeful.

    A Viking in Wellfleet–short fiction

  • He was a mongrel, part Chalcedean and part wharf-rat.

    Ship Of Magic

  • One of my men told me that he was present on duty when that wharf-rat of an Adjutant, that the exhorting Colonel is trying to make an Adjutant-General of, came into the General's tent with the Lieutenant-Colonel, and he said that the General asked the

    Red-Tape and Pigeon-Hole Generals As Seen From the Ranks During a Campaign in the Army of the Potomac

  • The Chief had buried all that in the desk drawer with the picture; but he had gone overboard in his best uniform to rescue a wharf-rat, and he had felt a curious sense of comfort when he held the cold little figure in his arms and was hauled on deck, sputtering dirty river water and broad Scotch, as was his way when excited.

    Love Stories

  • Un to his heart, you see -- fatherless wharf-rat and childless engineer; the man acting on the dour Scot principle of chastening whomsoever he loveth, and the boy cherishing a hate that was really only hurt love.

    Love Stories

  • "Spider" Healey, a black-whiskered wharf-rat of twenty.

    Chapter VII

  • "You chicken-livered wharf-rat, ain't you got no spunk to answer wid?"

    The Best Short Stories of 1917 and the Yearbook of the American Short Story


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