1. a person who begs alms or lives by begging.
  2. a penniless person.
  3. a wretched fellow; rogue: the surly beggar who collects the rents.
  4. a child or youngster (usually preceded by little): a sudden urge to hug the little beggar.

verb (used with object)

  1. to reduce to utter poverty; impoverish: The family had been beggared by the war.
  2. to cause one’s resources of or ability for (description, comparison, etc.) to seem poor or inadequate: The costume beggars description.


  1. a person who begs, esp one who lives by begging
  2. a person who has no money or resources; pauper
  3. ironic, jocular, mainly British fellowlucky beggar!

verb (tr)

  1. to be beyond the resources of (esp in the phrase to beggar description)
  2. to impoverish; reduce to begging

c.1200, from Old French begart, originally a member of the Beghards, lay brothers of mendicants in the Low Countries, from Middle Dutch beggaert “mendicant,” of uncertain origin, with pejorative suffix (see -ard). Cf. Beguine. Early folk etymology connected the English word with bag. Form with -ar attested from 14c., but begger was more usual 15c.-17c. The feminine form beggestere is attested as a surname from c.1300. Beggar’s velvet was an old name for “dust bunnies.” “Beggers should be no choosers” is in Heywood (1562).


“reduce to poverty,” mid-15c., from beggar (n.). Related: Beggared; beggaring. Figurative use by 1640s.

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