Hobo

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A hobo is a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless.[1] The term originated in the western—probably northwestern—United States during the last decade of the 19th century.[2] Unlike tramps, who work only when they are forced to, and bums, who do not work at all, hobos are workers who wander.[2][3]

Contents

Etymology

The origin of the term is unknown. Etymologist Anatoly Liberman says that the only details certain about its origin is that the word emerged in American English and was first noticed around 1890.[2] Liberman points out that many folk etymologies fail to answer the question: "Why did the word become widely known in California (just there) by the early Nineties (just then)?"[2] Author Todd DePastino has suggested that it may come from the term hoe-boy meaning "farmhand," or a greeting such as Ho, boy!.[4] Bill Bryson suggests in Made in America that it could either come from the railroad greeting, "Ho, beau!" or a syllabic abbreviation of "homeward bound".[5] H. L. Mencken, in his The American Language (4th ed., 1937), wrote:

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