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In traditional American English usage, a tramp is a long term homeless person who travels from place to place as an itinerant vagrant, traditionally walking or hiking all year round. In British English meanwhile a tramp simply refers to a homeless person, usually not a travelling one.

While some tramps may do odd jobs from time to time, unlike other temporarily homeless people they do not seek out regular work and support themselves by other means such as begging or scavenging. This is in contrast to:

  • bum, a stationary homeless person who does not work, and who begs or steals for a living in one place.
  • hobo, a homeless person who travels from place to place looking for work, often by "freighthopping", illegally catching rides on freight trains
  • Schnorrer, a Yiddish term for a person who travels from city to city begging.

Both terms, "tramp" and "hobo"(and the distinction between them), were in common use between the 1880s and the 1940s. Their populations and the usage of the terms increased during the Great Depression.

Like "hobo" and "bum," the word "tramp" is considered vulgar in American English usage, having been subsumed in more polite contexts by words such as "homeless person" or "vagrant." In colloquial American English, the word "tramp" can also mean a sexually promiscuous female or even prostitute.

Tramps used to be known euphemistically in England and Wales as "gentlemen of the road."

Tramp is derived from the Middle English as a verb meaning to "walk with heavy footsteps", and to go hiking.[1] Bart Kennedy, a self-described tramp of 1900 America, once said "I listen to the tramp, tramp of my feet, and wonder where I was going, and why I was going."[2]

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