Vagrant vs Hobo

Vagrant Vs Hobo: 6 Main Differences + Examples [2024]

As a teacher, I need to know so many words even if they sound weird to my students so today I decided to talk about two newly appeared words, just stay tuned with your favorite teacher, LOL!

wordsVagrant and hobo are both phrases used to describe persons who are destitute and roam from place to place, but their definitions differ slightly.

A vagrant is a homeless person who wanders from place to place without a definite direction or purpose, whereas a hobo is a homeless person who travels to find a job or better living conditions.

While both “hobo” and “vagrant” are terms used to describe individuals who do not have a permanent home, there are some differences in their connotations and usage.

The term “hobo” historically referred to a specific subculture of transient workers in the United States, particularly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

I’m telling you that Hobos were often migrant workers who traveled from place to place, often by hopping freight trains, in search of temporary employment. They had a unique code of ethics and a sense of camaraderie among themselves.

On the other hand, “vagrant” is a broader term that refers to anyone who lacks a fixed abode or regular employment.

Vagrancy laws have been used historically to regulate and control the movement of homeless or transient individuals.

Vagrants may include people who are homeless, living on the streets, or engaging in survival activities without a permanent residence.

On the whole, “hobo” typically refers to a specific historical subculture of transient workers, while “vagrant” is a more general term used to describe individuals who lack a permanent home or job.

Who is called a vagrant?

Let me now tell you more about Vagrants. A vagrant is a homeless individual who frequently moves around without a fixed address or a steady job. Addiction, mental illness, poverty, and other adversities may push vagrants into this lifestyle. When someone is called a “vagrant,” it can be taken negatively and used to describe someone who is thought to be careless or lazy.


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Who is called a hobo?

A hobo is a homeless individual who moves around looking for employment or better living arrangements.

Hobos, as opposed to vagrants, are frequently willing to work and will perform seasonal or odd jobs in return for cash or food.

Hoboes have long been a part of American society and are frequently connected to the Great Depression, a time when severe poverty drove many people to live as vagrants or hobos.

Vagrant Vs Hobo

The following are the main distinctions between vagrants and hobos:

  • Attitude toward work: Hobos are frequently willing to work and will perform odd jobs or seasonal labor in exchange for money or food, whereas vagrants are not always seeking work or chances.
  • Connotation: The term “vagrant” can have a negative meaning and is sometimes used to refer to someone who is seen as lazy or shiftless, whereas “hobo” has a more impartial or even positive meaning, associated with a history of travel and adventure.
  • Lifestyle: Vagrants do not always have a particular culture or way of life connected to their wandering, but hobbits frequently have a culture and way of life centered around living off the land and taking trains.

Vagrants and hobos differ mostly in their goal for traveling, attitude toward employment, connotation, and way of living.

Why is a hobo called this way?

The origin of the term “hobo” in the late 19th century is the subject of multiple theories. According to one theory that I’ve heard , the word comes from the Spanish word hombre, which means man.

According to a different theory, the word is derived from the Old English word hodbald, which means beggar. It’s also possible that American railroad workers in the 1800s used the term “hobo” as slang.

The phrase was used by the staff to describe passengers who boarded trains without purchasing a ticket.

“Riding the rods” or “riding the rails” was the term for this behavior. Regardless of its source, in the early 1900s, the term “hobo” started to be connected to vagrants who were on the move.

How is a hobo making money?

Hobo earns money in many ways, such as working odd jobs, scavenging, and begging. There is a difference between hobos and vagrants, even though vagrants are frequently confused with both.

A hobo is a person who chooses to lead a nomadic lifestyle. They frequently travel on freight trains, getting off at various stops to perform odd jobs before continuing their journey.

A vagrant, on the other hand, is a person who does not have a permanent residence or a place to live.

Both groups may beg or panhandle for money, but hoboes may do so to earn some extra cash while traveling, whereas vagrants are more likely to do so out of need.


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Is it impolite to refer to someone homeless as a “hobo” or “vagrant”?

These terms have historically been used to stigmatize and label those who are homeless.

Although they are not offensive in and of themselves, they can convey the idea that those who are homeless are shiftless, lazy, or undesirable.

It is generally more courteous to refer to those who are homeless as “homeless people,” “persons experiencing homelessness,” or “unhoused individuals.”

These terms are more sensitive and less stigmatizing. Ultimately, what matters most is to treat those who are homeless with respect and compassion, and to refrain from using language that could further marginalize or stigmatize the group.

Two categories of vagrants

So continue reading with me! In the past, there were two categories for vagrants: “sturdy beggars” and “rogues and vagabonds.”

People who were idle and aimlessly wandering were referred to as rogues or vagrants. They were punished by law enforcement because they were frequently perceived as a threat to social order.

Conversely, sturdy beggars were perceived as individuals who were eager to work but couldn’t find a job. They would frequently grovel for food or cash to survive. Even though some people continued to view them negatively, they were typically given more leniency than outlaws and wanderers.

Where does Vagrant originate from?

The word “vagrant” comes from the Latin word “vagari,” which means “to wander.” It entered the English language in the late 15th century and referred to a person who wanders from place to place with no permanent home or employment. Over time, the term has come to be associated with individuals who are homeless or live a transient lifestyle.


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Where does hobo originate from?

The word “hobo” is believed to have originated in the United States in the late 19th century. Its exact etymology is uncertain, but there are a few theories about its origins. One theory suggests that it may have come from the term “hoe-boy,” which referred to migrant workers who traveled from farm to farm, working with hoes. Another theory proposes that it may have derived from the term “hawbuck,” which was used to describe a country bumpkin or an unsophisticated person.

Regardless of its exact origins, the term “hobo” came to be commonly used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to refer to individuals who traveled and worked as seasonal laborers or engaged in casual work so hear it from me. Hobos were often associated with riding trains, seeking temporary employment, and living a nomadic lifestyle.


Example Sentences with Hobo

1. The hobo jumped onto a passing train, ready to embark on his next adventure.

2. The old hobo shared stories of his travels around the country with anyone who would listen.

3. The hobo camp near the railroad tracks was a temporary refuge for those in search of work.

4. The kind-hearted woman offered the hobo a warm meal and a place to sleep for the night.

5. The hobo carried all his belongings in a tattered backpack as he wandered from town to town.

6. The children were fascinated by the hobo’s tales of riding the rails and sleeping under the stars.

7. The police officer asked the hobo to move along as he was loitering near the park.

8. The hobo’s weathered face told stories of a life lived on the road.

9. The hobo sat by the fire, warming his hands and sharing a meal with fellow wanderers.

10. The hobo’s cardboard sign read, “Will work for food,” as he sought help from passersby.


Example Sentences with Vagrant 

1. The police officer encountered a vagrant sleeping on a park bench and asked him to move along.

2. The city implemented measures to address the issue of vagrancy and homelessness in downtown areas.

3. The local shelter provided temporary housing and support services for vagrants in need.

4. The vagrant shuffled down the street, pushing a shopping cart filled with his few belongings.

5. The community organized a volunteer effort to distribute food and clothing to vagrants in the area.

6. The city council discussed the establishment of a program to assist vagrants in finding stable housing.

7. The shop owner called the authorities to report a vagrant loitering outside his store.

8. The vagrant sought refuge in an abandoned building during the harsh winter months.

9. The charitable organization offered job training and placement services to help vagrants reintegrate into society.

10. The local residents expressed concern about the increasing number of vagrants in their neighborhood.


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Idioms Related to Hobo

1. “Hobo’s choice”: Refers to a situation where there are limited options or none at all.

2. “Hobo with a bindle”: Describes someone who is traveling light or carrying only the bare essentials.

3. “Ride the rails”: Means to travel as a hobo by illegally hopping onto freight trains.

4. “Hobo jungle”: Refers to a gathering place for homeless people or transients.

5. “Hobnob with hobos”: Means to spend time or associate with people of lower social status.

Idioms Related to Vagrant

1. “Vagrant at heart”: Describes someone who has a restless or wanderlust nature, always seeking new experiences or places.

2. “Vagrant thought”: Refers to a fleeting or random idea that comes to mind temporarily, often without a clear purpose or direction.

3. “Vagrant wind”: Describes a gust of wind that blows in an unpredictable or aimless manner.

4. “Vagrant hope”: Refers to a fleeting or uncertain hope that may not have a strong foundation or likelihood of fulfillment.

Public View on Vagrants Vs Public View of Hobos 


– Vagrants are often associated with homelessness, poverty, and a transient lifestyle.

– Some people may view vagrants with sympathy, recognizing the challenges they face and advocating for social support and assistance.

– Others may hold negative perceptions, seeing them as a nuisance or a threat to public safety and property. This can lead to stigmatization and the desire for stricter enforcement measures.



Hobos are often seen as a specific subset of vagrants, typically associated with the historical era of the Great Depression.

Some people may romanticize the idea of hobos, appreciating their resourcefulness, independence, and resilience.

Others may view hobos negatively, perceiving them as lawbreakers or as individuals who choose a nonconformist lifestyle.


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Legal Status of Vagrants Vs Legal Status of Hobos 


The term “vagrant” typically refers to someone who is without a home or a regular residence and wanders from place to place. The legal status of vagrancy can vary depending on local laws.

In some jurisdictions, laws related to vagrancy have been challenged or repealed due to concerns of criminalizing homelessness or violating constitutional rights.

However, certain activities associated with vagrancy, such as public intoxication, aggressive panhandling, or loitering in prohibited areas, may still be subject to legal consequences in some places.



The term “hobo” historically referred to a migratory worker or a person who traveled by hopping freight trains during the Great Depression era.

The legal status of hobos would primarily depend on whether they engage in activities that are considered illegal, such as trespassing or riding on trains without permission.

If hobos are involved in criminal activities or violate specific laws, they can face legal consequences just like any other individual.


Lifestyle of Vagrants Vs Lifestyle of Hobos 


Vagrants are typically individuals who lack a consistent or permanent residence. They may live on the streets, in shelters, or in temporary accommodations.

Vagrants often face challenges related to homelessness, poverty, and limited access to resources such as proper healthcare, education, and employment.

Their lifestyle can involve struggling to meet basic needs, relying on public services and charitable organizations for support, and facing various hardships associated with living without a stable home.



Hobos historically referred to migratory workers who traveled by hopping freight trains during the Great Depression era.

The lifestyle of hobos was characterized by a sense of adventure, independence, and a desire for freedom. They often sought work opportunities in different locations.

Hobos developed a subculture with its own code of conduct, symbols, and traditions. They relied on resourcefulness, survival skills, and community support to navigate their transient lifestyle.

It’s important to note that the historical image of hobos may differ from contemporary individuals who identify as hobos or engage in train hopping as a lifestyle choice.


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Vagrants in Literature and Media Vs Hobos in Literature and Media 

Vagrants in Literature and Media

In literary works like George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London” or John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” vagrants are portrayed as individuals struggling with poverty, societal marginalization, and the harsh realities of homelessness.

Documentaries, news articles, and non-fiction books often shed light on the lives of vagrants, exploring the challenges they face and advocating for social change and support systems.

Fictional characters who are vagrants may be portrayed with complexity, highlighting their humanity and the underlying circumstances that led to their homelessness.


Hobos in Literature and Media

The hobo subculture and lifestyle have been frequently romanticized in literature and media, particularly during the Great Depression era. Works like Jack London’s “The Road” or Jim Tully’s “Beggars of Life” depict hobos as adventurous and free-spirited wanderers.

Hobos are often portrayed as resourceful and self-reliant characters who prioritize personal freedom and the pursuit of an alternative lifestyle.

Films like “Sullivan’s Travels” and songs like Woody Guthrie’s “Hobo’s Lullaby” have contributed to the popularization of the hobo image and its association with a certain sense of nostalgia.

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Hi there, welcome to my website! I’m Omid and now you are reading the text of a passionate teacher. I’ve been teaching the English language for about 12 years while applying different updated methods of teaching. It’s my absolute pleasure that you are visiting my website. Here we go with the hope of improving your English language capabilities using various methods. Let’s learn English together here.