Hobo Slang

Stephen P. Alpert – March 31, 2004

Compiled from many books on hoboes, and also some original material supplied to the author.


Slang Finder

Hobo by Norman Rockwell


accommodation – a local freight train
ace spot – one dollar
airdale – an extreme loner
alkee stiff – a tramp that consumed alcohol
alki – a) an alcoholic b) alcohol
alligator bait – fried or stewed liver
All Tramps Sent Free – Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe RR
anchor – a pick
angel – a person who gives more than you expect
angel food – a mission sermon
Angelina – a punk or road kid acting as a hobo's companion
Auntie – Angelina grown older
antique – an old-timer on the road
apple knocker – an apple picker
Apple Butter Route – Norfolk and Western RR (southern Ohio)
axle grease – butter
axle swinging – riding under a railroad car


badorder – a boxcar on its way to the repair yard
bad road – a railroad or division where trainmen are especially hard on hoboes
bakehead – a fool or idiot
baldy – an old man
bale of straw – a blonde woman
balling the Jack – speeding
ball lump – sandwiches or cake wrapped up and handed to a tramp
balloon – a pack or bedroll, carried over the back or shoulder
banjo – a short-handed shovel
baraby – a genteel, quiet, respectful tramp
barber – to talk, usually too much
barnacle – a fellow who sticks to one job a year or more
barrel house – a cheap, filthy lodging house
batter – to beg
batting – to wander aimlessly
battleship – a high-sided steel coal car usually with a hopper or dump bottom
bazoo – mouth
beagles – hot dogs
bedroom of stars – a city park
to beef on – to inform
beefer – a) one who whines b) an informer
belly of a drag – the underside of a slow freight train
belly robber – a boarding boss who tries to save money on food
ben – a vest
benny – an overcoat
biddies – hen's eggs
the Big Burg – New York City
big four – a duck egg omelet
Big "G" – Great Northern RR
big hook – a big steam crane
big house – the state penitentiary
big O – a train conductor
Big Ole – a fellow who tries to show the boss how strong he is
big school – the state penitentiary
the Big Smoke – Pittsburgh
Big Rock Candy Mountain – the hobo's paradise
the Big Town – a) New York City b) Chicago
bindle – a bundle, bag, bedroll, or backpack carried by a hobo
bindle stick – a stick used to carry a bindle over the shoulder
bindle stiff – a) a hobo who carries his gear in a sack or bundle b) a hobo who carries his bedding
biscuit – a silver dollar
biscuit shooter – camp waiter or hash slinger
bit – a term in prison
bitch – an improvised candle
Bitter Biscuit Line – Piedmont divisions of the Southern RR
black bottle – poison allegedly given to hoboes in hospitals
black strap – coffee
blanket stiff – a hobo who carries his bedding
blind – the space between the engine and the mail or baggage car
blind baggage – hoboes who ride the blind
blinky – a train rider who lost one or both eyes
blip – a nickel
blister – an old woman
blisters – beggars who put chemicals on their limbs to simulate ugly sores
Mr. Block – one who believes police mean well and sharks are good fellows
block scrapings – meat begged from a butcher
blowed in the glass – trustworthy
blowed-in-the-glass stiff – a) an upper-class tramp b) a true and trusted pal
blowing smoke – boasting
B.N. – Burlington Northern
bob tail – a short local freight train
bo-ette – a female hobo
Bohunk – A Polish or other Slavic laborer
boil up – to wash clothes and kill any vermin therein
bone orchard – a graveyard
bone polisher – a wicked dog
boodle – cheap grafting done by yeggs
boodle jail – a jail providing a good winter's lodging
boomer – a) a transient railroad worker b) a seasonal or migratory worker
booming – going from one job to another
booster – a chronic drunk
booze hoister – a heavy drinker
bossy in a bowl – beef stew
boston – a pool game
Boston bum – a highbrow poser
bottle wagon – an iron coal car
Bowery barometer – curbstone philosopher from the New York main stem
boxcar tramp – one who regularly rides boxcars
boxcar Willies – hoboes and tramps
bracers – legs
braky – a brakeman
Bread and Milk Route – Boston & Maine RR
breezer – a hobo
bridal chamber – a) a flop house where guests lie on the floor b) a miner's workplace
Bridgeport – any hick town
bridge snake – a structural iron worker
bridger – a train rider who has ridden both steam and diesel trains
Broken & Maimed – Boston & Maine RR
Browning Sisters – the Angelina sorority
Buck – a Catholic priest good for a dollar
budge – an upper front pocket
bug – a lamp in a hobo jungle
bull – railroad policeman
bull artist – a hobo with a gift of gab
bull cook – a) a camp flunky; b) a cook's helper
bullets – beans, when poorly cooked and hard
bull horrors – obsessive fear of the police
bull local – a freight which travels between divisions, often stopping at local yards
bum – a skid row alcoholic, infrequently found on freight trains, does not work
bumpers – couplings between freight cars where hoboes sometime ride
bums on the plush – the idle rich
The Bum's Own – Baltimore & Ohio RR
bundle tosser – a hobo harvest hand who pitches bundles
buttermilker – a hobo from Pittsburgh, PA
buzz – to beg


C. and A. pockets – huge pockets on the inside of a coat for carrying food
cackleberries – eggs
cacklers – white collar workers
cages – cubicle rooms in the cheap lodging houses
Cali – California
California blanket – newspapers, used to sleep under
call – a hobo dish of mashed potatoes, butter liverwurst and onions
calling in – a ) using another's campfire to cook b) visiting
cally or callie – a police station (from calaboose)
camp eye – the hobo who looks after jungle while the others are away
candle eater – a Russian
candy job – a pleasant or "sweet" job
canned heater – one who drank a deadly potion of cheap alcohol and water
Canned Meat & Stale Punk – Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul RR
cannonball – a ) a fast freight train b) the mythical hobo's train which is fast and goes everywhere
Captain – a head man or big shot
card man – a union man or hobo with a red I.W.W. card
car knocker – a yard man who works assembling trains
The Carry All – Chicago & Alton RR
carry the banner – to walk the streets all night, not having a place to sleep
case dough – the last of your bankroll
Casey – Kansas City, MO
cat – a young tramp or hobo, new to the roads
cat wagon – a brothel on wheels
catch – to board a train
catch back – to ride the way you have come on a freight
catch him on the run – to board a train while it is moving
catting in – using another's campfire to cook
cattle stiff – a cowboy
chaw – an Irishman
checkerboard crew – mixed crew of white and black workers
cheesy – to be filthy with dirt
chicken in the clay – a fowl rolled in mud and then roasted
chuck-a-dummy – to fake a fainting fit in order to get sympathy
chronicker – a hobo who carried his cooking utensils
Cincie – Cincinnati, OH
cinder dick – a railway policeman who rode the trains
cinder sifter – tramping along the railroad tracks
the City – New York City
clam – one dollar
clay on the shuck – ears of corn rolled in clay and put to roast
clover kicker – farmer
coal passer – fireman
coffee bag – the coat pocket (where the coffee is carried)
Cold, Hungry & Damp – Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton RR
collar and shoulder style – everything is put on the table and the hobo guest helps himself
combination stew – a jungle dish of vegetables and meat
combination train – a mixed passenger and freight local train
comet – a) hobo new to the road b) a high-class hobo or tramp who only rides fast trains
con (or connie) – a) conductor b) a tubercular person
convention – any impromptu gathering of hoboes
coop – jail
Cough and Snort – Colorado and Southern RR
Cousin Jack – a Englishman
cover with the moon – to sleep in the open
cozzy – a men's public lavatory
crimps – rheumatism
croaker or crocus – a doctor, especially a quack
crotch crickets – crabs (lice)
crowbar hotels – local police stations
crumb boss – a janitor or porter for western construction-camp bunkhouses
crumbs – lice
crummy – a) the caboose b) to be lousy
crum roll – a bed roll
crums – lice
culls – hash, inferior
cushions – a passenger train or car
cut out – to drop off one or more freight cars on a siding or in a freight yard


dace – a two-cent piece
daddy – a Cadillac auto
dago red – a cheap wine
Damn Rotten Grub – Denver, Rio Grande RR
damper – cash register
de – the
deadhead – an empty car in back of the engine tender
dead one – a) a retired hobo b) a drunken hobo c) a hobo who just spent all his money
dead picker – a yegg who robs a drunk
dead soldier – an empty whiskey bottle lying beside the road
death wood – plank above the coupling of boxcars
deck address – a secret address
deck 'em – to ride the top of a passenger train
deck hand – a domestic, who does ordinary work around the house
decorate the mahogany – to buy the drinks
deece – a dime
deep-sea chef – a dishwasher
dehorn – denatured alcohol
derail – denatured alcohol
deuce – two dollars
dicer or dice train – a fast freight train
dicer – a hat
dimmer – a dime
ding bat – a dreg of vagrantdom; mooches off other hoboes
dingoes – hoboes who refuse to work even though they claim to be looking for a job
ding shop – a mission or transient camp
dingy – a colored vagabond
dino – one who sponged food off fellow hoboes
dip – a pickpocket
discard artist – one who wears picked up clothes
ditch – to put off a train
division – main freight yards, usually 500 miles apart
doc – someone who supplies alcohol
Doctor Bates – a tough hobo
dog house – caboose
dog robber – a boarding house keeper
The Dope – Baltimore & Ohio RR
double-ender – a train with two engines and two cabooses
doughhead – a baker
doughnut philosopher – a hobo who is satisfied with coffee and feed
drag – a) a slow freight train b) the main street of a town c) a homosexual party
drag, on the – on the road or on the street of a town
drag line – track onto which a train is pulled when being passed on the main line
Dr. Hall – alcohol, liquor
drill – a) to walk or hike b) a switch engine
dry combo – a meal that needed no cooking
ducket – a ticket or card good for a feed or a flop
duffer – bread and coffee
duke player – a person who cheats at cards or checkers
dukie – anything to eat
dummy – a tramp that pretends to be deaf and dumb
dump – a meeting place, a rendezvous
dynamiter – one who sponged food off fellow hoboes
dyno – a) a tramp who follows the highway instead of the railroad b) a tramp who begs off other tramps c) a rock man who handles dynamite


eagle eye – locomotive engineer
eat snowballs – to stay north on the road in the winter
empty – an empty boxcar, without a load of freight
Espee – Southern Pacific RR
exhibition meal – a meal eaten at the doorstep (so neighbors can witness madam's generosity)
extra gang – a crew that works on the railroad track
eye opener – an early morning drink


faded bogey – a Negro acting as an informer
fag – a) a cigarette butt b) a road kid with homosexual tendencies
fakir – a bum or tramp pretending to be a hobo
faith man – a mission stiff
fanner – being hit on the soles while sleeping on a park bench
fielder – a brakeman
fin – five dollars
fingy or fingers – a train rider who lost one or more fingers
fish – jail term for new prisoners
fisheries – missions along the main stem
First of May – an new, inexperienced hobo
five-hundred milers – through freights that stop only at divisions
flannel mouth – an Irishman
flat – a flat car
flat-wheeler – a bad-riding car
fleabag – a bedroll or sleeping bag
flicker – to faint or simulate fainting
flim-joint – a bank
flip – to hop a moving train
flop – to sleep, or a place to sleep
flopper – a tramp that squats on the sidewalk in business thoroughfares; may fake being crippled
flying light – a) hungry b) traveling without a bindle
fly-away – a military deserter
flyer – an express train
fly light – to miss a meal
fly mugs – private police
forty-fives – navy beans
Foul Water & Dirty Cars – Fort Worth & Denver City RR
freezer – a refrigerator car
Frenchy – a French-Canadian hobo
fresno – a roadbed scraper drawn by horses
frisk a drag – to search a freight for a suitable riding place
frog (or frog eater) – a Frenchman
fusee – a warning device to place on the track
fuzzy tail – a) a dreg of vagrantdom b) a tramp in bad humor


galway – a priest
gandy dancer – a) a railroad worker b) a hobo shovel stiff
gandy stiff – one who occasionally labored, a day or two at the most
gas – wood alcohol or doped cider or ether
gat – a gun
gate – a railway switch
gay cat – a) a tenderfoot hobo b) someone employed as a scout by criminal tramps
George – a) one who is shrewd, alert, and well informed b) everything is fine
get a fanner – to be moved on by the police
ghosts – beggars who simulate pallor, haggardness, or disease
ghost story – plausible tale told to the housewife
giggle – a gumbo made by gandy dancers
Gila-monster route – part of the Southern Pacific running through Arizona
gink – a poor unfortunate
gink stiff – same as gandy stiff
gin mill – a) a speakeasy b) a leather wallet
Give Tie Passes – Grand Trunk Pacific RR
glauming – gathering or stealing
glims – spectacles
glomming the grapevine – stealing clothes from a clothesline
G.N. – Great Northern
goat – a yard locomotive
going by hand – walking
going on the farm – a train going on a side track
go junking – to scavenge for scrap metal or other material to sell for salvage
gondola (or gonnie) – a shallow, uncovered car
gonsil – a youth not yet adopted by a jocker
gooseberrying – stealing clothes off a clothesline
gooseberry ranch – a brothel
goozlum – thick and gummy in substance (mud, food, etc.)
go with the birds – to go south for the winter
grab and armful of boxcars – catch a freight train
grabbing scenery – an inexperienced hobo easily spotted as he watches the scenery
grab iron – a bar welded onto a boxcar and held onto when jumping over the couplings
grainer – a freight car for carrying heavy loads that need protection from the elements
graveyard – hash
graveyard stew – hot milk and toast (for those of few or no teeth)
grease ball – a dreg of vagrantdom
grease ranch – restaurant
grease the track – suicide by leaping in front of a train
grinder – teeth
groundhog – brakeman
growler – a can of beer
gummy – a hobo who goes along with the crowd but never contributes
gumbo – an old can used by a tramp or hobo
gump – chicken
gun boat – a) a steel coal car b) an empty tin can for cooking or washing clothes
gun moll – a dangerous woman tramp
gunnels (or gunnells) – the rods of a train where hoboes ride
gunsel (or guntzel) – a green youth
gut plunge – a trip to the butcher to beg for meat for the Mulligan
guts – meat, usually sausage
gyppo – a sub-contractor with poor equipment


half a yard – fifty dollars
halfy – train rider who lost both legs above the knees
ham – to walk about the country
hand the match – giving an intruder a match to make his own fire, indicating he is not welcome
hard oil – butter
hard tails – old mules
harness bulls – uniformed policemen
harvest buzzard – a hobo who works in the harvest
hasher – a female cookhouse helper
hay bag – a female hobo or stew bum
head end – the front section of a train (locomotive and water tender)
headlights – eggs
heifer – any young woman
helpers – extra engines attached to a train to pull it over an upgrade
hidden hands – beggars who hide or bind their hands
hieser – tramp
highball – a ) to go full speed b) two whistle toots signaling that a train is about to move
highball whistle – one short and one long whistle signaling a train is about to leave
high diver – a yegg who picks pockets
high fence – a man's white neck collar
high heels – a woman hobo, or women hoboes collectively
high iron – the main line of the railroad
high jacket – a yegg who robs hoboes
High Line – the old Great Northern route through the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Washington
high-roller – a hustling tramp
High Yaller Line – Savannah & Atlanta RR
hiker – town Marshall
the Hill – the Sierra Nevadas
His Nibs – police court judge
hit a lick – make a score
hit the ball – to speed up on the job
hitting grounders – picking up cigarette butts
hitting a New Yorker – finding a long cigarette butt
hitting the grit – a) walking along tracks b) being forces off a fast moving train
hobo belt – the citrus belt of California (a favorite wintering place)
Hobohemia – the universe of the hobo
hobo nighthawk – a railroad policeman disguised as a hobo
hobo shortline – suicide by flinging oneself in front of a train
hobo special – a freight train of empty cars
hog – a locomotive
hogger (or hog mauler or hoghead) – engineer
hogleg – a long-barreled gun
holding the lady (or her) down – riding the rods under a train car
home guard – a native, non-migrating worker
honey dipping – working as a shovel stiff in a sewer, or any unpleasant shovel work
hoop chisler – a peddler of worthless rings and watches
hoosier – the natives, generally simple fellows (rubes, hicks, yaps)
hooty – angry
Hoover blankets – see California blankets
hoppins – ingredients
the Horn – the triangular extension of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy RR
Horned Toad – the Albuquerque-Deming stem of the Santa Fe
horstile – a town unfriendly to hoboes
hot – a) illegal and dangerous b) fast c) wanted by the law
hot boxes – old-style lubrication on boxcar axles that created a rough ride
hot shot (or hotshot) – a freight train that goes cross country without breaking up
hot stuff – stolen goods
hot yard – a freight yard where hoboes are arrested for riding
house dog – someone who cleans windows, beats carpets, does other housework
how strong are you? – how much money do you have
hump – a) a small hill in a freight yard over which uncoupled cars are pushed b) the continental divide
hundred on a plate – a can of beans
hunger lane – a railroad that passes through country hostile to hoboes
hunt a wampus – a wild goose chase
hustle buggy – police vehicle


ice palace – a high class saloon or brothel (with many mirrors)
ink – cheap red wine
Irish turkey – corned beef and cabbage
iron man – a silver dollar
irons – rails


Jack – a generic term for any hobo or man
jack – money
jack-roller – one who robs a drunken person
Jake – everything is fine
jake leg – a chronic drunk
Jane – any woman or girl
java – coffee
jawbone – credit in the company store
The Jawbone – the Montana RR
J.B. – a Stetson hat
jerk town or jerkwater town – a small village or town
jerries – section hands
jerry gang – a railroad construction crew
Jesus guy – a mission stiff
jiggers – pretending affection to elicit sympathy while begging
jitney or jit – a nickel
jocker – a) an experienced hobo who taught minors that way of life b) the relationship was often sexual
Joe – coffee
John Brown Division – Harper's Ferry division of the B & O RR
John Family – farmers, police, or yeggs
John Hollow Legs – a hungry stiff
Johnny O'Brien – a boxcar
John O'Brien – a freight train
Johnson Family – the yegg community
join out – to hire out in order to gain transportation
jolt – a jail sentence
jolt wagon – a rough riding farm wagon
juble joo – yegg term for riding on top of a train
jug – a jail or prison
jug heister – a chronic drunk
jump the blind – ride on the platform of a baggage car
jungle – a) a hobo camp b) a social group that occupies a camp c) to camp together
jungle buzzard – a dreg of vagrantdom; one who begs around hobo jungles
jungle up – to rest, wash, and eat in a jungle
junk – drugs
junker (or junky) – a) fellow who uses drugs; b) a local work train


kale - money
The Katy - Missouri Kansas and Texas RR
Kay See - Kansas City, MO
keister - suitcase
kelly - a hat
kelly stick - a device to aid in washing clothes and boiling up
key men - skilled workers
kick - a pocket in trousers
kicks - shoes
kip - a) to sleep b) a bed
kip house - a tramps or vagrants lodging house
kip jack or dough - money for a bed or lodging
knobhead - a mule
knob-knocker - safe-cracker
knowledge box - schoolhouse where hoboes sometimes sleep
ky wah - a hobo pitchman selling jewelry, pens, novelties


lace curtains – whiskers
the Lake – Salt Lake City
lakers – hoboes who work on the Great Lakes and go south for the winter
lamb – a boy tramp or road kid
lambing – to heard sheep
Land of Manna – State of Utah
Land of Milk and Honey – State of Utah
leather poke – wallet
lee of a reefer – icebox on a refrigerator car, a potential place to ride
lefty – a train rider who lost left arm and leg
Less Sleep and More Speed – Lake Shore and Michigan Southern RR
library birds – unemployed men who lounge in libraries for shelter
lid – a cap or hat
lighthouse – a) one who can recognize plainclothes detectives b) a stingy person
light pieces – small gifts of money
limpy – a cripple
line – the underworld
little red wagon – a dump wagon
little school – reform school or house of correction
lizzie moocher – a tramp who panhandles food and gas in a car
load of culls – a plate of hash
Long Island peek – a sly glance from the corner of the eye
louse cage – a hat
Lousy Anna – Louisiana
lump – a handout (a sack or package of food)
lump oil – coal


Ma and Pa RR – Maryland & Pennsylvania RR
made – the assembling of a train
main line – the track in the yard on which the through trains run
main stem – main street of a city or neighborhood
make a hole in the water – suicide by drowning
making a riffle – begging money
makins – tobacco; cigarette tobacco and papers
manifest – a fast train
mark – a hobo sign relaying information to other hoboes
meg – a penny
mess moll – a woman cook
Mickeyville – Mechanicsville, NY
milestone inspector – a professional; tramp
mill – a locomotive
Milk and Honey route – railroads through Mormon territory
minister's face – pig's head server in cheap restaurants
mission squawker – an evangelist
mission stiff – a tramp who lives in a mission
mitts – a train rider who lost one or both hands
mix me a hike – Pay me off! Give it to me!
moll-buzzers – women who pickpockets or begs from other women
mongee – money
moniker – a nickname
monitor – a long cigar butt
monkey chasers – West Indians or other Negroes from the tropics
mooch – to beg, usually at back doors
moocher – a professional beggar
Mop – Missouri Pacific RR
Mop Mary – a scrubwoman
moper – a bum who is even lower than a moocher
Mop Mary – a scrub woman
mop stick – barfly in a cheap saloon
muck stick – a long-handled shovel
mud – a) coffee b) strong coffee mixed with weak milk
mule – corn alcohol
The Mullet Line – Atlantic & East Carolina RR
Mulligan stew – hobo stew
mumbly pegs – a woman's legs
munies – municipal lodging houses
mushfaker – an umbrella mender or other repairman
mush rigger – an umbrella mender
mush talk – flattery


nail a rattler – catch a train
Nat Wills – an old suit
navy – a long cigar butt
Never Come, Never Go – Nevada County Narrow Gauge RR (Calif.)
nickel flop – an all-night movie house
nickel note – a five dollar bill
noch – a Hebrew shelter for homeless men
nose bag – lunch handed out in a paper sack
nose diver – a tramp who lives in a mission
N.P. – Northern Pacific
nuttery – hospital for the insane


obie – post office
Octopus – the Southern Pacific Railroad
odd fellows – three doughnuts and coffee
oil of joy – any strong drink
O'Leary – to walk
Oliver – the moon
One-Eyed Connolly – a gate crasher
one of the burlap sisters – a prostitute
one thousand miles – a dark or black shirt
on the hog – having no money
on the hummer – being on the bum but not down and out
on the plush – well off financially
on the uppers – being on the bum and nearly down and out
O.P.C – other people's cigarettes, recycled
open road – a railroad or division easy to travel (opposite of bad road)
Original Ham and Egg Route – Oberlin, Hampton and Eastern RR
outfit – a number of hoboes traveling in company (term later adopted by military in WWI)
outside 'bo – a hobo who winters outside
outside ride – riding a freight car exposed to the elements


P.A. – Pennsylvania
pack of butts – a package of cigarettes
padding the hoof – going by foot
pale Vienna – coffee made with cream instead of water
palooka – a riving fighter who lives in the past
papa – a Lincoln automobile
park ape – a tramp who suns himself in city parks
Paul Bunyan – a chronic but interesting liar
pay station – a social welfare agency that gives out money
pay streak – a job that pays well
pearl diver – a dishwasher
peanut farm – workhouse where the inmates crack stones
pea soup – a French Canadian, often a lumberjack
peatman (or peterman) – a safe-blower
peddler – a local or slow freight
peg – a train rider who lost a foot
the Peg – Winnipeg, Canada
pennies – money, cash
pennsy – a coal car
Pennsy – Pennsylvania RR
Pennsylvania feathers – soft coal or coke
Pennsylvania salve – apple butter
Peoria – thin soup, generally potato water with salt
pershin – see prushun
pete man – a safe cracker or burglar
phony crip – self-mutilated or simulating a deformity
phony stiff (or phony man) – one who sells fraudulent or cheap jewelry
pickets – teeth
pie card – one who hangs around someone with money
pig – a box car or other train car
piggyback – a flat car on which a truck-trailer is bolted
pig's vest with buttons – sow belly, or any fat bacon
pile driver – good strong coffee
pill roller (or pill peddler) – a doctor
Pitsy – Pittsburgh, PA
Peoria (or Peory water) – a thin soup, usually potato water with salt
pickets – teeth
pig – a locomotive
pig iron dump – a hardware store
pig's vest with buttons – sow belly, fat bacon
pile driver – good strong coffee
pill peddler – a physician
pimp's turban – a bowler hat
pin grease – butter
pipe – to mooch or beg
piping the stem – begging on the streets
P.K. – the principal keeper of the little school
plainer – a hobo walking or riding through the Great Plains
plaster – butter
pling – to beg
plinger – a tramp that solicits alms at stores, offices, and residences
plinging – walking fast
plough jockey – a farmer
pogey (or pogie) – an almshouse or workhouse or poorhouse
poke – a wallet
pokeout – handout
pokey stiff – one who subsists on handouts solely
polish the mug – wash one's face and hands
poodle – town Marshal
possesh – a road kid
possish – one's position in the tramp's social scale
possum belly – riding atop or the deck under a passenger coach
postman – a hobo who goes fast and far
pot gang – a cluster of hoboes around a pot in a hobo jungle
pot walloper – a dish and pot washer
pound the ear – to sleep
power – engines
preshun – punk
privates – private dwellings
profesh – an experienced hobo, sometimes a criminal
prone the body – to lie down and rest
proper stiff – a tramp who considered manual toil the acme of disgrace
prushun or prushin – a) a young boy on the road b) a boy held in bondage by a jocker
pull a pin (or pull the pin) – to quit
punk – a) a boy discarded by a jocker b) a young hobo c) bread
punk and gut – bread and sausage
punk and plaster – bread and butter
punk and plaster route – traveling among the Pennsylvania Dutch
push – a road gang
pusher – the person in charge of the job


Q or The Que – Chicago, Burlington & Quincy RR


Rabbi – a frequent moniker of a Jewish hobo
raghead – an oriental, from the turban some wear
rag(s) – a) a book or paper b) clothing c) paper money
railroad bull – a railroad policeman
railroad dick – a railroad policeman
rambler – a high class hobo who rides only fast passenger trains for long distances
rank cats – the lowest form of bum
rattler – a fast train
razor back – a circus roustabout
read your shirt – examine your clothes for lice
ready-mades – store-bought cigarettes
redball – a) a through freight train b) a fast fruit train
red eye – whiskey
red lead – catsup
reefer – refrigerator car
relievers – good shoes
remittance man – a hobo paid by his family to stay away from home
reuben – a small town inhabitant
ride the cushions – a) to live in luxury b) to pay for and ride in the passenger coach
ride the velvet – see ride the cushions
riding bulls – railroad police who ride the trains to arrest or chase off hoboes aboard
righty – a train rider who lost right arm and leg
rip-rapping – reinforcing the sides of a railroad cutting with stones
road hog – a hobo or tramp who is always on the move
road kid – a) a young hobo b) a boy held in bondage by a jocker
road sister – a female hobo
robbing the mail – snatching food and milk delivered at doorsteps early in the morning
Rodney – a tramp or hobo (from rod of a RR car?)
rods – bars beneath a freight car
roll – to rob a sleeping drunk
roundhead – a Swede
rubberglue – a plainclothes cop
rubber tramp – a tramp who lives and travels in an old automobile
rubbydub – denatured alcohol
ruff – a quarter (coin)
rummy stiff – a tramp with deranged intellect from habitual use of raw rum


saddle blankets – hot cakes
sack of weeds – bag of tobacco
Sacred Tract Road – Boston & Albany RR
sagebrush philosopher – a gabby fellow from the west
sales lady – a prostitute
Sally, Sally Ann – Salvation Army
salve – a bribe given to a trainman for a ride
salve eater – a snuff chewing Swede
sand – sugar
sand hog – where sand is kept dry, for use on icy track
Santa Fe Town – San Bernardino, CA
sap – a policeman's club
sawbuck – ten dollars
scatter – a speakeasy
scenery bum – a young tramp on the move for the pleasure of it
scissorbill – a) one who doesn't want to join a labor union b) an ignorant person c) a farmer
scoffing – eating
scrape a mug – shave one's face
scrape the pavement – shave one's face
scrapers school – a barber school where hoboes could get a free haircut and shave
scratch – money or other assets
scratches – trousers
screw your nut – get wise to yourself
seam squirrels – body lice
sea food – a sailor
sea stiff – a sailor tramp
seed – a dollar
set down (or sit down) – having a full meal inside someone's house
set off – leave part of the train behind
sewer hog – a ditch digger
shack – a brakeman
shackle-up – to cook one's stew, especially in a jungle
shack fever – a) tired, sleepy, dopey feeling b) desire to hit the road and travel
shanny – shanty
shanty queen – any woman around a camp
shark – employment agent who sells jobs to hoboes
shatting on the uppers – to be broke
shavetails – a) young mules b) a young army officer of low rank
sheets – newspapers for a bed
shicer or sheister – swindler, shyster
shill through – to get in for free or bluff one's way
shine – a colored vagabond
shiner – a dime
shirt rabbits – lice
shiv (or shive) – a razor
shoo fly – a) a detour track built around a temporary obstacle b) avoid passing though a hobo-hostile town
shoot snipes – to collect discarded cigar and cigarette butts
short staker – a hobo who stays on the job long enough to amass traveling money
shroud – a suit of clothes
shuffler – a jobless worker
Shy – Chicago
side-door pullman – a boxcar
single O -- working alone by preference
sinker – a) a dollar b) a donut
sit down – see set down
sizzler – a) a cook b) a stove
skating on the uppers – dead broke
skee – whiskey
skin – a shirt or blouse
skin hustling – selling fake furs
skinner – a mule driver
skipper – the conductor
skoff – to eat
skuds – lots, plenty
sky blue – vegetable soup with little ingredients
sky piece – a hat
sky pilot – a mission-house or highbrow preacher
slamming a gate – to go to a private house and beg
slave market – employment agency
sleep – a short prison term
slides – shoes
slob sister – a moocher who weeps to his clients
sloughed – to be arrested (pronounced "slowed")
Slow Town – Detroit, MI
slum-gullion – stew, usually uninviting
slum hustling – selling fake jewelry
sly hay bag – a woman hobo who crafted items for sale
smacker – a dollar
smoke – strong liquor
smoke wagon – a pistol
snail – cinnamon roll
snake – switchman
Snakey Route – Oregon & California RR
snapper rig – second-hand suit of clothes
sneaky Pete – cheap wine
snipe – section hand
snipes – gathered-up cigarette or cigar butts
sniping – stealing
Sonora Town – a section of Los Angeles where hoboes wintered
snowball – morphine
snowbird – a person who uses drugs
snow-flier – a tramp that gets himself into jail for winter lodging and shelter
soft shoe – a railroad detective
son of Adam – a tramp willing to work for a snack or a meal
soogan (or sugan) – a blanket or comforter carried by a hobo
sop – gravy
Sow Belly Hack Line – a railroad division in central Tennessee
S.P. – Southern Pacific
spear – a success in mooching or begging
spear biscuits – to retrieve food from garbage cans
speck bum – a stew bum
speed balls – wine
spider – a) a small frying pan with a long handle b) a Ford car
spike pitcher – a harvest field worker
splinter belly – a) a carpenter b) a man who works on bridges and trestles
Spud Route – Bangor & Aroostook RR in Maine
square – a good meal
stable dog – a man who looks after the camp stables
stampers – tramps and hoboes in general
stack of bones – a cheap hash house dish, mostly boiled spare ribs
stake – money in pocket after leaving a job
star routes – country roads where food could be obtained
steam hog – a coal-burning engine
stem – street
stemming – panhandling in cities
sterno – wax soaked with alcohol
stew builder – a hobo camp cook
stew bum – a) a dreg of vagrantdom b) an old hobo wasted by alcohol
Stew Junction – Puyallup, WA
stickers – a) disguised begging by selling court plaster b) postage stamps
sticks – a train rider who lost a leg
stiff – any kind of hobo worker
stiffy – a tramp that simulates being paralyzed
straight crip – one actually crippled or otherwise afflicted
streamlined – traveling with little gear
Studebaker Town – South Bend, IN
student – a youngster on the road
stye bum – a tramp or bum who winters in jail
submarines – doughnuts
substantials – meat and potatoes, and bread and butter
sugan – see soogan
summer birds – tramps and hoboes who go south for the winter
swamper – fellow who cleans out the bar room
sweat board – concrete mixing by hand
sweet back – someone only sampling hobo life


tail end – the end of a train
tailor's helper – a vicious dog
tailor's measure – a $50 bill
tails – tram stops
Take Patience and Walk – Toledo Peoria & Western RR
take the westbound – to die
Take Your Parcels and Walk – Texas Pacific & Western RR
taking the whiskers off – harvesting
talk west – to speak the hobo lingo
tallowpot – the fireman on a train
tally! – I understand, keep me in on it
tank town – a small town where trains stop to take on water
tap city – broke
tar pit – a derby hat
teapot – a locomotive
tear baby – one who bums women or men with women
thick – rich
thick one – a nickel
thin ones – small coins (pennies, nickels, dimes)
thin piece – a dime
third rail – whiskey
thousand-mile paper – thick brown paper used in freight cars for packing
thousand miler – a hobo's dark shirt that doesn't show dirt
through freight – a freight that goes from division to division without breaking up
throw – spend freely
throw my feet – to walk
throw the feet – to beg
throw the guts – to talk freely or too much; to squeal
ticket – a piece of wood placed over the rods for hoboes to sit on
tie pass – a fictitious permit from a RR president to walk along the track
timbers – disguised begging by selling pencils
timber beast – woodsman, logger
timber stiff – itinerant lumberjack
time freight – same as a through freight
tin roof – a free drink (it's "on the house")
tip the office – to warn a fellow hobo with some signal
toby – an English hobo
To Hell and Back – Toronto Hamilton & Buffalo RR
tomato can – can carried by hoboes for heating food, boiling water, etc., often tied to the waist
tooting ringers – ringing house doorbells
toppings – a) dessert at a meal; b) pastry
tossouts – beggars who distort and throw their joints out of order
tourist – general term for all hoboes, tramps, bums and vagrants
town clowns – town police
tramping – traveling on foot
trapeze artist – a rider of the rods
trombenick – a Jewish hobo
trombo – a hobo boxer, or one who hopes to be
turkey – a) a canvas bag for carrying possessions b) a half dollar
Tweetsy – East Tennessee & Western North Carolina RR
twist – a woman or girl
twist a dream – roll a cigarette


units – engines
U.P. – Union Pacific
up on top ride – riding on top of a boxcar
upper deck – the top of a train


vag – a) a vagabond b) to arrest for vagrancy
varnish – passenger train


wagon tramps – families who travel in covered wagons
walking dandruff – head lice
wallie – a town bum who never loses sight of the town's walls
wally – a small town sport or gambler
wandering Willy's – hoboes and tramps
wangy – disguised begging by selling shoestrings
warthogs – a trainmaster
way freight – local freight train
Weary Willies – hoboes in general
weave hustling – selling spurious cloth
weeds – hobo jungle
weigh in – to meet
West Bound – what a hobo catches when he passes away
whale belly – a steel coal car
wheel – a leg
Whiskey Railroad – Frankfort & Cincinnati RR
whistle stop – a stop in a division to change crews
white line stiff – a tramp that consumed alcohol
white mule – uncolored moonshine whiskey
white one – a silver watch
Willy or the Willies – Goodwill Industries
windcheater – a burlap bag, feed sack, etc., worn for protection against the elements
wind pudding – air (having nothing to eat is living on wind pudding)
wingy – a train rider who lost one or both arms
wires – a tramp that peddles articles made of stolen telegraph wire
wobs – Wobblies, members of the I.W.W.
wolf – an older hobo who preys on young hoboes
wood butcher – a carpenter
woodhead – a lumberjack
woolies – sheep
working for Jesus – being a mission stiff
working stiff – a tramp or hobo who regularly works
wye – a railroad junction for trains




yank – to arrest
yap – a) a hick, farmer b) a tenderfoot hobo
yard – $100
yard bull – railroad police who stay in the yards
yard donkey – yard engine used to push segments of trains from one track to another
yard goat – same at yard donkey
yard master – railroad employee who supervises the yard activity
yegg – a roving criminal
yellow one – a gold watch
York – New York City


zoo – a brothel
zook – a worn out old prostitute