What would be a nice way of saying a crippled beggar?

For example I want to say "I gave some money to a crippled beggar who was begging on the road" but the word crippled and beggar doesn't seem nice (I want to write this down on a journal kind of place).

Any suggestions on how to put this more nicely?

PS:- By the way I don't need the wording to be very formal or anything. What I meant by "journal" was to mean something like a "diary". Sorry if it confused you.

  • 3
    I gave some money to alleviate the dire straits of a physically-challenged brother-in-alms. Commented May 22, 2014 at 0:40
  • A mobility-limited supplicant? Unless this is an historical piece, why the need for this archaic characterization?
    – bib
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 0:41
  • "an infirm drifter"
    – njboot
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 0:43
  • @bib If you are asking why I have said "crippled beggar" I think its because my vocabulary is not very good. That's why I'm asking for better words :)
    – Can't Tell
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 0:48
  • 1
    Being a crippled beggar is not nice. Why would you want to have a "nice" expression for it? I call it reality; the alternative is hiding the truth.
    – user63230
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 1:07

6 Answers 6


disabled panhandler. If you have details on how the person was "crippled", it may sound less offensive. For example, if he/she was is a wheelchair, then:

wheelchair-bound panhandler.

edit: I just realized that you can make it even less offensive by throwing in an adjective of admiration:

a dignified, wheelchair-bound panhandler.

Obviously, you'll want to tailor the adjective of admiration to what you actually perceived - for example, the trait that inspired you to make the donation.

  • I think 'mobility impaired' is the new term to focus on what is possible. You are correct to mention the offensive connotation of 'crippled'
    – Third News
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 1:23
  • Impaired/disabled panhandler, like the florida panhandle? Commented May 22, 2014 at 2:42

"Crippled beggar".

If you say "crippled beggar" but say it in a nice way that's not insulting or patronising, that's fine; both words are accurate, appropriate, standard english. Remember - just because they have been used as pejorative terms by other people doesn't mean that they are nasty when you use them.

Beware looking for substitute words, you can end up going wrong in various ways:

  • Inaccurate: is the person paraplegic, tetraplegic, or an amputee? If you try using medical terms in order to not be offensive, you might simply get them wrong.
  • Inaccurate and presumptious: is the person actually homeless? Are they a traveller in any way or do they have a home? All you actually know about them is that they're begging on the street, so don't use a description which assumes you know why.
  • Anachronistic: sorry, but neither pauper and asking for alms are common usage.
  • Patronising: somebody who can't use their legs might not be differently-abled; they might well be disabled i.e. handicapped, genuinely impaired by their condition. Calling them differently-abled might itself be offensive because it implies that their physical condition is not a disability.

As I suggested as a comment, consider differently-abled panhandler.


Sadly, in many instances, veteran would be apt. I have seen enough men on street corners holding cardboard signs that say "Homeless vet -- anything will help" and the like. Moreover, reports abound about the plight of veterans being left to fend for themselves. Of course, this is not at all a nice way of saying "crippled beggar." However, qualifying my observation with "in many instances" does not sufficiently indicate that crippled beggars are not always veterans of military service and vice versa.


  • 2
    .....so true :/
    – njboot
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 1:12
  • While this might be somewhat accurate, I don't think it answers the question. OP is looking to describe this person with precision, from the sounds of things, and to just call them a veteran would be guesswork at best. It may also offend veterans.
    – user11550
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 2:55
  • @Mahnax Of course you are correct.I should have made a comment instead of offering an answer. And I would never want to offend veterans, especially not while trying to express sorrow over the way they are so often treated.
    – GMB
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 3:09
  • Is veteran synonymous with disability and begging?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 3:19
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA - no. This is a terrible answer. All veterans are not crippled beggars and all (not even remotely close) crippled beggars are veterans. Commented May 22, 2014 at 4:04

Gimpy indigent; physically-afflicted pauper.

  • Gimp is derogatory. I'd stay away from that one.
    – user11550
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 3:21
  • 1
    @Mahnax - C'mon, dude. There isn't a 'nice' way to describe the OP's subject, because their situation isn't a nice one. No amount of pussyfooting PC-speak is going to improve the condition of someone who finds themselves in those circumstances; when we try to dress them up to make them sound more decorous, it's ultimately only for our benefit.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 3:31
  • 2
    Oh come on. I think affording someone the basic respect of not using a derogatory term to refer to them is a standard that is easily upheld. There are better options. Furthermore, OP asked for a nice way to refer to a person in such a circumstance, not an explicitly derogatory one.
    – user11550
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 3:33
  • @Mahnax - There's a difference between inventing some blackly humorous epithets and actually using them to address people with. I would never describe anybody in those terms to their face. Lighten up!
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 3:36
  • We differ here. I will leave it at that.
    – user11550
    Commented May 22, 2014 at 3:40

Disabled homeless person, vagabond, hobo… I believe the term would be 'disabled' or 'handicapped'.

  • "vagabond" seems to imply that they move from town to town. And I thought hobos are drifters that do odd jobs, not beggars. Commented May 22, 2014 at 11:32

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