I'm writing a scene in which I wish to describe a typical street beggar - his way of dressing in particular. Check for example such a dude as the one below

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I could use descriptions such as: snobbish, dirty, bizarre, rugged, barbaric, etc but feel those are not adequate to building a picture of a beggar in the minds of my readers. I want words that would describe a sort of beggar that typically, you'd wish to avoid - one very pitiful, but also repugnant?

What words or phrases would you use for such a description?

  • That fellow is not a beggar, he's a busker. Could be the next Dylan. – JEL Feb 28 '16 at 10:35
  • I read "disheveled" in a lot of books. But many times it's used to describe someone that usually isn't. To describe what looks like a more permanent state of being, I'm not sure it would work. I like wretched below best but thought I mention this one. – user116032 Feb 28 '16 at 16:19

I've also struggled to find words to describe the derelicts that seem to be continually increasing. That's one word I'd suggest - derelict. Other appropriate words might include scummy, filthy, sleazy and stinky.

P.S. I'm not dumping on the poor, by the way. I've run into too many of my former students among them here in liberal Seattle. But it does take a special person to work with some of the wretched people one encounters on the streets - er, the sidewalks. There's another good word - wretched.

  • derelict seems ideal for the sort of person, scummy will work too. Thanks – nemesisfixx Feb 28 '16 at 5:15

How about ragamuffin


A muffin is a poor thing of a creature, a 'regular muff'; so that a ragamuffin is a sorry creature in rags.

Another frequently used word is bum and also vagabond which usually refers to a person that doesn't have a settled house and travels from place to place


Instead of derelict, or scum, or wretched.... How about a person who is less fortunate draped with the cloth of life's unfortunate spirals of which any of us could bare, at any particular time...

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