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[pan-han-dl] /ˈpænˌhæn dl/ Informal.
verb (used without object), panhandled, panhandling.
to accost passers-by on the street and beg from them.
verb (used with object), panhandled, panhandling.
to accost and beg from.
to obtain by accosting and begging from someone.
Origin of panhandle2
1895-1900, Americanism; back formation from panhandler; so called from the resemblance of the extended arm to a panhandle1
Related forms
panhandler, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for panhandler
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Nothing, however, seemed further from the panhandler's thoughts than flight.

    From Place to Place

    Irvin S. Cobb
  • Obedient to the young woman's request, the panhandler waited.

    From Place to Place

    Irvin S. Cobb
  • The kind of walk you adopt when you want to pretend you can't see a panhandler, or don't want to get involved in a street-fight.

    Little Brother

    Cory Doctorow
  • You're nose gets as red as a rear light on an automobile or the beak of a Park Row panhandler.

  • I might a-knowed you was some new kind of a panhandler when you come a-snortin' in my ear that-a-way.

    The Life of the Party Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb
  • It struck her, too, that despite his panhandler's manner this man was yet in a fashion different.


    Charles Neville Buck
British Dictionary definitions for panhandler


(sometimes capital) (in the US) a narrow strip of land that projects from one state into another
(in a South African city) a plot of land without street frontage


(US & Canadian, informal) to accost and beg from (passers-by), esp on the street
Derived Forms
panhandler, noun
Word Origin
C19: probably a back formation from panhandler a person who begs with a pan
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for panhandler

"one who begs," 1893, from panhandle (n.) in begging sense. Related: Panhandled; panhandler; panhandling.



"something resembling the handle of a pan," 1851, from pan (n.) + handle (n.). Especially in reference to geography, originally American English, from 1856, in reference to Virginia (now West Virginia; Florida, Texas, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Alaska also have them). Meaning "an act of begging" is attested from 1849, perhaps from notion of arm stuck out like a panhandle, or of one who handles a (beggar's) pan.



"to beg," 1888, from panhandle (n.) in the begging sense. Related: Panhandled; panhandling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for panhandler



A person who begs, esp by accosting people on the street; beggar: This panhandler came up to me and braced me

[1897+; fr the stiff arm held out by the beggar]



To beg, esp by accosting people on the street: The boys deal drugs or panhandle, even become male prostitutes

[1903+; fr panhandler]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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