verb (used without object), pan·han·dled, pan·han·dling.

to accost passers-by on the street and beg from them.

verb (used with object), pan·han·dled, pan·han·dling.

to accost and beg from.
to obtain by accosting and begging from someone.

Origin of panhandle

1895–1900, Americanism; back formation from panhandler; so called from the resemblance of the extended arm to a panhandle1
Related formspan·han·dler, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for panhandler

tramp, vagrant, mendicant, bum

Examples from the Web for panhandler

Contemporary Examples of panhandler

Historical Examples of panhandler

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

    From Place to Place

    Irvin S. Cobb

  • Nothing, however, seemed further from the panhandler's thoughts than flight.

    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

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 and Canadian informal to accost and beg from (passers-by), esp on the street
Derived Formspanhandler, noun

Word Origin for panhandle

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

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