See more synonyms for panhandle on
verb (used with object), pan·han·dled, pan·han·dling.
  1. to accost and beg from.
  2. 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. 2018

Related Words for panhandler

tramp, vagrant, mendicant, bum

Examples from the Web for panhandler

Contemporary Examples of panhandler

Historical Examples of panhandler

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for panhandler


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


  1. 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