- a large brown rat that is commonly found on wharves.
- a person who lives or loiters near wharves, often existing by pilfering from ships or warehouses.
Origin of wharf rat
An Americanism dating back to 1815–25
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for wharf rat
It was strong enough of nicotine to drive a wharf-rat to suicide.The Flying Bo'sun
But you see, there aint a wharf-rat left in Windover as ud trust me now!A Singular Life
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
Jack guessed why Gray had tried to irritate him,—he saw that the well-known “wharf-rat” was to be his competitor.The Hoosier School-boy
- any rat, usually a brown rat, that infests wharves
- informal a person who haunts wharves, usually for dishonest purposes