Hobo, tramp, bum, or gutter punk

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A hobo is someone who travels, picking up the odd job here and there. Hobo is a term used primarily in North America. The stereotype of a hobo is a man riding the rails or hopping on freight trains to get from one place to another, carrying all his belongings tied in a bandanna suspended from a stick hoisted on his shoulder. Hobos first became prevalent after the American Civil War, when discharged soldiers hopped on trains in order to get home. Hobos once again became prevalent during the Great Depression, when people traveled from place to place looking for work. The plural form of hobo may be either hobos or hoboes. The origin of the word hobo is unknown, perhaps the word comes from the term hoe-boy, a farmhand, or is an abbreviation of homeward bound.

A tramp is a vagrant, someone who travels from place to place but does not seek work. A tramp may depend on the kindness of strangers or other means of support besides gainful employment, his method of transportation is often his own feet. The term tramp probably comes from the idea of tramping from place to place.

A bum is homeless, he does not travel and does not work. A bum is irresponsible, shiftless and often an alcoholic. The term bum is an American term that appears during the American Civil War, probably taken from the German slang word bummler, meaning loafer.

A gutter punk is a new type of transient. Gutter punks travel and panhandle. Occasionally, gutter punks will pick up temporary jobs. Gutter punks wear the trappings of punk culture, such as outrageous tattoos, extreme piercings and extreme hairstyles. Many gutter punks are runaways.


Along with her church work, she has worked with the Appalachia Service Project and continually raises money for hobo activities and preservation of the hobo culture. (The Ridgefield Press)

Snooker legend Willie Thorne has told how a tramp nearly died in his spare bed just weeks after they filmed a charity documentary. (The Mirror)

Bum rejects plea deal in deadly subway push — wants ‘far less’ than 22 years (The New York Post)

As the scene flickers out, some of its straggling fans — young, homeless, alcoholic — give Spheeris a window into their gutter punk lives on the street. (The West Australian)