Difference Wiki

Vagrant vs. Hobo: What's the Difference?

Edited by Huma Saeed || By Sawaira Riaz || Updated on October 3, 2023
A "vagrant" refers to a person without a settled home, often wandering, while a "hobo" is specifically a migratory worker or homeless wanderer, historically associated with train-hopping.

Key Differences

"Vagrant" is a term used to describe a person without a fixed residence who wanders from place to place. It implies someone without a steady home or employment, and historically, it has often carried a negative connotation. This could be due to laws in various places that criminalized vagrancy. Vagrants are not always associated with any specific method of travel, and they can be found in urban or rural areas. The word "vagrant" focuses more on the state of homelessness and the act of wandering.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023
On the other hand, the term "hobo" is deeply rooted in American history. A hobo is typically thought of as a migratory worker or a homeless wanderer. What sets hobos apart is that historically, they often traveled by freighthopping on trains. They moved in search of work and were part of a unique subculture with its own set of norms and values. The term "hobo" became especially prevalent during the Great Depression when many people were out of work and traveled in search of employment.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023
It's important to note that while all hobos can be considered vagrants, not all vagrants are hobos. A "hobo" is a subset within the broader category of vagrants. Hobos, by definition, had a particular way of life and a certain culture associated with their wanderings, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023
Although both "vagrant" and "hobo" refer to people without permanent homes, they differ in their historical and cultural connotations. "Vagrant" has a broader meaning encompassing anyone who wanders without a fixed home, while "hobo" is more specific, pointing to a unique way of life, especially as related to train travel and seeking work.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Comparison Chart

Primary Definition

Person without a settled home
Migratory worker or wanderer
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023
ADVERTISEMENT

Associated Travel

General wandering
Historically train-hopping
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Cultural Context

Broadly homeless or wandering
Specific to a subculture in American history
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Relation to Work

Not necessarily looking for work
Often seeking employment
Aimie Carlson
Oct 03, 2023

Historical Period of Note

Throughout history
Especially during the Great Depression
Harlon Moss
Oct 03, 2023

Vagrant and Hobo Definitions

Vagrant

Someone who is often on the move and lacks stability.
He lived a vagrant lifestyle, never settling in one place.
Sara Rehman
Oct 03, 2023
ADVERTISEMENT

Hobo

Someone associated with a unique American subculture of train-hoppers.
The hobo culture had its own symbols and codes.
Sara Rehman
Oct 03, 2023

Vagrant

A person without a settled home or regular work.
The vagrant often slept under the city bridge.
Janet White
Oct 03, 2023

Hobo

A migratory worker, especially one who rides freight trains.
The hobo jumped onto a moving train to head west.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Vagrant

A wanderer who does not have a home.
Vagrants roamed the streets after the war.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Hobo

A person known for traveling and living a free-spirited life.
The old hobo had many tales of his adventures on the rails.
Janet White
Oct 03, 2023

Vagrant

A person who is homeless and jobless.
The town had issues addressing its vagrant population.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Hobo

A migrant worker.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

An individual who roams or drifts with no set course.
As a vagrant, he found freedom in his movements.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Hobo

A wanderer with no permanent home or employment.
He became a hobo after losing his job in the city.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Vagrant

One who wanders from place to place without a permanent home or a means of livelihood.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

One who wanders from place to place without a permanent home or a means of livelihood.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

(Archaic) A wanderer; a rover.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

Also hobo bag A large, crescent-shaped handbag with a single shoulder strap and usually a zippered top.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

One who lives on the streets or constitutes a public nuisance.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

To live or wander like a vagrant.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

An animal occurring beyond its normal range; an accidental.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

(North America) A wandering homeless person, especially (historical) one illegally travelling by rail or (pejorative) a penniless, unemployed bum.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Wandering from place to place and lacking any means of support.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

(North America) Any migratory laborer, whether homeless or not.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Living on the streets or constituting a public nuisance.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

A kind of large handbag.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Inconstant or capricious; wayward
"She was resolved to win my vagrant fancy" (Frank Harris).
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

To be a hobo, tramp, bum etc.
Joe idly hoboed through half the country till he realized hoboing never gets you anywhere in life.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Moving in a random fashion; having no fixed direction or pattern
Vagrant ice floes.
A vagrant aroma.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

A professional tramp; one who spends his life traveling from place to place, esp. by stealing rides on trains, and begging for a living.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Being beyond its normal range; accidental. Used of animals.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

A disreputable vagrant;
A homeless tramp
He tried to help the really down-and-out bums
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

(dated) A person who wanders from place to place; a nomad, a wanderer.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Hobo

A homeless person who travels in search of work.
During the Depression, many hobos traveled the country.
Sara Rehman
Oct 03, 2023

Vagrant

(specifically) A person without settled employment or habitation who usually supports himself or herself by begging or some dishonest means; a tramp, a vagabond.
Every morning before work, I see that poor vagrant around the neighbourhood begging for food.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Vagrans egista, a widely distributed Asian butterfly of the family Nymphalidae.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

An animal, typically a bird, found outside its species' usual range.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Wandering from place to place, particularly when without any settled employment or habitation.
A vagrant beggar
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Of or pertaining to a vagabond or vagrant, or a person fond of wandering.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

(figurative) Moving without a certain direction; roving, wandering; also, erratic, unsettled.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Moving without certain direction; wandering; erratic; unsettled.
That beauteous Emma vagrant courses took.
While leading this vagrant and miserable life, Johnson fell in love.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Wandering from place to place without any settled habitation; as, a vagrant beggar.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

One who strolls from place to place; one who has no settled habitation; an idle wanderer; a sturdy beggar; an incorrigible rogue; a vagabond.
Vagrants and outlaws shall offend thy view.
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

A wanderer who has no established residence or visible means of support
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

Vagrant

Continually changing especially as from one abode or occupation to another;
A drifting double-dealer
The floating population
Vagrant hippies of the sixties
Sawaira Riaz
Jan 14, 2023

FAQs

Is "Hobo" an American term?

Yes, it's deeply rooted in American history and culture.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Why are hobos associated with trains?

Historically, many hobos traveled by hopping onto freight trains.
Harlon Moss
Oct 03, 2023

Is "vagrant" a negative term?

It can carry a negative connotation in some contexts.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 03, 2023

Was there a "hobo code"?

Yes, hobos had symbols and codes to communicate with each other.
Harlon Moss
Oct 03, 2023

Are vagrancy laws about hobos?

They target vagrants broadly, which includes but isn't limited to hobos.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Do both terms refer to homeless individuals?

Yes, but a hobo often traveled in search of work.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

What caused the rise of the hobo culture?

Economic downturns, especially the Great Depression, played a significant role.
Janet White
Oct 03, 2023

Are "Vagrant" and "Hobo" synonyms?

They overlap, but "hobo" has specific cultural and historical connotations.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Were vagrants always unemployed?

Not necessarily, but they often lacked steady employment.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

How are vagrants perceived today?

Perceptions vary, but homelessness is often seen as a socio-economic issue.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 03, 2023

Do movies or books feature hobos?

Yes, many works, like "Sullivan's Travels," depict or reference hobos.
Harlon Moss
Oct 03, 2023

Are there still hobos today?

The classic hobo lifestyle has waned, but some still identify with the culture.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Is "vagrant" a universal term?

The concept exists worldwide, but cultural understanding varies.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

How did hobos and vagrants survive?

Through odd jobs, begging, community support, and sometimes by forming communities.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 03, 2023

Were there hobo gatherings?

Yes, the National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa, is one example.
Aimie Carlson
Oct 03, 2023

Are vagrants always on the move?

Many wander, but some might stay in one place for extended periods.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023

Can "vagrant" refer to animals?

In biology, "vagrant" can describe animals found outside their usual range.
Sara Rehman
Oct 03, 2023

Were there famous hobos?

Yes, some, like Woody Guthrie, documented the hobo lifestyle.
Janet White
Oct 03, 2023

Do hobos always work?

Many sought work, but not all found it.
Harlon Moss
Oct 03, 2023

Is "hobo" a derogatory term?

Historically, it could be neutral or negative, depending on context.
Sawaira Riaz
Oct 03, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited by
Huma Saeed
Huma is a renowned researcher acclaimed for her innovative work in Difference Wiki. Her dedication has led to key breakthroughs, establishing her prominence in academia. Her contributions continually inspire and guide her field.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons