Abraham man

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See also: Abrahamman and Abraham-man


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UK ante-1561. From patients claiming, genuinely or not, to be temporarily discharged from the Abraham ward at Bethlem Royal Hospital (also known as Bedlam)—a psychiatric hospital in London, Kingdom of England—for the purpose of begging.

Possibly an allusion to a story in Luke 16, in which the beggar Lazarus ends up in Abraham's bosom.

First attested in The Fraternity of Vagabonds (1561) by John Awdely.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈeɪ.bɹəˌhæm mæn/, /ˈeɪ.bɹə.həm mæn/


Abraham man ‎(plural Abraham men)

  1. (archaic, Britain, cant, historical) A mentally ill beggar.
  2. (archaic, Britain, cant, historical) By extension, any beggar who pretends to be ill, physically or mentally, to obtain alms.


Derived terms[edit]


  • Grose, Francis (1788) A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue[1], 2nd edition, London: S. Hooper
  • Grose, Francis, The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue / Lexicon Balatronicum: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence: altered and enlarged (London; 1811)
  • Barrère, Albert; Leland, Charles Godfrey (1889) A Dictionary of Slang, Jargon & Cant, volume 1, pages 7–8
  • Farmer, John Stephen (1890) Slang and Its Analogues[2], volume 1, pages 9–10