From the Middle English Ragamuffyn. Of uncertain origin, according to Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: A muffin is a poor thing of a creature, a ‘regular muff’; so that a ragamuffin is a sorry creature in rags.
ragamuffin (plural ragamuffins)
- A dirty, shabbily-clothed child; an urchin.
- c. 1597, William Shakespeare, “The First Part of Henry the Fourth, […]”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act V, scene iii], page 71:
- I haue led my rag of Muffins where they are pepper'd: there's not three of my 150 left aliue; and they for the Townes end, to beg during life.
- 1868, Louisa M[ay] Alcott, chapter 47, in Little Women: Or, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, (please specify |part=1 or 2), Boston, Mass.: Roberts Brothers, OCLC 30743985:
- “But may I inquire how you intend to support the establishment? If all the pupils are little ragamuffins, I’m afraid your crop won’t be profitable in a worldly sense, Mr. Bhaer.”
- A breed of domestic cat which is an offshoot from the Ragdoll.
- Currently this word is slang, often (but not always) used either for anachronistic effect or as dialogue in historical fiction.
ragamuffin m (uncountable)