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The Abraham-men were a class of beggars claiming to be lunatics allowed out of restraint, in the Tudor and Stuart periods in England.
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Of Obsolete and Uncommon Words, Antiquated Phrases, and Proverbs Illustrative of Early English Literature, Comprising Chiefly Those Not to be Found in Our Ordinary Dictionaries; with Historical Notices of Ancient Customs and Manners by William Toone
ABRAHAM-MEN, a cant term for idle and thievish vagabonds, who formerly went about the country half naked, or drest in fantastical attire, pretending. to have been mad and discharged from Bethlem. Hospital. A person pretending sickness is still said “to sham Abraham.” These Abraham-men be those ...
by Thomas Wright
Abraham-men. The slang name of a class of beggars in the sixteenth century. Nares thinks the phrase " to sham Abraham " has some connection with it.
Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English, Containing Words from the English Writers Previous to the Ninetheenth Century which are No Longer in Use ... [etc.] (1857)
by Thomas Wright
ABRAHAM-MEN. The slang name of a class of beggars in the sixteenth century. Nares thinks the phrase,“ to sham Abraham ” has some connection with it. An Abraham-man is ...
Chamber's Encyclopaedia (1870)
A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge for the People
ABRAHAM-MEN, a class of sturdy beggars who simulated lunacy, and wandered about the country in a disorderly manner; at one time working ...
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