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1889, Western U.S., of unknown origin. Barnhart compares early 19c. English dialectal hawbuck "lout, clumsy fellow, country bumpkin." Or possibly from ho, boy, a workers' call on late 19c. western U.S. railroads. Facetious formation hobohemia, "community or life of hobos," is from 1923 (see bohemian).
A person who wanders from place to place, typically by riding on freight trains, and who may occasionally work but more often cadges sustenance •The hobo is sometimes distinguished from bums and tramps by the fact that he works
[1889+; origin unknown; perhaps fr the call ''Ho, boy,'' used on late 1800s Western railroads by mail carriers, then altered and transferred to vagrants; perhaps putative hoe-boy, a migrant farm worker in the West, who became a hobo after the harvest season]