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"settler who occupies land without legal title," 1788, agent noun from squat (v.); in reference to paupers or homeless people in uninhabited buildings, it is recorded from 1880.
early 15c., "crouch on the heels," from Old French esquatir "press down, lay flat, crush," from es- "out" (from Latin ex-) + Old French quatir "press down, flatten," from Vulgar Latin *coactire "press together, force," from Latin coactus, past participle of cogere "to compel, curdle, collect" (see cogent). Related: Squatted; squatting. Slang noun sense of "nothing at all" first attested 1934, probably suggestive of squatting to defecate. The adjective sense of "short, thick" dates from 1620s.
in 19th-century Australian history, an illegal occupier of crown grazing land beyond the prescribed limits of settlement. The inroad of squatters contributed to the growth of the country's wool industry and to the development of a powerful social class in Australian life. By the late 1840s the authorities recognized the economic good derived from the squatters' activity and issued them leases for their sheep runs and tenure extending as long as 14 years. By this time the squatters had a hold on the land; many had become wealthy grandees.