Etymology
Advertisement
beggar (v.)
"reduce to poverty," mid-15c., from beggar (n.). From c. 1600 as "exceed the means of," hence "to outdo." Related: Beggared; beggaring.
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
beggar (n.)

"one who asks alms," especially as a way of life, c. 1200, from Old French begart, "a member of the Beghards," a mendicant order of lay brothers in the Low Countries, from Middle Dutch beggaert "mendicant," a word of uncertain origin, with pejorative suffix (see -ard). The common noun is perhaps from the proper name; compare Beguine. Early folk etymology connected the English word with bag, but this is now dismissed (see OED).

From mid-14c. as "one who is indigent" (whether begging or not). From c. 1300 as "mean or low person;" as a familiar term for "a fellow, man" by 1833. Form with -ar attested from 14c., but begger was more usual 15c.-17c. The feminine form beggestere is attested as a surname from c. 1300. Beggar's velvet was an old name for "dust bunnies."

Related entries & more 
beggary (n.)
late 14c., "practice of begging, mendicancy; poverty," from beggar + -y (2).
Related entries & more 
beggarly (adj.)
"in an indigent condition," 1520s, from beggar (n.) + -ly (1).
Related entries & more 
beggarly (adv.)
"in the manner of a beggar," c. 1400, from beggar (n.) + -ly (2).
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
beg (v.)

"to ask alms," especially to do so habitually as one's way of life, c. 1200, of uncertain origin. Perhaps from the rare Old English bedecian "to beg," from Proto-Germanic *beth-. Or from Anglo-French begger, a back-formation from Old French noun begart (see beggar (n.)) and ultimately from Beguine, which OED considers "perhaps the most likely derivation." The Old English word for "beg" was wædlian, from wædl "poverty." Related: Begged; begging.

Meaning "ask for" (a favor, etc.) is by 1520s. As a courteous mode of asking (beg pardon, etc.), attested by c. 1600. Of dogs, 1762. To beg the question (1580s) translates Latin petitio principii, and means "to assume something that hasn't been proven as a basis of one's argument," thus "asking" one's opponent to give something unearned, though more of the nature of taking it for granted without warrant. To beg off (something) "obtain release from by entreaty" is from 1741.

Related entries & more 
Beguine (n.)
late 15c., from French béguine (13c.), Medieval Latin beguina, "a member of a women's spiritual order professing poverty and self-denial, founded c.1180 in Liege in the Low Countries." They are said to take their name from the surname of Lambert le Bègue "Lambert the Stammerer," a Liege priest who was instrumental in their founding, and it's likely the word was pejorative at first. French bègue is of unknown origin. Related: Beguinage.

The women's order, though sometimes persecuted, generally preserved its good reputation, but it quickly drew imposters who did not; nonetheless it eventually was condemned as heretical. A male order, called Beghards founded communities by the 1220s in imitation of them, but they soon degenerated (compare Old French beguin "(male) Beguin," also "hypocrite") and wandered begging in the guise of religion; they likely were the source of the words beg and beggar, though there is disagreement over whether Beghard produced Middle Dutch beggaert "mendicant" or was produced by it. The male order was condemned by the Church early 14c. and vanished by mid-16c.

Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine" (1935) refers to a kind of popular dance of West Indian origin, from French colloquial béguin "an infatuation, boyfriend, girlfriend," earlier "child's bonnet," and before that "nun's headdress" (14c.), from Middle Dutch beggaert, ultimately the same word as the above. Compare English biggin "child's cap" (1520s), from the French word.
Related entries & more 
lazzarone (n.)
"Italian beggar," 1792, Italian, augmentative of lazzaro "a beggar, leper," from Lazarus (q.v.).
Related entries & more 
lazar (n.)
"filthy beggar, leper," c. 1300, from Medieval Latin lazarus "leper," from Lazarus (q.v.), the name of the beggar in the biblical parable. Sometimes also lazard, with pejorative suffix.
Related entries & more 
moocher (n.)

"beggar, scrounger," 1857, moucher, agent noun from mooch (v.).

Related entries & more