I see this cool key chain in my friend's house, Jackie. I pick it up and tell her, "Cool key chain. Why don't you give it to me?" She wants it back, we casually struggle for a while, and finally she gives up because it's not really expensive and we're friends although she didn't want to give it to me in the first place. The next day I see another friend. He asks me where I got that and I say,

I cadged this key chain off Jackie.

I made some important parts of the context in bold. I came across the word cadge and I'm not really sure this is the right word. I need to check it with a native speaker. Also is cadge (if it's the right word) common in American English, too? If not, how do Americans make the meaning in English?

1 Answer 1


Where I grew up in south-east England, someone might ask to "cadge a fag (cigarette)" from someone else. In this context it essentially means the same thing as "scrounge". If you cadge/scrounge something from someone, you 'cheekily' ask them for something which you realise they may not particularly want to give you, but which is of such small value that they probably will anyway.

I don't know if this word is used in American English. Certainly it is not very common in British English anymore, as 'scrounge' would be preferred. A 'scrounger' - someone who regularly scrounges - is certainly a derogatory term you might hear from time to time, whereas I don't think I have ever heard of the term 'cadger'.

Reading your sentence, it seems like "cadge" is a perfect fit. However I believe it would be a word younger people would be more likely to use (if it is indeed still in common use somewhere, which I am not sure about).

  • 2
    Cadge is completely unfamiliar to this AmE speaker.
    – user230
    Nov 25, 2016 at 16:10
  • @snailplane then you'd prefer scrounge in this context, too?
    – Yuri
    Nov 25, 2016 at 16:56
  • I guess snailplane is also OK with scrounge in this context. @Tom B +1 Thank you very much for being such a sport :)
    – Yuri
    Nov 25, 2016 at 18:36
  • 1
    I think a similar phrase in American English might be "Can I bum a cigarette?". Maybe the meaning isn't completely the same though, for all I know. Perhaps "bumming a key" is mis-using the word slightly
    – Tom B
    Nov 25, 2016 at 18:41
  • But beware that "bumming" refers to anal sex in BrE. Mar 9, 2018 at 14:06

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