In India, beggars don't do anything and ask for money. But here, I see this specific practice to ask for money (in foreign countries).

Check this guy

playing guitar for money

he works harder, shows his skills and asks for money

Well, it's not limited to playing some instruments. At times, they do better job than professionals.

See this video

https://www.facebook.com/SithTV/videos/938035186241723/

My question is, morally, I feel that the word 'beggar' for the latter ones is quite offensive. What do native speakers call them? Are they still beggars? If so, I'll still need some better alternative to separate them from our beggars in India! I will never call them beggars (because, being an Indian, I have a different image of a beggar). In fact, I respect them more than many professionals I find around me!

Note: no charity from the beggars/money-seekers is involved in any case.

  • 6
    This is not an answer to your question, but may be related: a "panhandler" is also a person who asks for money by appealing to the charity of passerby, but maybe it has less of a negative connotation to you as "beggar" does. – Yee-Lum Sep 24 '15 at 6:12
  • 4
    There's an unwritten rule that if a busker makes you stop and watch/listen, you should put some change in the case. He literally just earned it. – corsiKa Sep 24 '15 at 14:35
  • 8
    Busker or street performers. They aren't begging. – user15138 Sep 24 '15 at 19:51
  • 5
    This is a technicality, but I wouldn't say this street musician is "asking for money;" I would say he is "accepting donations." Most street musicians I've seen leave the case open, but rarely (if ever) directly ask for a contribution. That may vary by location, however. – J.R. Sep 24 '15 at 20:33
  • 5
    Keep in mind that beggars don't do their 'job' for fun, before talking down on them. They're still people, and deserve to be treated with some respect. – Sanchises Sep 24 '15 at 22:00
up vote 70 down vote accepted

I would call all sort of artists that are performing in the public for free or donations "street performer".

I found another word, "busker", but I never heard of it before.

  • 16
    The word "busker" (meaning a street performer) is common in British English. It's also used in Canada, parts of the east coast of the US, Southern California, and probably other parts of the US, but is less common. – Yee-Lum Sep 24 '15 at 6:09
  • But dictionaries say that busker is specifically for a person performing music and nothing else. – Maulik V Sep 24 '15 at 7:29
  • 21
    In the UK anyone doing some kind of performance would be called a busker, including people who paint themselves gold and pretend to be a statue etc. We wouldn't tend to call a portrait artist a busker, if they only work on demand, but if someone was drawing a picture on the ground, with chalk, that would be considered busking. Basically anything where the person is "continually doing something" and will happily take money for it is called busking. – Max Williams Sep 24 '15 at 11:19
  • 4
    @MaxWilliams The usage you describe is not universal in the UK, though it is common enough to make it into the OED. I, for one, would only use "busker" for somebody performing music or perhaps for something such as stand-up comedy or magic. I wouldn't describe a street artist or an I-expect-you-to-give-me-money-because-I-painted-myself-gold-and-stood-still person as a "busker". – David Richerby Sep 24 '15 at 12:49
  • @Yee-Lum I live in Southern California, and I've never heard the word "busker" before. That may just be me, though – Jojodmo Sep 26 '15 at 5:15

Beggar refers to someone who is unemployed and depends on asking (begging) people passing by for money. Those who do give them money do so out of charity.

Busker refers to a street performer (could be music, art or drama) who performs for anyone walking by in the hope that many will pay them for their time. It could be their only source of income, or just a side job. Those who give them money do so because they consider the busker to have provided them some valuable entertainment.

The OED shows the earliest uses of busk with this sense are from the nineteenth century in Britain. While this doesn't fully explain the inconsistent awareness of the word within the US (as seen in the many comments below!), its relative recency compared to the divergence of US English does help explain in part why it is more common within Commonwealth English.

  • 10
    @MaulikV That's debatable, Wiktionary for example only says "(often by playing a musical instrument)". Street clowns and magicians could be called buskers, at least in AusEng. – curiousdannii Sep 24 '15 at 7:55
  • 12
    I call b-boys, taggers, circus acts. quick painters, sketch artists - essentially anyone who performs in the street - buskers. I'm British. – JMB Sep 24 '15 at 10:20
  • 41
    Be aware that "busker" might not be a familiar word to your audience -- I'm a native US English speaker and don't remember ever hearing that word in my life. I would call them a "street performer" or "street artist" – Chad Sep 24 '15 at 14:41
  • 6
    @JMB What do you use "tagger" to refer to? In the US, tagging is writing your name or symbol on something with graffiti, and is illegal. Just curious what the other word uses are. – JPhi1618 Sep 24 '15 at 15:49
  • 8
    Busker is not unusual usage in the US in my experience. I've heard it many times. Street performer to me means someone other than a busker, such as a mime, dancer, or magician. – barbecue Sep 24 '15 at 22:41

I think you are drawing a distinction between

  1. An otherwise capable individual who asks for money for him/herself by appealing to your mercy (begger) and
  2. Someone offering something of value (their art) for money.

I would say "street performer" would be the right word for the second kind. It's simple, direct and well understood.

  • 4
    +1 for street performer as more respectful that busker, but would personally use street artist. – T. Kiley Sep 24 '15 at 15:44
  • 2
    @T.Kiley - performer might be a better word if the person was, say, a juggler instead of a guitarist. – J.R. Sep 24 '15 at 20:31
  • 2
    Not very relevant on ELL, but in germany, we say Straßenkünstler which directly translates to street artist as well. – Guntram Blohm Sep 25 '15 at 13:26

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendicant

A mendicant (from Latin: mendicans, "begging") is one who practices mendicancy (begging) and relies chiefly or exclusively on charitable donations to survive.

I first saw this word when I was a teenager. It was in the novel "Citizen of the Galaxy", by Robert A Heinlein, referring to beggars. It also referred to a "mendicant's license", meaning you can stand or sit on the street and not be hassled by the cops if you had a license to beg.

  • 5
    It isn't really any more respectful; it means "beggar", just fancier. – Nathan Tuggy Sep 24 '15 at 17:42
  • 8
    Mendicant doesn't imply performing for tips. It is almost entirely synonymous with beggar, except that it tends to be more often used as an adjective than an noun. When it's used as a noun, it tends to refer to someone who has forsaken all possessions and survives on alms – ColleenV Sep 24 '15 at 18:15

protected by Community Sep 25 '15 at 6:16

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.