Now called “pickpocket.” The two words are of historical value.
When purses were worn suspended from a girdle, thieves cut the string
by which the purse was attached; but when pockets were adopted, and
purses were no longer hung on the girdle, the thief was no longer a
cutpurse, but became a pickpocket.
“To have an open ear, a quick eye, and a nimble hand, is necessary
for a cutpurse.” —Shakespeare: Winter's Tale, iv 3.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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