Tramps, thieves, and the ne'er-do-well. Idle fellows who get their living by expedients; chevaliers d'industrie. (German, läufer, a runner; Dutch, looper.)
“Until the differentiation of the labourer from the loafer takes place, the unemployed question can never be properly dealt with.” —Nineteenth Century, December, 1893, p. 855.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894